Contents of this Volume
Adventures in Texas
How we got Possession of the Tuileries by Professor Aytoun
Captain Paton’s Lament by J. G. Lockhart
The Village Doctor by the late Countess D’Arbouville
A Singular Letter from Southern Africa by the Ettrick Shepherd
WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS
EDINBURGH AND LONDON
TALES FROM “BLACKWOOD.”
ADVENTURES IN TEXAS.
ABRIDGED FROM THE GERMAN OF SEALSFIELD
BY FREDERICK HARDMAN.
[MAGA. November, December, 1848.]
A SCAMPER IN THE PRAIRIE.
What took you to Texas?” is a question that has so frequently been
asked me by friends in the States, that a reply to it is perhaps the
most appropriate commencement I can make to a sketch of my adventures in
that country. Many of my fellow-citizens have expressed their
surprise—more flattering to me and my family than to Texas—that a son
of Judge Morse of Maryland, instead of pitching his tent in his native
State, should have deserted it for a land which certainly, at the time
I first went to it, was in anything but good repute, and of whose
population the Anglo-Saxon portion mainly consisted of outlaws and bad
characters, expelled or fugitive from the Union. The facts of the case
were these:—I went to Texas, endorsed, as I may say, by a company of
our enlightened New York Yankees, whose speculative attention was just
then particularly directed to that country. In other words, I had the
good or ill luck, as you may choose to think it, to be the possessor of
a Texas-Land-Scrip—that is to say, a certificate issued by the
Galveston Bay and Texas Land Company, declaring and making known to all
whom it might concern, that Mr Edward Morse had paid into the hands of
the cashier of the said company the sum of one thousand dollars, in
consideration of which, he, the said Edward Morse, was duly entitled and
authorised to select, within the district and territory of the aforesaid
Galveston Bay and Texas Land Company, a tract of land of the extent of
ten thousand acres, neither more nor less, to take possession of and
settle upon it, and, in a word, to exercise over it all the rights of a
proprietor; under the sole condition that in the selection of his ten
thousand acres he should not infringe on the property or rights of the
holders of previously given certificates.
Ten thousand acres of the finest land in the world, and under a heaven
compared to which our Maryland sky, bright as it is, appears dull and
foggy! It was certainly a tempting bait; too tempting by far not to be
caught at by many in those times of speculation; and accordingly, our
free and enlightened citizens bought and sold their millions of Texan
acres just as readily as they did their thousands of towns and villages
in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, and their tens of thousands of
shares in banks and railways. It was a speculative fever, which has
since, we may hope, been in some degree cured. At any rate, the remedies
applied have been tolerably severe.
I had not escaped the contagion, and, having got the land on paper, I
thought I should like to see it in dirty acres. My intention was to
select my plot of ground and take possession of it, and then, if I did
not like the country, to turn it into dollars again. If, upon the other
hand, the country pleased me, I would return to Maryland, get together
what was needful for the undertaking, and set up my roof-tree in Texas
for good and all. Accordingly, in company with a friend who had a
similar venture, I embarked at Baltimore on board the Catcher schooner,
and, after a three weeks’ voyage, arrived in Galveston Bay.
The grassy shores of this bay, into which the river Brazos empties
itself, rise so little above the surface of the water, which they
strongly resemble in colour, that it would be difficult to discover
them, were it not for three stunted trees growing on the western
extremity of a long lizard-shaped island that stretches nearly sixty
miles across the bay, and conceals the mouth of the river. These trees
are the only landmark for the mariner; and, with their exception, not a
single object—not a hill, a house, nor so much as a bush, relieves the
level sameness of the island and adjacent continent.
After we had, with some difficulty, got on the inner side of the island,
a pilot came on board and took charge of the vessel. The first thing he
did was to run us on a sandbank, off which we got with no small labour,
and by the united exertions of sailors and passengers, and at length
entered the river. In our impatience to land, I and my friend left the
schooner in a cockleshell of a boat, which upset in the surge, and we
found ourselves floundering in the water. Luckily it was not very deep,
and we escaped with a thorough drenching.
When we had scrambled on shore, we gazed about us for some time before
we could persuade ourselves that we were actually upon land, so
unnatural was its aspect. It was, without exception, the strangest coast
we had ever seen, and there was scarcely a possibility of distinguishing
the boundary between earth and water. The green grass grew down to the
edge of the green sea, and there was only the streak of white foam left
by the latter upon the former to serve as a line of demarcation. Before
us was a perfectly level plain, a hundred or more miles in extent,
covered with long fine grass, rolling in waves before each puff of the
sea-breeze, with neither tree, nor house, nor hill, to vary the unbroken
monotony of the surface. Ten or twelve miles towards the north and
north-west, we distinguished some dark masses, which we afterwards
discovered to be groups of trees; but to our eyes they looked exactly
like islands in a green sea, and we subsequently learned that such
groups, innumerable in Texan prairies, are called islands by the people
of the country. A more appropriate name, or one better describing their
appearance, could not be given to them.
Proceeding along the shore, we came to a blockhouse situated behind a
small tongue of land projecting into the river, and decorated with the
flag of the Mexican republic, waving in all its glory from the roof.
This building, the only one of which, at that time, Galveston harbour
could boast, served, as may be supposed, for a great variety of uses. It
was the custom-house and the barracks for the garrison (consisting of a
company of Mexican infantry), the residence of the controller of
customs, and of the civil and military intendant, the headquarters of
the officer commanding, and it served, moreover, as hotel, and wine and
spirit store. Alongside the board, on which was depicted a sort of
hieroglyphic, intended for the Mexican eagle, hung a rum-bottle doing
duty as a sign, and the republican banner threw its protecting shadow
over an announcement of—“Brandy, Whisky, and accommodation for Man and
Approaching the house, we saw the whole garrison assembled before the
door. It consisted of a dozen dwarfish, spindle-shanked Mexican
soldiers, none of them so big or half so strong as American boys of
fifteen, and whom I would have backed a single Kentucky woodsman, armed
with a riding-whip, to have driven to the four winds of heaven. These
heroes all sported tremendous beards, whiskers, and mustaches, and had a
habit of knitting their brows, in the endeavour, as we supposed, to look
fierce and formidable. They were crowding round a table of rough planks,
and playing a game at cards, in which they were so deeply engrossed that
they took no notice of our approach. Their officer, however, came out of
the house to meet us with a friendly greeting.
Captain Cotton, formerly editor of the Mexican Gazette, now civil and
military superintendent of Galveston, customs-director, harbour-master,
and tavern-keeper, and a Yankee to boot, seemed to trouble his head—to
the credit of his good sense be it said—much less about his various
dignities and titles (of which he had more than there were soldiers in
his garrison) than about his capital French and Spanish wines, which, it
is to be presumed, he laid in duty free. As to the soldiers, in all my
life I never saw such wretched-looking, shrivelled dwarfs. I could not
help fancying them grotesque elves or goblins, transported thither by
some old sorcerer’s power. We were never tired of staring at them and at
the country, which also had something supernatural in its aspect. It was
like an everlasting billiard-table, without an end. It is a strange
feeling, I can tell you, after being three weeks at sea, to run into a
harbour which is no harbour, and to land upon a shore which is only half
land, and which seems each moment about to roll away in waves from under
your feet. Our fellow-passengers, several of whom had now landed and
joined us, gazed about them as puzzled and bewildered as we were, and
hastened into the blockhouse with a speed which showed them to be
assailed by the same uneasy feeling as ourselves. Looking out from the
blockhouse, the interminable expanse of meadow and ocean was blended
into one vast plain, out of which the building rose like a diminutive
island. It was with a sensation of real relief that we once more found
ourselves on board our schooner.
It took us three full days to ascend the river Brazos to the town of
Brazoria, a distance of only thirty miles. On the first day, nothing but
the everlasting meadow was to be seen on either hand; but, on the
second, we got nearer to islands: the pasture became a park, dotted with
magnificent groups of trees. Not a sign of man was visible in this
stupendous park—a boundless ocean of grass and foliage. An ocean of
this kind has a far more powerful effect upon those who for the first
time wander through its solitudes than has an ocean of water. We saw
this exemplified in our travelling companions, land-seekers like
ourselves, with the sole difference that, not being overburdened with
the circulating medium, they had come without scrip. They were by no
means of the class of sentimental travellers—nothing of the Yorick
about them—but, on the contrary, were wild, rough fellows, who had
played all sorts of mad pranks during the three weeks’ voyage. Here,
however, they all, without exception, became quiet—nay, sedate and
serious. The very wildest of them, and some of them really were as rude
and desperate a lot as ever roamed the world round in search of
adventures—grew taciturn, and gave utterance to none of the coarse
oaths and horrible blasphemies with which, when at sea, they had
frequently disgusted us. They behaved like people who had just entered a
church. All their countenances wore an expression of gravity and awe.
And, in a certain sense, we surely might be said to have entered one of
God’s temples; for what more noble temple could be erected in his honour
than the magnificent scene around us! All was so still, and solemn, and
majestic! Forest and meadow, trees and grass, all so pure and fresh, as
if just from the hand of the mighty and eternal Artificer. No trace of
man’s sinful hand, but all the beautiful, immaculate work of God!
Fifteen miles above the mouth of the river Brazos, we entered the first
forest. Sycamores, and, further on, pecan-trees, waved on either hand
over the water. We saw a herd of deer, and a large flock of wild
turkeys, both of which, already tolerably shy, took to flight at our
appearance. The quality of the land was, as will be easily imagined,
the point to which our attention was chiefly directed. On the coast
we had found it light and sandy, with a very thin crust of good
soil, but without any signs of swamp or slime; further from the sea,
the crust or fertile surface increased in thickness from one to
four—eight—twelve—at last fifteen—and, at Brazoria, twenty feet over
the bed of sand and loam. As yet we had seen nothing like a hillock or a
stone; and indeed it would have been very difficult in a district a
hundred miles broad and long, to have found a stone as big as a pigeon’s
egg. On the other hand, there was wood in plenty for houses and fences;
so we had no cause for anxiety in that respect. Our hopes grew brighter
each mile that we advanced.
On our arrival at Brazoria, however, those sanguine hopes received a
cruel blow. At the time I speak of—namely, in the year 1832—Brazoria
was an important town—for Texas, that is to say—consisting of above
thirty houses, three of which were of brick, three of boards, and the
remainder of logs, all thoroughly American, with the streets arranged
in the American manner, in straight lines and at right angles to each
other. The only objection to the place was, that in the spring, at the
season of the floods, it was all under water; but the worthy Brazorians
overlooked this little inconvenience, in consideration of the
inexhaustible fertility of the soil. It was early in March when we
arrived, but we found already an abundance of new potatoes, beans, peas,
and the most delicious artichokes that ever rejoiced an epicure. But we
also found something else, much less agreeable to my friend and myself,
and that was, that our scrip was not quite so good as it might be,
and—like much other scrips, past, present, and to come—bore a stronger
resemblance to waste paper than to bank-notes. Our unpleasant doubts
became a fatal certainty on the arrival of William Austin, son of
Colonel Austin. He gave us to read the report of the proceedings of the
Mexican congress, after perusing which, we were within an ace of
lighting our cigars with our certificates.
It appeared that, in the year 1824, the Mexican Congress had passed an
act, having for its object the encouragement of emigration from the
United States to Texas. In consequence of this act, an agreement was
entered into with contractors—or empresarios, as they call them in
Mexico—who bound themselves to bring a certain number of settlers into
Texas within a given time, at their own charges, and without any expense
to the Mexican government. On the other hand, the Mexican government had
engaged to furnish land to these emigrants at the rate of five square
leagues to every hundred families; but to this agreement the special
condition was attached, that all settlers should be, or become, Roman
Catholics. Failing this, and until they gave satisfactory proofs of
their belonging to the Church of Rome, the validity of their claims to
the land was not recognised, and they were liable any day to be turned
out of the country at the point of the bayonet.
Of all this, the New York “Galveston-Bay-and-Texas-Land-Company,” like
smart Yankees as they were, had wisely said not a word to us, but had
sold us the land with the assurance that it had been placed at their
disposal by the Mexican government, on the sole condition of their
importing into it, within the year, a certain number of settlers. Such
was the tenor of their verbal and written declarations, such the tenor
of the scrip; trusting to which, we had set out on our wild-goose-chase.
Clear it now was that we had been duped and taken in; equally evident
that the Roman Catholic Mexican government would have nothing to say to
This information threw us into no small perplexity. Our Yankee friends
at Brazoria, however, laughed at our dilemma, and told us that we were
only in the same plight as hundreds of our countrymen, who had come to
Texas in total ignorance of this condition, but who had not the less
taken possession of their land and settled there; that they themselves
were amongst the number; and that, although it was just as likely they
would turn negroes as Roman Catholics, they had no idea of being turned
out of their houses and plantations; that, at any rate, if the Mexicans
tried it, they had their rifles with them, and should be apt, they
reckoned, to burn powder before they allowed themselves to be kicked off
such an almighty fine piece of soil. So, after a while, we began to
think, that as we had paid our money and come so far, we might do as
others had done before us—occupy our land and wait the course of
events. The next day we each bought a horse, or mustang, as they call
them there, which animals were selling at Brazoria for next to nothing,
and rode out into the prairie to look for a convenient spot to settle.
These mustangs are small horses, rarely above fourteen hands high, and
are descended from the Spanish breed introduced by the original
conquerors of the country. During the three centuries that have elapsed
since the conquest of Mexico, they have increased and multiplied to an
extraordinary extent, and are to be found in vast droves in the Texan
prairies, although they now begin to be somewhat scarcer. They are taken
with the lasso, concerning which instrument or weapon I will here say
a word or two, notwithstanding that it has been often described.
The lasso is usually from twenty to thirty feet long, very flexible, and
composed of strips of twisted ox-hide. One end is fastened to the
saddle, and the other, which forms a running noose, held in the hand of
the hunter, who, thus equipped, rides out into the prairie. When he
discovers a troop of wild horses, he manœuvres to get to windward of
them, and then to approach as near to them as possible. If he be an
experienced hand, the horses seldom or never escape him; and as soon as
he finds himself within twenty or thirty feet of them, he throws the
noose with unerring aim over the neck of the one he has selected for his
prey. This done, he turns his own horse sharp round, gives him the spur,
and gallops away, dragging his unfortunate captive after him,
breathless, and with his windpipe so compressed by the noose, that he is
unable to make the smallest resistance, but, after a few yards, falls
headlong to the ground, and lies motionless and almost lifeless,
sometimes indeed badly hurt and disabled. From that day forward, the
horse which has been thus caught never forgets the lasso; the mere sight
of it makes him tremble in every limb; and, however wild he may be, it
is sufficient to show it to him, or to lay it on his neck, to render him
as tame and docile as a lamb.
The horse taken, next comes the breaking in, which is effected in a no
less brutal manner than his capture. The eyes of the unfortunate animal
are covered with a bandage, and a tremendous bit, a pound weight or
more, clapped into his mouth; the horsebreaker puts on a pair of spurs
six inches long, with rowels like penknives, and jumping on his back,
urges him to his very utmost speed. If the horse tries to rear, or turns
restive, one pull, and not a very hard one either, at the instrument of
torture they call a bit, is sufficient to tear his mouth to shreds, and
cause the blood to flow in streams. I have myself seen horses’ teeth
broken with these barbarous bits. The poor beast whinnies and groans
with pain and terror; but there is no help for him; the spurs are at his
flanks, and on he goes full gallop, till he is ready to sink from
fatigue and exhaustion. He then has a quarter of an hour’s rest allowed
him; but scarcely has he recovered breath, which has been ridden and
spurred out of his body, when he is again mounted, and has to go through
the same violent process as before. If he breaks down during this rude
trial, he is either knocked on the head or driven away as useless; but
if he holds out, he is marked with a hot iron, and left to graze on the
prairie. Henceforward, there is no particular difficulty in catching
him when wanted; his wildness is completely punished out of him, but for
it is substituted the most confirmed vice and malice that can possibly
be conceived. These mustangs are unquestionably the most deceitful and
spiteful of all the equine race. They seem perpetually looking out for
an opportunity of playing their master a trick; and very soon after I
got possession of mine, I was near paying for him in a way that I had
certainly not calculated upon.
We were going to Bolivar, and had to cross the river Brazos. I was the
last but one to get into the boat, and was leading my horse carelessly
by the bridle. Just as I was about to step in, a sudden jerk, and a cry
of “Mind your beast!” made me jump on one side; and lucky was it that I
did so. My mustang had suddenly sprung back, reared up, and then thrown
himself forward upon me with such force and fury, that, as I got out of
his way, his fore feet went completely through the bottom of the boat. I
never in my life saw an animal in such a paroxysm of rage. He curled up
his lips till his whole range of teeth was visible, his eyes literally
shot fire, the foam flew from his mouth, and he gave a wild screaming
neigh that had something quite diabolical in its sound. Whilst I stood
perfectly thunderstruck at this outbreak, one of the party took a lasso
and very quietly laid it over the animal’s neck. The effect was magical.
With closed mouth, drooping ears, and head low, there stood the
mustang, meek and docile as any old jackass. The change was so sudden
and comical, that we all burst out laughing; although, when I came to
reflect on the danger I had run, it required all my love of horses to
prevent me from shooting the brute upon the spot.
Mounted upon this ticklish steed, and in company with my friend, I made
various excursions to Bolivar, Marion, Columbia, Anahuac, incipient
cities consisting of from five to twenty houses. We also visited
numerous plantations and clearings, to the owners of some of which we
were known, or had messages of introduction; but either with or without
such recommendations, we always found a hearty welcome and hospitable
reception, and it was rare that we were allowed to pay for our
We arrived one day at a clearing, which lay a few miles off the way from
Harrisburg to San Felipe de Austin, and belonged to a Mr Neal. He had
been three years in the country, occupying himself with the breeding of
cattle, which is unquestionably the most agreeable, as well as
profitable, occupation that can be followed in Texas. He had between
seven and eight hundred head of cattle, and from fifty to sixty horses,
all mustangs. His plantation, like nearly all the plantations in Texas
at that time, was as yet in a very rough state; and his house, although
roomy and comfortable enough inside, was built of unhewn tree-trunks, in
true backwoodsman style. It was situated on the border of one of the
islands, or groups of trees, between two gigantic sycamores, which
sheltered it from the sun and wind. In front, and as far as could be
seen, lay the prairie, with its waving grass and many-coloured flowers;
behind the dwelling arose the cluster of forest trees in all their
primeval majesty, laced and bound together by an infinity of wild vines,
which shot their tendrils and clinging branches hundreds of feet upwards
to the very top of the trees, embracing and covering the whole island
with a green network, and converting it into an immense bower of vine
leaves, which would have been no unsuitable abode for Bacchus and his
These islands are one of the most enchanting features of Texan scenery.
Of infinite variety and beauty of form, and unrivalled in the growth and
magnitude of the trees composing them, they are of all shapes—circular,
parallelograms, hexagons, octagons—some again twisting and winding like
dark-green snakes over the brighter surface of the prairie. In no park
or artificially laid-out grounds could anything be found at all
equalling these natural shrubberies in beauty and symmetry. In the
morning and evening especially, when surrounded by a sort of veil of
light-greyish mist, and with the horizontal beams of the rising or
setting sun gleaming through them, they offer pictures which it is
impossible to weary of admiring.
Mr Neal was a jovial Kentuckian, and he received us with the greatest
hospitality, only asking in return all the news we could give him from
the States. It is difficult to imagine, without having witnessed it, the
feverish eagerness and curiosity with which all intelligence from their
native country is sought after and listened to by these dwellers in the
desert. Men, women, and children crowded round us; and though we had
arrived in the afternoon, it was near sunrise before we could escape
from the inquiries by which we were overwhelmed, and retire to the beds
that had been prepared for us.
I had not slept very long when I was roused by our worthy host. He was
going out to catch twenty or thirty oxen, wanted for the market at New
Orleans. As the kind of chase which takes place after these animals is
very interesting, and rarely dangerous, we willingly accepted the
invitation to accompany him; and having dressed and breakfasted in all
haste, got upon our mustangs and rode off into the prairie.
The party was half-a-dozen strong, consisting of Mr Neal, my friend and
myself, and three negroes. What we had to do was to drive the cattle,
which were grazing on the prairie in herds of from thirty to fifty head,
to the house, and then those selected for the market were to be taken
with the lasso and sent off to Brazoria.
After riding four or five miles, we came in sight of a drove; splendid
animals, standing very high, and of most symmetrical form. The horns of
these cattle are of unusual length, and, in the distance, have more the
appearance of stags’ antlers than of bulls’ horns. We approached the
herd to within a quarter of a mile. They remained quite quiet. We rode
round them, and in like manner got in rear of a second and third drove,
and then spread out, so as to form a half circle and drive the cattle
towards the house.
Hitherto my mustang had behaved exceedingly well, cantering freely
along, and not attempting to play any tricks. I had scarcely, however,
left the remainder of the party a couple of hundred yards, when the
devil by which he was possessed began to wake up. The mustangs belonging
to the plantation were grazing some three quarters of a mile off; and no
sooner did my beast catch sight of them, than he commenced practising
every species of jump and leap that it is possible for a horse to
execute, and many of a nature so extraordinary, that I should have
thought no brute that ever went on four legs would have been able to
accomplish them. He shied, reared, pranced, leaped forwards, backwards,
and sideways; in short, played such infernal pranks, that, although a
practised rider, I found it no easy matter to keep my seat. I heartily
regretted that I had brought no lasso with me, which would have tamed
him at once, and that, contrary to Mr Neal’s advice, I had put on my
American bit instead of a Mexican one. Without these auxiliaries, all my
horsemanship was useless. The brute galloped like a mad creature some
five hundred yards, caring nothing for my efforts to stop him; and then,
finding himself close to the troop of mustangs, he stopped suddenly
short, threw his head between his fore-legs, and his hind feet into the
air, with such vicious violence, that I was pitched clean out of the
saddle. Before I well knew where I was, I had the satisfaction of seeing
him put his fore feet on the bridle, pull bit and bridoon out of his
mouth, and then, with a neigh of exultation, spring into the midst of
the herd of mustangs.
I got up out of the long grass in a towering passion. One of the negroes
who was nearest to me came galloping to my assistance, and begged me to
let the beast run for a while, and that when Anthony, the huntsman,
came, he would soon catch him. I was too angry to listen to reason, and
I ordered him to get off his horse, and let me mount. The black begged
and prayed of me not to ride after the brute; and Mr Neal, who was some
distance off, shouted to me, as loud as he could, for Heaven’s sake, to
stop; that I did not know what it was to chase a wild horse in a Texan
prairie, and that I must not fancy myself in the meadows of Louisiana or
Florida. I paid no attention to all this—I was in too great a rage at
the trick the beast had played me; and, jumping on the negro’s horse, I
galloped away like mad.
My rebellious steed was grazing quietly with his companions, and he
allowed me to come within a couple of hundred paces of him; but just as
I had prepared the lasso, which was fastened to the negro’s saddle-bow,
he gave a start, and galloped off some distance further, I after him.
Again he made a pause, and munched a mouthful of grass—then off again
for another half mile. This time I had great hopes of catching him, for
he let me come within a hundred yards; but just as I was creeping up to
him, away he went with one of his shrill neighs. When I galloped fast,
he went faster; when I rode slowly, he slackened his pace. At least ten
times did he let me approach him within a couple of hundred yards,
without for that being a bit nearer getting hold of him. It was
certainly high time to desist from such a mad chase, but I never dreamed
of doing so; and indeed the longer it lasted, the more obstinate I got.
I rode on after the beast, who let me come nearer and nearer, and then
darted off again with his loud, laughing neigh. It was this infernal
neigh that made me so savage—there was something spiteful and
triumphant in it, as though the animal knew he was making a fool of me,
and exulted in so doing. At last, however, I got so sick of my
horse-hunt that I determined to make a last trial, and, if that failed,
to turn back. The runaway had stopped near one of the islands of trees,
and was grazing quite close to its edge. I thought that, if I were to
creep round to the other side of the island, and then steal across it,
through the trees, I should be able to throw the lasso over his head,
or, at any rate, to drive him back to the house. This plan I put in
execution: rode round the island, then through it, lasso in hand, and as
softly as if I had been riding over eggs. To my consternation, however,
on arriving at the edge of the trees, and at the exact spot where, only
a few minutes before, I had seen the mustang grazing, no signs of him
were to be perceived. I made the circuit of the island, but in vain—the
animal had disappeared. With a hearty curse, I put spurs to my horse,
and started off to ride back to the plantation.
Neither the plantation, the cattle, nor my companions, were visible, it
is true; but this gave me no uneasiness. I felt sure that I knew the
direction in which I had come, and that the island I had just left was
one which was visible from the house, whilst all around me were such
numerous tracks of horses, that the possibility of my having lost my
way never occurred to me, and I rode on quite unconcernedly.
After riding for about an hour, I began to find the time rather long. I
looked at my watch: it was past one o’clock. We had started at nine,
and, allowing an hour and a half to have been spent in finding the
cattle, I had passed nearly three hours in my wild and unsuccessful
hunt. I began to think I must have got further from the plantation than
I had as yet supposed.
It was towards the end of March, the day clear and warm, just like a
May-day in the Southern States. The sun now shone brightly out, but the
early part of the morning had been somewhat foggy; and as I had only
arrived at the plantation the day before, and had passed the whole
afternoon and evening indoors, I had had no opportunity of getting
acquainted with the bearings of the house. This reflection made me
rather uneasy, particularly when I remembered the entreaties of the
negro, and the loud exhortations Mr Neal addressed to me as I rode away.
I said to myself, however, that I could not be more than ten or fifteen
miles from the plantation, that I should soon come in sight of the herds
of cattle, and that then there would be no difficulty in finding my way.
But when I had ridden another hour without seeing the smallest sign
either of man or beast, I got seriously uneasy. In my impatience, I
abused poor Neal for not sending somebody to find me. His huntsman, I
had heard, was gone to Anahuac, and would not be back for two or three
days; but he might have sent a couple of his lazy negroes: or, if he had
only fired a shot or two as a signal. I stopped and listened, in hopes
of hearing the crack of a rifle. But the deepest stillness reigned
around, scarcely the chirp of a bird was heard—all nature seemed to be
taking the siesta. As far as the eye could reach was a waving sea of
grass, here and there an island of trees, but not a trace of a human
being. At last I thought I had made a discovery. The nearest clump of
trees was undoubtedly the same which I had admired and pointed out to my
companions soon after we left the house. It bore a fantastical
resemblance to a snake coiled up and about to dart upon its prey. About
six or seven miles from the plantation we had passed it on our right
hand, and if I now kept it upon my left, I could not fail to be going in
a proper direction. So said, so done. I trotted on most perseveringly
towards the point of the horizon where I felt certain the house must
lie. One hour passed, then a second, then a third: every now and then I
stopped and listened, but nothing was audible—not a shot nor a shout.
But although I heard nothing, I saw something which gave me no great
pleasure. In the direction in which we had ridden out, the grass was
very abundant and the flowers scarce; whereas the part of the prairie
in which I now found myself presented the appearance of a perfect
flower-garden, with scarcely a square foot of green to be seen. The most
variegated carpet of flowers I ever beheld lay unrolled before me; red,
yellow, violet, blue—every colour, every tint was there; millions of
magnificent prairie roses, tuberoses, asters, dahlias, and fifty other
kinds of flowers. The finest artificial garden in the world sinks into
insignificance when compared with this parterre of nature’s own
planting. My horse could hardly make his way through the wilderness of
flowers, and I for a time remained lost in admiration of this scene of
extraordinary beauty. The prairie in the distance looked as if clothed
with rainbows, that waved to and fro over its surface.
But the difficulties and anxieties of my situation soon banished all
other thoughts, and I rode on with complete indifference through scenes
which, under other circumstances, would have captivated my entire
attention. All the stories I had heard of mishaps in these endless
prairies, recurred in vivid colouring to my memory—not mere
backwoodsmen’s legends, but facts well authenticated by persons of
undoubted veracity, who had warned me, before I came to Texas, against
venturing without guide or compass into these dangerous wilds. Even men
who had been long in the country were often known to lose themselves,
and to wander for days and weeks over these oceans of grass, where no
hill or variety of surface offers a landmark to the traveller. In summer
and autumn, such a position would have one danger the less—that is to
say, there would be no risk of dying of hunger; for at those seasons the
most delicious fruits—grapes, plums, peaches, and others—are to be
found in abundance. But we were now in early spring, and although I saw
numbers of peach and plum-trees, they were only in blossom. Of game also
there was plenty, both fur and feather; but I had no gun, and nothing
appeared more probable than that I should be starved, although
surrounded by food, and in one of the most fruitful countries in the
world. This thought flashed suddenly across me, and for a moment my
heart sank within me as I first perceived the real danger of my
After a time, however, other ideas came to console me. I had been
already four weeks in the country, and had ridden over a large slice of
it in every direction, always through prairies, and I had never had any
difficulty in finding my way. True, but then I had always had a compass,
and been in company. It was this sort of over-confidence and feeling of
security that had made me adventure so rashly, and in spite of all
warning, in pursuit of the mustang. I had not waited to reflect, that a
little more than four weeks’ experience was necessary to make one
acquainted with the bearings of a district three times as big as New
York State. Still I thought it impossible that I should have got so far
out of the right track as not to be able to find the house before
nightfall, although that was now rapidly approaching. Indeed, the first
shades of evening, strange as it may seem, gave this persuasion
increased strength. Home-bred and gently nurtured as I was, my life,
before coming to Texas, had been by no means one of adventure, and I was
so used to sleep with a roof over my head, that when I saw it getting
dusk I felt certain I could not be far from the house. The idea fixed
itself so strongly in my mind, that I involuntarily spurred my mustang,
and trotted on, peering out through the now fast-gathering gloom, in
expectation of seeing a light. Several times I fancied I heard the
barking of the dogs, the cattle lowing, or the merry laugh of the
“Hurrah! there is the house at last—I see the lights in the parlour
I urged my horse on, but when I came near the house, it proved to be an
island of trees. What I had taken for candles were fire-flies, that now
issued in swarms from out of the darkness of the islands, and spread
themselves over the prairie, darting about in every direction, their
small blue flames literally lighting up the plain, and making it appear
as if I were surrounded by a sea of Bengal fire. Nothing could be more
bewildering than such a ride as mine, on a warm March night, through
the interminable, never-varying prairie; overhead the deep blue
firmament, with its hosts of bright stars; at my feet, and all around,
an ocean of magical light, myriads of fire-flies floating upon the soft
still air. It was like a scene of enchantment. I could distinguish every
blade of grass, every flower, every leaf on the trees—but all in a
strange unnatural sort of light, and in altered colours. Tuberoses and
asters, prairie roses and geraniums, dahlias and vine branches, began to
wave and move, to range themselves in ranks and rows. The whole
vegetable world around me appeared to dance, as the swarms of living
lights passed over it.
Suddenly, from out of the sea of fire, sounded a loud and long-drawn
note. I stopped, listened, and gazed around me. It was not repeated, and
I rode on. Again the same sound, but this time the cadence was sad and
plaintive. Again I made a halt, and listened. It was repeated a third
time in a yet more melancholy tone, and I recognised it as the cry of a
whip-poor-will. Presently it was answered from a neighbouring island by
a katydid. My heart leaped for joy at hearing the note of this bird, the
native minstrel of my own dear Maryland. In an instant the house where I
was born stood before the eyesight of my imagination. There were the
negro huts, the garden, the plantation, everything exactly as I had
left it. So powerful was the illusion, that I gave my horse the spur,
persuaded that my father’s house lay before me. The island, too, I took
for the grove that surrounded our house. On reaching its border, I
literally dismounted, and shouted out for Charon Tommy. There was a
stream running through our plantation, which, for nine months out of the
twelve, was passable only by means of a ferry, and the old negro who
officiated as ferryman was indebted to me for the above classical
cognomen. I believe I called twice, nay, three times—but no Charon
Tommy answered; and I awoke as from a pleasant dream, somewhat ashamed
of the lengths to which my excited imagination had hurried me.
I now felt so weary and exhausted, so hungry and thirsty, and, withal,
my mind was so anxious and harassed by my dangerous position, and by the
uncertainty how I should get out of it, that I was really incapable of
going any further. I felt quite bewildered, and stood for some time
gazing before me, and scarcely even troubling myself to think. At length
I mechanically drew my clasp-knife from my pocket, and set to work to
dig a hole in the rich black soil of the prairie. Into this hole I put
the knotted end of my lasso, and then, filling in the earth and stamping
it down with my foot, as I had seen others do since I had been in Texas,
I passed the noose over my mustang’s neck, and left him to graze,
whilst I myself lay down outside the circle which the lasso would allow
him to describe. An odd manner, it may seem, of tying up a horse; but
the most convenient and natural one in a country where one may often
find oneself fifty miles from any house, and five-and-twenty from a tree
I found it no easy matter to sleep, for on all sides I heard the howling
of wolves and jaguars—an unpleasant serenade at any time, but most of
all so in the prairie, unarmed and defenceless as I was. My nerves, too,
were all in commotion; and I felt so feverish that I do not know what I
should have done, had I not fortunately remembered that I had my
cigar-case and a roll of tobacco, real Virginia dulcissimus, in my
pocket—invaluable treasures in my present situation, and which on this,
as on many other occasions, did not fail to soothe and calm my agitated
Luckily, too, being a tolerably confirmed smoker, I carried a flint and
steel with me; for otherwise, although surrounded by lights, I should
have been sadly at a loss for fire. A couple of havannahs did me an
infinite deal of good, and after a while I sank into the slumber of
which I stood so much in need.
The day was hardly well broken when I awoke. The refreshing sleep I had
enjoyed had given me new energy and courage. I felt hungry enough, to
be sure, but light and cheerful, and I hastened to dig up the end of the
lasso, and to saddle my horse. I trusted that, although I had been
condemned to wander over the prairie the whole of the preceding day, as
a sort of punishment for my rashness, I should now have better luck,
and, having expiated my fault, be at length allowed to find my way. With
this hope I mounted my mustang and resumed my ride.
I passed several beautiful islands of pecan, plum, and peach trees. It
is a peculiarity worthy of remark, that these islands are nearly always
of one sort of tree. It is very rare to meet with one where there are
two sorts. Like the beasts of the forest, that herd together according
to their kind, so does this wild vegetation preserve itself distinct in
its different species. One island will be entirely composed of live
oaks, another of plum, and a third of pecan trees; the vine only, common
to them all, embraces them all alike with its slender but tenacious
branches. I rode through several of these islands. They were perfectly
free from bushes and brushwood, and carpeted with the most beautiful
verdure possible to behold. I gazed at them in astonishment. It seemed
incredible that nature, abandoned to herself, should preserve herself so
beautifully clean and pure, and I involuntarily looked around me for
some trace of the hand of man. But none was there. I saw nothing but
herds of deer, that gazed wonderingly at me with their large clear
eyes, and when I approached too near, galloped off in alarm. What would
I not have given for an ounce of lead, a charge of powder, and a
Kentucky rifle! Nevertheless, the mere sight of the beasts gladdened me,
and raised my spirits. They were a sort of society. Something of the
same feeling seemed imparted to my horse, who bounded under me, and
neighed merrily, as he cantered along in the fresh spring morning.
I was now skirting the side of an island of trees of greater extent than
most of those I had hitherto seen. On reaching the end of it, I suddenly
came in sight of an object whose extraordinary appearance far surpassed
any of the natural wonders I had as yet beheld, either in Texas or the
At the distance of about two miles rose a colossal mass, in shape
somewhat like a monumental mound or tumulus, and apparently of the
brightest silver. As I came in view of it, the sun was just covered by a
passing cloud, from the lower edge of which the bright rays shot down
obliquely upon this extraordinary phenomenon, lighting it up in the most
brilliant manner. At one moment it looked like a huge silver cone; then
took the appearance of an illuminated castle with pinnacles and towers,
or the dome of some great cathedral; then of a gigantic elephant,
covered with trappings, but always of solid silver, and indescribably
magnificent. Had all the treasures of the earth been offered me to say
what it was, I should have been unable to answer. Bewildered by my
interminable wanderings in the prairie, and weakened by fatigue and
hunger, a superstitious feeling for a moment came over me, and I half
asked myself whether I had not reached some enchanted region, into which
the evil spirit of the prairie was luring me to destruction by
appearances of supernatural strangeness and beauty.
Banishing these wild imaginings, I rode on in the direction of this
strange object; but it was only when I came within a very short distance
that I was able to distinguish its nature. It was a live oak of most
stupendous dimensions, the very patriarch of the prairie, grown grey in
the lapse of ages. Its lower limbs had shot out in a horizontal, or
rather a downward-slanting direction, and, reaching nearly to the
ground, completed the base of a vast dome, several hundred feet in
diameter, and full a hundred and thirty feet high. It had no appearance
of a tree, for neither trunk nor branches were visible. It seemed a
mountain of whitish-green scales, fringed with long silvery moss, that
hung like innumerable beards from every bough and twig. Nothing could
better convey the idea of immense and incalculable age than the hoary
beard and venerable appearance of this monarch of the woods. Spanish
moss of a silvery grey draped the whole mass of wood and foliage, from
the topmost bough down to the very ground; short near the top of the
tree, but gradually increasing in length as it descended, until it hung
like a deep fringe from the lower branches. I separated the vegetable
curtain with my hands, and entered this august temple with feelings of
involuntary awe. The change from the bright sunlight to the comparative
darkness beneath the leafy vault was so great, that I at first could
distinguish scarcely anything. But when my eyes got accustomed to the
gloom, nothing could be more beautiful than the effect of the sun’s
rays, which, in forcing their way through the silvered leaves and
mosses, took as many varieties of colour as if they had passed through a
window of painted glass, and gave the rich, subdued, and solemn light
observable in old cathedrals.
The trunk of the tree rose, free from all branches, full forty feet from
the ground, rough and knotted, and of such enormous size that it might
have been taken for a mass of rock covered with moss and lichens, whilst
many of its boughs were nearly as thick as the trunk of any tree I had
ever previously seen.
I was so absorbed in the contemplation of the vegetable giant, that for
a short space I almost forgot my troubles; but as I rode away from the
tree they returned to me in full force, and my reflections were
certainly of no very cheering or consolatory nature. I rode on, however,
most perseveringly. The morning slipped away; it was noon, the sun stood
high in the cloudless heavens. My hunger had now increased to an
insupportable degree, and I felt as if something were gnawing within
me—something like a crab tugging and riving at my stomach with his
sharp claws. This feeling left me after a time, and was replaced by a
sort of squeamishness, a faint sickly sensation. But if hunger was bad,
thirst was worse. For some hours I suffered martyrdom. At length, like
the hunger, it died away, and was succeeded by a feeling of sickness.
The thirty hours’ fatigue and fasting I had endured were beginning to
tell upon my naturally strong nerves: I felt my reasoning powers growing
weaker, and my presence of mind leaving me. A feeling of despondency
came over me—a thousand wild fancies passed through my bewildered
brain; whilst at times my head grew dizzy, and I reeled in my saddle
like a drunken man. These weak fits, as I may call them, did not last
long; and each time that I recovered I spurred my mustang onwards. But
all was in vain—ride as far and as fast as I would, nothing was visible
but a boundless sea of grass.
At length I gave up hope, except in that God whose almighty hand was so
manifest in the beauteous works around me. I let the bridle fall on my
horse’s neck, clasped my hands together, and prayed as I had never
before prayed, so heartily and earnestly. When I had finished my prayer
I felt greatly comforted. It seemed to me, that here in the wilderness,
which man had not as yet polluted, I was nearer to God, and that my
petition would assuredly be heard. I gazed cheerfully around, persuaded
that I should yet escape the peril in which I stood. Just then, with
what astonishment and inexpressible delight did I perceive, not ten
paces off, the track of a horse!
The effect of this discovery was like an electric shock, and drew a cry
of joy from my lips that made my mustang start and prick his ears. Tears
of delight and gratitude to Heaven came into my eyes, and I could
scarcely refrain from leaping off my horse and kissing the welcome signs
that gave me assurance of succour. With renewed strength I galloped
onwards; and had I been a lover flying to rescue his mistress from an
Indian war-party, I could not have displayed more eagerness than I did
in following up the trail of an unknown traveller.
Never had I felt so thankful to Providence as at that moment. I uttered
thanksgivings as I rode on, and contemplated the wonderful evidences of
His skill and might that offered themselves to me on all sides. The
aspect of everything seemed changed, and I gazed with renewed admiration
at the scenes through which I passed, and which I had previously been
too preoccupied by the danger of my position to notice. The beautiful
appearance of the islands struck me particularly, as they loomed in the
distance, swimming in the bright golden beams of the noonday sun, dark
spots of foliage in the midst of the waving grasses and many-hued
flowers of the prairie. Before me lay the eternal flower-carpet, with
its innumerable asters, tuberoses, and mimosas—that delicate plant
which, when approached, lifts its head, seems to look at you, and then
droops and shrinks back in alarm. This I saw it do when I was two or
three paces from it, and without my horse’s foot having touched it. Its
long roots stretch out horizontally in the ground, and the approaching
tread of a horse or man is communicated through them to the plant, and
produces this singular phenomenon. When the danger is gone by, and the
earth ceases to vibrate, the mimosa may be seen again to raise its head,
quivering and trembling, as though not yet fully recovered from its
I had ridden on for three or four hours, following the track I had so
fortunately discovered, when I came upon the trace of a second horseman,
who appeared to have here joined the first traveller. It ran in a
parallel direction to the one I was following.
Had it been possible to increase my joy, this discovery would have done
so. I could now entertain no doubt that I had hit upon the way out of
this terrible prairie. It struck me as rather singular that two
travellers should have met in this immense plain, which so few persons
traversed; but that they had done so was certain, for there were the
tracks of the two horses, as distinct as possible. The trail was fresh,
too, and it was evidently not long since the horsemen had passed. It
might still be possible to overtake them; and in this hope I rode on
faster than ever—as fast, at least, as my mustang could carry me
through the thick grass and flowers, which in some places were four or
five feet high.
During the next three hours I passed over ten or twelve miles of ground;
but although the trail still lay plainly and broadly marked before me, I
saw nothing of those who had left it. Still I persevered. I must
overtake them sooner or later, provided I did not lose the track; and
that I was most careful not to do, keeping my eyes fixed upon the ground
as I rode along, and never deviating from the line which the travellers
Thus the day passed away, and evening approached. I still retained hope
and courage; but my physical strength was giving way. The gnawing
sensation of hunger increased. I felt sick and faint; my limbs were
heavy, my blood seemed chill in my veins, and all my senses grew duller
under the influence of exhaustion, thirst, and hunger. My eyesight was
misty, my hearing less acute, the bridle felt cold and heavy in my
Still I rode on. Sooner or later I must find an outlet; the prairie must
have an end somewhere. True, that the whole of Southern Texas is one
vast prairie; but then there are rivers flowing through it, and if I
could reach one of those, I should not be far from the abodes of men. By
following the streams five or six miles up or down, I should be sure to
find a plantation.
Whilst thus reasoning with and encouraging myself, I perceived the
traces of a third horse, running parallel to the two which I had so long
followed. This was indeed encouragement. It was certain that three
travellers, arriving from different points of the prairie, and all going
in the same direction, must have some object, must be repairing to some
village or clearing; and where or what this was had now become
indifferent to me, so long as I once more found myself in the
habitations of men. I spurred on my mustang, who began to flag a little
in his pace with the fatigue of our long ride.
The sun set behind the high trees of an island that bounded my view
westward, and there being little or no twilight in those southerly
latitudes, the broad day was almost instantaneously replaced by the
darkness of night. I could proceed no further without losing the track
of the three horsemen; and as I happened to be close to an island, I
fastened my mustang to a branch with the lasso, and threw myself on the
grass under the trees.
This night, however, I had no fancy for tobacco. Neither the cigars nor
the dulcissimus tempted me. I tried to sleep, but in vain. Once or
twice I began to doze, but was roused again by violent cramps and
twitchings in all my limbs. I know of nothing more horrible than a night
passed as I passed that one—faint and weak, enduring torture from
hunger and thirst, striving after sleep, and never finding it. The
sensation of hunger I experienced can only be compared to that of twenty
pairs of pincers tearing at the stomach.
With the first grey light of morning I got up and prepared for
departure. It was a long business, however, to get my horse ready. The
saddle, which at other times I could throw upon his back with two
fingers, now seemed of lead, and it was as much as I could do to lift
it. I had still more difficulty in drawing the girths tight; but at last
I accomplished this, and, scrambling upon my beast, rode off. Luckily my
mustang’s spirit was pretty well taken out of him by the last two days’
work; for if he had been fresh, the smallest spring on one side would
have sufficed to throw me out of the saddle. As it was, I sat upon him
like an automaton, hanging forward over his neck, sometimes grasping the
mane, and almost unable to use either rein or spur.
I had ridden on for some hours in this helpless plight, when I came to a
place where the three horsemen whose track I was following had
apparently made a halt—perhaps had passed the previous night. The grass
was trampled and beaten down in a circumference of some fifty or sixty
feet, and there was a confusion in the horse-tracks as if they had
ridden backwards and forwards. Fearful of losing the right trail, I was
looking carefully about me to see in what direction they had recommenced
their journey, when I noticed something white amongst the long grass. I
got off my horse to pick it up. It was a piece of paper with my own name
written upon it; and I recognised it as the back of a letter in which my
tobacco had been wrapped, and which I had thrown away at my
halting-place of the preceding night. I looked around, and recognised
the island and the very tree under which I had slept or endeavoured to
sleep. The horrible truth instantly flashed across me—the horse-tracks
I had followed were my own: since the preceding morning, I had been
riding in a circle!
I stood for a few seconds thunderstruck by this discovery, and then sank
upon the ground in utter despair. At that moment I should have been
thankful to any one who would have knocked me on the head as I lay. All
I wished for was to die as speedily as possible.
I remained I know not how long in a desponding, half-insensible state
upon the grass. Several hours must have elapsed; for when I got up, the
sun was low in the western heavens. My head was so weak and wandering
that I could not well explain to myself how it was that I had been thus
riding after my own shadow. Yet the thing was clear enough. Without
landmarks, and in the monotonous scenery of the prairie, I might have
gone on for ever following my horse’s track, and going back when I
thought I was going forwards, had it not been for the discovery of the
tobacco-paper. I was, as I subsequently learned, in the Jacinto prairie,
one of the most beautiful in Texas, full sixty miles long and broad, but
in which the most experienced hunters never risked themselves without a
compass. It was little wonder, then, that I, a mere boy of
two-and-twenty, just escaped from college, should have gone astray in
I now gave myself up for lost, and with the bridle twisted round my
hand, and holding on as well as I could by the saddle and mane, I let my
horse choose his own road. It would perhaps have been better had I done
this sooner: the beast’s instinct would probably have led him to some
plantation. When he found himself left to his own guidance, he threw up
his head, snuffed the air three or four times, and then, turning round,
set off in a contrary direction to that he was before following, and at
such a brisk pace that it was as much as I could do to keep upon him.
Every jolt caused me so much pain, that I was more than once tempted to
let myself fall off his back.
At last night came, and, thanks to the lasso, which kept my horse in
awe, I managed to dismount and secure him. The whole night through I
suffered from racking pains in head, limbs, and body. I felt as if I had
been broken on the wheel; not an inch of my whole person but ached and
smarted. My hands were grown thin and transparent, my cheeks fallen in,
my eyes deep sunk in their sockets. When I touched my face, I could feel
the change that had taken place; and as I did so, I caught myself once
or twice laughing like a child. I was becoming delirious.
In the morning I could scarcely rise from the ground, so utterly
weakened and exhausted was I by my three days’ fasting, anxiety, and
fatigue. I have heard say that a man in good health can live nine days
without food. It may be so in a room, or in a prison, but assuredly not
in a Texan prairie. I am quite certain that the fifth day would have
seen the last of me.
I should never have been able to mount my mustang, but he had
fortunately lain down, so I got into the saddle, and he rose up with me
and started off of his own accord. As I rode along, the strangest
visions passed before me. I saw the most beautiful cities that painter’s
fancy ever conceived, with towers, cupolas, and columns, whose summits
lost themselves in the clouds; marble basins and fountains of bright
sparkling water, rivers flowing with liquid gold and silver, and gardens
whose trees were bowed down with magnificent fruit—fruit which I had
not strength to raise my hand and pluck. My limbs were heavy as lead, my
tongue, lips, and gums, dry and parched. I breathed with the greatest
difficulty, and within me was a burning sensation, as if I had swallowed
hot coals; whilst my extremities, both hands and feet, did not appear to
form a part of myself, but to be instruments of torture affixed to me,
and causing me the most intense suffering.
I have a confused recollection of a sort of rushing sound, the nature of
which I was unable to determine, so nearly had all consciousness left
me; then of finding myself amongst trees, the leaves and boughs of which
scratched and beat against my face as I passed through them; then of a
sudden and rapid descent, with the broad bright surface of a river below
me. I clutched at a branch, but my fingers lacked strength to retain
their grasp—there was a hissing, splashing noise, and the waters
closed above my head.
I soon rose, and endeavoured to strike out with my arms and legs, but in
vain; I was too weak to swim, and again I went down. A thousand lights
danced before my eyes; there was a noise in my brain as if a
four-and-twenty pounder had been fired close to my ear. Just then a hard
hand was wrung into my neckcloth, and I felt myself dragged out of the
water. The next instant my senses left me.
When I recovered from my state of insensibility, and once more opened my
eyes, I was lying on the bank of a small but deep river. My horse grazed
quietly a few yards off, and beside me stood a man with folded arms,
holding a wicker-covered flask in his hand. This was all I was able to
observe; for my state of weakness prevented me from getting up and
looking around me.
“Where am I?” I gasped.
“Where are you, stranger? By the Jacinto; and that you are by it, and
not in it, is no fault of your’n, I reckon.”
There was something harsh and repulsive in the tone and manner in which
these words were spoken, and in the grating, scornful laugh which
accompanied them, that jarred upon my nerves, and inspired me with a
feeling of aversion towards the speaker. I knew he was my deliverer;
that he had saved my life when my mustang, raging with thirst, had
sprung head-foremost into the water; that, without him, I must
inevitably have been drowned, even had the river been less deep than it
was; and that it was by his care, and the whisky he had made me swallow,
and of which I still had the flavour on my tongue, that I had been
recovered from my death-like swoon. But had he done ten times as much
for me, I could not have repressed the feeling of repugnance, the
inexplicable dislike, with which the mere tones of his voice filled me.
I turned my head away in order not to see him. There was a silence of
some moments’ duration.
“Don’t seem as if my company was over and above agreeable,” said the man
“Your company not agreeable? This is the fourth day since I saw the face
of a human being. During that time not a bit nor a drop has passed my
“Hallo! That’s a lie!” shouted the man, with another strange, wild
laugh. “You’ve taken a mouthful out of my flask; not taken it,
certainly, but it went over your tongue all the same. Where do you come
from? The beast ain’t your’n.”
“Mr Neal’s,” answered I.
“See it is by the brand. But what brings you here from Mr Neal’s? It’s a
good seventy mile to his plantation, right across the prairie. Ain’t
stole the horse, have you?”
“Lost my way—four days—eaten nothing.”
These words were all I could articulate. I was too weak to talk.
“Four days without eatin’!” cried the man, with a laugh like the
sharpening of a saw, “and that in a Texas prairie, and with islands on
all sides of you! Ha! I see how it is. You’re a gentleman—that’s plain
enough. I was a sort of one myself once. You thought our Texas prairies
was like the prairies in the States. Ha, ha! And so you didn’t know how
to help yourself. Did you see no bees in the air, no strawberries on the
“Bees? Strawberries?” repeated I.
“Yes, bees, which live in the hollow trees. Out of twenty trees there’s
sure to be one full of honey. So you saw no bees, eh? Perhaps you don’t
know the creturs when you see ’em? Ain’t altogether so big as wild-geese
or turkeys. But you must know what strawberries are, and that they don’t
grow upon the trees.”
All this was spoken in the same sneering, savage manner as before, with
the speaker’s head half turned over his shoulder, while his features
were distorted into a contemptuous grin.
“And if I had seen the bees, how was I to get at the honey without an
“How did you lose yourself?”
“My mustang—ran away—”
“I see. And you after him. You’d have done better to let him run. But
what d’ye mean to do now?”
“I am weak—sick to death. I wish to get to the nearest house—an
inn—anywhere where men are.”
“Where men are,” repeated the stranger, with his scornful smile. “Where
men are,” he muttered again, taking a few steps on one side.
I was hardly able to turn my head, but there was something strange in
the man’s movement that alarmed me; and, making a violent effort, I
changed my position sufficiently to get him in sight again. He had drawn
a long knife from his girdle, which he clutched in one hand, whilst he
ran the forefinger of the other along its edge. I now for the first time
got a full view of his face, and the impression it made upon me was
anything but favourable. His countenance was the wildest I had ever
seen; his blood-shot eyes rolled like balls of fire in their sockets;
his movements and manner were indicative of a violent inward struggle.
He did not stand still for three seconds together, but paced backwards
and forwards with hurried, irregular steps, casting wild glances over
his shoulder, his fingers playing all the while with the knife, with
the rapid and objectless movements of a maniac.
I felt convinced that I was the cause of the struggle visibly going on
within him—that my life or death was what he was deciding upon. But, in
the state I then was, death had no terrors for me. The image of my
mother, sisters, and father, passed before my eyes. I gave one thought
to my peaceful, happy home, and then looked upwards and prayed.
The man had walked off to some distance. I turned myself a little more
round, and, as I did so, I caught sight of the same magnificent
phenomenon which I had met with on the second day of my wanderings. The
colossal live oak rose in all its silvery splendour, at the distance of
a couple of miles. Whilst I was gazing at it, and reflecting on the
strange ill-luck that had made me pass within so short a distance of the
river without finding it, I saw my new acquaintance approach a
neighbouring cluster of trees, amongst which he disappeared.
After a short time I again perceived him coming towards me with a slow
and staggering step. As he drew near, I had an opportunity of examining
his whole appearance. He was very tall and lean, but large-boned, and
apparently of great strength. His face, which had not been shaved for
several weeks, was so tanned by sun and weather, that he might have been
taken for an Indian, had not the beard proved his claim to white blood.
But his eyes were what most struck me. There was something so
frightfully wild in their expression, a look of terror and desperation,
like that of a man whom all the furies of hell were hunting and
persecuting. His hair hung in long ragged locks over his forehead,
cheeks, and neck, and round his head was bound a handkerchief, on which
were several stains of a brownish-black colour. Spots of the same kind
were visible upon his leathern jacket, breeches, and mocassins; they
were evidently blood stains. His hunting-knife, which was nearly two
feet long, with a rude wooden handle, was now replaced in his girdle,
but in its stead he grasped a Kentucky rifle.
Although I did my utmost to assume an indifferent countenance, my
features doubtless expressed something of the repugnance and horror with
which the man inspired me. He looked loweringly at me for a moment from
under his shaggy eyebrows.
“You don’t seem to like the company you’ve got into,” said he. “Do I
look so very desperate, then? Is it written so plainly on my face?”
“What should there be written upon your face?”
“What? What? Them questions are for fools and children.”
“I will ask you none; but as a Christian, as a countryman, I beseech
“Christian?” interrupted he, with a hollow laugh. “Countryman!” He
struck the butt of his rifle hard upon the ground. “That is my
countryman—my only friend!” he continued, as he examined the flint and
lock of his weapon. “That releases from all troubles: that’s a true
friend. Pooh! perhaps it’ll release you too—put you to rest.”
These last words were uttered aside, and musingly.
“Put him to rest, as well as——. Pooh! One more or less—Perhaps it
would drive away that cursed spectre.”
All this seemed to be spoken to his rifle.
“Will you swear not to betray me?” cried he to me. “Else, one touch——”
As he spoke, he brought the gun to his shoulder, the muzzle pointed full
at my breast.
I felt no fear. I am sure my pulse did not give a throb the more for
this menace. So deadly weak and helpless as I lay, it was unnecessary to
shoot me. The slightest blow from the butt of the rifle would have
driven the last faint spark of life out of my exhausted body. I looked
calmly, indifferently even, into the muzzle of the piece.
“If you can answer it to your God, to your and my Judge and Creator, do
My words, which from faintness I could scarcely render audible, had,
nevertheless, a sudden and startling effect upon the man. He trembled
from head to foot, let the butt of his gun fall heavily to the ground,
and gazed at me with open mouth and staring eyes.
“This one, too, comes with his God!” muttered he. “God! and your and my
He seemed hardly able to articulate these words, which were uttered by
gasps and efforts, as though something had choked him.
“His and my—Judge”—groaned he again. “Can there be a God, a Creator
As he stood thus muttering to himself, his eyes suddenly became fixed,
and his features horribly distorted.
“Do it not!” cried he, in a shrill tone of horror, that rang through my
head. “It will bring no blessin’ with it. I am a dead man! God be
merciful to me! My poor wife! my poor children!”
The rifle fell from his hands, and he smote his breast and forehead in a
paroxysm of the wildest fury and despair. It was frightful to behold the
conscience-stricken wretch, stamping madly about, and casting glances of
terror behind him, as though demons had been hunting him down. The foam
flew from his mouth, and I expected each moment to see him fall to the
ground in a fit of epilepsy. Gradually, however, he grew more tranquil.
“D’ye see nothin’ in my face?” said he in a hoarse whisper, suddenly
pausing close to where I lay.
“What should I see?”
He came yet nearer.
“Look well at me—through me, if you can. D’ye see nothin’ now?”
“I see nothing,” replied I.
“Ah! I understand; you can see nothin’. Ain’t in a spyin’ humour, I
calkilate. No, no, that you ain’t. After four days and nights fastin’,
one loses the fancy for many things. I’ve tried it for two days myself.
So, you are weak and faint, eh? But I needn’t ask that, I reckon. You
look bad enough. Take another drop of whisky; it’ll strengthen you. But
wait till I mix it.”
As he spoke, he stepped down to the edge of the river, and scooping up
the water in the hollow of his hand, filled up his flask with it. Then
returning to me, he poured a little into my mouth.
Even the bloodthirsty Indian appears less of a savage when engaged in a
compassionate act, and the wild desperado I had fallen in with seemed
softened and humanised by the service he was rendering me. His voice
sounded less harsh; his manner was calmer and milder.
“You wish to go to an inn?”
“For Heaven’s sake, yes. These four days I have tasted nothing but a bit
“Can you spare a bit of that?”
“All I have.”
I handed him my cigar-case, and the roll of dulcissimus. He snatched
the latter from me, and bit into it with the furious eagerness of a
“Ah! the right sort this!” muttered he to himself. “Ah, young man, or
old man—you’re an old man, ain’t you? How old are you?”
He shook his head doubtingly.
“Can hardly believe that. But four days in the prairie, and nothin’ to
eat. Well, it may be so. But, stranger, if I had had this bit of tobacco
only ten days ago——A bit of tobacco is worth a deal sometimes. It
might have saved a man’s life!”
Again he groaned, and his accents were wild and unnatural.
“I say, stranger!” cried he in a threatening tone. “I say! D’ye see
yonder live oak? D’ye see it? It’s the Patriarch, and a finer and
mightier one you won’t find in the prairies, I reckon. D’ye see it?”
“I do see it.”
“Ah! you see it,” cried he fiercely. “And what is it to you? What have
you to do with the Patriarch, or with what lies under it? I reckon you
had best not be too curious that way. If you dare take a step under that
tree——” He swore an oath too horrible to be repeated.
“There’s a spectre there,” cried he; “a spectre that would fright you to
death. Better keep away.”
“I will keep away,” replied I. “I never thought of going near it. All I
want is to get to the nearest plantation or inn.”
“Ah! true, man—the next inn. I’ll show you the way to it. I will.”
“You will save my life by so doing,” said I, “and I shall be ever
grateful to you as my deliverer.”
“Deliverer!” repeated he with a wild laugh. “Pooh! If you knew what sort
of a deliverer—Pooh! What’s the use of savin’ a life, when—yet I
will—I will save yours; perhaps the cursed spectre will leave me then.
Will you not? Will you not?” cried he, suddenly changing his scornful
mocking tones to those of entreaty and supplication, and turning his
face in the direction of the live oak. Again his wildness of manner
returned, and his eyes were fixed as he gazed for some moments at the
gigantic tree. Then darting away, he disappeared among the trees, whence
he had fetched his rifle, and presently emerged again, leading a saddled
horse with him. He called to me to mount mine, but seeing that I was
unable even to rise from the ground, he stepped up to me, and with the
greatest ease lifted me into the saddle with one hand, so light had I
become during my long fast. Then taking the end of my lasso, he got upon
his own horse and set off, leading my mustang after him.
We rode on for some time without exchanging a word. My guide kept up a
sort of muttered soliloquy; but as I was full ten paces in his rear, I
could distinguish nothing of what he said. At times he would raise his
rifle to his shoulder, then lower it again, and speak to it, sometimes
caressingly, sometimes in anger. More than once he turned his head, and
cast keen searching glances at me, as though to see whether I were
watching him or not.
We had ridden more than an hour, and the strength the whisky had given
me was fast failing, so that I expected each moment to fall from my
horse, when suddenly I caught sight of a kind of rude hedge, and, almost
immediately afterwards, of the wall of a small blockhouse. A faint cry
of joy escaped me, and I endeavoured, but in vain, to give my horse the
spur. My guide turned round, fixed his wild eyes upon me, and spoke in a
“You are impatient, man! impatient, I see. You think now, perhaps——”
“I am dying,” was all I could utter. In fact, my senses were leaving me
from exhaustion, and I really thought my last hour was come.
“Pooh! dyin’! One don’t die so easy. And yet—d——n!—it might be
He sprang off his horse, and was just in time to catch me in his arms as
I fell from the saddle. A few drops of whisky, however, restored me to
consciousness. My guide replaced me upon my mustang, and after passing
through a potato ground, a field of Indian corn, and a small grove of
peach-trees, we found ourselves at the door of the blockhouse.
I was so utterly helpless, that my strange companion was obliged to lift
me off my horse, and carry me into the dwelling. He set me down upon a
bench, passive and powerless as an infant. Strange to say, I was never
better able to observe all that passed around me, than during the few
hours of physical debility that succeeded my immersion in the Jacinto. A
blow with a reed would have knocked me off my seat, but my mental
faculties, instead of participating in this weakness, seemed sharpened
to an unusual degree of acuteness.
The blockhouse in which we now were was of the poorest possible
description; a mere log hut consisting of one room, that served as
kitchen, sitting-room, and bedchamber. The door of rough planks swang
heavily upon two hooks, which fitted into iron rings, and formed a
clumsy substitute for hinges; a wooden latch and heavy bar served to
secure it; windows, properly speaking, there were none, but in their
stead a few holes covered with dirty oiled paper; the floor was of clay,
stamped hard and dry in the middle, but out of which, at the sides of
the room, a crop of rank grass was growing, a foot or more high. In one
corner stood a clumsy bedstead, in another was a sort of bar or
counter, on which were half a dozen drinking glasses of various sizes
and patterns. The table consisted of four thick posts, firmly planted in
the ground, and on which were nailed three boards that had apparently
belonged to some chest or case, for they were partly painted, and there
was a date, and the three first letters of a word upon one of them. A
shelf fixed against the side of the hut supported an earthen pot or two,
and three or four bottles, uncorked, and apparently empty; and from some
wooden pegs wedged in between the logs, hung suspended a few articles of
wearing apparel of no very cleanly aspect.
Pacing up and down the hut with a kind of stealthy cat-like pace, was an
individual, whose unprepossessing exterior was in good keeping with the
wretched appearance of this Texan shebeen house. He was an undersized,
stooping figure, red-haired and large-mouthed, with small reddish pig’s
eyes, which he seemed totally unable to raise from the ground, and whose
lowering, hang-dog expression corresponded fully with the treacherous,
restless, panther-like stealthiness of his step and movements. Without
greeting us either by word or look, this personage dived into a dark
corner of the tenement, brought out a full bottle, and, placing it and
glasses upon the table, resumed the monotonous exercise in which he had
been indulging on our entrance.
My guide and deliverer said nothing whilst the tavern-keeper was getting
out the bottle, although he watched all his movements with a keen and
suspicious eye. He now filled a large glass of spirits, and tossed it
off at a single draught. When he had done this, he spoke for the first
Johnny made no answer.
“This gentleman has eaten nothing for four days.”
“Indeed,” replied Johnny, without looking up, or intermitting his
sneaking, restless walk from one corner of the room to the other.
“I said four days, d’ye hear? Four days. Bring him tea immediately,
strong tea, and then make some good beef-soup. I know you have bought
some tea and rum and sugar. The tea must be ready directly, the soup in
an hour at farthest, d’ye understand? And then I want some whisky for
myself, and a beefsteak and potatoes. Now, tell all that to your Sambo.”
Johnny did not seem to hear, but continued his walk, creeping along with
noiseless step, and each time that he turned, giving a sort of spring
like a cat or a panther.
“I’ve money, Johnny,” said my guide. “Money, man, d’ye hear?” And so
saying, he produced a tolerably full purse.
For the first time Johnny raised his head, gave an indefinable glance at
the purse, and then, springing forward, fixed his small, cunning eyes
upon those of my guide, whilst a smile of strange meaning spread over
his repulsive features.
The two men stood for the space of a minute, staring at each other,
without uttering a word. An infernal grin distended Johnny’s coarse
mouth from ear to ear. My guide gasped for breath.
“I’ve money,” cried he at last, striking the butt of his rifle violently
on the ground. “D’ye understand, Johnny? Money; and a rifle too, if
He stepped to the table and filled another glass of raw spirits, which
disappeared like the preceding one. Whilst he drank, Johnny stole out of
the room so softly that my companion was only made aware of his
departure by the noise of the wooden latch. He then came up to me, took
me in his arms without saying a word, and carrying me to the bed, laid
me gently down upon it.
“You make yourself at home,” snarled Johnny, who just then came in
“Always do that, I reckon, when I’m in a tavern,” answered my guide,
quietly pouring out and swallowing another glassful. “The gentleman
shall have your bed to-day. You and your Sambo may sleep in the pigsty.
You have none though, I believe?”
“Bob!” screamed Johnny furiously.
“That’s my name—Bob Rock.”
“For the present,” hissed Johnny, with a sneer.
“Just as yours is Johnny Down,” replied Bob in the same tone. “Pooh!
Johnny, guess we know one another?”
“Rayther calkilate we do,” replied Johnny through his teeth.
“And have done many a day,” laughed Bob.
“You’re the famous Bob from Sodoma in Georgia?”
“Sodoma in Alabama, Johnny. Sodoma lies in Alabama,” said Bob, filling
another glass. “Don’t you know that yet, you who were above a year in
Columbus, doin’ all sorts of dirty work?”
“Better hold your tongue, Bob,” said Johnny, with a dangerous look at
“Pooh! Don’t mind him; he won’t talk, I’ll answer for it. He’s lost the
taste for chatterin’ in the Jacinto prairie. But Sodoma,” continued Bob,
“is in Alabama, man! Columbus in Georgia! They are parted by the
Chatahoochie. Ah! that was a jolly life on the Chatahoochie. But nothin’
lasts in this world, as my old schoolmaster used to say. Pooh! They’ve
druv the Injuns a step further over the Mississippi now. But it was a
glorious life—warn’t it?”
Again he filled his glass and drank.
The information I gathered from this conversation as to the previous
life and habits of these two men, had nothing in it very satisfactory or
encouraging for me. In the whole of the south-western States there was
no place that could boast of being the resort of so many outlaws and bad
characters as the town of Sodoma. It is situated, or was situated, at
least, a few years previously to the time I speak of, in Alabama, on
Indian ground, and was the harbour of refuge for all the murderers and
outcasts from the western and south-western parts of the Union. There,
under Indian government, they found shelter and security; and frightful
were the crimes and cruelties perpetrated at that place. Scarcely a day
passed without an assassination, not secretly committed, but in broad
sunlight. Bands of these wretches, armed with knives and rifles, used to
cross the Chatahoochie, and make inroads into Columbus; break into
houses, rob, murder, ill-treat women, and then return in triumph to
their dens, laden with booty, and laughing at the laws. It was useless
to think of pursuing them, or of obtaining justice, for they were on
Indian territory; and many of the chiefs were in league with them. At
length General Jackson and the government took it up. The Indians were
driven over the Mississippi, the outlaws and murderers fled, Sodoma
itself disappeared; and, released from its troublesome neighbours,
Columbus is now as nourishing a State as any in the west.
The recollections of their former life and exploits seemed highly
interesting to the two comrades; and their communications became more
and more confidential. Johnny filled himself a glass, and the
conversation soon increased in animation. I could understand little of
what they said, for they spoke a sort of thieves’ jargon. After a time,
their voices sounded as a confused hum in my ears, the objects in the
room got gradually less distinct, and I fell asleep.
I was roused, not very gently, by a mulatto woman, who poured a spoonful
of tea into my mouth before I had well opened my eyes. She at first did
not attend to me with much apparent good-will; but by the time she had
given me half-a-dozen spoonsful, her womanly sympathies were awakened,
and her manner was kinder. The tea did me an infinite deal of good, and
infused new life into my veins. I finished the cup, and the mulatto laid
me down again on my pillow, with far more gentleness than she lifted me
“Gor! Gor!” cried she, “what poor young man! Berry weak. Him soon
better. One hour, massa, good soup.”
“Soup! What do you want with soup?” grumbled Johnny.
“Him take soup. I cook it,” screamed the woman.
“Worse for you if she don’t, Johnny,” said Bob; “worse for you, I say.”
Johnny muttered something in reply, but I did not distinguish what it
was, for my eyes closed, and I again fell asleep.
It seemed as if I had not been five minutes slumbering when the mulatto
returned with the soup. The tea had revived me, but this gave me
strength; and when I had taken it I was able to sit up in the bed.
Whilst the woman fed me, Bob ate his beefsteak. It was a piece of meat
that might have sufficed for six persons, but the man was as hungry as
if he had eaten nothing for three days. He cut off wedges half as big as
his fist, swallowed them with ravenous eagerness, and, instead of bread,
bit into some unpeeled potatoes. All this was washed down with glass
after glass of raw spirits, which had the effect of wakening him up, and
infusing a certain cheerfulness into his strange humour. He still spoke
more to himself than to Johnny, but his recollections seemed agreeable;
he nodded self-approvingly, and sometimes laughed aloud. At last he
began to abuse Johnny for being, as he said, such a sneaking, cowardly
fellow—such a treacherous, false-hearted gallows-bird.
“It’s true,” said he, “I am gallows-bird enough myself, but then I’m
open, and no man can say I’m afeard; but Johnny, Johnny, who——”
I do not know what he was about to say, for Johnny sprang towards him,
and placed both hands over his mouth, receiving in return a blow that
knocked him as far as the door, through which he retreated, cursing and
I soon fell asleep again, and whilst in that state I had a confused
consciousness of various noises in the room, loud words, blows, and
shouting. Wearied as I was, however, I believe no noise would have fully
roused me, although hunger at last did.
When I opened my eyes I saw the mulatto woman sitting by my bed, and
keeping off the mosquitoes. She brought me the remainder of the soup,
and promised, if I would sleep a couple of hours more, to bring me as
good a beefsteak as ever came off a gridiron. Before the two hours had
elapsed I awoke, hungrier than ever. After I had eaten all the beefsteak
the woman would allow me, which was a very moderate quantity, she
brought me a beer-glass full of the most delicious punch I ever tasted.
I asked her where she had got the rum and lemons, and she told me that
it was she who had bought them, as well as a stock of coffee and tea;
that Johnny was her partner, but that he had done nothing but build the
house, and badly built it was. She then began to abuse Johnny, and said
he was a gambler, and worse still; that he had had plenty of money once,
but had lost it all; that she had first known him in Lower Natchez, but
he had been obliged to run away from there in the night to save his
neck. Bob was no better, she said; on the contrary—and here she made
the gesture of cutting a man’s throat—he was a very bad fellow, she
added. He had got drunk after his dinner, knocked Johnny down, and
broken everything. He was now lying asleep outside the door; and Johnny
had hidden himself somewhere.
How long she continued speaking I know not, for I again fell into a deep
sleep, which this time lasted six or seven hours.
I was awakened by a strong grasp laid upon my arm, which made me cry
out, more, however, from alarm than pain. Bob stood by my bedside; the
traces of the preceding night’s debauch plainly written on his haggard
countenance. His blood-shot eyes were inflamed and swollen, and rolled
with even more than their usual wildness; his mouth was open, and the
jaws were stiff and fixed; he looked like one fresh from the
perpetration of some frightful deed. I could fancy the first murderer to
have worn such an aspect when gazing on the body of his slaughtered
brother. I shrank back, horror-struck at his appearance.
“In God’s name, man, what do you want?”
He made no answer.
“You are in a fever. You’ve the ague!”
“Ay, a fever,” groaned he, shivering as he spoke; “a fever, but not the
one you mean; a fever, young man, such as God keep you from ever
His whole frame shuddered as he uttered these words. There was a short
“Curious that,” continued he; “I’ve served more than one in the same
way, but never thought of it afterwards—was forgotten in less than no
time. Got to pay the whole score at once, I suppose. Can’t rest a
minute. In the open prairie it’s the worst; there stands the old man, so
plain, with his silver beard, and the spectre just behind him.”
His eyes rolled, he clenched his fists, and striking his forehead
furiously, rushed out of the hut.
In a few minutes he returned, apparently more composed, and walked
straight up to my bed.
“Stranger, you must do me a service,” said he abruptly.
“Ten rather than one,” replied I; “anything that is in my power. Do I
not owe you my life?”
“You’re a gentleman, I see, and a Christian. You must come with me to
the squire—the Alcalde.”
“To the Alcalde, man? What must I go there for?”
“You’ll see and hear when you get there; I’ve something to tell
him—something for his own ear.”
He drew a deep breath, and remained silent for a short time, gazing
anxiously on all sides of him.
“Something,” whispered he, “that nobody else must hear.”
“But there’s Johnny there. Why not take him?”
“Johnny!” cried he, with a scornful laugh; “Johnny! who’s ten times
worse than I am, bad as I be; and bad I am to be sure, but yet open and
above board, always till this time; but Johnny! he’d sell his own
mother. He’s a cowardly, sneakin’, treacherous hound, is Johnny.”
It was unnecessary to tell me this, for Johnny’s character was written
plainly enough upon his countenance.
“But why do you want me to go to the Alcalde?”
“Why does one want people before the judge? He’s a judge, man; a Mexican
one certainly, but chosen by us Americans; and an American himself, as
you and I are.”
“And how soon must I go?”
“Directly. I can’t bear it any longer. It leaves me no peace. Not an
hour’s rest have I had for the last eight days. When I go out into the
prairie, the spectre stands before me and beckons me on; and if I try to
go another way, he comes behind me and drives me before him under the
Patriarch. I see him just as plainly as when he was alive, only paler
and sadder. It seems as if I could touch him with my hand. Even the
bottle is no use now; neither rum, nor whisky, nor brandy, rid me of
him; it don’t, by the ’tarnal.—Curious that! I got drunk
yesterday—thought to get rid of him; but he came in the night and drove
me out. I was obliged to go. Wouldn’t let me sleep; was forced to go
under the Patriarch.”
“Under the Patriarch? the live oak?” cried I, in astonishment. “Were you
there in the night?”
“Ay, that was I,” replied he, in the same horribly confidential tone;
“and the spirit threatened me, and said, says he, ‘I will leave you no
peace, Bob, till you go to the Alcalde and tell him.’”
“Then I will go with you to the Alcalde, and that immediately,” said I,
raising myself up in bed. I could not help pitying the poor fellow from
my very soul.
“Where are you going?” croaked Johnny, who at this moment glided into
the room. “Not a step shall you stir till you’ve paid.”
“Johnny,” said Bob, seizing his less powerful companion by the
shoulders, lifting him up like a child, and then setting him down again
with such force, that his knees cracked and bent under him;—“Johnny,
this gentleman is my guest, d’ye understand? And here is the reckonin’,
and mind yourself, Johnny—mind yourself, that’s all.”
Johnny crept into a corner like a flogged hound; the mulatto woman,
however, did not seem disposed to be so easily intimidated. Sticking
her arms in her sides, she waddled boldly forward.
“You not take him ’way, Massa Bob?” screamed she. “Him stop here. Him
berry weak—not able for ride—not able for stand on him foot.”
This was true enough. Strong as I had felt in bed, I could hardly stand
upright when I got out of it.
For a moment Bob seemed undecided, but only for one moment; then,
stepping up to the mulatto, he lifted her, fat and heavy as she was, in
the same manner as he had done her partner, at least a foot from the
ground, and carried her screaming and struggling to the door, which he
kicked open. Then setting her down outside, “Silence!” roared he, “and
some good strong tea instead of your cursed chatter, and a fresh
beefsteak instead of your stinking carcass. That will strengthen the
gentleman; so be quick about it, you old brown-skinned beast, you!”
I had slept in my clothes, and my toilet was consequently soon made, by
the help of a bowl of water and a towel, which Bob made Johnny bring,
and then ordered him to go and get our horses ready.
A hearty breakfast of tea, butter, Indian-corn bread, and steaks,
increased my strength so much, that I was able to mount my mustang. I
had still pains in all my limbs, but we rode slowly; the morning was
bright, the air fresh and elastic, and I felt myself getting gradually
better. Our path led through the prairie; the river, fringed with wood,
on the one hand, the vast ocean of grass, sprinkled with innumerable
islands of trees, on the other. We saw abundance of game, which sprang
up under the very feet of our horses; but although Bob had his rifle, he
made no use of it. He muttered continually to himself, and seemed to be
arranging what he should say to the judge; for I heard him talking of
things which I would just as soon not have listened to, if I could have
helped it. I was heartily glad when we at length reached the plantation
of the Alcalde.
It seemed a very considerable one, and the size and appearance of the
framework house bespoke comfort and even luxury. The building was
surrounded by a group of China trees, which I should have thought about
ten years of age, but which I afterwards learned had not been planted
half that time, although they were already large enough to afford a very
agreeable shade. Right in front of the house rose a live oak, inferior
in size to the one in the prairie, but still of immense age and great
beauty. To the left were some two hundred acres of cotton fields,
extending to the bank of the Jacinto, which at this spot made a sharp
turn, and winding round the plantation, enclosed it on three sides.
Before the house lay the prairie, with its archipelago of islands, and
herds of grazing cattle and mustangs; to the right, more cotton fields;
and in rear of the dwelling, the negro cottages and out-buildings.
There was a Sabbath-like stillness pervading the whole scene, which
seemed to strike even Bob. He paused as though in deep thought, and
allowed his hand to rest for a moment on the handle of the lattice door.
Then with a sudden and resolute jerk, bespeaking an equally energetic
resolve, he pushed open the gate, and we entered a garden planted with
orange, banana, and citron trees, the path through which was enclosed
between palisades, and led to a sort of front court, with another
lattice-work door, beside which hung a bell. Upon ringing this, a negro
The black seemed to know Bob very well, for he nodded to him as to an
old acquaintance, and said the squire wanted him, and had asked after
him several times. He then led the way to a large parlour, very
handsomely furnished for Texas, and in which we found the squire, or
more properly speaking, the Alcalde, sitting smoking his cigar. He had
just breakfasted, and the plates and dishes were still upon the table.
He did not appear to be much given to compliments or ceremony, or to
partake at all of the Yankee failing of curiosity, for he answered our
salutation with a laconic “good-morning,” and scarcely even looked at
us. At the very first glance, it was easy to see that he came from
Tennessee or Virginia, the only provinces in which one finds men of his
gigantic mould. Even sitting, his head rose above those of the negro
servants in waiting. Nor was his height alone remarkable; he had the
true West-Virginian build; the enormous chest and shoulders, and
herculean limbs, the massive features and sharp grey eyes; altogether an
exterior well calculated to impose on the rough backwoodsmen with whom
he had to deal.
I was tired with my ride, and took a chair. The squire apparently did
not deem me worthy of notice, or else reserved me for a later scrutiny;
but he fixed a long, searching look upon Bob, who remained standing,
with his head sunk on his breast.
The judge at last broke silence.
“So here you are again, Bob. It’s long since we’ve seen you, and I
thought you had clean forgotten us. Well, Bob, we shouldn’t have broke
our hearts, I reckon; for I hate gamblers—ay, that I do—worse than
skunks. It’s a vile thing is play, and has ruined many a man, both in
this world and the next. It’s ruined you too, Bob.”
Bob said nothing.
“You’d have been mighty useful here last week; there was plenty for you
to do. My step-daughter arrived; but as you weren’t to be found, we had
to send to Joel to shoot us a buck and a few dozen snipes. Ah, Bob! one
might still make a good citizen of you, if you’d only leave off that
Bob still remained silent.
“Now, go into the kitchen and get some breakfast.”
Bob neither answered nor moved.
“D’ye hear? Go into the kitchen and get something to eat. And,
Ptoly”—added he to the negro—“tell Veny to give him a pint of rum.”
“Don’t want yer rum—ain’t thirsty”—growled Bob.
“Very like, very like,” said the judge sharply. “Reckon you’ve taken too
much already. Look as if you could swallow a wild cat alive. And you,”
added he, turning to me—“Ptoly, what the devil are you at? Don’t you
see the man wants his breakfast? Where’s the coffee? Or would you rather
“Thank you, Alcalde, I have breakfasted already.”
“Don’t look as if. Ain’t sick, are you? Where do you come from? What’s
happened to you? Ain’t got the ague, have you? What are you doing with
He looked keenly and searchingly at me, and then again at Bob. My
appearance was certainly not very prepossessing, unshaven as I was, and
with my clothes and linen soiled and torn. He was evidently considering
what could be the motive of our visit, and what had brought me into
Bob’s society. The result of his physiognomical observations did not
appear very favourable either to me or my companion. I hastened to
“You shall hear how it was, judge. I am indebted to Bob for my life.”
“Your life! Indebted to Bob for your life!” repeated the judge, shaking
his head incredulously.
I related how I had lost my way in the prairie; had been carried into
the Jacinto by my horse; and how I should inevitably have been drowned
but for Bob’s aid.
“Indeed!” said the judge, when I had done speaking. “So Bob saved your
life! Is that true, Bob? Well, I am glad of it, Bob—very glad of it.
Ah! if you could only keep away from that Johnny. I tell you, Bob,
Johnny will be the ruin of you. Better keep out of his way.”
This was spoken gravely and earnestly, the speaker pausing between the
sentences to take a pull at his cigar, and a sup out of his glass.
“Yes, Bob,” he repeated; “only keep away from Johnny!”
“It’s too late,” answered Bob.
“Don’t know why it should be. Never too late to leave a debauched,
sinful life; never, man!”
“Calkilate it is, though,” replied Bob sullenly.
“You calculate it is?” said the judge, fixing his eyes on him. “And why
do you calculate that? Take a glass—Ptoly, a glass—and tell me, man,
why should it be too late?”
“I ain’t thirsty, squire,” said Bob.
“Don’t talk to me of your thirst; rum’s not for thirst, but to
strengthen the heart and nerves, to drive away the blue devils. And a
good thing it is, taken in moderation.”
As he spoke he filled himself a glass, and drank half of it off. Bob
shook his head.
“No rum for me, squire. I take no pleasure in it. I’ve something on my
mind too heavy for rum to wash away.”
“And what is that, Bob? Come, let’s hear what you’ve got to say. Or,
perhaps, you’d rather speak to me alone. It’s Sunday to-day, and no
business ought to be done; but for once, and for you, we’ll make an
“I brought the gentleman with me on purpose to witness what I had to
say,” answered Bob, taking a cigar out of a box that stood on the table.
Although the judge had not asked him to take one, he very quietly
offered him a light. Bob smoked a whiff or two, looked thoughtfully at
the judge, and then threw the cigar through the open window.
“It don’t relish, squire; nothin’ does now.”
“Ah, Bob! if you’d leave off play and drink! They’re your ruin; worse
than ague or fever.”
“It’s no use,” continued Bob, as if he did not hear the judge’s remark;
“it must out. I fo’t agin it, and thought to drive it away, but it can’t
be done. I’ve put a bit of lead into several before now, but this
“What’s that?” cried the judge, chucking his cigar away, and looking
sternly at Bob. “What’s up now? What are you saying about a bit of lead?
None of your Sodoma and Lower Natchez tricks, I hope? They won’t do
here. Don’t understand such jokes.”
“Pooh! they don’t understand them a bit more in Natchez. If they did, I
shouldn’t be in Texas.”
“The less said of that the better, Bob. You promised to lead a new life
here; so we won’t rake up old stories.”
“I did, I did!” groaned Bob; “and I meant it too; but it’s all no use. I
shall never be better till I’m hung.”
I stared at the man in astonishment. The judge, however, took another
cigar, lighted it, and, after puffing out a cloud of smoke, said, very
“Not better till you’re hung! What do you want to be hung for? To be
sure, you should have been long ago, if the Georgia and Alabama papers
don’t lie. But we are not in the States here, but in Texas, under
Mexican laws. It’s nothing to us what you’ve done yonder. Where there is
no accuser there can be no judge.”
“Send away the nigger, squire,” said Bob. “What a free white man has to
say, shouldn’t be heard by black ears.”
“Go away, Ptoly,” said the judge. “Now then,” added he, turning to Bob,
“say what you have to say; but mind, nobody forces you to do it, and
it’s only out of good-will that I listen to you, for to-day’s Sunday.”
“I know that,” muttered Bob; “I know that, squire; but it leaves me no
peace, and it must out. I’ve been to San Felipe de Austin, to Anahuac,
everywhere, but it’s all no use. Wherever I go, the spectre follows me,
and drives me back under the cursed Patriarch.”
“Under the Patriarch!” exclaimed the judge.
“Ay, under the Patriarch!” groaned Bob. “Don’t you know the
Patriarch—the old live oak near the ford, on the Jacinto?”
“I know, I know!” answered the judge. “And what drives you under the
“What drives me? What drives a man who—who——”
“A man who——” repeated the judge gently.
“A man,” continued Bob, in the same low tone, “who has sent a rifle
bullet into another’s heart. He lies there, under the Patriarch, whom
“Whom you?” asked the judge.
“Whom I killed!” said Bob, in a hollow whisper.
“Killed?” exclaimed the judge. “You killed him? Who?”
“Ah! who? Why don’t you let me speak? You always interrupt me with your
palaver,” growled Bob.
“You are getting saucy, Bob,” said the judge impatiently. “Go on,
however. I reckon it’s only one of your usual tantrums.”
Bob shook his head. The judge looked keenly at him for a moment, and
then resumed in a sort of confidential, encouraging tone.
“Under the Patriarch; and how did he come under the Patriarch?”
“I dragged him there, and buried him there,” replied Bob.
“Dragged him there! Why did you drag him there?”
“Because he couldn’t go himself, with more than half an ounce of lead in
“And you put the half ounce of lead into him, Bob? Well, if it was
Johnny, you’ve done the country a service, and saved it a rope.”
Bob shook his head negatively.
“It wasn’t Johnny, although——But you shall hear all about it. It’s
just ten days since you paid me twenty dollars fifty.”
“I did so, Bob; twenty dollars fifty cents; and I advised you at the
same time to let the money lie till you had a couple of hundred dollars,
or enough to buy a quarter or an eight of Sitio land; but advice is
thrown away upon you.”
“When I got the money, I thought I’d go down to San Felipe, to the
Mexicans, and try my luck, and, at the same time, see the doctor about
my fever. As I was goin’ there, I passed near Johnny’s house, and
fancied a glass, but determined not to get off my horse. I rode up to
the window, and looked in. There was a man sittin’ at the table, havin’
a hearty good dinner of steaks and potatoes, and washin’ it down with a
stiff glass of grog. I began to feel hungry myself, and while I was
considerin’ whether I should ’light or not, Johnny came sneakin’ out,
and whispered to me to come in, that there was a man inside with whom
somethin’ might be done if we went the right way to work; a man who had
a leather belt round his waist cram-full of hard Jackson; and that, if
we got out the cards and pretended to play a little together he would
soon take the bait and join us.
“I wasn’t much inclined,” continued Bob; “but Johnny bothered me so to
go in, that I got off my horse. As I did so, the dollars chinked in my
pocket, and the sound was like the devil’s voice ’ticing me to play.
“I went in; and Johnny fetched the whisky bottle. One glass followed
another. There were beefsteaks and potatoes too, but I only eat a couple
of mouthfuls. When I had drank two, three, ay, four glasses, Johnny
brought the cards and dice. ‘Hallo, Johnny!’ says I; ‘cards and dice,
Johnny! I’ve twenty dollars fifty in my pocket. Let’s have a game! But
no more drink for me; for I know you, Johnny, I know you——’
“Johnny larfed slyly, and rattled the dice, and we sat down to play. I
hadn’t meant to drink any more, but play makes one thirsty; and with
every glass I got more eager, and my dollars got fewer. I reckoned,
however, that the stranger would join us, and that I should be able to
win back from him; but not a bit of it: he sat quite quiet, and ate and
drank as if he didn’t see we were there. I went on playin’ madder than
ever, and before half an hour was over, I was cleaned out; my twenty
dollars fifty gone to the devil, or what’s the same thing, into Johnny’s
“When I found myself without a cent, I was mad, I reckon. It warn’t
the first time, nor the hundredth, that I had lost money. Many bigger
sums than that—ay, hundreds and thousands of dollars had I played
away—but they had none of them cost me the hundredth or thousandth part
of the trouble to get that these twenty dollars fifty had; two full
months had I been slavin’ away in the woods and prairies to airn them,
and caught the fever there. The fever I had still, but no money to cure
it with. Johnny only larfed in my face, and rattled my dollars. I made a
hit at him, which, if he hadn’t jumped on one side, would have cured him
of larfin’ for a week or two.
“Presently, however, he came sneakin’ up to me, and winkin’ and
whisperin’; and, ‘Bob!’ says he, ‘is it come to that with you? are you
grown so chicken-hearted that you don’t see the beltful of money round
his body?’ said he lookin’ at it. ‘No end of hard coin, I guess; and all
to be had for little more than half an ounce of lead.’”
“Did he say that?” asked the judge.
“Ay, that did he, but I wouldn’t listen to him. I was mad with him for
winning my twenty dollars; and I told him that, if he wanted the
stranger’s purse, he might take it himself, and be d——d; that I wasn’t
goin’ to pull the hot chestnuts out of the fire for him. And I got on my
horse, and rode away like mad.
“My head spun round like a mill. I couldn’t get over my loss. I took the
twenty dollars fifty more to heart than any money I had ever gambled. I
didn’t know where to go. I didn’t dare go back to you, for I knew you
would scold me.”
“I shouldn’t have scolded you, Bob; or, if I had, it would only have
been for your good. I should have summoned Johnny before me, called
together a jury of twelve of the neighbours, got you back your twenty
dollars fifty, and sent Johnny out of the country; or, better still, out
of the world.”
These words were spoken with much phlegm, but yet with a degree of
feeling and sympathy which greatly improved my opinion of the worthy
judge. Bob also seemed touched. He drew a deep sigh, and gazed at the
Alcalde with a melancholy look.
“It’s too late,” muttered he; “too late, squire.”
“Perhaps not,” replied the judge; “but let’s hear the rest.”
“Well,” continued Bob, “I kept ridin’ on at random, and when evenin’
came I found myself near the palmetto field on the bank of the Jacinto.
As I was ridin’ past it, I heard all at once a tramp of a horse. At that
moment the queerest feelin’ I ever had came over me; a sort of cold
shiverin’ feel. I forgot where I was; sight and hearin’ left me; I could
only see two things, my twenty dollars fifty, and the well-filled belt
of the stranger I had left at Johnny’s. Just then a voice called to me.
“‘Whence come, countryman, and whither going?’ it said.
“‘Whence and whither,’ answered I, as surly as could be; ‘to the devil
at a gallop, and you’d better ride on and tell him I’m comin’.’
“‘You can do the errand yourself,’ answered the stranger, larfin’; ‘my
road don’t lie that way.’
“As he spoke, I looked round, and saw, what I was pretty sure of before,
that it was the man with the belt full of money.
“‘Ain’t you the stranger I see’d in the inn yonder?’ asked he.
“‘And if I am,’ says I, ‘what’s that to you?’
“‘Nothin’,’ said he; ‘nothin’, certainly.’
“‘Better ride on,’ says I, ‘and leave me quiet.’
“‘Will so, stranger; but you needn’t take it so mighty onkind. A word
ain’t a tomahawk, I reckon,’ said he. ‘But I rayther expect your losin’s at play ain’t put you in a very church-goin’ humour; and, if I
was you, I’d keep my dollars in my pocket, and not set them on cards and
“It riled me to hear him cast my losin’s in my teeth that way.
“‘You’re a nice feller,’ said I, ‘to throw a man’s losses in his face. A
pitiful chap you are,’ says I.
“I thought to provoke him, and that he’d tackle me. But he seemed to
have no fancy for a fight, for he said, quite humble like—
“‘I throw nothin’ in your face; God forbid I should reproach you with
your losses! I’m sorry for you, on the contrary. Don’t look like a man
who can afford to lose his dollars. Seem to me one who airns his money
by hard work.’
“We were just then halted at the further end of the cane-brake, close to
the trees that border the Jacinto. I had turned my horse, and was
frontin’ the stranger. And all the time the devil was busy whisperin’ to
me, and pointin’ to the belt round the man’s waist. I could see where it
was, plain enough, though he had buttoned his coat over it.
“‘Hard work, indeed,’ says I; ‘and now I’ve lost everything; not a cent
left for a quid of baccy.’
“‘If that’s all,’ says he, ‘there’s help for that. I don’t chew myself,
and I ain’t a rich man; I’ve wife and children, and want every cent I’ve
got, but it’s one’s duty to help a countryman. You shall have money for
tobacco and a dram.’
“And so sayin’, he took a purse out of his pocket, in which he carried
his change. It was pretty full; there may have been some twenty dollars
in it; and as he drew the string, it was as if the devil laughed and
nodded to me out of the openin’ of the purse.
“‘Halves!’ cried I.
“‘No, not that,’ says he; ‘I’ve wife and child, and what I have belongs
to them; but half a dollar——’
“‘Halves!’ cried I again, ‘or else——’
“‘Or else?’ repeated he; and as he spoke, he put the purse back into his
pocket, and laid hold of the rifle which was slung on his shoulder.
“‘Don’t force me to do you a mischief,’ said he. ‘Don’t,’ says he; ‘we
might both be sorry for it. What you’re thinkin’ of brings no blessin’.’
“I was past seein’ or hearin’. A thousand devils from hell possessed me.
“‘Halves!’ I screeched out; and, as I said the word, he sprang out of
the saddle, and fell back over his horse’s crupper to the ground.
“‘I’m a dead man!’ cried he, as well as the rattle in his throat would
let him. ‘God be merciful to me! My poor wife, my poor children!’”
Bob paused; he gasped for breath, and the sweat stood in large drops
upon his forehead. He gazed wildly round the room. The judge himself
looked very pale. I tried to rise, but sank back in my chair. Without
the table, I believe I should have fallen to the ground.
There was a gloomy pause of some moments’ duration. At last the judge
“A hard, hard case!” said he. “Father, mother, children, all at one
blow. Bob, you are a bad fellow; a very bad fellow; a great villain!”
“A great villain,” groaned Bob. “The ball was gone right through his
“Perhaps your gun went off by accident,” said the judge, anxiously.
“Perhaps it was his own ball.”
Bob shook his head.
“I see him now, judge, as plain as can be, when he said, ‘Don’t force me
to do you a mischief; we might both be sorry for it.’ But I pulled the
trigger. His bullet is still in his rifle.
“When I saw him lie dead before me, I can’t tell you what I felt. It
warn’t the first I had sent to his account; but yet I would have given
all the purses and money in the world to have had him alive agin. I must
have dragged him under the Patriarch, and dug a grave with my
huntin’-knife, for I found him there afterwards.”
“You found him there?” repeated the judge.
“Yes. I don’t know how he came there. I must have brought him, but I
recollect nothin’ about it.”
The judge had risen from his chair, and was walking up and down the
room, apparently in deep thought. Suddenly he stopped short.
“What have you done with his money?”
“I took his purse, but buried his belt with him, as well as a flask of
rum, and some bread and beef he had brought away from Johnny’s. I set
out for San Felipe, and rode the whole day. In the evenin’, when I
looked about me, expectin’ to see the town, where do you think I was?”
The judge and I stared at him.
“Under the Patriarch. The ghost of the murdered man had driven me there.
I had no peace till I’d dug him up and buried him agin. Next day I set
off in another direction. I was out of tobacco, and I started across the
prairie to Anahuac. Lord, what a day I passed! Wherever I went, he
stood before me. If I turned, he turned too. Sometimes he came behind
me, and looked over my shoulder. I spurred my mustang till the blood
came, hopin’ to get away from him, but it was all no use. I thought when
I got to Anahuac I should be quit of him, and I galloped on for life or
death. But in the evenin’, instead of being close to the salt-works as I
expected, there was I agin, under the Patriarch. I dug him up a second
time, and sat and stared at him, and then buried him agin.”
“Queer that,” observed the judge.
“Ay, very queer!” said Bob, mournfully. “But it’s all no use. Nothin’
does me any good. I shan’t be better—I shall never have peace till I’m
Bob evidently felt relieved now; he had in a manner passed sentence on
himself. Strange as it may appear, I had a similar feeling, and could
not help nodding my head approvingly. The judge alone preserved an
“Indeed!” said he; “indeed! You think you’ll be no better till you’re
“Yes,” answered Bob, with eager haste. “Hung on the same tree under
which he lies buried.”
“Well, if you will have it so, we’ll see what can be done for you. We’ll
call a jury of the neighbours together to-morrow.”
“Thank ye, squire,” murmured Bob, visibly comforted by this promise.
“We’ll summon a jury,” repeated the Alcalde, “and see what can be done
for you. You’ll perhaps have changed your mind by that time.”
I stared at him like one fallen from the clouds, but he did not seem to
notice my surprise.
“There is, perhaps, some other way to get rid of your life, if you are
tired of it,” he continued. “We might hit upon one that would satisfy
Bob shook his head. I involuntarily made the same movement.
“At any rate, we’ll hear what the neighbours say,” added the judge.
Bob stepped up to the judge, and held out his hand to bid him farewell.
The other did not take it, and turning to me, said, “You had better
stop here, I think.”
Bob turned round impetuously.
“The gentleman must come with me.”
“Why must he?” said the judge.
I again explained the obligations I was under to Bob, how we had fallen
in with one another, and what care and attention he had shown me at
The judge nodded approvingly. “Nevertheless,” said he, “you will remain
here, and Bob will go alone. You are in a state of mind, Bob, in which a
man is better alone, d’ye see; and so leave the young man here. Another
misfortune might happen; and, at any rate, he’s better here than at
Johnny’s. Come back to-morrow, and we’ll see what can be done for you.”
These words were spoken in a decided manner, which seemed to have its
effect upon Bob. He nodded assentingly, and left the room. I remained
staring at the judge, and lost in wonder at these strange proceedings.
When Bob was gone, the Alcalde gave a blast on a shell, which supplied
the place of a bell. Then seizing the cigar-box, he tried one cigar
after another, broke them peevishly up, and threw the pieces out of the
window. The negro, whom the shell had summoned, stood for some time
waiting, whilst his master broke up the cigars and threw them away. At
last the judge’s patience seemed quite to leave him.
“Hark ye, Ptoly!” growled he to the frightened black, “the next time you
bring me cigars that neither draw nor smoke, I’ll make your back smoke
for it. Mind that, now. There’s not a single one of them worth a rotten
maize-stalk. Tell that old coffee-coloured hag of Johnny’s, that I’ll
have no more of her cigars. Ride over to Mr Ducie’s and fetch a box.
And, d’ye hear? tell him I want to speak a word with him and the
neighbours. Ask him to bring the neighbours with him to-morrow morning.
And mind you’re home again by two o’clock. Take the mustang we caught
last week. I want to see how he goes.”
The negro listened to these various commands with open mouth and staring
eyes, then, giving a perplexed look at his master, shot out of the room.
“Whither away, Ptoly?” shouted the Alcalde after him.
“To Massa Ducie.”
“Without a pass, Ptoly? And what are you going to say to Mr Ducie?”
“Him nebber send bad cigar again, him coffee-cullud hag. Massa speak to
Johnny and neighbours. Johnny bring neighbours here.”
“I thought as much,” said the judge, with perfect equanimity. “Wait a
minute; I’ll write the pass, and a couple of lines for Mr Ducie.”
This was soon done, and the negro despatched on his errand. The judge
waited till he heard the sound of the horse’s feet galloping away, and
then, laying hold of the box of despised cigars, lit the first which
came to hand. It smoked capitally, as did also one that I took. They
were Principes, and as good as I ever tasted.
I passed the whole of that day alone with the judge, who, I soon found,
knew various friends of mine in the States. I told him the circumstances
under which I had come to Texas, and the intention I had of settling
there, should I find the country to my liking. During our long
conversation, I was able to form a very different, and much more
favourable, estimate of his character, than I had done from his
interview with Bob. He was the very man to be useful to a new country;
of great energy, sound judgment, enlarged and liberal views. He gave me
some curious information as to the state of things in Texas; and did not
think it necessary to conceal from me, as an American, and one who
intended settling in the country, that there was a plan in agitation for
throwing off the Mexican yoke, and declaring Texas an independent
republic. The high-spirited, and, for the most part, intelligent
emigrants from the United States, who formed a very large majority of
the population of Texas, saw themselves, with no very patient feeling,
under the rule of a people both morally and physically inferior to
themselves. They looked with contempt, and justly so, on the bigoted,
idle, and ignorant Mexicans, whilst the difference of religion, and
interference of the priests, served to increase the dislike between the
Spanish and Anglo-American races.
Although the project was as yet not quite ripe for execution, it was
discussed freely and openly by the American settlers. “It is the
interest of every man to keep it secret,” said the judge; “and there
can be nothing to induce even the worst amongst us to betray a cause, by
the success of which he is sure to profit. We have many bad characters
in Texas, the offscourings of the United States—men like Bob, or far
worse than him; but debauched, gambling, drunken villains though they
be, they are the men we want when it comes to a struggle; and when that
time arrives, they will all be found ready to put their shoulders to the
wheel, use knife and rifle, and shed the last drop of their blood in
defence of their fellow-citizens, and of the new and independent
republic of Texas. At this moment we must wink at many things which
would be severely punished in an older and more settled country; each
man’s arm is of immense value to the State; for on the day of battle we
shall have, not two to one, but twenty to one opposed to us.”
I was awakened the following morning by the sound of a horse’s feet;
and, looking out of the window, saw Bob dismounting from his mustang.
The last twenty-four hours had told fearfully upon him. His limbs seemed
powerless, and he reeled and staggered in such a manner that I at first
thought him intoxicated. But such was not the case. His was the deadly
weariness caused by mental anguish. He looked like one just taken off
Hastily putting on my clothes, I hurried down stairs and opened the
house door. Bob stood with his head resting on his horse’s neck, and his
hands crossed, shivering and groaning. When I spoke to him, he looked
up, but did not seem to know me. I tied his horse to a post, and taking
his hand, led him into the house. He followed like a child, apparently
without the will or the power to resist; and when I placed him a chair,
he fell into it with a weight that made it crack under him, and shook
the house. I could not get him to speak, and was about to return to my
room to complete my toilet, when I again heard the tramp of mustangs.
This was a party of half-a-dozen horsemen, all dressed in hunting-shirts
over buckskin breeches and jackets, and armed with rifles and
bowie-knives; stout, daring-looking fellows, evidently from the
south-western states, with the true Kentucky half-horse half-alligator
profile, and the usual allowance of thunder, lighting, and earthquake.
It struck me, when I saw them, that two or three thousand such men would
have small difficulty in dealing with a whole army of Mexicans, if the
latter were all of the pigmy, spindle-shanked breed I had seen on first
landing. These giants could easily have walked away with a Mexican in
They jumped off their horses, and threw the bridles to the negroes in
the usual Kentuckian devil-may-care style, and then walked into the
house with the air of people who make themselves at home everywhere, and
who knew themselves to be more masters in Texas than the Mexicans
themselves. On entering the parlour, they nodded a “good morning” to
me, rather coldly to be sure, for they had seen me talking with Bob,
which probably did not much recommend me. Presently, four more horsemen
rode up, and then a third party, so that there were now fourteen of them
assembled, all decided-looking men, in the prime of life and strength.
The judge, who slept in an adjoining room, had been awakened by the
noise. I heard him jump out of bed, and not three minutes elapsed before
he entered the parlour.
After he had shaken hands with all his visitors, he presented me to
them, and I found that I was in the presence of no less important
persons than the Ayuntamiento of San Felipe de Austin; and that two of
my worthy countrymen were corregidors, one a procurador, and the others
buenos hombres, or freeholders. They did not seem, however, to prize
their titles much, for they addressed one another by their surnames
The negro brought a light, opened the cigar-box, and arranged the
chairs; the judge pointed to the sideboard and to the cigars, and then
sat down. Some took a dram, others lit a cigar.
Several minutes elapsed, during which the men sat in perfect silence, as
if they were collecting their thoughts, or as though it were undignified
to show any haste or impatience to speak. This grave sort of
deliberation, which is met with among certain classes, and in certain
provinces of the Union, has often struck me as a curious feature of our
national character. It partakes of the stoical dignity of the Indian at
his council fire, and of the stern religious gravity of the early
Puritan settlers in America.
During this pause Bob was writhing on his chair like a worm, his face
concealed by his hands, his elbows on his knees. At last, when all had
drunk and smoked, the judge laid down his cigar.
“Men!” said he.
“Squire!” answered they.
“We’ve a business before us, which I calculate will be best explained by
him whom it concerns.”
The men looked at the Squire, then at Bob, then at me.
“Bob Rock! or whatever your name may be, if you have aught to say, say
it!” continued the judge.
“Said it all yesterday,” muttered Bob, his face still covered by his
“Yes, but you must say it again to-day. Yesterday was Sunday, and Sunday
is a day of rest, and not of business. I will neither judge you, nor
allow you to be judged, by what you said yesterday. Besides, it was all
between ourselves, for I don’t reckon Mr Morse as anything; I count him
still as a stranger.”
“What’s the use of so much palaver, when the thing’s plain enough?” said
Bob peevishly, raising his head as he spoke.
The men stared at him in grave astonishment. He was really frightful to
behold: his face of a sort of blue tint; his cheeks hollow; his beard
wild and ragged; his blood-shot eyes rolling, and deep sunk in their
sockets. His appearance was scarcely human. “I tell you again,” said the
judge, “I will condemn no man upon his own word alone; much less you,
who have been in my service, and eaten of my bread. You accused yourself
yesterday, but you were delirious at the time—you had the fever upon
“It’s no use, Squire,” said Bob, apparently touched by the kindness of
the judge. “You mean well, I see; but though you might deliver me out of
men’s hands, you couldn’t rescue me from myself. It’s no use—I must be
hung—hung on the same tree under which the man I killed lies buried.”
The men, or the jurors, as I may call them, looked at one another, but
“It’s no use,” again cried Bob, in a shrill, agonising tone. “If he
had attacked me, or only threatened me; but no, he didn’t do it. I
hear his words still, when he said, ‘Do it not, man! I’ve wife and
child. What you intend brings no blessin’ on the doer.’ But I heard
nothin’ then except the voice of the devil; I brought the rifle
The man’s agony was so intense that even the iron-featured jury seemed
moved by it. They cast sharp but stolen glances at Bob. There was a
“So you have killed a man?” said a deep bass voice at last.
“Ay, that have I!” gasped Bob.
“And how came that?” continued his questioner.
“How it came? You must ask the devil, or Johnny. No, not Johnny, he can
tell you nothing; he was not there. No one can tell you but me; and I
hardly know how it was. The man was at Johnny’s, and Johnny showed me
his belt full of money.”
“Johnny!” exclaimed several of the jury.
“Ay, Johnny! He reckoned on winning it from him, but the man was too
cautious for that; and when Johnny had plucked all my feathers, won my
twenty dollars fifty——”
“Twenty dollars fifty cents,” interposed the judge, “which I paid him
for catching mustangs and shooting game.”
The men nodded.
“And then, because he wouldn’t play, you shot him?” asked the same
deep-toned voice as before.
“No—some hours after—by the Jacinto—near the Patriarch—met him down
there, and killed him.”
“Thought there was something out o’ the common thereaway,” said one of
the jury; “for as we rode by the tree a whole nation of kites and turkey
buzzards flew out. Didn’t they, Mr Heart?”
Mr Heart nodded.
“Met him by the river, and wanted halves of his money,” continued Bob
mechanically. “He said he’d give me something to buy a quid, and more
than enough for that, but not halves. ‘I’ve wife and child,’ said
“And you?” asked the juror with the deep voice, which, this time, had a
hollow sound in it.
“Shot him down,” said Bob, with a wild, hoarse laugh.
There was a dead pause of some duration. The jury sat with eyes fixed
upon the ground.
“And who was the man?” said a juror at last.
“Didn’t ask him; and it warn’t written on his face. He was from the
States; but whether a hosier, or a buckeye, or a mudhead, is more than I
“The thing must be investigated, Alcalde,” said another of the jury,
after a second pause.
“It must so,” answered the Alcalde.
“What’s the good of so much investigation?” grumbled Bob.
“What good?” repeated the Alcalde. “Because we owe it to ourselves, to
the dead man, and to you, not to sentence you without having held an
inquest on the body. There’s another thing which I must call your
attention to,” continued he, turning to the jury; “the man is half out
of his mind—not compos mentis, as they say. He’s got the fever, and
had it when he did the deed; he was urged on by Johnny, and maddened by
his losses at play. In spite of his wild excitement, however, he saved
that gentleman’s life yonder, Mr Edward Nathaniel Morse.”
“Did he so?” said one of the jury.
“That did he,” replied I, “not only by saving me from drowning when my
horse dragged me, half-dead and helpless, into the river, but also by
the care and attention he forced Johnny and his mulatto to bestow upon
me. Without him I should not be alive at this moment.”
Bob gave me a look which went to my heart. The tears were standing in
his eyes. The jury heard me in deep silence.
“It seems that Johnny led you on and excited you to this?” said one of
“I didn’t say that. I only said that he pointed to the man’s money-bag,
and said——But what is it to you what Johnny said? I’m the man who did
it. I speak for myself, and I’ll be hanged for myself.”
“All very good, Bob,” interposed the Alcalde; “but we can’t hang you
without being sure you deserve it. What do you say to it, Mr Whyte?
You’re the procurador—and you, Mr Heart and Mr Stone? Help yourselves
to rum or brandy; and, Mr Bright and Irwin, take another cigar. They’re
considerable tolerable the cigars—ain’t they? That’s brandy, Mr Whyte,
in the diamond bottle.”
Mr Whyte had got up to give his opinion, as I thought; but I was
mistaken. He stepped to the sideboard, took up a bottle in one hand and
a glass in the other, every movement being performed with the greatest
“Well, Squire,” said he, “or rather Alcalde—”
After the word “Alcalde,” he filled the glass half full of rum.
“If it’s as we’ve heard,” added he, pouring about a spoonful of water
on the rum, “and Bob has killed the man”—he continued, throwing in some
lumps of sugar—“murdered him”—he went on, crushing the sugar with a
wooden stamp—“I rather calkilate”—here he raised the glass—“Bob ought
to be hung,” he concluded, putting the tumbler to his mouth and emptying
The jurors nodded in silence. Bob drew a deep breath, as if a load were
taken off his breast.
“Well,” said the judge, who did not look over well pleased, “if you all
think so, and Bob is agreed, I calculate we must do as he wishes. I tell
you, though, I don’t do it willingly. At any rate, we must find the dead
man first, and examine Johnny. We owe that to ourselves and to Bob.”
“Certainly,” said the jury with one voice.
“You are a dreadful murderer, Bob, a very considerable one,” continued
the judge; “but I tell you to your face, and not to flatter you, there
is more good in your little finger than in Johnny’s whole hide. And I’m
sorry for you, because, at the bottom, you are not a bad man, though
you’ve been led away by bad company and example. I calculate you might
still be reformed, and made very useful—more so, perhaps, than you
think. Your rifle’s a capital good one.”
At these last words the men all looked up, and threw a keen inquiring
glance at Bob.
“You might be of great service,” continued the judge encouragingly, “to
the country and to your fellow-citizens. You’re worth a dozen Mexicans
Whilst the judge spoke, Bob let his head fall on his breast, and seemed
reflecting. He now looked up.
“I understand, Squire; I see what you’re drivin’ at. But I can’t do
it—I can’t wait so long. My life’s a burthen and a sufferin’ to me.
Wherever I go, by day or by night, he’s always there, standin’ before
me, and drivin’ me under the Patriarch.”
There was a pause of some duration. The judge resumed.
“So be it, then,” said he with a sort of suppressed sigh. “We’ll see the
body to-day, Bob, and you may come to-morrow at ten o’clock.”
“Couldn’t it be sooner?” asked Bob impatiently.
“Why sooner? Are you in such a hurry?” asked Mr Heart.
“What’s the use of palaverin’?” said Bob sulkily. “I told you already
I’m sick of my life. If you don’t come till ten o’clock, by the time
you’ve had your talk out and ridden to the Patriarch, the fever’ll be
“But we can’t be flying about like a parcel of wild geese, because of
your fever,” said the procurador.
“Certainly not,” said Bob humbly.
“It’s an ugly customer the fever, though, Mr Whyte,” observed Mr Trace;
“and I calculate we ought to do him that pleasure. What do you think,
“I reckon he’s rather indiscreet in his askin’s,” said the judge, in a
tone of vexation. “However, as he wishes it, and if it is agreeable to
you,” added he, turning to the Ayuntamiento; “and as it’s you, Bob, I
calculate we must do what you ask.”
“Thankee,” said Bob.
“Nothing to thank for,” growled the judge; “and now go into the kitchen
and get a good meal of roast beef, d’ye hear?” He knocked upon the
table. “Some good roast beef for Bob,” said he to a negress who entered;
“and see that he eats it. And get yourself dressed more decently,
Bob—like a white man and a Christian, not like a wild redskin.”
The negress and Bob left the room. The conversation now turned upon
Johnny, who appeared, from all accounts, to be a very bad and dangerous
fellow; and after a short discussion, they agreed to lynch him, in
backwoodsman’s phrase, just as coolly as if they had been talking of
catching a mustang. When the men had come to this satisfactory
conclusion, they got up, drank the judge’s health and mine, shook us by
the hand, and left the room and the house.
The day passed more heavily than the preceding one. I was too engrossed
with the strange scene I had witnessed to talk much. The judge, too, was
in a very bad humour. He was vexed that a man should be hung who might
render the country much and good service if he remained alive. That
Johnny, the miserable, cowardly, treacherous Johnny should be sent out
of the world as quickly as possible, was perfectly correct, but with Bob
it was very different. In vain did I remind him of the crime of which
Bob had been guilty—of the outraged laws of God and man—and of the
atonement due. It was no use. If Bob had sinned against society, he
could repair his fault much better by remaining alive than by being
hung; and as to anything else, God would avenge it in his own good time.
We parted for the night, neither of us convinced by the other’s
We were sitting at breakfast the next morning, when a man, dressed in
black, rode up to the door. It was Bob, but so metamorphosed that I
scarcely knew him. Instead of the torn and bloodstained handkerchief
round his head, he wore a hat; instead of the leathern jacket, a decent
cloth coat. He had shaved off his beard too, and looked quite another
man. His manner had altered with his dress; he seemed tranquil and
resigned. With a mild, submissive look, he held out his hand to the
judge, who took and shook it heartily.
“Ah, Bob!” said he, “if you had only listened to what I so often told
you! I had those clothes brought on purpose from New Orleans, that, on
Sundays at least, you might look like a decent and respectable man. How
often have I asked you to put them on, and come with us to meeting, to
hear Mr Bliss preach? There is some truth in the saying, that the coat
makes the man. With his Sunday coat, a man often puts on other and
better thoughts. If that had been your case only fifty-two times in the
year, you’d have learned to avoid Johnny before now.”
Bob said nothing.
“Well, well! I’ve done all I could to make a better man of you—all that
was in my power.”
“That you have,” answered Bob, much moved. “God reward you for it!”
I could not help holding out my hand to the worthy judge; and as I did
so, I thought I saw a moisture in his eye, which he suppressed, however,
and, turning to the breakfast table, bade us sit down. Bob thanked him
humbly, but declined, saying that he wished to appear fasting before his
offended Creator. The judge insisted, and reasoned with him, and at last
he took a chair.
Before we had done breakfast, our friends of the preceding day began to
drop in, and some of them joined us at the meal. When they had all taken
what they chose, the judge ordered the negroes to clear away, and leave
the room. This done, he seated himself at the upper end of the table,
with the Ayuntamiento on either side, and Bob facing him.
“Mr Whyte,” said the Alcalde, “have you, as procurador, anything to
“Yes, Alcalde,” replied the procurador. “In virtue of my office, I made
a search in the place mentioned by Bob Rock, and there found the body of
a man who had met his death by a gunshot wound. I also found a belt full
of money, and several letters of recommendation to different planters,
from which it appears that the man was on his way from Illinois to San
Felipe, to buy land of Colonel Austin, and settle in Texas.”
The procurador then produced a pair of saddle-bags, out of which he took
a leathern belt stuffed with money, which he laid on the table, together
with the letters. The judge opened the belt, and counted the money. It
amounted to upwards of five hundred dollars in gold and silver. The
procurador then read the letters.
One of the corregidors now announced that Johnny and his mulatto had
left their house and fled. He, the corregidor, had sent people in
pursuit of them, but as yet there were no tidings of their capture. This
piece of intelligence seemed to vex the judge greatly, but he made no
remark on it at the time.
“Bob Rock!” cried he.
Bob stepped forward.
“Bob Rock, or by whatever other name you may be known, are you guilty or
not guilty of this man’s death?”
“Guilty!” replied Bob, in a low tone.
“Gentlemen of the jury, will you be pleased to give your verdict?”
The jury left the room. In ten minutes they returned.
“Guilty!” said the foreman.
“Bob Rock,” said the judge solemnly, “your fellow-citizens have found
you guilty; and I pronounce the sentence—that you be hung by the neck
until you are dead. The Lord be merciful to your soul!”
“Amen!” said all present.
“Thank ye,” murmured Bob.
“We will seal up the property of the deceased,” said the judge, “and
then proceed to our painful duty.”
He called for a light, and he and the procurador and corregidors sealed
up the papers and money.
“Has any one aught to allege why the sentence should not be put in
execution?” said the Alcalde, with a glance at me.
“He saved my life, judge and fellow-citizens!” cried I, deeply moved.
Bob shook his head mournfully.
“Let us go, then, in God’s name,” said the judge.
Without another word being spoken, we left the house and mounted our
horses. The judge had brought a Bible with him; and he rode on, a little
in front, with Bob, doing his best to prepare him for the eternity to
which he was hastening. Bob listened attentively for some time; but at
last he seemed to get impatient, and pushed his mustang into so fast a
trot, that for a moment we suspected him of wishing to escape the doom
he had so eagerly sought. But it was only that he feared the fever might
return before the expiration of the short time he yet had to live.
After an hour’s ride, we came to the enormous live oak distinguished as
the Patriarch. Two or three of the men dismounted, and held aside the
heavy moss-covered branches, which swept the ground and formed a
complete curtain round the tree. The party rode through the opening thus
made, and drew up in a circle beneath the huge leafy dome. In the centre
of this ring stood Bob, trembling like an aspen leaf, his eyes fixed on
a small mound of fresh earth, partly concealed by the branches, and
which had escaped my notice on my former visit to the tree. It was the
grave of the murdered man.
A magnificent burial-place was that: no poet could have dreamed or
desired a better. Above, the huge vault, with its natural frettings and
arches; below, the greenest, freshest grass; around, an eternal half
light, streaked and varied, and radiant as a rainbow. It was imposingly
Bob, the judge, and the corregidors, remained sitting on their horses,
but several of the other men dismounted. One of the latter cut the lasso
from Bob’s saddle, and threw an end of it over one of the lowermost
branches; then uniting the two ends, formed them into a strong noose,
which he left dangling from the bough. This simple preparation
completed, the Alcalde took off his hat and folded his hands. The others
followed his example.
“Bob!” said the judge to the unfortunate criminal, whose head was bowed
on his horse’s mane; “Bob! we will pray for your poor soul, which is
about to part from your sinful body.”
Bob raised his head. “I had something to say,” exclaimed he, in a
wandering and husky tone. “Something I wanted to say.”
“What have you to say?”
Bob stared around him; his lips moved, but no word escaped him. His
spirit was evidently no longer with things of this earth.
“Bob!” said the judge again, “we will pray for your soul.”
“Pray! pray!” groaned he. “I shall need it.”
In slow and solemn accents, and with great feeling, the judge uttered
the Lord’s Prayer. Bob repeated every word after him. When it was
“May God be merciful to his soul!” exclaimed the judge.
“Amen!” said all present.
One of the corregidors now passed the noose of the lasso round Bob’s
neck, another bound his eyes, a third person drew his feet out of the
stirrups, whilst a fourth stepped behind his horse with a heavy
riding-whip. All was done in the deepest silence; not a word was
breathed, nor a foot-fall heard on the soft, yielding turf. There was
something awful and oppressive in the profound stillness that reigned in
the vast enclosure.
The whip fell. The horse gave a spring forwards. At the same moment Bob
made a desperate clutch at the bridle, and a loud “Hold!” burst in
thrilling tones from the lips of the judge.
It was too late; Bob was already hanging. The judge pushed forward,
nearly riding down the man who held the whip, and, seizing Bob in his
arms, raised him on his own horse, supporting him with one hand, whilst
with the other he strove to unfasten the noose. His whole gigantic frame
trembled with eagerness and exertion. The procurador, corregidors—all,
in short, stood in open-mouthed wonder at this strange proceeding.
“Whisky! whisky! Has nobody any whisky!” shouted the judge.
One of the men sprang forward with a whisky-flask, another supported the
body, and a third the feet, of the half-hanged man, whilst the judge
poured a few drops of spirits into his mouth. The cravat, which had not
been taken off, had hindered the breaking of the neck. Bob at last
opened his eyes, and gazed vacantly around him.
“Bob,” said the judge, “you had something to say, hadn’t you, about
“Johnny,” gasped Bob, “Johnny.”
“What’s become of him?”
“He’s gone to San Antonio, Johnny.”
“To San Antonio!” repeated the judge, with an expression of great alarm
overspreading his features.
“To San Antonio—to Padre José,” continued Bob; “a Catholic. Beware!”
“A traitor, then!” muttered several.
“Catholic!” exclaimed the judge. The words he had heard seemed to
deprive him of all strength. His arms fell slowly and gradually by his
side, and Bob was again hanging from the lasso.
“A Catholic! a traitor!” repeated several of the men; “a citizen and a
“So it is, men!” exclaimed the judge. “We’ve no time to lose,” continued
he, in a harsh, hurried voice; “no time to lose; we must catch him.”
“That must we,” said several, “or our plans are betrayed to the
“After him immediately to San Antonio!” cried the judge, with the same
desperately hurried manner.
“To San Antonio!” repeated the men, pushing their way through the
curtain of moss and branches. As soon as they were outside, those who
were dismounted sprang into the saddle, and, without another word, the
whole party galloped away in the direction of San Antonio.
The judge alone remained, seemingly lost in thought; his countenance
pale and anxious, and his eyes following the riders. His reverie,
however, had lasted but a very few seconds, when he seized my arm.
“Hasten to my house!” cried he; “lose no time; don’t spare horse-flesh.
Take Ptoly and a fresh beast; hurry over to San Felipe, and tell Stephen
Austin what has happened, and what you have seen and heard.”
“Off with you at once, if you would serve and save Texas. Bring my wife
and daughter back.”
And so saying, he literally drove me from under the tree, pushing me out
with both hands. I was so startled at the expression of violent
impatience and anxiety which his features assumed, that, without
venturing to make further objection, I struck the spurs into my mustang
and galloped off.
Before I had got fifty yards from the tree, I looked round: the judge
was nowhere to be seen.
I rode full speed to the judge’s house, and thence on a fresh horse to
San Felipe, where I found Colonel Austin, who seemed much alarmed by the
news I brought him, had horses saddled, and sent round to all the
neighbours. Before the wife and step-daughter of the judge had made
their preparations to accompany me home, he and fifty armed men rode off
in the direction of San Antonio.
I escorted the ladies to their house, but scarcely had we arrived there,
when I was seized with fever, the result of my recent fatigues and
sufferings. For some days my life was in danger, but a good
constitution, and the kindest and most watchful nursing, triumphed over
the disease. As soon as I was able to mount a horse, I set out for Mr
Neal’s plantation, in company with his huntsman Anthony, who, after
spending many days, and riding over hundreds of miles of ground in quest
of me, had at last found me out.
Our way led past the Patriarch; and, as we approached it, we saw
innumerable birds of prey and carrion-crows circling round it, croaking
and screaming. I turned my eyes in another direction; but, nevertheless,
I felt a strange sort of longing to revisit the tree. Anthony had
ridden on, and was already hidden from view behind its branches.
Presently I heard him give a loud shout of exultation. I jumped off my
horse, and led it through a small opening in the leafage.
Some forty paces from me, the body of a man was hanging by a lasso from
the very same branch on which Bob had been hung. It was not Bob,
however, for the corpse was much too short and small for him.
I drew nearer. “Johnny!” I exclaimed. “That’s Johnny!”
“It was,” answered Anthony. “Thank Heaven, there’s an end of him!”
I shuddered. “But where is Bob?”
“Bob?” cried Anthony. “Bob!”
I glanced at the grave. The mound of earth seemed larger and higher than
when I had last seen it. Doubtless the murderer lay beside his victim.
“Shall we not render the last service to this wretch, Anthony?” asked I.
“The scoundrel!” answered the huntsman. “I won’t dirty my hands with
him. Let him poison the kites and the crows!”
We rode on.
HOW WE GOT POSSESSION OF THE TUILERIES.
A ROMANCE AFTER THE MANNER OF ALEXANDER DUMAS.
BY PROFESSOR AYTOUN.
[MAGA. April 1848.]
HEADS OR TAILS?
I like political ovations. It is a very pleasant thing to perambulate
Europe in the guise of a regenerator, sowing the good seed of political
economy in places which have hitherto been barren, and enlightening the
heathen upon the texture of calico, and the blessings of unreciprocal
free-trade. I rather flatter myself that I have excited considerable
sensation in certain quarters of Europe, previously plunged in darkness,
and unillumined by the argand lamp of Manchester philosophy. Since
September last, I have not been idle, but have borne the banner of
regeneration from the Baltic to the shores of the Bosphorus.
As the apostle of peace and plenty, I have everywhere been rapturously
greeted. Never, I believe, was there a sincerer, a more earnest wish
prevalent throughout the nations for the maintenance of universal
tranquillity than now; never a better security for that fraternisation
which we all so earnestly desire; never a more peaceful or
unrevolutionary epoch. Such, at least, were my ideas a short time ago,
when, after having fulfilled a secret mission of some delicacy in a very
distant part of the Continent, I turned my face homewards, and retraced
my steps in the direction of my own Glaswegian Mecca. In passing through
Italy, I found that country deeply engaged in plans of social
organisation, and much cheered by the sympathising presence of a member
of her Britannic Majesty’s Cabinet. It was delightful to witness the
good feeling which seemed to prevail between the British unaccredited
minister and the scum of the Ausonian population,—the mutual politeness
and sympathy exhibited by each of the high contracting parties,—and the
perfect understanding on the part of the Lazzaroni, of the motives which
had induced the northern peer to absent himself from felicity awhile,
and devote the whole of his vast talents and genius to the cause of
foreign insurrection. I had just time to congratulate Pope Pius upon the
charming prospect which was before him, and to say a few hurried words
regarding the superiority of cotton to Christianity as a universal
tranquillising medium, when certain unpleasant rumours from the frontier
forced their way to the Eternal City, and convinced me of the propriety
of continuing my retreat towards the land of my nativity. Not that I
fear steel, or have any abstract repugnance to grape, but my mission was
emphatically one of peace; I had a great duty to discharge to my
country, and that might have been lamentably curtailed by the bullet of
some blundering Austrian.
Behold me, then, at Paris—that Aspasian capital of the world. I had
often visited it before in the character of a tourist and literateur,
but never until now as a politician. True, I was not accredited: I
enjoyed neither diplomatic rank, nor the more soothing salary which is
its accompaniment. But, in these times, such distinctions are rapidly
fading away. I had seen with my own eyes a good deal of spontaneous
diplomacy, which certainly did not seem to flow in the regular channel;
and, furthermore, I could personally testify to the weight attached
abroad to private commercial crusades. I needed no official costume; I
was the representative of a popular movement; I was the champion of a
class; and my name and my principles were alike familiar to the ears of
the illuminati of Europe. Formerly I had been proud of associating with
Eugène Sue, Charles Nodier, Paul de Kock, and other characters of
ephemeral literary celebrity; I had wasted my time in orgies at the
Café de Londres, or the Rocher de Cancale, and was but too happy to be
admitted to those little parties of pleasure in which the majority of
the cavaliers are feuilletonists, and the dames, terrestrial stars from
the constellation of the Théatre des Variétés. Now I looked back on this
former phase of my existence with a consciousness of having wasted my
energies. I had shot into another sphere—was entitled to take rank with
Thiers, Odillon Barrot, Crémieux, and other champions of the people; and
I resolved to comport myself accordingly. I do not feel at liberty to
enter into the exact details of the public business which detained me
for some time in Paris. It is enough to say, that I was warmly and
cordially received, and on the best possible terms with the members of
the extreme gauche.
One afternoon about the middle of February, I was returning from the
Chamber of Deputies, meditating very seriously upon the nature of a
debate which I had just heard, regarding the opposition of ministers to
the holding of a Reform banquet in Paris, and in which my friend Barrot
had borne a very conspicuous share. At the corner of the Place de la
Concorde, I observed a tall swarthy man in the uniform of the National
Guard, engaged in cheapening a poodle. I thought I recognised the
face—hesitated, stopped, and in a moment was in the arms of my
illustrious friend, the Count of Monte-Christo, and Marquis Davy de la
“Capdibious!” cried the author of Trois Mousquetaires—“Who would have
thought to see you here? Welcome, my dear Dunshunner, a thousand times
to Paris. Where have you been these hundred years?”
“Voyaging, like yourself, to the East, my dear Marquis,” replied I.
“Ah, bah! That is an old joke. I never was nearer Egypt than the Bois de
Boulogne; however, I did manage to mystify the good public about the
baths of Alexandria. But how came you here just now? Dix mille
tonnerres! They told me you had been made pair d’Angleterre.”
“Why, no; not exactly. There was some talk of it, I believe. But
jealousy—jealousy, you know—”
“Ah, yes,—I comprehend! Ce vilain Palmerston, n’est-ce pas? But that
is always the way; ministers are always the same. You will hardly credit
it, my dear friend, but I—I with my ancient title—and the most popular
author of France, am not even a member of the Chamber of Deputies!”
“You amaze me!”
“Yes—after all, you manage better in England. There is that little
D’Israeli—very clever man—Monceton Milles, Bourring, and Wakeley, all
in the legislature; while here the literary interest is altogether
“Surely, my dear Marquis, you forget—there’s Lamartine.”
“Lamartine! a mere sentimentalist—a nobody! No, my dear friend; France
must be regenerated. The daughter of glory, she cannot live without
“How, Marquis? I thought that you and Montpensier—”
“Were friends? True enough. It was I who settled the Spanish marriages.
There, I rather flatter myself, I had your perfidious Albion on the hip.
But, to say the truth, I am tired of family alliances. We want something
more to keep us alive—something startling, in short—something like the
Pyramids and Moscow, to give us an impulse forward into the dark gulf of
futurity. The limits of Algeria are too contracted for the fluttering of
our national banner. We want freedom, less taxation, and a more extended
“And cannot all these,” said I, unwilling to lose the opportunity of
converting so remarkable a man as the Count of Monte-Christo to the
grand principles of Manchester—“cannot these be attained by more
peaceful methods than the subversion of general tranquillity? What is
freedom, my dear Marquis, but an unlimited exportation of cotton abroad,
with double task hours of wholesome labour at home? How will you
diminish your taxation better, than by reducing all duties on imports,
until the deficit is laid directly upon the shoulders of a single
uncomplaining class? Why seek to extend your frontier, whilst we in
England, out of sheer love to the world at large, are rapidly
demolishing our colonies? Did you ever happen,” continued I, pulling
from my pocket a bundle of the Manchester manifestos, “to peruse any of
these glorious epitomes of reason and of political science? Are you
familiar with the soul-stirring tracts of Thompson and of Bright? Did
you ever read the Socialist’s scheme for universal philanthropy, which
“Peste!” replied the illustrious nobleman, “what the deuce do we care
for the opinions of Monsieur Tonson, or any of your low manufacturers?
By my honour, Dunshunner, I am afraid you are losing your head. Don’t
you know, my dear fellow, that all great revolutions spring from us, the
men of genius? It is we who are the true rousers of the people; we, the
poets and romancers, who are the source of all legitimate power. Witness
Voltaire, Rousseau, De Beranger, and—I may say it without any
imputation of vanity—the Marquis Davy de la Pailleterie!”
“Yours is a new theory!” said I, musingly.
“New! Pray pardon me—it is as old as literature itself! No revolution
can be effectual unless it has the fine arts for its basis. Simple as I
stand here, I demand no more time than a month to wrap Europe in
“You don’t say so seriously?”
“On my honour.”
“Give me leave to doubt it.”
“Should you like a proof?”
“Not on so great a scale, certainly. I am afraid the results would be
too serious to justify the experiment.”
“Ah, bah! You are a philanthropist. What are a few thousand lives
compared with the triumph of mind?”
“Not much to you, perhaps, but certainly something to the owners. But
come, my dear friend, you are jesting. You don’t mean to insinuate that
you possess any such power?”
“I do indeed.”
“But the means? Granting that you have the power—and all Europe
acknowledges the extraordinary faculties of the author of
Monte-Christo—some time would be required for their development. You
cannot hope to inoculate the mind of a nation in a moment.”
“I did not say a moment—I said a month.”
“And dare I ask your recipe?”
“A very simple one. Two romances, each in ten volumes, and a couple of
“What! of your own?”
“Of mine,” replied the Marquis de la Pailleterie.
“I wish to heaven that I knew how you set about it. I have heard G. P.
R. James backed for a volume a-month, but this sinks him into utter
“There is no difficulty in explaining it. He writes,—I never do.”
“You never write?”
“Then how the mischief do you manage?”
“I compose. Since I met you, I have composed and dictated a whole
chapter of the Memoirs of a Physician!”
“To be sure. It is already written down, and will be circulated
throughout Paris to-morrow.”
“Monsieur le Marquis—have I the honour to hold an interview with
“Mon cher, vous me flattez beaucoup! I have not thought it necessary
to intrust my experiences to the sympathising bosom of M. Frédéric
“Have you a familiar spirit, then?” said I, casting a suspicious glance
towards the poodle, then vigorously engaged in hunting through its
The Marquis smiled.
“The ingenuity of your supposition, my dear friend, deserves a specific
answer. I have indeed a familiar spirit—that is, I am possessed of a
confidant, ready at all times, though absent, to chronicle my thoughts,
and to express, in corresponding words, the spontaneous emotions of my
soul. Nay, you need not start. The art is an innocent one, and its
practice, though divulged, would not expose me in any way to the
censures of the church.”
“You pique my curiosity strangely!”
“Well, then, listen. For some years I have paid the utmost attention to
the science of animal magnetism, an art which undoubtedly lay at the
foundation of the ancient Chaldean lore, and which, though now revived,
has been debased by the artifices and quackery of knaves. I need not go
into details. After long search, I have succeeded in finding a being
which, in its dormant or spiritual state, has an entire affinity with my
own. When awake, you would suppose Leontine Deschappelles to be a mere
ordinary though rather interesting female, endowed certainly with a
miraculous sensibility for music, but not otherwise in any way
remarkable. But, when asleep, she becomes as it were the counterpart or
reflex of myself. Every thought which passes through my bosom
simultaneously arises in hers. I do not need even to utter the words. By
some miraculous process, these present themselves as vividly to her as
if I had bestowed the utmost labour upon composition. I have but to
throw her into a magnetic sleep, and my literary product for the day is
secured. I go forth through Paris, mingle in society, appear idle and
insouciant; and yet all the while the ideal personages of my tale are
passing over the mirror of my mind, and performing their allotted duty.
I have reached such perfection in the art, that I can compose two or
even three romances at once. I return towards evening, and then I find
Leontine, pale indeed and exhausted, but with a vast pile of manuscript
before her, which contains the faithful transcript of my thoughts. Now,
perhaps, you will cease to wonder at an apparent fertility, which, I am
aware, has challenged the admiration and astonishment of Europe.”
All this was uttered by Monte-Christo with such exemplary gravity, that
I stood perfectly confounded. If true, it was indeed the solution of the
greatest literary problem of the age; but I could hardly suppress the
idea that he was making me the victim of a hoax.
“And whereabouts does she dwell, this Demoiselle Leontine?” said I.
“At my house,” he replied; “she is my adopted child. Poor Leontine!
sometimes when I look at her wasted cheek, I feel a pang of regret to
think that she is paying so dear for a celebrity which must be immortal.
But it is the fate of genius, my friend, and all of us must submit!”
As the Marquis uttered this sentiment with a pathetic sigh, I could not
refrain from glancing at his manly and athletic proportions. Certainly
there was no appearance of over-fatigue or lassitude there. He looked
the very incarnation of good cheer, and had contrived to avert from his
own person all vestige of those calamities which he was pleased so
feelingly to deplore. He might have been exhibited at the Trois Frères
as a splendid result of their nutritive and culinary system.
“You doubt me still, I see,” said De la Pailleterie. “Well, I cannot
wonder at it. Such things, I know, sound strange in the apprehension of
you incredulous islanders. But I will even give you a proof, Dunshunner,
which is more than I would do to any other man—for I cannot forget the
service you rendered me long ago at the Isle de Bourbon. You see this
little instrument,—put it to your ear. I shall summon Leontine to
speak, and the sound of her reply will be conveyed to you through that
silver tube, which is in strict rapport with her magnetic
So saying, he placed in my hand a miniature silver trumpet, beautifully
wrought, which I immediately placed to my ear.
Monte-Christo drew himself up to his full height, fixed his fine eyes
earnestly upon vacuity, made several passes upwards with his hand, and
“My friend, do you hear me? If so, answer.”
Immediately, and to my unexpected surprise, there thrilled through the
silver tube a whisper of miraculous sweetness.
“Great master! I listen—I obey!”
“May St Mungo, St Mirren, St Rollox, and all the other western saints,
have me in their keeping!” cried I. “Heard ever mortal man aught like
“Hush—be silent!” said the Marquis, “or you may destroy the spell.
Leontine, have you concluded the chapter?”
“I have,” said the voice; “shall I read the last sentences?”
“Do,” replied the adept, who seemed to hear the response simultaneously
with myself, by intuition.
The voice went on: “At this moment the door of the apartment opened, and
Chon rushed into the room. ‘Well, my little sister, how goes it?’ said
the Countess. ‘Bad.’ ‘Indeed!’ ‘It is but too true.’ ‘De Noailles?’
‘No.’ ‘Ha! D’Aiguillon?’ ‘You deceive yourself.’ ‘Who then?’ ‘Philip de
Taverney, the Chevalier Maison-Rouge!’ ‘Ha!’ cried the Countess, ‘then I
am lost!’ and she sank senseless upon the cushions.”
“Well done, Leontine!” exclaimed De la Pailleterie; “that is the seventh
chapter I have composed since morning. Are you fatigued, my child?”
“Very—very weary,” replied the voice, in a melancholy cadence.
“You shall have rest soon. Come hither. Do you see me?”
“Ah! you are very cruel!”
“I understand. Cease to be fatigued—I will it!”
“Ah! thanks, thanks!”
“Do you see me now?”
“I do. Oh, how handsome!”
The Marquis caressed his whiskers.
“Where am I?”
“At the corner of the Place de la Concorde, near the Tuileries’ gardens.
Ah, you naughty man, you have been smoking!”
“Who is with me?”
“A poodle-dog,” replied the voice. “What a pretty creature! he is just
snapping at a fly. Come here, poor fellow!”
The poodle gave an unearthly yell, and rushed between the legs of
Monte-Christo, thereby nearly capsizing that extraordinary magician.
“That will do, my dear Marquis,” said I, returning him the trumpet. “I
am now perfectly convinced of the truth of your assertions, and can no
longer wonder at the marvellous fertility of your pen—I beg pardon—of
your invention. Pray, do not trouble your fair friend any further upon
my account. I have heard quite enough to satisfy me that I am in the
presence of the most remarkable man in Europe.”
“Pooh! this is a mere bagatelle. Any man might do the same, with a
slight smattering of the occult sciences. But we were talking, if I
recollect right, about moral influence and power. I maintain that the
authors of romance and melodrama are the true masters of the age: you,
on the contrary, believe in free-trade and the jargon of political
economy. Is it not so?”
“True. We started from that point.”
“Well, then, would you like to see a revolution?”
“Not on my account, my dear Marquis. I own the interest of the
spectacle, but it demands too great a sacrifice.”
“Not at all. In fact, I have made up my mind for a bouleversement this
spring, as I seriously believe it would tend very much to the
respectability of France. It must come sooner or later. Louis Philippe
is well up in years, and it cannot make much difference to him. Besides,
I am tired of Guizot. He gives himself airs as an historian which are
absolutely insufferable, and France can submit to it no longer. The only
doubt I entertain is, whether this ought to be a new ministry, or an
entire dynastical change.”
“You are the best judge. For my own part, having no interest in the
matter further than curiosity, a change of ministers would satisfy me.”
“Ay, but there are considerations beyond that. Much may be said upon
both sides. There is danger certainly in organic changes, at the same
time we must work out by all means our full and legitimate freedom.
What would you do in such a case of perplexity?”
Victor Hugo’s simple and romantic method of deciding between hostile
opinions, as exemplified in his valuable drama of Lucrêce Borgia, at
once occurred to me.
“Are you quite serious,” said I, “in wishing to effect a change of some
“I am,” said the Marquis, “as resolute as Prometheus on the Caucasus.”
“Then suppose we toss for it; and so leave the question of a new cabinet
or dynasty entirely to the arbitration of fate?”
“A good and a pious idea!” replied the Marquis de la Pailleterie. “Here
is a five-franc piece. I shall toss, and you shall call.”
Up went the dollar, big with the fate of France, twirling in the evening
“Heads for a new ministry!” cried I, and the coin fell chinking on the
gravel. We both rushed up.
“It is tails!” said the Marquis devoutly. “Destiny! Thou hast willed it,
and I am but thine instrument. Farewell, my friend; in ten days you
shall hear more of this. Meantime, I must be busy. Poor Leontine! thou
hast a heavy task before thee!”
“If you are going homewards,” said I, “permit me to accompany you so
far. Our way lies together.”
“Not so,” replied the Marquis thoughtfully. “I dine to-day at Véfour’s,
and in the evening I must attend the Théatre de la Porte St Martin. I am
never so much alone as in the midst of excitement. O France, France!
what do I not endure for thee!”
So saying, Monte-Christo extended his hand, which I wrung affectionately
within my own. I felt proud of the link which bound me to so high and
elevated a being.
“Ah, my friend!” said I, “ah, my friend! there is yet time to pause.
Would it not be wiser and better to forego this enterprise altogether?”
“You forget,” replied the other solemnly. “Destiny has willed it. Go,
let us each fulfil our destiny!”
So saying, this remarkable man tucked the poodle under his arm, and in a
few moments was lost to my view amidst the avenues of the garden of the
THE IDES OF MARCH.
Several days elapsed, during which Paris maintained its customary
tranquillity. The eye of a stranger could have observed very little
alteration in the demeanour of the populace; and even in the salons
there was no strong surmise of any coming event of importance. In the
capital of France one looks for a revolution as quietly as the people
of England await the advent of “the coming man.” The event is always
prophesied—sometimes apparently upon the eve of being fulfilled; but
the failures are so numerous as to prevent inordinate disappointment. In
the Chamber there were some growlings about the Reform banquet, and the
usual vague threats if any attempt should be made to coerce the
liberties of the people; but these demonstrations had been so often
repeated, that nobody had faith in any serious or critical result.
Little Thiers, to be sure, blustered; and Odillon Barrot assumed pompous
airs, and tried to look like a Roman citizen at our small patriotic
cosmopolitan reunions; but I never could believe that either of them was
thoroughly in earnest. We all know the game that is played in Britain,
where the doors of the ministerial cabinet are constructed on the
principle of a Dutch clock. When it is fair weather, the ambitious
figure of Lord John Russell is seen mounting guard on the outside—when
it threatens to blow, the small sentry retires, and makes way for the
Tamworth grenadier. Just so was it in Paris. Guizot, if wheeled from his
perch, was expected to be replaced by the smarter and more enterprising
Thiers, and slumbrous Duchatel by the broad-chested and beetle-browed
At the same time I could not altogether shut my eyes to the more active
state of the press. I do not mean to aver that the mere political
articles exhibited more than their usual vigour; but throughout the
whole literature of the day there ran an under-current of revolutionary
feeling which betokened wonderful unanimity. Less than usual was said
about Marengo, Austerlitz, or even the three glorious days of July. The
minds of men were directed further back, to a period when the Republic
was all in all, when France stood isolated among the nations, great in
crime, and drunken with her new-won freedom. The lapse of half a century
is enough to throw a sort of halo around the memory of the veriest
villain and assassin. We have seen Dick Turpin and Jack Sheppard exhumed
from their graves to be made the heroes of modern romance; and the same
alchemy was now applied to the honoured ashes of Anacharsis Clootz, and
other patriots of the Reign of Terror.
All this was done very insidiously, and, I must say, with consummate
skill. Six or seven simultaneous romances reminded the public of its
former immunity from rule, and about as many melodramas denounced utter
perdition to tyranny. I liked the fun. Man is by nature a revolutionary
animal, especially when he has nothing to lose; and it is needless to
remark that a very small portion indeed of my capital was invested in
the foreign funds.
I saw little of my friend the Marquis, beyond meeting him at the usual
promenades, and bowing to him at the theatres, where he never failed to
present himself. A casual observer would have thought that De la
Pailleterie had no other earthly vocation than to perambulate Paris as a
mere votary of pleasure. Once or twice, however, towards evening, I
encountered him in his uniform of the National Guard, with fire in his
eye, haste in his step, and a settled deliberation on his forehead; and
I could not help, as I gazed upon him, feeling transported backwards to
the period of Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.
At length I received the expected billet, and on the appointed evening
rendered myself punctually at his house. The rooms were already more
than half filled by the company.
“Are the Ides of March come?” said I, pressing the proffered hand of
“Come—but not yet over,” he replied. “You have seen the new play which
has produced such a marked sensation?”
“I have. Wonderful production! Whose is it?”
A mysterious smile played upon the lip of my friend.
“Come,” said he, “let me introduce you to a countryman, a sympathiser;
one who, like you, is desirous that our poor country should participate
in the blessings of the British loom. Mr Hutton Bagsby—Mr Dunshunner.”
Bagsby was a punchy man, with a bald head, and a nose which betokened
his habitual addiction to the fiery grape of Portugal.
“Servant, sir!” said he. “Understand you’re a free-trader, supporter of
Cobden’s principles, and inclined to go the whole hog. Glad to see a man
of common understanding here. Damme, sir, when I speak to these French
fellows about calico, they begin to talk about fraternity; which, as I
take it, means eating frogs, for I don’t pretend to understand their
“Every nation has its hobby, you know, Mr Bagsby,” I replied. “We
consider ourselves more practical than the French, and stick to the main
chance; they, on the other hand, are occupied with social grievances,
and what they call the rights of labour.”
“Rights of labour!” exclaimed Bagsby. “Hanged if I think labour has got
any rights at all. Blow all protection! say I. Look after the interests
of the middle classes, and let capital have its swing. As for those
confounded working fellows, who cares about them? We don’t, I can answer
for it. When I was in the League, we wanted to bring corn down, in order
to get work cheaper; and, now that we’ve got it, do you think we will
stand any rubbish about rights? These French fellows are a poor set;
they don’t understand sound commercial principles.”
“Ha! Lamoricière!” said our host, accosting a general officer who just
then entered the apartment; “how goes it? Any result from to-day’s
demonstration at the Chamber?”
“Ma foi! I should say there is. The banquets are forbidden. There is a
talk about impeaching ministers; and, in the mean time, the
artillery-waggons are rumbling through the streets in scores.”
“Then our old friend Macaire is likely to make a stand?”
“It is quite possible that the respectable gentleman may try it,” said
the commandant, regaling himself with a pinch. “By the way, the National
Guard must turn out to-morrow early. The rappel will be beat by
daybreak. There is a stir already in the Boulevards; and, as I drove
here, I saw the people in thousands reading the evening journals by
“Such is liberty!” exclaimed a little gentleman, who had been listening
eagerly to the General. “Such is liberty! she holds her bivouac at
nightfall by the torch of reason; and, on the morrow, the dawn is red
with the brightness of the sun of Austerlitz!”
A loud hum of applause followed the enunciation of this touching
“Our friend is great to-night,” whispered Monte-Christo; “and he
may be greater to-morrow. If Louis Philippe yields, he may be
prime-minister—if firing begins, I have a shrewd notion he won’t
be anywhere. Ah, Monsieur Albert! welcome from Cannes. We have been
expecting you for some time, and you have arrived not a moment too
The individual thus accosted was of middle height, advanced age, and
very plainly dressed. He wore a rusty grey surtout, trousers of plaid
check, and the lower part of his countenance was buried in the folds
of a black cravat. The features were remarkable; and, somehow or other,
I thought that I had seen them before. The small grey eyes rolled
restlessly beneath their shaggy pent-house; the cheek-bones were
remarkably prominent; a deep furrow was cut on either side of the mouth;
and the nose, which was of singular conformation, seemed endowed with
spontaneous life, and performed a series of extraordinary mechanical
revolutions. Altogether, the appearance of the man impressed me with the
idea of strong, ill-regulated energy, and of that restless activity
which is emphatically the mother of mischief.
Monsieur Albert did not seem very desirous of courting attention. He
rather winked than replied to our host, threw a suspicious look at
Bagsby, who was staring him in the face, honoured me with a survey, and
then edged away into the crowd. I felt rather curious to know something
more about him.
“Pray, my dear Marquis,” said I, “who may this Monsieur Albert be?”
“Albert! Is it possible that you do not—but I forget. I can only tell
you, mon cher, that this Monsieur Albert is a very remarkable man, and
will be heard of hereafter among the ranks of the people. You seem to
suspect a mystery? Well, well! There are mysteries in all great dramas,
such as that which is now going on around us; so for the present you
must be content to know my friend as simple Albert, ouvrier.”
“Hanged if I haven’t seen that fellow in the black choker before!” said
Mr Bagsby; “or, at all events, I’ve seen his double. I say, Mr
Dunshunner, who is the chap that came in just now?”
“I really cannot tell, Mr Bagsby. Monte-Christo calls him simply Mr
Albert, a workman.”
“That’s their fraternity, I suppose! If I thought he was an operative,
I’d be off in the twinkling of a billy-roller. But it’s all a hoax. Do
you know, I think he’s very like a certain noble—”
Here an aide-de-camp, booted and spurred, dashed into the apartment.
“General! you are wanted immediately: the émeute has begun, half Paris
is rushing to arms, and they are singing the Marseillaise through the
“Anything else?” said the General, who, with inimitable sang froid,
was sipping a tumbler of orgeat.
“Guizot has resigned.”
“Bravo!” cried the little gentleman above referred to—and he cut a
caper that might have done credit to Vestris. “Bravo! there is some
chance for capable men now.”
“I was told,” continued the aide-de-camp, “as I came along, that Count
Molé had been sent for.”
“Molé! bah! an imbecile!” muttered the diminutive statesman. “It was not
worth a revolution to produce such a miserable result.”
“And what say the people?” asked our host.
“Cela ne suffit pas!”
“Ah, les bons citoyens! Ah! les braves garçons! Je les connais!” And
here the candidate for office executed a playful pirouette.
“Nevertheless,” said Lamoricière, “we must do our duty.”
“Which is?” interrupted De la Pailleterie.
“To see the play played out, at all events,” replied the military
patriot; “and therefore, messieurs, I have the honour to wish you all a
very good evening.”
“But stop, General,” cried two or three voices: “what would you advise
us to do?”
“In the first place, gentlemen,” replied the warrior, and his words were
listened to with the deepest attention, “I would recommend you, as the
streets are in a disturbed state, to see the ladies home. That duty
performed, you will probably be guided by your own sagacity and tastes.
The National Guard will, of course, muster at their quarters. Gentlemen
who are of an architectural genius will probably be gratified by an
opportunity of inspecting several barricades in different parts of the
city; and I have always observed, that behind a wall of this description
there is little danger from a passing bullet. Others, who are fond of
fireworks, may possibly find an opportunity of improving themselves in
the pyrotechnic art. But I detain you, gentlemen, I fear unjustifiably;
and as I observe that the firing has begun, I have the honour once more
to renew my salutations.”
And in fact a sharp fusillade was heard without, towards the conclusion
of the General’s harangue. The whole party was thrown into confusion;
several ladies showed symptoms of fainting, and were incontinently
received in the arms of their respective cavaliers.
The aspiring statesman had disappeared. Whether he got under a sofa, or
up the chimney, I do not know, but he vanished utterly from my eyes.
Monte-Christo was in a prodigious state of excitement.
“I have kept my word, you see,” he said: “this may be misconstrued in
history, but I call upon you to bear witness that the revolution was a
triumph of genius. O France!” continued he, filling his pocket with
macaroons, “the hour of thine emancipation has come!”
Observing a middle-aged lady making towards the door without male
escort, I thought it incumbent upon me to tender my services, in
compliance with the suggestions of the gallant Lamoricière. I was a good
deal obstructed, however, by Mr Hutton Bagsby, who, in extreme alarm,
was cleaving to the skirts of my garments.
“Can I be of the slightest assistance in offering my escort to madame?”
said I with a respectful bow.
The lady looked at me with unfeigned surprise.
“Monsieur mistakes, I believe,” said she quietly. “Perhaps he thinks I
carry a fan. Look here”—and she exhibited the butt of an enormous
horse-pistol. “The authoress of Lélia knows well how to command respect
“George Sand!” I exclaimed in amazement.
“The same, Monsieur; who will be happy to meet you this evening at an
early hour, behind the barricade of the Rue Montmartre.”
“O good Lord!” cried Mr Hutton Bagsby, “here is a precious kettle of
fish! They are firing out yonder like mad; they’ll be breaking into the
houses next, and we’ll all be murdered to a man.”
“Do not be alarmed, Mr Bagsby; this is a mere political revolution. The
people have no animosity whatever to strangers.”
“Haven’t they? I wish you had seen the way the waiter looked this
morning at my dressing-case. They’d tie me up to the lamp-post at once
for the sake of my watch and seals! And I don’t know a single word of
their bloody language. I wish the leaders of the League had been hanged
before they sent me here.”
“What! then you are here upon a mission?”
“Yes, I’m a delegate, as they call it. O Lord, I wish somebody would
take me home!”
“Where do you reside, Mr Bagsby?”
“I don’t know the name of the street, and the man who brought me here
has just gone away with a gun! Oh dear! what shall I do?”
I really felt considerably embarrassed. By this time Monte-Christo and
most of his guests had departed, and I knew no one to whom I could
consign the unfortunate and terrified free-trader. I sincerely pitied
poor Bagsby, who was eminently unfitted for this sort of work; and was
just about to offer him an asylum in my own apartments, when I felt my
shoulder touched, and, turning round, recognised the intelligent though
sarcastic features of Albert the ouvrier.
“You are both English?” he said in a perfectly pure dialect. “Eh bien,
I like the English, and I wish they understood us better. You are in
difficulties. Well, I will assist. Come with me. You may depend upon the
honour of a member of the Institute. Workman as I am, I have some
influence here. Come—is it a bargain? Only one caution, gentlemen:
remember where you are, and that the watchwords for the night are
fraternité, egalité! You comprehend? Let us lose no time, but follow
So saying, he strode to the door. Bagsby said not a word, but clutched
my arm. But as we descended the staircase, he muttered in my ear as well
as the chattering of his teeth would allow:—
“It is him—I am perfectly certain! Who on earth would have believed
this! O Lord Harry!”
The streets were in a state of wild commotion. Everywhere we encountered
crowds of truculent working fellows, dressed in blouses, and armed with
muskets, who were pressing towards the Boulevards. Sometimes they passed
us in hurried groups; at other times the way was intercepted by a
regular procession bearing torches, and singing the war-hymn of
Marseilles. Those who judge of the physical powers of the French people
by the specimens they usually encounter in the streets of Paris, are
certain to form an erroneous estimate. A more powerful and athletic race
than the workmen is scarcely to be found in Europe; and it was not, I
confess, without a certain sensation of terror, that I found myself
launched into the midst of this wild and uncontrollable mob, whose
furious gestures testified to their excitement, and whose brawny arms
were bared, and ready for the work of slaughter.
Considering the immense military force which was known to be stationed
in and around Paris, it seemed to me quite miraculous that no effective
demonstration had been made. Possibly the troops might be drawn up in
some of the wider streets or squares, but hitherto we had encountered
none. Several bodies of the National Guard, it is true, occasionally
went by; but these did not seem to be considered as part of the military
force, nor did they take any active steps towards the quelling of the
disturbance. At times, however, the sound of distant firing warned us
that the struggle had begun.
Poor Bagsby clung to my arm in a perfect paroxysm of fear. I had
cautioned him, as we went out, on no account to open his lips, or to
make any remarks which might serve to betray his origin. The creature
was quite docile, and followed in the footsteps of Monsieur Albert like
a lamb. That mysterious personage strode boldly forward, chuckling to
himself as he went, and certainly exhibited a profound knowledge of the
topography of Paris. Once or twice we were stopped and questioned; but a
few cabalistic words from our leader solved all difficulties, and we
were allowed to proceed amidst general and vociferous applause.
At length, as we approached the termination of a long and narrow street,
we heard a tremendous shouting, and the unmistakable sounds of conflict.
“Here come the Municipal Guards!” cried M. Albert, quickly. “These
fellows fight like demons, and have no regard for the persons of the
people. Follow me, gentlemen, this way, and speedily, if you do not wish
to be sliced like blanc-mange!”
With these words the ouvrier dived into a dark lane, and we lost no time
in following his example. I had no idea whatever of our locality, but it
seemed evident that we were in one of the worst quarters of Paris. Every
lamp in the lane had been broken, so that we could form no opinion of
its character from vision. It was, however, ankle-deep of mud—a
circumstance by no means likely to prolong the existence of my glazed
boots. Altogether, I did not like the situation; and had it not been for
the guarantee as to M. Albert’s respectability, implied from his
acquaintance with Monte-Christo, I think I should have preferred
trusting myself to the tender mercies of the Municipal Guard. As for
poor Bagsby, his teeth were going like castanets.
“You seem cold, sir,” said Albert, in a deep and husky voice, as we
reached a part of the lane apparently fenced in by dead walls. “This is
a wild night for a Manchester weaver to be wandering in the streets of
“O Lord! you know me, then?” groaned Bagsby, with a piteous accent.
“Know you? ha, ha!” replied the other, with the laugh of the third
ruffian in a melodrama; “who does not know citizen Bagsby, the
delegate—Bagsby, the great champion of the League—Bagsby, the
“It’s not time, upon my soul!” cried Bagsby; “I am nothing of the kind.
I haven’t a hundred pounds in the world that I can properly call my
“The world wrongs you, then,” said Albert; “and, to say the truth, you
keep up the delusion by carrying so much bullion about you. I should
say, now, that the chain round your neck must be worth some fifty
Bagsby made no reply, but clutched my arm with the grasp of a cockatoo.
“This is a very dreary place,” continued Albert, in a tone that might
have emanated from a sepulchre. “Last winter three men were robbed and
murdered in this very passage. There is a conduit to the Seine below,
and I saw the bodies next morning in the Morgue, with their throats cut
from ear to ear!”
From a slight interjectional sound, I concluded that Bagsby was praying.
“These,” said the ouvrier, “are the walls of a slaughter-house: on the
other side is the shed where they ordinarily keep the guillotine. Have
you seen that implement yet, Mr Bagsby?”
“Mercy on us, no!” groaned the delegate. “Oh, Mr Albert, whoever you
are, do take us out of this place, or I am sure I shall lose my reason!
If you want my watch, say so at once, and, upon my word, you are
“Harkye, sirrah,” said Monsieur Albert: “I have more than half a mind to
leave you here all night for your consummate impertinence. I knew you
from the very first to be a thorough poltroon; but I shall find a proper
means of chastising you. Come along, sir; we are past the lane now, and
at a place where your hands may be better employed for the liberties of
the people than your head ever was in inventing task-work at home.”
We now emerged into an open court, lighted by a solitary lamp. It was
apparently deserted, but on a low whistle from Monsieur Albert, some
twenty or thirty individuals in blouses rushed forth from the doorways
and surrounded us. I own I did not feel remarkably comfortable at the
moment; for although it was clear to me that our guide had merely been
amusing himself at the expense of Bagsby, the apparition of his
confederates was rather sudden and startling. As for Bagsby, he
evidently expected no better fate than an immediate conduct to the
“You come late, mon capitaine,” said a bloused veteran, armed with a
mattock. “They have the start of us already in the Rue des Petits
“Never mind, grognard! we are early enough for the ball,” said M.
Albert. “Have you everything ready as I desired?”
“All ready—spades, levers, pickaxes, and the rest.”
“Enough to serve our purpose, and we shall soon have more. But who are
these with you?”
“Fraternisers—two bold Englishmen, who are ready to die for freedom!”
“Vivent les Anglais, et à bas les tyrans!” shouted the blouses.
“This citizen,” continued Albert, indicating the unhappy Bagsby, “is a
Cobdenist and a delegate. He has sworn to remain at the barricades until
the last shot is fired, and to plant the red banner of the emancipated
people upon its summit. His soul is thirsting for fraternity. Brothers!
open to him your arms.”
Hereupon a regular scramble took place for the carcass of Mr Hutton
Bagsby. Never surely was so much love lavished upon any human creature.
Patriot after patriot bestowed on him the full-flavoured hug of
fraternity, and he emerged from their grasp very much in the tattered
condition of a scarecrow.
“Give the citizen delegate a blouse and a pickaxe,” quoth Albert, “and
then for the barricade. You have your orders—execute them. Up with the
pavement, down with the trees; fling over every omnibus and cab that
comes in your way, and fight to the last drop of your blood for France
and her freedom. Away!”
With a tremendous shout the patriots rushed off, hurrying Bagsby along
with them. The unfortunate man offered no resistance, but the agony
depicted on his face might have melted the heart of a millstone.
Albert remained silent until the group were out of sight, and then burst
into a peal of laughter.
“That little man,” said he, “will gather some useful experiences
to-night that may last him as long as he lives. As for you, Mr
Dunshunner, whose name and person are well known to me, I presume you
have no ambition to engage in any such architectural constructions?”
I modestly acknowledged my aversion to practical masonry.
“Well, then,” said the ouvrier, “I suppose you are perfectly competent
to take care of yourself. There will be good fun in the streets, if you
choose to run the risk of seeing it; at the same time there is safety in
stone walls. ’Gad, I think this will astonish plain John! There’s
nothing like it in his Lives of the Chancellors. I don’t want,
however, to see our friend the delegate absolutely sacrificed. Will you
do me the favour to inquire for him to-morrow at the barricade down
there? I will answer for it that he does not make his escape before
then; and now for Ledru Rollin!”
With these words, and a friendly nod, the eccentric artisan departed, at
a pace which showed how little his activity had been impaired by years.
Filled with painful and conflicting thoughts, I followed the course of
another street which led me to the Rue Rivoli.
Here I had a capital opportunity of witnessing the progress of the
revolution. The street was crowded with the people shouting, yelling,
and huzzaing; and a large body of the National Guard, drawn up
immediately in front of me, seemed to be in high favour. Indeed, I was
not surprised at this, on discovering that the officer in command was no
less a person than my illustrious friend De la Pailleterie. He looked as
warlike as a Lybian lion, though it was impossible to comprehend what
particular section of the community were the objects of his sublime
anger. Indeed, it was rather difficult to know what the gentlemen in
blouses wanted. Some were shouting for reform, as if that were a
tangible article which could be handed them from a window; others
demanded the abdication of ministers—rather unreasonably, I thought,
since at that moment there was no vestige of a ministry in France;
whilst the most practical section of the mob was clamorous for the head
of Guizot. Presently the shakos and bright bayonets of a large
detachment of infantry were seen approaching, amidst vehement cries of
“Vive la Ligne!” They marched up to the National Guard, who still
maintained their ranks. The leading officer looked puzzled.
“Who are these?” he said, pointing with his sword to the Guard.
“I have the honour to inform Monsieur,” said Monte-Christo, stepping
forward, “that these are the second legion of the National Guard!”
“Vive la Garde Nationale!” cried the officer.
“Vive la Ligne!” reciprocated the Marquis.
Both gentlemen then saluted, and interchanged snuff-boxes, amidst
tremendous cheering from the populace.
“And who are these?” continued the officer, pointing to the blouses on
“These are the people,” replied Monte-Christo.
“They must disperse. My orders are peremptory,” said the regular.
“The National Guard will protect them. Monsieur, respect the people!”
“They must disperse,” repeated the officer.
“They shall not,” replied Monte-Christo.
The moment was critical.
“In that case,” replied the officer, after a pause, “I shall best
fulfil my duty by wishing Monsieur a good evening.”
“You are a brave fellow!” cried the Marquis, sheathing his sabre; and in
a moment the warriors were locked in a brotherly embrace.
The effect was electric and instantaneous. “Let us all fraternise!” was
the cry; and regulars, nationals, and blouses, rushed into each others’
arms. The union was complete. Jacob and Esau coalesced without the
formality of an explanation. Ammunition was handed over by the troops
without the slightest scruple, and in return many bottles of vin
ordinaire were produced for the refreshment of the military. No man who
witnessed that scene could have any doubt as to the final result of the
Presently, however, a smart fusillade was heard to the right. The cry
arose, “They are assassinating the people! to the barricades! to the
barricades!” and the whole multitude swept vehemently forward towards
the place of contest. Unfortunately, in my anxiety to behold the
rencontre in which my friend bore so distinguished a part, I had pressed
a little further forwards than was prudent, and I now found myself in
the midst of an infuriated gang of workmen, and urged irresistibly
onwards to the nearest barricade.
“Thou hast no arms, comrade!” cried a gigantic butcher, who strode
beside me armed with an enormous axe; “here—take this;” and he thrust
a sabre into my hand; “take this, and strike home for la Patrie!”
I muttered my acknowledgments for the gift, and tried to look as like a
patriot as possible.
“Tête de Robespierre!” cried another. “This is better than paying
taxes! À bas la Garde Municipale! à bas tous les tyrans!”
“Tête de Brissot!” exclaimed I, in return, thinking it no unwise plan
to invoke the Manes of some of the earlier heroes. This was a slight
“Quoi? Girondin?” cried the butcher, with a ferocious scowl.
“Non; corps de Marat!” I shouted.
“Bon! embrasse-moi donc, camarade!” said the butcher, and so we
reached the barricade.
Here the game was going on in earnest. The barricade had been thrown up
hastily and imperfectly, and a considerable body of the Municipal
Guard—who, by the way, behaved throughout with much intrepidity—was
attempting to dislodge the rioters. In fact, they had almost succeeded.
Some ten of the insurgents, who were perched upon the top of the pile,
had been shot down, and no one seemed anxious to supply their place on
that bad eminence. In vain my friend the butcher waved his axe, and
shouted, “En avant!” A considerable number of voices, indeed, took up
the cry, but a remarkable reluctance was exhibited in setting the
salutary example. A few minutes more, and the passage would have been
cleared; when all of a sudden, from the interior of a cabriolet, which
formed a sort of parapet to the embankment, emerged a ghastly figure,
streaming with gore, and grasping the drapeau rouge. I never was more
petrified in my life—there could be no doubt of the man—it was Hutton
For a moment he stood gazing upon the tossing multitude beneath. There
was a brief pause, and even the soldiers, awed by his intrepidity,
forbore to fire. At last, however, they raised their muskets; when, with
a hoarse scream, Bagsby leaped from the barricade, and alighted
uninjured on the street. Had Mars descended in person to lead the
insurrection, he could not have done better.
“Ah, le brave Anglais! Ah, le député intrépide! A la rescousse!” was
the cry, and a torrent of human beings rushed headlong over the
No power on earth could have resisted that terrific charge. The
Municipal Guards were scattered like chaff before the wind; some were
cut down, and others escaped under cover of the ranks of the Nationals.
Like the rest, I had leaped the embankment; but not being anxious to
distinguish myself in single combat, I paused at the spot where Bagsby
had fallen. There I found the illustrious delegate stretched upon the
ground, still grasping the glorious colours. I stooped down and examined
the body, but I could discover no wound. The blood that stained his
forehead was evidently not his own.
I loosened his neckcloth to give him air, but still there were no signs
of animation. A crowd soon gathered around us—the victors were
returning from the combat.
“He will never fight more!” said the author of the Mysteries of Paris,
whom I now recognised among the combatants. “He has led us on for the
last time to victory! Alas for the adopted child of France! Un vrai
héros! II est mort sur le champ de bataille! Messieurs, I propose that
we decree for our departed comrade the honours of a public funeral!”
“How do you feel yourself to-day, Mr Bagsby?” said I, as I entered the
apartment of that heroic individual on the following morning; “you made
a very close shave of it, I can tell you. Eugène Sue wanted to have you
stretched upon a shutter, and carried in procession as a victim through
all the streets of Paris.”
“Victim indeed!” replied Bagsby, manipulating the small of his back,
“I’ve been quite enough victimised already. Hanged if I don’t get that
villain Albert impeached when I reach England, that’s all! I worked
among them with the pickaxe till my arms were nearly broken, and the
only thanks I got was to be shot at like a popinjay.”
“Nay, Mr Bagsby, you have covered yourself with glory. Every one says
that but for you the barricade would inevitably have been carried.”
“They might have carried it to the infernal regions for aught that I
cared,” replied Bagsby. “Catch me fraternising again with any of them; a
disreputable set of scoundrels with never a shirt to their back.”
“You forget, my dear sir,” said I: “Mr Cobden is of opinion that they
are the most affectionate and domesticated people on the face of the
“Did Cobden say that?” cried Bagsby: “then he’s a greater humbug than I
took him to be, and that is saying not a little. He’ll never get another
testimonial out of me, I can tell you. But pray, how did I come here?”
“Why, you were just about to be treated to a public funeral, when very
fortunately you exhibited some symptoms of resuscitation, and a couple
of hairy patriots carried you to my lodgings. Your exertions had been
too much for you. I must confess, Mr Bagsby, I had no idea that you were
so bloodthirsty a personage.”
“Me bloodthirsty!” cried Bagsby; “Lord bless you! I am like to faint
whenever I cut myself in shaving. Guns and swords are my perfect
abomination, and I don’t think I could bring myself to fire at a
“Come, come! you do yourself injustice. I shall never forget the
brilliant manner in which you charged down the barricade.”
“All I can tell you is, that I was deucedly glad to hide myself in one
of the empty coaches. But when a bullet came splash through the panel
within two inches of my ear, I found the place was getting too hot to
hold me, and scrambled out. I had covered myself with one of their red
rags by way of concealment, and I suppose I brought it out with me. As
to jumping down, you will allow it was full time to do that, when fifty
fellows were taking a deliberate aim with their guns.”
“You are too modest, Mr Bagsby; and, notwithstanding all your
disclaimers, you have gained a niche in history as a hero. But come;
this may be a busy day, and it is already late. Do you think you can
manage any breakfast?”
“I’ll try,” said Bagsby; and, to do him justice, he did.
Our meal concluded, I proposed a ramble, in order to ascertain the
progress of events, of which both of us were thoroughly ignorant.
Bagsby, however, was extremely adverse to leaving the house. He had a
strong impression that he would be again kidnapped, and pressed into
active service; in which case he affirmed that he would incontinently
give up the ghost.
“Can’t you stay comfortably here,” said he, “and let’s have a little
bottled porter? These foreign chaps can surely fight their own battles
without you or me; and that leads me to ask if you know the cause of all
this disturbance. Hanged if I understand anything about it!”
“I believe it mainly proceeds from the King having forbidden some of the
deputies to dine together in public.”
“You don’t say so!” cried Bagsby: “what an old fool he must be! Blowed
if I wouldn’t have taken the chair in person, and sent them twelve dozen
of champagne to drink my health.”
“Kings, Mr Bagsby, are rarely endowed with a large proportion of such
sagacity as yours. But really we must go forth and look a little about
us. It is past mid-day, and I cannot hear any firing. You may rely upon
it that the contest has been settled in one way or another—either the
people have been appeased, or, what is more likely, the troops have
sided with them. We must endeavour to obtain some information.”
“You may do as you like,” said Bagsby, “but my mind is made up. I’m off
for Havre this blessed afternoon.”
“My dear sir, you cannot. No passports can be obtained just now, and the
mob has taken up the railroads.”
“What an idiot I was ever to come here!” groaned Bagsby. “Mercy on me!
must I continue in this den of thieves, whether I will or no?”
“I am afraid there is no alternative. But you judge the Parisians too
hastily, Mr Bagsby. I perceive they have respected your watch.”
“Ay, but you heard what that chap said about the slaughter-house lane. I
declare he almost frightened me into fits. But where are you going?”
“Out, to be sure. If you choose to remain—”
“Not I. Who knows but they may take a fancy to seek for me here, and
carry me away again! I won’t part with the only Englishman I know in
Paris, though I think it would be more sensible to remain quietly where
We threw ourselves into the stream of people which was rapidly setting
in towards the Tuileries. Great events seemed to have happened, or at
all events to be on the eve of completion. The troops were nowhere to be
seen. They had vanished from the city like magic.
“Bon jour, Citoyen Bagsby,” said a harsh voice, immediately behind us.
“I hear high accounts of your valour yesterday at the barricades. Allow
me to congratulate you on your first revolutionary experiment.”
I turned round, and encountered the sarcastic smile of M. Albert the
ouvrier. He was rather better dressed than on the previous evening, and had a tricolored sash bound around his waist. With him was a crowd of
persons evidently in attendance.
“Should you like, Mr Bagsby, to enter the service of the Republic? for
such, I have the honour to inform you, France is now,” continued the
ouvrier. “We shall need a few practical heads—”
“Oh dear! I knew what it would all come to!” groaned Bagsby.
“Don’t misapprehend me—I mean heads to assist us in our new commercial
arrangements. Now, as free-trade has succeeded so remarkably well in
Britain, perhaps you would not object to communicate some of your
experiences to M. Crémieux, who is now my colleague?”
“Your colleague, M. Albert?” said I.
“Exactly so. I have the honour to be one of the members of the
Provisional Government of France.”
“Am I in my senses or not?” muttered Bagsby. “Oh, sir, whoever you are,
do be a good fellow for once, and let me get home! I promise you, I
shall not say a word about this business on the other side of the
“Far be it from me to lay any restraint upon your freedom of speech, Mr
Bagsby. So, then, I conclude you refuse? Well, be it so. After all, I
daresay Crémieux will get on very well without you.”
“But pray, M. Albert—one word,” said I. “You mentioned a republic—”
“I did. It has been established for an hour. Louis Philippe has
abdicated, and in all probability is by this time half a league beyond
the barrier. The Duchess of Orleans came down with her son to the
Chamber of Deputies, and I really believe there would have been a
regency; for the gallantry of France was moved, and Barrot was
determined on the point. Little Ledru Rollin, however, saved us from
half measures. Rollin is a clever fellow, with the soul of a
Robespierre; and, seeing how matters were likely to go, he quietly
slipped to the door, and admitted a select number of our friends from
the barricades. That put a stop to the talking. You have no idea how
quiet gentlemen become in the presence of a mob with loaded muskets.
Their hearts failed them; the deputies gradually withdrew, and a
republic was proclaimed by the sovereign will of the people. I am just
on my way to the Hôtel de Ville, to assist in consolidating the
“Bon voyage, M. Albert!”
“Oh, we shall do it, sure enough! But here we are near the Tuileries.
Perhaps, gentlemen, you would like to enjoy the amusements which are
going on yonder, and to drink prosperity to the new Republic in a glass
of Louis Philippe’s old Clos Vougeot. If so, do not let me detain you.
Adieu!” And, with a spasmodic twitch of his nose, the eccentric ouvrier
“Well! what things one does see abroad, to be sure!” said Bagsby: “I
recollect him quite well at the time of the Reform Bill—”
“Hush, my dear Bagsby!” said I, “this is not the moment nor the place
for any reminiscences of the kind.”
Certainly the aspect of what was going forward in front of the Tuileries
was enough to drive all minor memories from the head of any man. A huge
bonfire was blazing in the midst of the Square opposite the Place du
Carrousel, and several thousands of the populace were dancing round it
like demons. It was fed by the royal carriages, the furniture of the
state-rooms, and every combustible article which could in any way be
identified with the fallen dynasty. The windows of the palace were flung
open, and hangings, curtains, and tapestries of silk and golden tissue,
were pitched into the square amidst shouts of glee that would have
broken the heart of an upholsterer. It was the utter recklessness of
destruction. Yet, with all this, there was a certain appearance of
honesty preserved. The people might destroy to any amount they pleased,
but they were not permitted to appropriate. The man who smashed a mirror
or shattered a costly vase into flinders was a patriot,—he who helped
himself to an inkstand was denounced as an ignominious thief. I saw one
poor devil, whose famished appearance bore miserable testimony to his
poverty, arrested and searched; a pair of paste buckles was found upon
him, and he was immediately conducted to the gardens, and shot by a
couple of gentlemen who, five minutes before, had deliberately slit some
valuable pictures into ribbons! Every moment the crowd was receiving
accession from without, and the bonfire materials from within. At last,
amidst tremendous acclamations, the throne itself was catapulted into
the square, and the last symbol of royalty reduced to a heap of ashes.
The whole scene was so extremely uninviting that I regretted having come
so far, and suggested to Bagsby the propriety of an immediate retreat.
This, however, was not so easy. Several of the citizens who were now
dancing democratic polkas round the embers, had been very active
partisans at the barricade on the evening before, and, as ill-luck would
have it, recognised their revivified champion.
“Trois mille rognons!” exclaimed my revolutionary friend the butcher;
“here’s the brave little Englishman that led us on so gallantly against
the Municipal Guard! How is it with thee, my fire-eater, my stout
swallower of bullets? Art thou sad that there is no more work for thee
to do? Cheer up, citizen! we shall be at the frontiers before long; and
then who knows but the Republic may reward thee with the baton of a
marshal of France!”
“Plus de maréchaux!” cried a truculent chiffonier, who was truculently
picking a marrow-bone with his knife. “Such fellows are worth nothing
except to betray the people. I waited to have a shot at old Soult
yesterday, but the rascal would not show face!”
“Never mind him, citizen,” said the butcher, “we all know Père
Pomme-de-terre. But thou lookest pale! Art thirsty? Come with me, and I
will show thee where old Macaire keeps his cellar. France will not
grudge a flask to so brave a patriot as thyself.”
“Ay, ay! to the cellar—to the cellar!” exclaimed some fifty voices.
“Silence, mes enfants!” cried the butcher, who evidently had already
reconnoitred the interior of the subterranean vaults. “Let us do all
things in order. As Citizen Lamartine remarked, let virtue go hand in
hand with liberty, and let us apply ourselves seriously to the
consummation of this great work. We have now an opportunity of
fraternising with the world. We see amongst us an Englishman who last
night devoted his tremendous energies to France. We thought he had
fallen, and were about to give him public honours. Let us not be more
unmindful of the living than the dead. Here he stands, and I now propose
that he be carried on the shoulders of the people to the
royal—peste!—I mean the republican cellar, and that we there drink
to the confusion of all rank, and the union of all nations in the bonds
of universal brotherhood!”
“Agreed! agreed!” shouted the mob; and for the second time Bagsby
underwent the ceremony of entire fraternisation. He was then hoisted
upon the shoulders of some half-dozen patriots, notwithstanding a
melancholy howl, by which he intended to express disapprobation of the
whole proceeding. I was pressed into the service as interpreter, and
took care to attribute his disclaimer solely to an excess of modesty.
“Thou also wert at the barricade last night,” said the butcher. “Thou,
too, hast struck a blow for France. Come along. Let us cement with wine
the fraternity that originated in blood!”
So saying, he laid hold of my arm, and we all rushed towards the
Tuileries. I would have given a trifle to have been lodged at that
moment in the filthiest tenement of the Cowcaddens; but anything like
resistance was of course utterly out of the question. In we thronged, a
tumultuous rabble of men and women, through the portal of the Kings of
France, across the halls, and along the galleries, all of them bearing
already lamentable marks of violence, outrage, and desecration. Here was
a picture of Louis Philippe, a masterpiece by Horace Vernet, literally
riddled with balls; there a statue of some prince, decapitated by the
blow of a hammer; and in another place the fragments of a magnificent
vase, which had been the gift of an emperor. Crowds of people were
sitting or lying in the state apartments, eating, drinking, smoking, and
singing obscene ditties, or wantonly but deliberately pursuing the work
of dismemberment. And but a few hours before, this had been the palace
of the King of the Barricades!
Down we went to the cellars, which by this time were tolerably clear, as
most of the previous visitors had preferred the plan of enjoying the
abstracted fluid in the upper and loftier apartments. But such was not
the view of Monsieur Destripes the butcher, or of his friend
Pomme-de-terre. These experienced bacchanals preferred remaining at
headquarters, on the principle that the séance ought to be declared
permanent. Bagsby, as the individual least competent to enforce order,
was called to the chair, and seated upon a kilderkin of Bordeaux, with a
spigot as the emblem of authority. Then began a scene of brutal and
undisguised revelry. Casks were tapped for a single sample, and their
contents allowed to run out in streams upon the floor. Bottles were
smashed in consequence of the exceeding scarcity of cork-screws, and the
finest vintage of the Côte d’Or and of Champagne were poured like water
down throats hitherto unconscious of any such generous beverage.
I need not dwell upon what followed—indeed I could not possibly do
justice to the eloquence of M. Pomme-de-terre, or the accomplishments of
several poissardes, who had accompanied us in our expedition, and now
favoured us with sundry erotic ditties, popular in the Faubourg St
Antoine. With these ladies Bagsby seemed very popular; indeed, they had
formed themselves into a sort of body-guard around his person.
Sick of the whole scene, I availed myself of the first opportunity to
escape from that tainted atmosphere; and, after traversing most of the
state apartments and several corridors, I found myself in a part of the
palace which had evidently been occupied by some of those who were now
fleeing as exiles towards a foreign land. The hand of the spoiler also
had been here, but he was gone. It was a miserable thing to witness the
desolation of these apartments. The bed whereon a princess had lain the
night before, was now tossed and tumbled by some rude ruffian, the
curtains were torn down, the gardes-de-robe broken open, and a hundred
articles of female apparel and luxury were scattered carelessly upon the
floor. The setting sun of February gleamed through the broken windows,
and rendered the heartless work of spoliation more distinct and
apparent. I picked up one handkerchief, still wet, it might be with
tears, and on the corner of it was embroidered a royal cypher.
I, who was not an insurgent, almost felt that, in penetrating through
these rooms, I was doing violence to the sanctity of misfortune. Where,
on the coming night, might rest the head of her who, a few hours before,
had lain upon that pillow of down? For the shelter of what obscure and
stifling hut might she be forced to exchange the noble ceiling of a
palace? This much I had gathered, that all the royal family had not
succeeded in making their escape. Some of the ladies had been seen, with
no protectors by their side, shrieking in the midst of the crowd; but
the cry of woe was that day too general to attract attention, and it
seemed that the older chivalry of France had passed away. Where was the
husband at the hour when the wife was struggling in that rout of terror?
I turned into a side-passage, and opened another door. It was a small
room which apparently had escaped observation. Everything here bore
token of the purity of feminine taste. The little bed was untouched:
there were flowers in the window, a breviary upon the table, and a
crucifix suspended on the wall. The poor young inmate of this place had
been also summoned from her sanctuary, never more to enter it again. As
I came in, a little bird in a cage raised a loud twittering, and began
to beat itself against the wires. The seed-box was empty, and the last
drop of water had been finished. In a revolution such as this, it is the
fate of favourites to be neglected.
The poor thing was perishing of hunger. I had no food to give it, but I
opened the cage and the window, and set it free. With a shrill note of
joy, it darted off to the trees, happier than its mistress, now thrown
upon the mercy of a rude and selfish world. I looked down upon the scene
beneath. The river was flowing tranquilly to the sea; the first breezes
of spring were moving through the trees, just beginning to burgeon and
expand; the sun was sinking amidst the golden clouds tranquilly—no sign
in heaven or earth betokened that on that day a mighty monarchy had
fallen. The roar of Paris was hushed; the work of desolation was over;
and on the morrow, its first day would dawn upon the infant Republic.
“May Heaven shelter the unfortunate!” I exclaimed; “and may my native
land be long preserved from the visitation of a calamity like this!”
TWO PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENTS.
I awoke upon the morrow impressed with that strange sensation which is
so apt to occur after the first night’s repose in a new and unfamiliar
locality. I could not for some time remember where I was. The events of
the two last days beset me like the recollections of an unhealthy dream,
produced by the agency of opiates; and it was with difficulty I could
persuade myself that I had passed the night beneath the roof of the
“After all,” thought I, “the event may be an interesting, but it is by
no means an unusual one, in this transitory world of ours. Louis XVI.,
Napoleon, Charles X., Louis Philippe, and Dunshunner, have by turns
occupied the palace, and none of them have had the good fortune to leave
it in perpetuity to their issue. Since abdication is the order of the
day, I shall even follow the example of my royal predecessors, and bolt
with as much expedition as possible; for, to say the truth, I am getting
tired of this turmoil, and I think, with Sir Kenneth of Scotland, that
the waters of the Clyde would sound pleasant and grateful in mine ear.”
A very slight toilet sufficed for the occasion, and I sallied forth with
the full intention of making my immediate escape. This was not so easy.
I encountered no one in the corridors, but as I opened the door of the
Salle des Trophées, a din of many voices burst upon my ears. A number of
persons occupied the hall, apparently engaged in the discussion of an
extempore breakfast. To my infinite disgust, I recognised my quondam
acquaintances of the cellar.
“Aha! thou art still here then, citizen?” cried Monsieur Destripes, who
was inflicting huge gashes upon a ham, filched, no doubt, from the royal
buttery. “By my faith, we thought thou hadst given us the slip. Never
mind—we are not likely to part soon; so sit thee down and partake of
our republican cheer.”
“I am afraid,” said I, “that business requires my presence elsewhere.”
“Let it keep till it cool then,” replied the other. “Suffice it to say,
that no man quits this hall till the whole of us march out en masse.
Say I right, brother Pomme-de-terre?”
“Just so,” replied the chiffonier, tossing off his draught from an
ornament of Venetian glass. “We have built up a second barricade, and
have sworn never to surrender.”
“How is this, gentlemen?” said I.
“You must know, sir,” replied a meagre-looking personage, whom I
afterwards ascertained to be a barber, “that the liberty of the people
is not yet secure. Last night, when we were in the cellar, a large body
of the National Guard came, by orders of the Provisional Government, and
ejected the whole of our compatriots from the upper stories of the
Tuileries. This we hold to be a clear infraction of the charter, for all
public buildings are declared to be the property of the people.
Fortunately we escaped their notice, but being determined to reassert
the rights of France, we have barricaded the staircase which leads to
this hall, and are resolved to maintain our post.”
“Bravely spoken, old Saigne-du-nez!” cried the butcher; “and a jollier
company you won’t find anywhere. Here are ladies for society, wine for
the drinking, provisions to last us a week; and what would you wish for
more? Cent mille haches! I doubt if Louis Philippe is enjoying himself
half so much.”
“But really gentlemen—”
“Sacre, no mutiny!” cried the butcher; “don’t we know that the
sovereign will of the people must be respected? There is thy friend
there, as happy as may be; go round and profit by his example.”
Sure enough I discovered poor Bagsby extended in a corner of the hall.
The orgies of last evening were sufficient to account for his haggard
countenance and blood-shot eyes, but hardly for the multitudinous oaths
which he ejaculated from time to time. Beside him sat a bloated
poissarde, who was evidently enamoured of his person, and tended him
with all that devotion which is the characteristic of the gentler sex.
As it was beyond the power of either to hold any intelligible
conversation, the lady contrived to supply its place by a system of
endearing pantomime. Sometimes she patted Bagsby on the cheek, then
chirupped as a girl might do when coaxing a bird to open its mouth, and
occasionally endeavoured to insinuate morsels of garlic and meat between
“Oh, Mr Dunshunner! save me from this hag!” muttered Bagsby. “I have
such a splitting headache, and she will insist on poisoning me with her
confounded trash! Faugh, how she smells of eels! O dear! oh dear! is
there no way of getting out? The barricades and the fighting are nothing
compared to this!”
“I am afraid, Mr Bagsby,” said I, “there is no remedy but patience. Our
friends here seem quite determined to hold out, and I am afraid that
they would use little ceremony, did we make any show of resistance.”
“I know that well enough!” said Bagsby; “they wanted to hang me last
night, because I made a run to the door: only, the women would not let
them. What do you want, you old harridan? I wish you would take your
fingers from my neck!”
“Ce cher bourgeois!” murmured the poissarde: “c’est un méchant drôle,
mais assez joli!”
“Upon my word, Mr Bagsby, I think you have reason to congratulate
yourself on your conquest. At all events, don’t make enemies of the
women; for, heaven knows, we are in a very ticklish situation, and I
don’t like the looks of several of those fellows.”
“If ever I get home again,” said Bagsby, “I’ll renounce my errors, turn
Tory, go regularly to church, and pray for the Queen. I’ve had enough of
liberty to last me the rest of my natural lifetime. But, I say, my dear
friend, couldn’t you just rid me of this woman for half an hour or so?
You will find her a nice chatty sort of person; only, I don’t quite
comprehend what she says.”
“Utterly impossible, Mr Bagsby! See, they are about something now. Our
friend the barber is rising to speak.”
“Citizens!” said Saigne-du-nez, speaking as from a tribune, over the
back of an arm-chair—“Citizens! we are placed by the despotism of our
rulers in an embarrassing position. We, the people, who have won the
palace and driven forth the despot and his race, are now ordered to
evacuate the field of our glory, by men who have usurped the charter,
and who pretend to interpret the law. I declare the sublime truth, that,
with the revolution, all laws, human and divine, have perished! (Immense
“Citizens! isolated as we are by this base decree from the great body of
the people, it becomes us to constitute a separate government for
ourselves. Order must be maintained, but such order as shall strike
terror into the breasts of our enemies. France has been assailed through
us, and we must vindicate her freedom. Amongst us are many patriots,
able and willing to sustain the toils of government; and I now propose
that we proceed to elect a provisional ministry.”
The motion was carried by acclamation, and the orator proceeded:
“Citizens! amongst our numbers there is one man who has filled the most
lofty situations. I allude to Citizen Jupiter Potard. Actor in a hundred
revolutions, he has ever maintained the sublime demeanour of a patriot
of the Reign of Terror. Three generations have regarded him as a model,
and I now call upon him to assume the place and dignity of our
Jupiter Potard, a very fine-looking old man, with a beard about a yard
long,—who was really a model, inasmuch as he had sat in that capacity
for the last thirty years to the artists of Paris,—was then conducted,
amidst general applause, to a chair at the head of the table. Jupiter, I
am compelled to add, seemed rather inebriated; but as he did not attempt
to make any speeches, that circumstance did not operate as a
The remainder of the administration was speedily formed. Destripes
became Minister of the Interior: Pomme-de-terre received the Portfolio
of Justice. A gentleman, who rejoiced in the sobriquet of
Gratte-les-rues, was made Minister of War. Saigne-du-nez appointed
himself to the Financial Department, and I was unanimously voted the
Minister of Foreign Affairs. These were the principal offices of the
Republic, and to us the functions of government were confided. Bagsby,
at the request of the poissardes, received the honorary title of
Minister of Marine.
A separate table was ordered for our accommodation; and our first
decree, countersigned by the Minister of the Interior, was an order for
a fresh subsidy from the wine-cellar.
Here a sentry, who had been stationed at a window, announced the
approach of a detachment of the National Guard.
“Citizen Minister of War!” said Saigne-du-nez, who, without any scruple,
had usurped the functions of poor old Jupiter Potard, “this is your
business. It is my opinion that the provisional government cannot
receive a deputation of this kind. Let them announce their intentions at
the barricade without.”
Gratte-les-rues, a huge ruffian with a squint, straightway shouldered
his musket and left the room. In a few minutes he returned with a paper,
which he cast upon the table.
“A decree from the Hôtel de Ville,” he said.
“Is it your pleasure, citizen colleagues, that this document should now
be read?” asked Saigne-du-nez.
All assented, and, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, the following
document was placed in my hands. It was listened to with profound
“Unity is the soul of the French nation; it forms its grandeur, its
power, and its glory; through unity we have triumphed, and the
rights of the people have been vindicated.
“Impressed with these high and exalted sentiments, and overflowing
with that fraternity which is the life-blood of our social system,
the Provisional Government decrees:—
“I. That the Tuileries, now denominated the Hôpital des Invalides
Civiles, shall be immediately evacuated by the citizens who have so
bravely wrested it from the tyrant.
“II. That each patriot, on leaving it, shall receive from the
public treasury the sum of five francs, or an equivalent in
“III. The Minister of the Interior is charged with the execution of
|Dupont (de l’Eure).
“Sang de Mirabeau!” cried Destripes, when I had finished the perusal
of this document, “do they take us for fools! Five francs indeed! This
is the value which these aristocrats place upon the blood of the people!
Citizen colleagues, I propose that the messenger be admitted, and
immediately flung out of the window!”
“And I second the motion,” said Pomme-de-terre.
“Nay, citizens!” cried Saigne-du-nez,—“no violence. I agree that we
cannot entertain the offer, but this is a case for negotiation. Let the
Minister of Foreign Affairs draw up a protocol in reply.”
In consequence of this suggestion I set to work, and in a few minutes
produced the following manifesto, which may find a place in some
subsequent collection of treaties:
“France is free. The rights of every Frenchman, having been gained
by himself, are sacred and inviolable; the rights of property are
“Indivisibility is a fundamental principle of the nation. It
applies peculiarly to public works. That which the nation gave, the
nation now resumes.
“We protest against foreign aggression. Satisfied with our own
triumph, we shall remain tranquil. We do not ask possession of the
Hôtel de Ville, but we are prepared to maintain our righteous
occupation of the Tuileries.
“Impressed with these high and exalted sentiments, the Provisional
Government of the Tuileries decrees—
“I. That it is inexpedient to lessen the glory of France, by
intrusting the charge of the Tuileries to any other hands save
those of the brave citizens who have so nobly captured it.
“II. That the Provisional Government does not recognise coupons as
a national medium of exchange.
“III. The Minister of Foreign Affairs is charged with the execution
of this decree.
“Mort aux tyrans!
This document was unanimously adopted as the true exponent of our
sentiments; and I was highly complimented by my colleagues on my
diplomatic ability. I took occasion, however, to fold up the following
note along with the despatch:
“If Citizen Albert has any regard for his English friends, he will
immediately communicate their situation to the citizen
Monte-Christo. Here, affairs look very ill. The public tranquillity
depends entirely upon the supply of liquor.”
This business being settled, we occupied ourselves with more industrial
duties. The finance was easily disposed of. There were but four francs,
six sous, leviable among the whole community; but Gratte-les-rues, with
instinctive acuteness, had discovered the watch and chain of the
unfortunate Minister of Marine, and these were instantly seized and
confiscated as public property.
On investigation we found that the larder was but indifferently
supplied. Due allowance being made for the inordinate appetite of the
poissardes, of whom there were no less than ten in our company, it was
calculated that our stock of food could not last for more than a couple
of days. On the other hand, there was a superabundance of wine.
We then proceeded to adjust a scheme for the future regulation of labour
throughout France; but I do not think that I need trouble my readers
with the detail. It did not differ materially from that propounded by M.
Louis Blanc, and the substance of it might shortly be stated as—three
days’ wage for half-a-day’s labour. It was also decreed, that all
servants should receive, in addition to their wages, a proportion of
their masters’ profits.
After some hours of legislation, not altogether harmonious—for
Destripes, being baulked in a proposition to fire the palace, threatened
to string up old Jupiter Potard to the chandelier, and was only
prevented from doing so by the blunderbuss of Saigne-du-nez—we grew
weary of labour, and the orgies commenced anew. I have neither patience
nor stomach to enter into a description of the scene that was there and
then enacted. In charity to the human race, let me hope that such a
spectacle may never again be witnessed in the heart of a Christian city.
Poor Bagsby suffered fearfully. The affection of the poissarde had
gradually augmented to a species of insanity, and she never left him for
a moment. The unhappy man was dragged out by her to every dance; she
gloated on him like an ogress surveying a plump and pursy pilgrim; and
at the close of each set she demanded the fraternal salute. He tried to
escape from his persecutor by dodging round the furniture; but it was of
no use. She followed him as a ferret follows a rabbit through all the
intricacies of his warren, and invariably succeeded in capturing her
booty in a corner.
At length night came, and with it silence. One by one the revellers had
fallen asleep, some still clutching the bottle, which they had plied
with unabated vigour so long as sensibility remained, and the broad calm
moon looked on reproachfully through the windows of that desecrated
hall. There was peace in heaven, but on earth—oh, what madness and
I was lying wrapped up in some old tapestry, meditating very seriously
upon my present precarious situation, when I observed a figure moving
amidst the mass of sleepers. The company around was of such a nature,
that unpleasant suspicions naturally occurred to my mind, and I
continued to watch the apparition until the moonlight shone upon it,
when I recognised Bagsby. This poor fellow was a sad incubus upon my
motions; for although I had no earthly tie towards him, I could not
help feeling that in some measure I had been instrumental in placing him
in his present dilemma, and I had resolved not to escape without making
him the partner of my flight. I was very curious to know the object of
his present movements, for the stealthy manner in which he glided
through the hall betokened some unusual purpose. I was not long left in
doubt. From behind a large screen he drew forth a coil of cord, formerly
attached to the curtain, but latterly indicated by Destripes as the
implement for Potard’s apotheosis; and approaching a window, he
proceeded to attach one end of it very deliberately to a staple. He then
gave a cautious glance around, as if to be certain that no one was
watching him, and began to undo the fastenings of the window. A new
gleam of hope dawned upon me. I was about to rise and move to his
assistance, when another figure glided rapidly through the moonshine. In
an instant Bagsby was clutched by the throat, and a low voice hissed
“Ah traitre! monstre! polisson! tu veux donc fuir?”
It was the poissarde. Nothing on earth is so wakeful as a jealous woman.
She had suspected the designs of the wretched Minister of Marine, and
counterfeited sleep only to detect him in the act of escaping.
Not a moment was to be lost. I knew that if this woman gave the alarm,
Bagsby would inevitably be hanged with his own rope, and I stole towards
the couple, in order to effect, if possible, a reconciliation.
“Ah, citizen, is it thou?” said the poissarde more loudly than was at
all convenient. “Here is thy fellow trying to play me a pretty trick!
Perfidious monster! was this what thou meant by all thy professions of
“For heaven’s sake, take the woman off, or she will strangle me!”
“Pray, hush! my dear madam, hush!” said I, “or you may wake some of our
“What care I?” said the poissarde; “let them wake, and I will denounce
the villain who has dared to trifle with my affections!”
“Nay, but consider the consequences!” said I. “Do, pray, be silent for
one moment. Bagsby, this is a bad business!”
“You need not tell me that,” groaned Bagsby.
“Your life depends upon this woman, and you must appease her somehow.”
“I’ll agree to anything,” said the terrified Minister of Marine.
“Yes! I will be avenged!” cried the poissarde; “I will have his heart’s
blood, since he has dared to deceive me. How! is this the way they treat
a daughter of the people?”
“Citoyenne!” I said, “you are wrong—utterly wrong. Believe me, he loves
you passionately. What proof do you desire?”
“Let him marry me to-morrow,” said the poissarde, “in this very room, or
I shall immediately raise the alarm.”
I tried to mitigate the sentence, but the poissarde was perfectly
“Bagsby, there is no help for it!” said I. “We are in the midst of a
revolution, and must go along with it. She insists upon you marrying her
to-morrow. The alternative is instant death.”
“I’ll do it,” said Bagsby, quietly; “anything is better than being
murdered in cold blood.”
The countenance of the poissarde brightened.
“Aha!” said she, taking the submissive Bagsby by the ear, “so thou art
to be my republican husband after all, coquin? Come along. I shall
take care that thou dost not escape again to-night, and to-morrow I
shall keep thee for ever!”
So saying, she conducted her captive to the other end of the hall.
A REPUBLICAN WEDDING.
“This is great news!” said Destripes, as we mustered round the
revolutionary breakfast table. “Hast heard, citizen? Our colleague the
Minister of Marine is about to contract an alliance with a daughter of
the people. Corbleu! There is no such sport as a regular republican
“In my early days,” said Jupiter Potard, “we had them very frequently.
The way was, to tie two young aristocrats together, and throw them into
the Seine. How poor dear Carrier used to laugh at the fun! Oh, my
friends! we shall never see such merry times again.”
“Come, don’t be down-hearted, old fellow!” cried Destripes. “We never
can tell what is before us. I don’t despair of seeing something yet
which might make the ghost of Collot d’Herbois rub its hands with
ecstasy. But to our present work. Let us get over the business of the
day, and then celebrate the wedding with a roaring festival.”
“But where are we to find a priest?” asked Saigne-du-nez. “I question
whether any of our fraternity has ever taken orders.”
“Priest!” cried Destripes ferociously. “Is this an age of superstition?
I tell thee, Saigne-du-nez, that if any such fellow were here, he should
presently be dangling from the ceiling! What better priest would’st
thou have than our venerable friend Potard?”
“Ay, ay!” said Pomme-de-terre, “Potard will do the work famously. I’ll
warrant me, with that long beard of his, he has sate for a high-priest
ere now. But look at Citoyenne Corbeille, how fond she seems of her
bargain. Ventrebleu! our colleague is sure to be a happy man!”
Whatever happiness might be in store for Bagsby hereafter, there was no
appearance of it just then. He sate beside his bride like a criminal on
the morning of his execution; and such efforts as he did make to respond
to her attentions were rueful and ludicrous in the extreme.
Breakfast over, we proceeded to council; but as we had no deputations to
receive, and no fresh arrangements to make, our sitting was rather
brief. Bagsby, in order, as I supposed, to gain time, entreated me to
broach the topics of free-trade and unrestricted international exchange;
but recent events had driven the doctrines of Manchester from my head,
and somewhat shaken my belief in the infallibility of the prophets of
the League. Besides, I doubted very much whether our Provisional
Ministry cared one farthing for duties upon calico and linen, neither of
these being articles in which they were wont exorbitantly to indulge;
and I perfectly understood the danger of appearing over tedious upon
any subject in a society so strangely constituted. I therefore turned a
deaf ear to the prayers of Bagsby, and refused to enlighten the council
at the risk of the integrity of my neck. No reply whatever had been made
by the authorities without, to our communication of the previous day.
One o’clock was the hour appointed by the Provisional Government for the
nuptial ceremony, which was to be performed with great solemnity. About
twelve the bride, accompanied by three other poissardes, retired, in
order to select from the stores of the palace a costume befitting the
occasion. In the mean time, I had great difficulty in keeping up the
courage of Bagsby,—indeed, he was only manageable through the medium of
doses of brandy. At times he would burst out into a paroxysm of passion,
and execrate collectively and individually the whole body of the
Manchester League, who had sent him upon this unfortunate mission to
Paris. This profanity over, he would burst into tears, bewail his
wretched lot, and apostrophise a certain buxom widow, who seemed to
dwell somewhere in the neighbourhood of Macclesfield. As for the French,
the outpourings from the vial of his wrath upon that devoted nation were
most awful and unchristian. The plagues of Egypt were a joke to the
torments which he invoked upon their heads; and I felt intensely
thankful that not one of our companions understood a syllable of
English, else the grave would inevitably have been the bridal couch of
It now became my duty to see the bridegroom properly attired; for which
purpose, with permission of our colleagues, I conducted Bagsby to a
neighbouring room, where a full suit of uniform, perhaps the property of
Louis Philippe, had been laid out.
“Come now, Mr Bagsby,” said I, observing that he was about to renew his
lamentations, “we have had quite enough of this. You have brought it
upon yourself. Had you warned me of your design last night, it is quite
possible that both of us might have escaped; but you chose to essay the
adventure single-handed, and, having failed, you must stand by the
consequences. After all, what is it? Merely marriage, a thing which
almost every man must undergo at least once in his lifetime.”
“Oh! but such a woman—such a she-devil rather!” groaned Bagsby. “I
shouldn’t be the least surprised if she bites as bad as a crocodile. How
can I ever take such a monster home, and introduce her to my friends?”
“I see no occasion for that, my good fellow. Why not stay here and
become a naturalised Frenchman?”
“Here? I’d as soon think of staying in a lunatic asylum! Indeed I may be
in one soon enough, for flesh and blood can’t stand this kind of torture
long. But I say,” continued he, a ray of hope flashing across his
countenance, “they surely can’t make it a real marriage after all.
Hanged if any one of these blackguards is a clergyman; and even if he
was, they haven’t got a special license.”
“Don’t deceive yourself, Mr Bagsby,” said I; “marriage in France is a
mere social contract, and can be established by witnesses, of whom there
will be but too many present.”
“Then I say they are an infernal set of incarnate pestiferous heathens!
What! marry a man whether he will or not, and out of church! It’s enough
to draw down a judgment upon the land.”
“You forget, Mr Bagsby. You need not marry unless you choose; it is a
mere question of selection between a wedding and an execution,—between
the lady and a certain rope, which, I can assure you, Monsieur
Destripes, or his friend Gratte-les-rues, will have no hesitation in
handling. Indeed, from significant symptoms, I conclude that their
fingers are itching for some such practice.”
“They are indeed two horrid-looking blackguards!” said Bagsby dolefully.
“I wish I had pluck enough to be hanged: after all, it could not be much
worse than marriage. And yet I don’t know. There may be some means of
getting a divorce, or she may drink herself to death, for, between you
and me, she seems awfully addicted to the use of ardent spirits.”
“Fie! Mr Bagsby; how can you talk so of your bride upon the wedding-day!
Be quick! get into those trousers, and never mind the fit. It may be
dangerous to keep them waiting long; and, under present circumstances,
it would be prudent to abstain from trying the temper of the lady too
“I never thought to be married this way!” sighed Bagsby, putting on the
military coat, which, being stiff with embroidery, and twice too big for
him, stuck out like an enormous cuirass. “If my poor old mother could
see me now, getting into the cast-off clothes of some outlandish
“She would admire you exceedingly, I am sure. Do you know, you look
quite warlike with these epaulets! Come now—on with the sash, take
another thimbleful of brandy, and then to the altar like a man!”
“I daresay you mean well, Mr Dunshunner; but I have listened to more
pleasant conversation. I say—what is to prevent my getting up the
“Mere madness! The moment you are missed they will fire up it. Believe
me, you have not a chance of escape; so the sooner you resign yourself
to your inevitable destiny the better.”
Here a loud knocking was heard at the door.
“Citizen Minister of Marine, art thou ready?” cried the voice of
Pomme-de-terre. “Thy bride is waiting for thee, the altar is decked,
and Père Potard in his robes of office!”
“Come, then,” said I, seizing Bagsby by the arm. “Take courage, man! In
ten minutes it will all be over.”
Our colleagues had not been idle in the interim. At one end of the hall
they had built up an extempore altar covered with a carpet, behind which
stood Jupiter Potard, arrayed in a royal mantle of crimson velvet, which
very possibly in former days might have decorated the shoulders of
Napoleon. Indeed the imperial eagle was worked upon it in gold, and it
had been abstracted from one of the numerous repositories of the palace.
Jupiter, with his long beard and fine sloping forehead, looked the
perfect image of a pontiff, and might have been appropriately drawn as a
principal figure in a picture of the marriage of Heliogabalus.
Gratte-les-rues and Pomme-de-terre, being of bellicose temperament, had
encased themselves in suits of armour, and stood, like two champions of
antiquity, on each side of the venerable prelate. Destripes, who had
accepted the office of temporary father to Demoiselle Corbeille,
appeared as a patriot of the Reign of Terror. His brawny chest was bare;
his shirt sleeves rolled up to the shoulder; and in his belt was stuck
the axe, a fitting emblem alike of his principles and his profession.
At his right hand stood the bride, bedizened with brocade and finery.
From what antiquated lumber-chest they had fished out her apparel, it
would be utterly in vain to inquire. One thing was clear, that the
former occupant of the robes had been decidedly inferior in girth to the
blooming poissarde, since it was now necessary to fasten them across the
bosom by a curious network of tape. I am afraid I have done injustice to
this lady, for really, on the present occasion, she did not look
superlatively hideous. She was a woman of about forty-five,
strong-built, with an immense development of foot and ancle, and arms of
masculine proportion. Yet she had a pair of decidedly fine black eyes,
betokening perhaps little of maiden modesty, but flashing with love and
triumph; a nez retroussé, which, but for its perpetual redness, might
have given a piquant expression to her countenance; a large mouth, and a
set of prodigious teeth, which, to say the truth, were enough to justify
the apprehensions of the bridegroom.
“Silence!” cried Jupiter Potard as we entered; “let the present august
solemnity be conducted as befits the sovereignty of the people! Citizen
Saigne-du-nez was clad in a black frock, I suppose to represent a
notary. He came forward:—
“In the name of the French nation, one and indivisible, I demand the
celebration of the nuptials of Citizen Hutton Bagsby, adopted child of
France, and Provisional Minister of her Marine in the department of the
Tuileries, and of Citoyenne Céphyse Corbeille, poissarde, and daughter
of the people.”
“Is there any one here to gainsay the marriage?” asked Jupiter.
There was no reply.
“Then, in the name of the French nation, I decree that the ceremony
shall proceed. Citizen Minister of Marine, are you willing to take this
woman as your lawful wife?”
A cold sweat stood upon the brow of Bagsby, his knees knocked together,
and he leaned the whole weight of his body upon my arm, as I interpreted
to him the demand of Jupiter.
“Say anything you like,” muttered he; “it will all come to the same
thing at last!”
“The citizen consents, most venerable President.”
“Then nothing remains but to put the same question to the citoyenne,”
said Potard. “Who appears as the father of the bride?”
“Chûte de la Bastille! that do I,” cried Destripes.
“Citizen Destripes, do you of your own free will and accord—”
Here a thundering rap was heard at the door.
“What is that?” cried Destripes, starting back. “Some one has passed the
“In the name of the Provisional Government!” cried a loud voice. The
door was flung open, and to my inexpressible joy, I beheld the Count of
Monte-Christo, backed by a large detachment of the National Guard.
“Treason! treachery!” shouted Destripes. “Ah, villain, thou hast
neglected thy post!” and he fetched a tremendous blow with his axe at
the head of Gratte-les-rues. It was fortunate for that chief that his
helmet was of excellent temper, otherwise he must have been cloven to
the chin. As it was, he staggered backwards and fell.
The National Guard immediately presented their muskets.
“I have the honour to inform the citizens,” said Monte-Christo, “that I
have imperative orders to fire if the slightest resistance is made.
Monsieur, therefore, will have the goodness immediately to lay down that
Destripes glared on him for a moment, as though he meditated a rush, but
the steady attitude of the National Guard involuntarily subdued him.
“This is freedom!” he exclaimed, flinging away his weapon. “This is what
we fought for at the barricades! Always deceived—always sold by the
aristocrats! But the day may come when I shall hold a tight reckoning
with thee, my master, or I am not the nephew of the citizen Samson!”
“Pray, may I ask the meaning of this extraordinary scene?” said
Monte-Christo, gazing in astonishment at the motley group before him.
“Is it the intention of the gentlemen to institute a Crusade, or have we
lighted by chance upon an assemblage of the chivalry of Malta?”
“Neither,” I replied. “The fact is, that just as you came in we were
engaged in celebrating a republican marriage.”
“Far be it from me to interfere with domestic or connubial
arrangements!” replied the polite Monte-Christo. “Let the marriage go
on, by all means; I shall be delighted to witness it, and we can proceed
to business thereafter.”
“You will see no marriage here, I can tell you!” cried Bagsby, who at
the first symptom of relief had taken shelter under the shadow of the
Marquis. “I put myself under your protection; and, by Jove, if you don’t
help me, I shall immediately complain to Lord Normanby!”
“What is this?” cried Monte-Christo. “Do I see Monsieur Bagsby in a
general’s uniform? Why, my good sir, you have become a naturalised
Frenchman indeed! The nation has a claim upon you.”
“The nation will find it very difficult to get it settled then!” said
Bagsby. “But I want to get out. I say, can’t I get away?”
“Certainly. There is nothing to prevent you. But I am rather curious to
hear about this marriage.”
“Why,” said I, “the truth is, my dear Marquis, that the subject is
rather a delicate one for our friend. He has just been officiating in
the capacity of bridegroom.”
“You amaze me!” said Monte-Christo; “and which, may I ask, is the fair
Here Demoiselle Céphyse came forward.
“Citizen officer,” she said, “I want my husband!”
“You hear, Monsieur Bagsby?” said Monte-Christo, in intense enjoyment of
the scene. “The lady says she has a claim upon you.”
“It’s all a lie!” shouted Bagsby. “I’ve got nothing to say to the woman.
I hate and abhor her!”
“Monstre!” shrieked the poissarde, judging of Bagsby’s ungallant
repudiation rather from his gestures than his words. And she sprang
towards him with the extended talons of a tigress. Bagsby, however, was
this time too nimble for her, and took refuge behind the ranks of the
National Guard, who were literally in convulsions of laughter.
“I will have thee, though, polisson!” cried the exasperated bride. “I
will have thee, though I were to follow thee to the end of the world!
Thou hast consented to be my husband, little tisserand, and I never
will give thee up.”
“Keep her off! good, dear soldiers,” cried Bagsby: “pray, keep her off!
I shall be murdered and torn to pieces if she gets hold of me! Oh, Mr
Dunshunner! do tell them to protect me with their bayonets.”
“Be under no alarm, Mr Bagsby,” said Monte-Christo; “you are now under
the protection of the National Guard. But to business. Which of the
citizens assembled is spokesman here?”
“I am the president!” hiccupped Jupiter Potard, who, throughout the
morning, had been unremitting in his attentions to the bottle.
“Then, you will understand that, by orders of the Provisional
Government, all must evacuate the palace within a quarter of an hour.”
“Louis Philippe had seventeen years of it,” replied Jupiter Potard. “I
won’t abdicate a minute sooner!”
“And I,” said Pomme-de-terre, “expect a handsome pension for my pains.”
“Or at least,” said Saigne-du-nez, “we must have permission to gut the
“You have done quite enough mischief already,” said Monte-Christo; “so
prepare to move. My orders are quite peremptory, and I shall execute
them to the letter!”
“Come along, then, citizens!” cried Destripes. “I always knew what would
come of it, if these rascally bourgeoisie got the upper hand of the
workmen. They are all black aristocrats in their hearts. But, by the
head of Robespierre, thou shalt find that thy government is not settled
yet, and there shall be more blood before we let them trample down the
rights of the people!”
So saying, the democratic butcher strode from the apartment, followed by
the rest of the Provisional Government and their adherents, each
retaining the garb which he had chosen to wear in honour of the nuptials
of Bagsby. The poissarde lingered for a moment, eyeing her faithless
betrothed as he stood in the midst of the Guard, like a lioness robbed
of her cub; and then, with a cry of wrath, and a gesture of menace, she
rushed after her companions.
“Thank Heaven!” cried Bagsby, dropping on his knees, “the bitterest hour
of my whole existence is over!”
ADIEU, SWEET FRANCE!
“And so you received the message from M. Albert?” said I to
Monte-Christo, as we walked together to the Hôtel de Ville.
“I did; and to say the truth, I was rather apprehensive about you.
Revolutions are all very well; but it is a frightful thing when the
dregs of the population get the upper hand.”
“I am glad to hear you acknowledge so much. For my part, Marquis, having
seen one revolution, I never wish to witness another.”
“We could not possibly avoid it,” said Monte-Christo. “It was a mere
question of time. No one doubts that a revolutionary spirit may be
carried too far.”
“Can’t you contrive to write it down?” said I.
“Unfortunately, the majority of gentlemen with whom you have lately been
associating, are not strongly addicted to letters. I question whether M.
Destripes has even read La Tour de Nêsle.”
“If he had,” said I, “it must have tended very greatly to his moral
improvement. But how is it with the Provisional Government?”
“Faith, I must own they are rather in a critical position. Had it not
been for Lamartine—who, I must confess, is a noble fellow, and a man of
undaunted courage—they would have been torn to pieces long ago.
Hitherto they have managed tolerably by means of the National Guard; but
the atmosphere is charged with thunder. Here we are, however, at the
Hôtel de Ville.”
Not the least curious of the revolutionary scenes of Paris was the
aspect of the seat of government. At the moment I reached it, many
thousands of the lower orders were assembled in front, and one of the
Provisional Government, I believe Louis Blanc, was haranguing them from
a window. Immense crowds were likewise gathered round the entrance.
These consisted of the deputations, who were doing their very best to
exhaust the physical energies, and distract the mental powers, of the
men who had undertaken the perilous task of government.
Under conduct of my friend, I made my way to the room where the
mysterious ouvrier was performing his part of the onerous duty. He
greeted me with a brief nod and a grim smile, but did not pretermit his
The body which occupied his attention at this crisis of the
commonwealth, was a musical deputation, which craved sweet counsel
regarding some matter of crotchets or of bars. It is not the first time
that music has been heard in the midst of stirring events. Nero took a
fancy to fiddle when Rome was blazing around him.
I could not but admire the gravity with which Albert listened to the
somewhat elaborate address, and the dexterity with which he contrived to
blend the subjects of pipes and patriotism.
“Citizens!” he said, “the Provisional Government are deeply impressed
with the importance of the views which you advocate. Republican
institutions cannot hope to exist without music, for to the sound of
music even the spheres themselves revolve in the mighty and illimitable
expanse of ether.
“At this crisis your suggestions become doubly valuable. I have listened
to them with emotions which I would struggle in vain to express. Oh,
that we may see the day when, with a glorious nation as an orchestra,
the psalm of universal freedom may rise in a swell of triumphant
“And it will come! Rely upon us. Return to your homes. Cherish
fraternity and music. Meantime we shall work without intermission for
your sake. Harmony is our sole object: believe me that, in reconstituted
France, there shall be nothing but perfect harmony.”
The deputation withdrew in tears; and another entered to state certain
grievances touching the manufacture of steel beads. I need not say that
in this, as in several other instances, the ouvrier comported himself
like an eminent member of the Society of Universal Knowledge.
“That’s the last of them, praise be to Mumbo Jumbo!” said he, as the
representatives of the shoe-blacks departed. “Faith, this is work hard
enough to kill a horse. So, Mr Dunshunner! you have been getting up a
counter-revolution at the Tuileries, I see. How are Monsieur Potard and
all the rest of your colleagues?”
“I am afraid they are finally expelled from paradise,” said I.
“Serve them right! a parcel of democratic scum. And what has become of
“I have sent him to my hotel. He was in reality very near becoming an
actual child of France.” And I told the story of the nuptials, at which
the ouvrier nearly split himself with laughter.
“And now, Mr Dunshunner,” said he, “may I ask the nature of your plans?”
“These may depend a good deal upon your advice,” said I.
“I never give advice,” replied the ouvrier with a nasal twitch.
“Sometimes it is rather dangerous. But tell me—what would you think of
the state of the British government, if Earl Grey at a cabinet-council
were to threaten to call in the mob, and if Lord Johnny Russell
prevented him by clapping a pistol to his ear.”
“I should think very badly of it indeed,” said I.
“Or if Incapability Wood should threaten, in the event of the populace
appearing, to produce from the Earl’s pocket a surreptitious order on
the Treasury for something like twelve thousand pounds?”
“Well, then; I don’t think you’ll find that sort of thing going on in
London, at all events.”
“Have you any commands for the other side of the Channel?”
“Oh, then, you are determined to leave? Well, perhaps upon the whole it
is your wisest plan. But do not you regret having evacuated the
“Indeed, I do not. Nevertheless, Monsieur Albert, it may yet be occupied
by one of my family.”
“C’est bien possible. You are a clever race. What began with a
Clovis, may well end with a Dunshunner.”
And so, with a cordial pressure of the hand, we parted.
“Monte-Christo,” I said, as that very evening I bundled Bagsby into a
fiacre on our way to the railroad station—“Monte-Christo, my good
fellow, let me give you a slight piece of advice, which it would be well
if all of our craft and calling would keep in memory, ‘Think twice
before you write up another revolution.’”
CAPTAIN PATON’S LAMENT.
BY JOHN GIBSON LOCKHART.
[MAGA. September 1819.]
ouch once more a sober measure,
And let punch and tears be shed,
For a prince of good old fellows,
That, alack-a-day! is dead;
For a prince of worthy fellows,
And a pretty man also,
That has left the Saltmarket
In sorrow, grief, and woe.
Oh! we ne’er shall see the like of Captain Paton no mo!
His waistcoat, coat, and breeches,
Were all cut off the same web,
Of a beautiful snuff-colour,
Or a modest genty drab;
The blue stripe in his stocking
Round his neat slim leg did go,
And his ruffles of the cambric fine
They were whiter than the snow.
Oh! we ne’er shall see the like of Captain Paton no mo!
His hair was curled in order,
At the rising of the sun,
In comely rows and buckles smart
That about his ears did run;
And before there was a toupée
That some inches up did grow,
And behind there was a long queue
That did o’er his shoulders flow.
Oh! we ne’er shall see the like of Captain Paton no mo!
And whenever we forgathered,
He took off his wee three-cockit,
And he proffered you his snuff-box,
Which he drew from his side pocket,
And on Burdett or Buonaparte,
He would make a remark or so,
And then along the plainstones
Like a provost he would go.
Oh! we ne’er shall see the like of Captain Paton no mo!
In dirty days he picked well
His footsteps with his rattan,
Oh! you ne’er could see the least speck
On the shoes of Captain Paton;
And on entering the Coffee-room
About two, all men did know,
They would see him with his Courier
In the middle of the row.
Oh! we ne’er shall see the like of Captain Paton no mo!
Now and then upon a Sunday
He invited me to dine,
On a herring and a mutton-chop
Which his maid dressed very fine;
There was also a little Malmsey,
And a bottle of Bordeaux,
Which between me and the Captain
Passed nimbly to and fro.
Oh! I ne’er shall take pot-luck with Captain Paton no mo!
Or if a bowl was mentioned,
The Captain he would ring,
And bid Nelly run to the West-port.
And a stoup of water bring;
Then would he mix the genuine stuff,
As they made it long ago,
With limes that on his property
In Trinidad did grow.
Oh! we ne’er shall taste the like of Captain Paton’s punch no mo!
And then all the time he would discourse
So sensible and courteous,
Perhaps talking of last sermon
He had heard from Dr Porteous,
Or some little bit of scandal
About Mrs so and so,
Which he scarce could credit, having heard
The con but not the pro.
Oh! we ne’er shall hear the like of Captain Paton no mo!
Or when the candles were brought forth,
And the night was fairly setting in,
He would tell some fine old stories
About Minden-field or Dettingen—
How he fought with a French major,
And despatched him at a blow,
While his blood ran out like water
On the soft grass below.
Oh! we ne’er shall hear the like of Captain Paton no mo!
But at last the Captain sickened
And grew worse from day to day.
And all missed him in the Coffee-room
From which now he stayed away;
On Sabbaths, too, the Wee Kirk
Made a melancholy show,
All for wanting of the presence
Of our venerable beau.
Oh! we ne’er shall see the like of Captain Paton no mo!
And in spite of all that Cleghorn
And Corkindale could do,
It was plain from twenty symptoms
That death was in his view;
So the Captain made his test’ment,
And submitted to his foe,
And we layed him by the Rams-horn Kirk—
’Tis the way we all must go.
Oh! we ne’er shall see the like of Captain Paton no mo!
Join all in chorus, jolly boys,
And let punch and tears be shed,
For this prince of good old fellows,
That, alack-a-day! is dead;
For this prince of worthy fellows,
And a pretty man also,
That has left the Saltmarket
In sorrow, grief, and woe!
For it ne’er shall see the like of Captain Paton no mo!
THE VILLAGE DOCTOR.
BY THE LATE COUNTESS D’ARBOUVILLE.
[MAGA. May 1849.]
What is that?” exclaimed several persons assembled in the dining-room
of the chateau of Burcy.
The Countess of Moncar had just inherited, from a distant and slightly
regretted relation, an ancient chateau which she had never seen,
although it was at barely fifteen leagues from her habitual summer
residence. One of the most elegant and admired women in Paris, Madame de
Moncar was but moderately attached to the country. Quitting the capital
at the end of June, to return thither early in October, she usually took
with her some of the companions of her winter gaieties, and a few young
men, selected amongst her most assiduous partners. Madame de Moncar was
married to a man much older than herself, who did not always protect her
by his presence. Without abusing the great liberty she enjoyed, she was
gracefully coquettish, elegantly frivolous, pleased with trifles—with
a compliment, an amiable word, an hour’s triumph—loving a ball for
the pleasure of adorning herself, fond of admiration, and not
sorry to inspire love. When some grave old aunt ventured a sage
remonstrance—“Mon Dieu!” she replied; “do let me laugh and take
life gaily. It is far less dangerous than to listen in solitude to the
beating of one’s heart. For my part, I do not know if I even have a
heart!” She spoke the truth, and really was uncertain upon that point.
Desirous to remain so, she thought it prudent to leave herself no time
One fine morning in September, the countess and her guests set out for
the unknown chateau, intending to pass the day there. A cross road,
reputed practicable, was to reduce the journey to twelve leagues. The
cross road proved execrable: the travellers lost their way in the
forest; a carriage broke down; in short, it was not till mid-day that
the party, much fatigued, and but moderately gratified by the
picturesque beauties of the scenery, reached the chateau of Burcy, whose
aspect was scarcely such as to console them for the annoyances of the
journey. It was a large sombre building with dingy walls. In its front a
garden, then out of cultivation, descended from terrace to terrace; for
the chateau, built upon the slope of a wooded hill, had no level ground
in its vicinity. On all sides it was hemmed in by mountains, the trees
upon which sprang up amidst rocks, and had a dark and gloomy foliage
that saddened the eyesight. Man’s neglect added to the natural wild
disorder of the scene. Madame de Moncar stood motionless and
disconcerted upon the threshold of her newly-acquired mansion.
“This is very unlike a party of pleasure,” said she; “I could weep at
sight of this dismal abode. Nevertheless here are noble trees, lofty
rocks, a roaring cataract; doubtless, there is a certain beauty in all
that; but it is of too grave an order for my humour,” added she with a
smile. “Let us go in and view the interior.”
The hungry guests, eager to see if the cook, who had been sent forward
upon the previous day, as an advanced guard, had safely arrived,
willingly assented. Having obtained the agreeable certainty that
breakfast would soon be upon the table, they rambled through the
chateau. The old-fashioned furniture with tattered coverings, the
arm-chairs with three legs, the tottering tables, the discordant sounds
of a piano, which for a good score of years had not felt a finger,
afforded abundant food for jest and merriment. Gaiety returned. Instead
of grumbling at the inconveniences of this uncomfortable mansion, it was
agreed to laugh at everything. Moreover, for these young and idle
persons, the expedition was a sort of event, an almost perilous
campaign, whose originality appealed to the imagination. A faggot was
lighted beneath the wide chimney of the drawing-room; but clouds of
smoke were the result, and the company took refuge in the
pleasure-grounds. The aspect of the gardens was strange enough: the
stone-benches were covered with moss; the walls of the terraces,
crumbling in many places, left space between their ill-joined stones for
the growth of numerous wild plants, which sprung out erect and lofty, or
trailed with flexible grace towards the earth. The walks were overgrown
and obliterated by grass; the parterres, reserved for garden-flowers,
were invaded by wild ones, which grow wherever the heavens afford a drop
of water and a ray of sun; the insipid bear-bine enveloped and stifled
in its envious embrace the beauteous rose of Provence; the blackberry
mingled its acrid fruits with the red clusters of the currant-bush;
ferns, wild mint with its faint perfume, thistles with their thorny
crowns, grew beside a few forgotten lilies. When the company entered the
enclosure, numbers of the smaller animals, alarmed at the unaccustomed
intrusion, darted into the long grass, and the startled birds flew
chirping from branch to branch. Silence, for many years the undisturbed
tenant of this peaceful spot, fled at the sound of human voices and of
joyous laughter. The solitude was appreciated by none—none grew pensive
under its influence; it was recklessly broken and profaned. The
conversation ran upon the gay evenings of the past season, and was
interspersed with amiable allusions, expressive looks, covert
compliments, with all the thousand nothings, in short, resorted to by
persons desirous to please each other, but who have not yet acquired the
right to be serious.
The steward, after long search for a breakfast-bell along the
dilapidated walls of the chateau, at last made up his mind to shout from
the steps that the meal was ready—the half-smile with which he
accompanied the announcement, proving that, like his betters, he
resigned himself for one day to a deviation from his habits of etiquette
and propriety. Soon a merry party surrounded the board. The gloom of the
chateau, its desert site and uncheery aspect, were all forgotten; the
conversation was general and well sustained; the health of the lady of
the castle—the fairy whose presence converted the crazy old edifice
into an enchanted palace, was drunk by all present. Suddenly all eyes
were turned to the windows of the dining-room.
“What is that?” exclaimed several of the guests.
A small carriage of green wicker-work, with great wheels as high as the
body of the vehicle, passed before the windows, and stopped at the door.
It was drawn by a grey horse, short and punchy, whose eyes seemed in
danger from the shafts, which, from their point of junction with the
carriage, sloped obliquely upwards. The hood of the little cabriolet
was brought forward, concealing its contents, with the exception of two
arms covered with the sleeves of a blue blouse, and of a whip which
fluttered about the ears of the grey horse.
“Mon Dieu!” exclaimed Madame de Moncar, “I forgot to tell you I was
obliged to invite the village doctor to breakfast. The old man was
formerly of some service to my uncle’s family, and I have seen him once
or twice. Be not alarmed at the addition to our party: he is very
taciturn. After a few civil words, we may forget his presence; besides,
I do not suppose he will remain very long.”
At this moment the dining-room door opened, and Dr Barnaby entered. He
was a little old man, feeble and insignificant-looking, of calm and
gentle countenance. His grey hairs were collected into a queue,
according to a bygone fashion; a dash of powder whitened his temples,
and extended to his furrowed brow. He wore a black coat, and steel
buckles to his breeches. Over one arm hung a riding-coat of brown
taffety. In the opposite hand he carried his hat and a thick cane. His
whole appearance proved that he had taken unusual pains with his toilet;
but his black stockings and coat were stained with mud, as if the poor
old man had fallen into a ditch. He paused at the door, astonished at
the presence of so many persons. For an instant a tinge of embarrassment
appeared upon his face; but recovering himself, he silently saluted the
company. The strange manner of his entrance gave the guests a violent
inclination to laugh, which they repressed more or less successfully.
Madame de Moncar alone, in her character of mistress of the house, and
incapable of failing in politeness, perfectly preserved her gravity.
“Dear me, doctor! have you had an overturn?” was her first inquiry.
Before replying, Dr Barnaby glanced at all these young people in the
midst of whom he found himself, and, simple and artless though his
physiognomy was, he could not but guess the cause of their hilarity. He
“I have not been overturned. A poor carter fell under the wheels of his
vehicle; I was passing, and I helped him up.” And the doctor took
possession of a chair left vacant for him at the table. Unfolding his
napkin, he passed a corner through the button-hole of his coat, and
spread out the rest over his waistcoat and knees. At these preparations,
smiles hovered upon the lips of many of the guests, and a whisper or two
broke the silence; but this time the doctor did not raise his eyes.
Perhaps he observed nothing.
“Is there much sickness in the village?” inquired Madame de Moncar,
whilst they were helping the new-comer.
“Yes, madam, a good deal.”
“This is an unhealthy neighbourhood?”
“But the sickness. What causes it?”
“The heat of the sun in harvest time and the cold and wet of winter.”
One of the guests, affecting great gravity, joined in the conversation.
“So that in this healthy district, sir, people are ill all the year
The doctor raised his little grey eyes to the speaker’s face, looked at
him, hesitated, and seemed either to check or to seek a reply. Madame de
Moncar kindly came to his relief.
“I know,” she said, “that you are here the guardian genius of all who
“Oh, you are too good,” replied the old man, apparently much engrossed
with the slice of pasty upon his plate. Then the gay party left Dr
Barnaby to himself, and the conversation flowed in its previous channel.
If any notice was taken of the peaceable old man, it was in the form of
some slight sarcasm, which, mingled with other discourse, would pass, it
was thought, unperceived by its object. Not that these young men and
women were generally otherwise than polite and kind-hearted; but upon
that day the journey, the breakfast, the merriment and slight excitement
that had attended all the events of the morning, had brought on a sort
of heedless gaiety and communicative mockery, which rendered them
pitiless to the victim whom chance had thrown in their way. The doctor
continued quietly to eat, without looking up, or uttering a word, or
seeming to hear one; they voted him deaf and dumb, and he was no
restraint upon the conversation.
When the guests rose from table, Dr Barnaby took a step or two
backwards, and allowed each man to select the lady he wished to take
into the drawing-room. One of Madame de Moncar’s friends remaining
without a cavalier, the village doctor timidly advanced, and offered her
his hand—not his arm. His fingers scarcely touched hers as he
proceeded, his body slightly bent in sign of respect, with measured
steps towards the drawing-room. Fresh smiles greeted his entrance, but
not a cloud appeared upon the placid countenance of the old man, who was
now declared blind, as well as deaf and dumb. Quitting his companion, Dr
Barnaby selected the smallest, humblest-looking chair in the room,
placed it in a corner, at some distance from everybody else, put his
stick between his knees, crossed his hands upon the knob, and rested his
chin upon his hands. In this meditative attitude he remained silent, and
from time to time his eyes closed, as if a gentle slumber, which he
neither invoked nor repelled, were stealing over him.
“Madame de Moncar!” cried one of the guests, “I presume it is not your
intention to inhabit this ruin in a desert?”
“Certainly I have no such project. But here are lofty trees and wild
woods. M. de Moncar may very likely be tempted to pass a few weeks here
in the shooting season.”
“In that case you must pull down and rebuild; clear, alter, and
“Let us make a plan!” cried the young countess. “Let us mark out the
future garden of my domains.”
It was decreed that this party of pleasure should be unsuccessful. At
that moment a heavy cloud burst, and a close fine rain began to fall.
Impossible to leave the house.
“How very vexatious!” cried Madame de Moncar. “What shall we do with
ourselves? The horses require several hours’ rest. It will evidently
be a wet afternoon. For a week to come, the grass, which overgrows
everything, will not be dry enough to walk upon; all the strings of the
piano are broken; there is not a book within ten leagues. This room is
wretchedly dismal. What can we do with ourselves?”
The party, lately so joyous, was gradually losing its gaiety. The blithe
laugh and arch whisper were succeeded by dull silence. The guests
sauntered to the windows and examined the sky, but the sky remained
dark and cloud-laden. Their hopes of a walk were completely blighted.
They established themselves as comfortably as they could upon the old
chairs and settees, and tried to revive the conversation; but there are
thoughts which, like flowers, require a little sun, and which will not
flourish under a bleak sky. All these young heads appeared to droop,
oppressed by the storm, like the poplars in the garden, which bowed
their tops at the will of the wind. A tedious hour dragged by.
The lady of the castle, a little disheartened by the failure of her
party of pleasure, leaned languidly upon a window-sill, and gazed
vaguely at the prospect without.
“There,” said she—“yonder, upon the hill, is a white cottage that must
come down: it hides the view.”
“The white cottage!” cried the doctor. For upwards of an hour Dr Barnaby
had been mute and motionless upon his chair. Mirth and weariness, sun
and rain, had succeeded each other without eliciting a syllable from his
lips. His presence was forgotten by everybody: every eye turned quickly
upon him when he uttered these three words—“The white cottage!”
“What interest do you take in it, doctor?” asked the countess.
“Mon Dieu, madame! Pray forget that I spoke. The cottage will come
down, undoubtedly, since such is your good pleasure.”
“But why should you regret the old shed?”
“I—Mon Dieu! it was inhabited by persons I loved—and—”
“And they think of returning to it, doctor?”
“They are long since dead, madam; they died when I was young!” And the
old man gazed mournfully at the white cottage, which rose amongst the
trees upon the hill-side, like a daisy in a green field. There was a
“Madam,” said one of the guests in a low voice to Madame de Moncar,
“there is mystery here. Observe the melancholy of our Esculapius. Some
pathetic drama has been enacted in yonder house; a tale of love,
perhaps. Ask the doctor to tell it us.”
“Yes, yes!” was murmured on all sides, “a tale, a story! And should it
prove of little interest, at any rate the narrator will divert us.”
“Not so, gentlemen,” replied Madame de Moncar, in the same suppressed
voice. “If I ask Dr Barnaby to tell us the history of the white cottage,
it is on the express condition that no one laughs.” All having promised
to be serious and well-behaved, Madame de Moncar approached the old
man. “Doctor,” said she, seating herself beside him, “that house, I
plainly see, is connected with some reminiscence of former days, stored
preciously in your memory. Will you tell it us? I should be grieved to
cause you a regret which it is in my power to spare you; the house shall
remain, if you tell me why you love it.”
Dr Barnaby seemed surprised, and remained silent. The countess drew
still nearer to him. “Dear doctor!” said she, “see what wretched
weather; how dreary everything looks. You are the senior of us all;
tell us a tale. Make us forget rain, and fog, and cold.”
Dr Barnaby looked at the countess with great astonishment.
“There is no tale,” he said. “What occurred in the cottage is very
simple, and has no interest but for me, who loved the young people;
strangers would not call it a tale. And I am unaccustomed to speak
before many listeners. Besides, what I should tell you is sad, and you
came to amuse yourselves.” And again the doctor rested his chin upon his
“Dear doctor,” resumed the countess, “the white cottage shall stand, if
you say why you love it.”
The old man appeared somewhat moved; he crossed and uncrossed his legs;
took out his snuff-box, returned it to his pocket without opening it;
then, looking at the countess—“You will not pull it down?” he said,
indicating with his thin and tremulous hand the habitation visible at
“I promise you I will not.”
“Well, so be it; I will do that much for them; I will save the house in
which they were happy.”
“Ladies,” continued the old man, “I am but a poor speaker; but I believe
that even the least eloquent succeed in making themselves understood
when they tell what they have seen. This story, I warn you beforehand,
is not gay. To dance and to sing, people send for a musician; they call
in the physician when they suffer, and are near to death.”
A circle was formed round Dr Barnaby, who, his hands still crossed upon
his cane, quietly commenced the following narrative, to an audience
prepared beforehand to smile at his discourse.
“It was a long time ago, when I was young—for, I, too, have been young!
Youth is a fortune that belongs to all the world—to the poor as well
as to the rich—but which abides with none. I had just passed my
examination; I had taken my physician’s degree, and I returned to my
village to exercise my wonderful talents, well convinced that, thanks to
me, men would now cease to die.
“My village is not far from here. From the little window of my room, I
behold yonder white house upon the opposite side to that you now
discern. You certainly would not find my village handsome. In my eyes,
it was superb; I was born there, and I loved it. We all see with our own
eyes the things we love. God suffers us to be sometimes a little blind;
for He well knows that in this lower world a clear sight is not always
profitable. To me, then, this neighbourhood appeared smiling and
pleasant, and I lived happily. The white cottage alone, each morning
when I opened my shutters, impressed me disagreeably: it was always
closed, still and sad like a forsaken thing. Never had I seen its
windows open and shut, or its door ajar; never had I known its
inhospitable garden-gate give passage to human being. Your uncle, madam,
who had no occasion for a cottage so near his chateau, sought to let it;
but the rent was rather higher than anybody here was rich enough to
give. It remained empty, therefore, whilst in the hamlet every window
exhibited two or three children’s faces peering through the branches of
gillyflower at the first noise in the street. But one morning, on
getting up, I was quite astonished to see a long ladder resting against
the cottage wall; a painter was painting the window-shutters green,
whilst a maid-servant polished the panes, and a gardener hoed the
“All the better,” said I to myself; “a good roof like that, which covers
no one, is so much lost.
“From day to day the house improved in appearance. Pots of flowers veiled
the nudity of the walls; the parterres were planted, the walks weeded
and gravelled, and muslin curtains, white as snow, shone in the
sun-rays. One day a post-chaise rattled through the village, and drove
up to the little house. Who were the strangers? None knew, and all
desired to learn. For a long time nothing transpired without of what
passed within the dwelling. The rose-trees bloomed, and the fresh-laid
lawn grew verdant; still nothing was known. Many were the commentaries
upon the mystery. They were adventurers concealing themselves—they were
a young man and his mistress—in short, everything was guessed except
the truth. The truth is so simple, that one does not always think of it;
once the mind is in movement, it seeks to the right and to the left, and
often forgets to look straight before it. The mystery gave me little
concern. No matter who is there, thought I; they are human, therefore
they will not be long without suffering, and then they will send for me.
I waited patiently.
“At last one morning a messenger came from Mr William Meredith, to
request me to call upon him. I put on my best coat, and, endeavouring to
assume a gravity suitable to my profession, I traversed the village, not
without some little pride at my importance. That day many envied me. The
villagers stood at their doors to see me pass. ‘He is going to the white
cottage!’ they said; whilst I, avoiding all appearance of haste and
vulgar curosity, walked deliberately, nodding to my peasant neighbours.
‘Good-day, my friends,’ I said; ‘I will see you by-and-by; this morning
I am busy.’ And thus I reached the hill-side.
“On entering the sitting-room of the mysterious house, the scene I beheld
rejoiced my eyesight. Everything was so simple and elegant. Flowers, the
chief ornament of the apartment, were so tastefully arranged, that gold
would not better have embellished the modest interior. White muslin was
at the windows, white calico on the chairs—that was all; but there were
roses, and jessamine, and flowers of all kinds, as in a garden. The
light was softened by the curtains, the atmosphere was fragrant; and a
young girl or woman, fair and fresh as all that surrounded her, reclined
upon a sofa, and welcomed me with a smile. A handsome young man, seated
near her upon an ottoman, rose when the servant announced Dr Barnaby.
“‘Sir,’ said he, with a strong foreign accent, ‘I have heard so much of
your skill that I expected to see an old man.’
“‘I have studied diligently, sir,’ I replied. ‘I am deeply impressed with
the importance and responsibility of my calling: you may confide in me.’
“‘’Tis well,’ he said. ‘I recommend my wife to your best care. Her
present state demands advice and precaution. She was born in a distant
land: for my sake she has quitted family and friends. I can bring but
my affection to her aid, for I am without experience. I reckon upon you,
sir. If possible, preserve her from all suffering.’
“As he spoke, the young man fixed upon his wife a look so full of love,
that the large blue eyes of the beautiful foreigner glistened with tears
of gratitude. She dropped the tiny cap she was embroidering, and her two
hands clasped the hand of her husband. I looked at them, and I ought to
have found their lot enviable, but somehow or other, the contrary was
the case. I felt sad; I could not tell why. I had often seen persons
weep, of whom I said—They are happy! I saw William Meredith and his
wife smile, and I could not help thinking they had much sorrow. I seated
myself near my charming patient. Never have I seen anything so lovely as
that sweet face, shaded by long ringlets of fair hair.
“‘What is your age, madam?’
“‘Is the climate of your native country very different from ours?’
“‘I was born in America—at New Orleans. Oh! the sun is far brighter than
“Doubtless she feared she had uttered a regret, for she added—
““But every country is beautiful when one is in one’s husband’s house,
with him, and awaiting his child!’
“Her gaze sought that of William Meredith: then, in a tongue I did not
understand, she spoke a few words which sounded so soft that they must
have been words of love.
“After a short visit I took my leave, promising to return. I did return,
and, at the end of two months, I was almost the friend of this young
couple. Mr and Mrs Meredith were not selfish in their happiness; they
found time to think of others. They saw that to the poor village doctor,
whose sole society was that of peasants, those days were festivals
upon which he passed an hour in hearing the language of cities. They
encouraged me to frequent them—talked to me of their travels, and soon,
with the prompt confidence characterising youth, they told me their
story. It was the girl-wife who spoke:—
“‘Doctor,’ she said, ‘yonder, beyond the seas, I have father, sisters,
family, friends, whom I long loved, until the day when I loved William.
But then I shut my heart to those who repulsed my lover. William’s
father forbade him to wed me, because he was too noble for the daughter
of an American planter. My father forbade me to love William, because he
was too proud to give his daughter to a man whose family refused her a
welcome. They tried to separate us; but we loved each other. Long did
we weep and supplicate, and implore the pity of those to whom we owed
obedience; they remained inflexible, and we loved! Doctor, did you ever
love? I would you had, that you might be indulgent to us. We were
secretly married, and we fled to France. Oh how beautiful the ocean
appeared in those early days of our affection! The sea was hospitable to
the fugitives. Wanderers upon the waves, we passed happy days in the
shadow of our vessel’s sails, anticipating pardon from our friends, and
dreaming a bright future. Alas! we were too sanguine. They pursued us;
and, upon pretext of some irregularity of form in our clandestine
marriage, William’s family cruelly thought to separate us. We found
concealment in the midst of these mountains and forests. Under a name
which is not ours, we live unknown. My father has not forgiven—he has
cursed me! That is the reason, doctor, why I cannot always smile, even
with my dear William by my side.’
“How those two loved each other! Never have I seen a being more
completely wrapped up in another than was Eva Meredith in her husband!
Whatever her occupation, she always so placed herself, that, on raising
her eyes, she had William before them. She never read but in the book he
was reading. Her head against his shoulder, her eyes followed the lines
on which William’s eyes were fixed; she wished the same thoughts to
strike them at the same moment; and, when I crossed the garden to reach
their door, I smiled to see upon the gravel the trace of Eva’s little
foot always close to the mark of William’s boot. What a difference
between the deserted old house you see yonder, and the pretty dwelling
of my young friends! What sweet flowers covered the walls! What bright
nosegays decked the tables! How many charming books were there, full of
tales of love that resembled their love! How gay the birds that sang
around them! How good it was to live there, and to be loved a little by
those who loved each other so much! But those are right who say that
happy days are not long upon this earth, and that, in respect of
happiness, God gives but a little at a time.
“One morning Eva Meredith appeared to suffer. I questioned her with all
the interest I felt for her. She answered me abruptly.
“‘Do not feel my pulse, doctor,’ she said; ‘it is my heart that beats too
quick. Think me childish if you will, but I am sad this morning. William
is going away. He is going to the town beyond the mountain, to receive
“‘And when will he return?’ inquired I, gently.
“She smiled, almost blushed, and then, with a look that seemed to say, Do
not laugh at me, she replied, ‘This evening!’
“Notwithstanding her imploring glance, I could not repress a smile. Just
then a servant brought Mr Meredith’s horse to the door. Eva rose from
her seat, went out into the garden, approached the horse, and, whilst
stroking his mane, bowed her head upon the animal’s neck, perhaps to
conceal the tear that fell from her eyes. William came out, threw
himself lightly into the saddle, and gently raised his wife’s head.
“‘Silly girl!’ said he, with love in his eyes and voice. And he kissed
“‘William, we have never yet been so many hours apart!’
“Mr Meredith stooped his head towards that of Eva, and imprinted a second
kiss upon her beautiful golden hair; then he touched his horse’s flank
with the spur, and set off at a gallop. I am convinced that he, too,
was a little moved. Nothing is so contagious as the weakness of those
we love; tears summon tears, and it is no very laudable courage that
keeps our eyes dry by the side of a weeping friend. I turned my steps
homeward, and, once more in my cottage, I set myself to meditate on the
happiness of loving. I asked myself if an Eva would ever cheer my poor
dwelling. I did not think of examining whether I were worthy to be
loved. When we behold two beings thus devoted to each other, we easily
discern that it is not for good and various reasons that they love so
well; they love because it is necessary, inevitable; they love on
account of their own hearts, not of those of others. Well, I thought
how I might seek and find a heart that had need to love, just as, in my
morning walks, I might have thought to meet, by the road-side, some
flower of sweet perfume. Thus did I muse, although it is perhaps a wrong
feeling which makes us, at sight of others’ bliss, deplore the happiness
we do not ourselves possess. Is not a little envy there? and if joy
could be stolen like gold, should we not then be near a larceny?
“The day passed, and I had just completed my frugal supper, when I
received a message from Mrs Meredith, begging me to visit her. In five
minutes I was at the door of the white cottage. I found Eva, still
alone, seated on a sofa, without work or book, pale and trembling.
‘Come, doctor, come,’ said she, in her soft voice; ‘I can remain alone
no longer; see how late it is!—he should have been home two hours ago,
and has not yet returned!’
“I was surprised at Mr Meredith’s prolonged absence; but, to comfort his
wife, I replied quietly, ‘How can we tell the time necessary to transact
his business? They may have made him wait; the notary was perhaps
absent. There were papers to draw up and sign.’
“‘Ah, doctor, I was sure you would find words of consolation! I needed to
hear some one tell me that it is foolish to tremble thus! Gracious
heaven, how long the day has been! Doctor, are there really persons who
live alone? Do they not die immediately, as if robbed of half the
atmosphere essential to life? But there is eight o’clock!’ Eight o’clock
was indeed striking. I could not imagine why William was not back. At
all hazards I said to Mrs Meredith, ‘Madam, the sun is hardly set; it is
still daylight, and the evening is beautiful; come and visit your
flowers. If we walk down the road, we shall doubtless meet your
“She took my arm, and we walked towards the gate of the little garden. I
endeavoured to turn her attention to surrounding objects. At first she
replied, as a child obeys. But I felt that her thoughts went not with
her words. Her anxious gaze was fixed upon the little green gate, which
had remained open since William’s departure. Leaning upon the paling,
she suffered me to talk on, smiling from time to time, by way of thanks;
for, as the evening wore away, she lacked courage to answer me. Grey
tints succeeded the red sunset, foreshadowing the arrival of night.
Gloom gathered around us. The road, hitherto visible like a white line
winding through the forest, disappeared in the dark shade of the lofty
trees, and the village clock struck nine. Eva started. I myself felt
every stroke vibrate upon my heart. I pitied the poor woman’s
“‘Remember, madam,’ I replied (she had not spoken, but I answered the
anxiety visible in her features), ‘remember that Mr Meredith must return
at a walk; the roads through the forest are not in a state to admit
fast riding.’ I said this to encourage her; but the truth is, I knew not
how to explain William’s absence. Knowing the distance, I also knew that
I could have gone twice to the town and back since his departure. The
evening dew began to penetrate our clothes, and especially Eva’s thin
muslin dress. Again I drew her arm through mine and led her towards the
house. She followed unresistingly; her gentle nature was submissive even
in affliction. She walked slowly, her head bowed, her eyes fixed on the
tracks left by the gallop of her husband’s horse. How melancholy it was,
that evening walk, still without William! In vain we listened: there
reigned around us the profound stillness of a summer night in the
country. How greatly does a feeling of uneasiness increase under such
circumstances. We entered the house. Eva seated herself on the sofa, her
hands clasped upon her knees, her head sunk upon her bosom. There was a
lamp on the chimney-piece, whose light fell full upon her face. I shall
never forget its suffering expression. She was pale, very pale—her brow
and cheeks exactly the same colour; her hair, relaxed by the night-damp,
fell in disorder upon her shoulders. Tears filled her eyes, and the
quivering of her colourless lips showed how violent was the effort by
which she avoided shedding them. She was so young that her face
resembled that of a child forbidden to cry.
“I was greatly troubled, and knew not what to say or how to look.
Suddenly I remembered (it was a doctor’s thought) that Eva, engrossed
by her uneasiness, had taken nothing since morning, and her situation
rendered it imprudent to prolong this fast. At my first reference to the
subject she raised her eyes to mine with a reproachful expression, and
the motion of her eyelids caused two tears to flow down her cheeks.
“‘For your child’s sake, madam,’ said I.
“‘Ah, you are right!’ she murmured, and she passed into the dining-room;
but there the little table was laid for two, and at that moment this
trifle so saddened me as to deprive me of speech and motion. My
increasing uneasiness rendered me quite awkward; I had not the wit to
say what I did not think. The silence was prolonged; ‘and yet,’ said I
to myself, ‘I am here to console her; she sent for me for that purpose.
There must be fifty ways of explaining this delay—let me find one.’ I
sought, and sought—and still I remained silent, inwardly cursing the
poverty of invention of a poor village doctor. Eva, her head resting on
her hand, forgot to eat. Suddenly she turned to me and burst out
“‘Ah, doctor!’ she exclaimed, ‘I see plainly that you too are uneasy.’
“‘Not so, madam—indeed not so,’ replied I, speaking at random. ‘Why
should I be uneasy? He has doubtless dined with the notary. The roads
are safe, and no one knows that he went for money.’
“I had inadvertently revealed one of my secret causes of uneasiness. I
knew that a band of foreign reapers had that morning passed through the
village, on their way to a neighbouring department.
“Eva uttered a cry.
“‘Robbers! robbers!’ she exclaimed. ‘I never thought of that danger.’
“‘But, madam, I only mention it to tell you it does not exist.’
“‘Oh! the thought struck you, doctor, because you thought the misfortune
possible! William, my own William! why did you leave me?’ cried she,
“I was in despair at my blunder, and I felt my eyes fill with tears. My
distress gave me an idea.
“‘Mrs Meredith,’ I said, ‘I cannot see you torment yourself thus, and
remain by your side unable to console you. I will go and seek your
husband; I will follow at random one of the paths through the forest; I
will search everywhere and shout his name, and go, if necessary, to the
“‘Oh, thanks, thanks, kind friend!’ cried Eva Meredith, ‘take the
gardener with you and the servant; search in all directions!’
“We hurried back into the drawing-room, and Eva rang quickly and
repeatedly. All the inhabitants of the cottage opened at the same time
the different doors of the apartment. ‘Follow Dr Barnaby,’ cried Mrs
“At that moment a horse’s gallop was distinctly heard upon the gravel
of the garden. Eva uttered a cry of happiness that went home to every
heart. Never shall I forget the divine expression of joy that illumined
her face, still inundated with tears. She and I, we flew to the
house-door. The moon, passing from behind a cloud, threw her full light
upon a riderless and foam-covered horse, whose bridle dragged upon the
ground, and whose dusty flanks were galled by the empty stirrups. A
second cry, this time of intensest horror, burst from Eva’s breast; then
she turned towards me, her eyes fixed, her mouth half open, her arms
“The servants were in consternation.
“‘Get torches, my friends!’ cried I, ‘and follow me! Madam, we shall soon
return, I hope, and your husband with us. He has received some slight
hurt, a strained ankle, perhaps. Keep up your courage. We will soon be
“‘I go with you!’ murmured Eva Meredith in a choking voice.
“‘Impossible!’ I cried. ‘We must go fast, perhaps far, and in your
state—it would be risking your life, and that of your child—’
“‘I go with you!’ repeated Eva.
“Then did I feel how cruel was this poor woman’s isolation! Had a father,
a mother been there, they would have ordered her to stay, they would
have retained her by force; but she was alone upon the earth, and to all
my hurried entreaties she still replied in a hollow voice: ‘I go with
“We set out. The moon was again darkened by dense clouds; there was light
neither in the heavens nor on the earth. The uncertain radiance of our
torches barely showed us the path. A servant went in front, lowering his
torch to the right and to the left, to illumine the ditches and bushes
bordering the road. Behind him Mrs Meredith, the gardener, and myself,
followed with our eyes the stream of light. From time to time we raised
our voices and called Mr Meredith. After us a stifled sob murmured the
name of William, as if a heart had reckoned on the instinct of love to
hear its tears better than our shouts. We reached the forest. Rain began
to fall, and the drops pattered upon the foliage with a mournful noise,
as if everything around us wept. Eva’s thin dress was soon soaked with
the cold flood. The water streamed from her hair over her face. She
bruised her feet against the stones of the road, and repeatedly stumbled
and fell upon her knees; but she rose again with the energy of despair,
and pushed forwards. It was agonising to behold her. I scarcely dared
look at her, lest I should see her fall dead before my eyes. At
last—we were moving in silence, fatigued and discouraged—Mrs Meredith
pushed us suddenly aside, sprang forward and plunged into the bushes. We
followed her, and, upon raising the torches—alas! she was on her knees
beside the body of William, who was stretched motionless upon the
ground, his eyes glazed and his brow covered with blood which flowed
from a wound in the left temple.
“‘Doctor?’ said Eva to me. That one word expressed—‘Does William live?’
“I stooped and felt the pulse of William Meredith; I placed my hand on
his heart and remained silent. Eva still gazed at me; but, when my
silence was prolonged, I saw her bend, waver, and then, without word or
cry, fall senseless upon her husband’s corpse.
“But, ladies,” said Dr Barnaby, turning to his audience, “the sun shines
again; you can go out now. Let us leave this sad story where it is.”
Madame de Moncar approached the old physician. “Doctor,” said she, “I
implore you to continue; only look at us, and you will not doubt the
interest with which we listen.”
There were no more smiles of mockery upon the young faces that
surrounded the village doctor. In some of their eyes he might even
distinguish the glistening of tears. He resumed his narrative.
“Mrs Meredith was carried home, and remained for several hours senseless
upon her bed. I felt it at once a duty and a cruelty to use every effort
to recall her to life. I dreaded the agonising scenes that would follow
this state of immobility. I remained beside the poor woman, bathing her
temples with fresh water, and awaiting with anxiety the sad and yet
the happy moment of returning consciousness. I was mistaken in my
anticipations, for I had never witnessed great grief. Eva half opened
her eyes and immediately closed them again; no tear escaped from beneath
their lids. She remained cold, motionless, silent; and, but for the
heart which again throbbed beneath my hand, I should have deemed
her dead. Sad is it to behold a sorrow which one feels is beyond
consolation! Silence, I thought, seemed like a want of pity for this
unfortunate creature: on the other hand, verbal condolence was a mockery
of so mighty a grief. I had found no words to calm her uneasiness; could
I hope to be more eloquent in the hour of her great suffering? I took
the safest course, that of profound silence. I will remain here, I
thought, and minister to the physical sufferings, as is my duty; but I
will be mute and passive, even as a faithful dog would lie down at her
feet. My mind once made up, I felt calmer; I let her live a life which
resembled death. After a few hours, however, I put a spoonful of a
potion to her lips. Eva slowly averted her head. In a few moments I
again offered her the drug.
“‘Drink, madam,’ I said, gently touching her lips with the spoon. They
“‘Madam, your child!’ I persisted in a low voice.
“Eva opened her eyes, raised herself with effort upon her elbow,
swallowed the medicine, and fell back upon her pillow.
“‘I must wait,’ she murmured, ‘till another life is detached from mine!’
“Thenceforward Mrs Meredith spoke no more, but she mechanically followed
all my prescriptions. Stretched upon her bed of suffering, she seemed
constantly to sleep; but at whatever moment I said to her, even in my
lowest whisper, ‘Drink this,’ she instantly obeyed; thus proving to me
that the soul kept its weary watch in that motionless body, without a
single instant of oblivion and repose.
“There were none beside myself to attend to the interment of William.
Nothing positive was ever known as to the cause of his death. The sum he
was to bring from the town was not found upon him; perhaps he had been
robbed and murdered; perhaps the money, which was in notes, had fallen
from his pocket when he was thrown from his horse, and, as it was some
time before any thought of seeking it, the heavy rain and trampled mud
might account for its disappearance. A fruitless investigation was made
and soon dropped. I endeavoured to learn from Eva Meredith if her
family, or that of her husband, should not be written to. I had
difficulty in obtaining an answer. At last she gave me to understand
that I had merely to inform their agent, who would do whatever was
needful. I hoped that, at least from England, some communication would
arrive, decisive of this poor creature’s future lot. But no; day
followed day, and none seemed to know that the widow of William Meredith
lived in utter isolation, in a poor French village. To endeavour to
bring back Eva to the sense of her existence, I urged her to leave her
bed. Upon the morrow I found her up, dressed in black; but she was the
ghost of the beautiful Eva Meredith. Her hair was parted in bands upon
her pale forehead, and she sat near a window, motionless as she had lain
“I passed long silent evenings with her, a book in my hand for apparent
occupation. Each day, on my arrival, I addressed to her a few words of
sympathy. She replied by a thankful look; then we remained silent. I
waited an opportunity to open a conversation; but my awkwardness and my
respect for her grief prevented my finding one, or suffered it to escape
when it occurred. Little by little I grew accustomed to this mute
intercourse; and, besides, what could I have said to her? My chief
object was to prevent her feeling quite alone in the world; and, obscure
as was the prop remaining, it still was something. I went to see her
merely that my presence might say, ‘I am here.’
“It was a singular epoch in my life, and had a great influence on my
future existence. Had I not shown so much regret at the threatened
destruction of the white cottage, I would hurry to the conclusion of
this narrative. But you have insisted upon knowing why that building is
hallowed to me, and I must tell you therefore what I have thought and
felt beneath its humble roof. Forgive me, ladies, if my words are grave.
It is good for youth to be sometimes a little saddened; it has so much
time before it to laugh and to forget.
“The son of a rich peasant, I was sent to Paris to complete my studies.
During four years passed in that great city, I retained the awkwardness
of my manners, the simplicity of my language, but I rapidly lost the
ingenuousness of my sentiments. I returned to these mountains, almost
learned, but almost incredulous in all those points of faith which
enable a man to pass his life contentedly beneath a thatched roof, in
the society of his wife and children, without caring to look beyond the
cross above the village cemetery.
“Whilst contemplating the love of William and of Eva, I had reverted to
my former simple peasant-nature. I began to dream of a virtuous,
affectionate wife, diligent and frugal, embellishing my house by her
care and order. I saw myself proud of the gentle severity of her
features, revealing to all the chaste and faithful spouse. Very
different were these reveries from those that haunted me at Paris after
joyous evenings spent with my comrades. Suddenly, horrible calamity
descended like a thunderbolt upon Eva Meredith. This time I was slower
to appreciate the lesson I daily received. Eva sat constantly at the
window, her sad gaze fixed upon the heavens. The attitude, common in
persons of meditative mood, attracted my attention but little. Her
persistence in it at last struck me. My book open upon my knees, I
looked at Mrs Meredith; and well assured she would not detect my gaze, I
examined her attentively. She still gazed at the sky—my eyes followed
the direction of hers. ‘Ah,’ I said to myself with a half smile, ‘she
thinks to rejoin him there!’ Then I resumed my book, thinking how
fortunate it was for the weakness of women that such thoughts came to
the relief of their sorrows.
“I have already told you that my student’s life had put evil thoughts
into my head. Every day, however, I saw Eva in the same attitude, and
every day my reflections were recalled to the same subject. Little by
little I came to think her dream a good one, and to regret I could not
credit its reality. The soul, heaven, eternal life, all that the old
priest had formerly taught me, glided through my imagination as I sat at
eventide before the open window. ‘The doctrine of the old curé,’ I
said to myself, ‘was more comforting than the cold realities science has
revealed to me.’ Then I looked at Eva, who still looked to heaven,
whilst the bells of the village church sounded sweetly in the distance,
and the rays of the setting sun made the steeple cross glitter against
the sky. I often returned to sit opposite the poor widow, persevering in
her grief as in her holy hopes.
“‘What!’ I thought, ‘can so much love address itself to a few particles
of dust, already mingled with the mould; are all these sighs wasted on
empty air? William departed in the freshness of his age, his affections
yet vivid, his heart in its early bloom. She loved him but a year, one
little year—and is all over for her? Above our heads is there nothing
but void? Love—that sentiment so strong within us—is it but a flame
placed in the obscure prison of our body, where it shines, burns, and is
finally extinguished by the fall of the frail wall surrounding it? Is a
little dust all that remains of our loves, and hopes, and passions—of
all that moves, agitates, and exalts us?’
“There was deep silence in the recesses of my soul. I had ceased to
think. I was as if slumbering between what I no longer denied, and what
I did not yet believe. At last, one night, when Eva joined her hands to
pray, beneath the most beautiful starlit sky possible to behold, I know
not how it was, but I found my hands also clasped, and my lips opened to
murmur a prayer. Then, by a happy chance, and for the first time, Eva
Meredith looked round, as if a secret instinct had whispered her that my
soul harmonised with hers.
“‘Thanks,’ said she, holding out her hand, ‘keep him in your memory, and
pray for him sometimes.’
“‘Oh, madam!’ I exclaimed, ‘may we all meet again in a better world,
whether our lives have been long or short, happy or full of trial.’
“‘His immortal soul looks down upon us!’ she replied in a grave voice,
whilst her gaze, at once sad and bright, reverted to the star-spangled
“Since that evening, when performing the duties of my profession, I have
often witnessed death; but never without speaking to the sorrowing
survivors a few consoling words on a better life than this one; and
those words were words of conviction.
“At last, a month after these incidents, Eva Meredith gave birth to a
son. When they brought her her child,—‘William!’ exclaimed the poor
widow; and tears, soothing tears too long denied to her grief, escaped
in torrents from her eyes. The child bore that much-loved name of
William, and a little cradle was placed close to the mother’s bed. Then
Eva’s gaze, long directed to heaven, returned earthwards. She looked to
her child now, as she had previously looked to her God. She bent over
him to seek his father’s features. Providence had permitted an exact
resemblance between William and the son he was fated not to see. A great
change occurred around us. Eva, who had consented to live until her
child’s existence was detached from hers, was now, I could plainly see,
willing to live on, because she felt that this little being needed the
protection of her love. She passed the days and evenings seated beside
his cradle; and when I went to see her, oh! then she questioned me as to
what she should do for him, she explained what he had suffered, and
asked what could be done to save him from pain. For her child she feared
the heat of a ray of sun, the chill of the lightest breeze. Bending over
him, she shielded him with her body, and warmed him with her kisses. One
day, I almost thought I saw her smile at him. But she never would sing,
whilst rocking his cradle, to lull him to sleep; she called one of her
women, and said, ‘Sing to my son that he may sleep.’ Then she listened,
letting her tears flow softly upon little William’s brow. Poor child! he
was handsome, gentle, easy to rear. But, as if his mother’s sorrow had
affected him even before his birth, the child was melancholy: he seldom
cried, but he never smiled: he was quiet; and at that age quiet seems
to denote suffering. I fancied that all the tears shed over the cradle
froze that poor little soul. I would fain have seen William’s arms
twined caressingly round his mother’s neck. I would have had him return
the kisses lavished upon him. ‘But what am I thinking about?’ I then
said to myself; ‘is it reasonable to expect that a little creature, not
yet a year upon the earth, should understand that it is sent hither to
love and console this woman?’
“It was, I assure you, a touching sight to behold this young mother,
pale, feeble, and who had once renounced existence, clinging again to
life for the sake of a little child which could not even say ‘Thanks,
dear mother!’ What a marvel is the human heart! Of how small a thing it
makes much! Give it but a grain of sand, and it elevates a mountain; at
its latest throb show it but an atom to love, and again its pulses
revive; it stops for good only when all is void around it, and when even
the shadow of its affections has vanished from the earth!
“Time rolled on, and I received a letter from an uncle, my sole surviving
relative. My uncle, a member of the faculty of Montpellier, summoned me
to his side, to complete in that learned town my initiation into the
secrets of my art. This letter, in form an invitation, was in fact an
order. I had to set out. One morning, my heart big when I thought of
the isolation in which I left the widow and the orphan, I repaired to
the white cottage to take leave of Eva Meredith. I know not whether an
additional shade of sadness came over her features when I told her I was
about to make a long absence. Since the death of William Meredith such
profound melancholy dwelt upon her countenance that a smile would have
been the sole perceptible variation: sadness was always there.
“‘You leave us?’ she exclaimed; ‘your care is so useful to my child!’
“The poor lonely woman forgot to regret the departure of her last friend;
the mother lamented the loss of the physician useful to her son. I did
not complain. To be useful is the sweet recompense of the devoted.
“‘Adieu!’ she said, holding out her hand. ‘Wherever you go, may God bless
you; and should it be His will to afflict you, may He at least afford
you the sympathy of a heart compassionate as your own.’
“I bowed over the hand of Eva Meredith; and I departed, deeply moved.
“The child was in the garden in front of the house, lying upon the grass,
in the sun. I took him in my arms and kissed him repeatedly; I looked at
him long, attentively, sadly, and a tear started to my eyes. ‘Oh, no,
no! I must be mistaken!’ I murmured, and I hurried from the white
“Good heavens, doctor!” simultaneously exclaimed all Dr Barnaby’s
audience, “what did you apprehend?”
“Suffer me to finish my story my own way,” replied the village doctor;
“everything shall be told in its turn. I relate these events in the
order in which they occurred.
“On my arrival at Montpellier, I was exceedingly well received by my
uncle; who declared, however, that he could neither lodge nor feed me,
nor lend me money, and that as a stranger, without a name, I must not
hope for a patient in a town so full of celebrated physicians.
“‘Then I will return to my village, uncle,’ replied I.
“‘By no means!’ was his answer. ‘I have got you a lucrative and
respectable situation. An old Englishman, rich, gouty, and restless,
wishes to have a doctor to live with him, an intelligent young man who
will take charge of his health under the superintendence of an older
physician. I have proposed you—you have been accepted; let us go to
“We betook ourselves immediately to the residence of Lord James
Kysington, a large and handsome house, full of servants, where, after
waiting some time, first in the anteroom, and then in the parlours, we
were at last ushered into the presence of the noble invalid. Seated in a
large arm-chair was an old man of cold and severe aspect, whose white
hair contrasted oddly with his eyebrows, still of a jet black. He was
tall and thin, as far as I could judge through the folds of a large
cloth coat, made like a dressing-gown. His hands disappeared under his
cuffs, and his feet were wrapped in the skin of a white bear. A number
of medicine vials were upon a table beside him.
“‘My lord, this is my nephew, Dr Barnaby.’
“Lord Kysington bowed—that is to say, he looked at me, and made a
scarcely perceptible movement with his head.
“‘He is well versed in his profession, and I doubt not that his care will
be most beneficial to your lordship.’
“A second movement of the head was the sole reply vouchsafed.
“‘Moreover,’ continued my relation, ‘having had a tolerably good
education, he can read to your lordship, or write under your dictation.’
“‘I shall be obliged to him,’ replied Lord Kysington, breaking silence at
last, and then closing his eyes, either from fatigue, or as a hint that
the conversation was to drop. I glanced around me. Near the window sat a
lady, very elegantly dressed, who continued her embroidery without once
raising her eyes, as if we were not worthy her notice. Upon the carpet
at her feet a little boy amused himself with toys. The lady, although
young, did not at first strike me as pretty—because she had black hair
and eyes; and to be pretty, according to my notion, was to be fair, like
Eva Meredith; and, moreover, in my inexperience, I held beauty
impossible without a certain air of goodness. It was long before I could
admit the beauty of this woman, whose brow was haughty, her look
disdainful, and her mouth unsmiling. Like Lord Kysington, she was tall,
thin, rather pale. In character they were too much alike to suit each
other well. Formal and taciturn, they lived together without affection,
almost without converse. The child, too, had been taught silence; he
walked on tiptoe, and at the least noise a severe look from his mother
or from Lord Kysington changed him into a statue.
“It was too late to return to my village; but it is never too late to
regret what one has loved and lost. My heart ached when I thought of my
cottage, my valley, my liberty.
“What I learned concerning the cheerless family I had entered was as
follows:—Lord James Kysington had come to Montpellier for his health,
deteriorated by the climate of India. Second son of the Duke of
Kysington, and a lord only by courtesy, he owed to talent and not to
inheritance his fortune and his political position in the House of
Commons. Lady Mary was the wife of his youngest brother; and Lord James,
free to dispose of his fortune, had named her son his heir.
“Towards me his lordship was most punctiliously polite. A bow thanked me
for every service I rendered him. I read aloud for hours together,
uninterrupted either by the sombre old man, whom I put to sleep, or by
the young woman, who did not listen to me, or by the child, who trembled
in his uncle’s presence. I had never led so melancholy a life, and yet,
as you know, ladies, the little white cottage had long ceased to be gay;
but the silence of misfortune implies reflections that words are
insufficient to express. One feels the life of the soul under the
stillness of the body. In my new abode it was the silence of a void.
“One day that Lord James dozed and Lady Mary was engrossed with
embroidery, little Harry climbed upon my knee, as I sat apart at the
farther end of the room, and began to question me with the artless
curiosity of his age. In my turn, and without reflecting on what I said,
I questioned him concerning his family.
“‘Have you any brothers or sisters?’ I inquired.
“‘I have a very pretty little sister.’
“‘What is her name?’ asked I, absently, glancing at the newspaper in my
“‘She has a beautiful name. Guess it, Doctor.’
“I know not what I was thinking about. In my village I had heard none but
the names of peasants, hardly applicable to Lady Mary’s daughter. Mrs
Meredith was the only lady I had known, and the child repeating,
‘Guess, guess!’ I replied at random,
“We were speaking very low; but when the name of Eva escaped my lips,
Lord James opened his eyes quickly, and raised himself in his chair,
Lady Mary dropped her needle and turned sharply towards me. I was
confounded at the effect I had produced; I looked alternately at Lord
James and at Lady Mary, without daring to utter another word. Some
minutes passed: Lord James again let his head fall back and closed his
eyes, Lady Mary resumed her needle, Harry and I ceased our conversation.
I reflected for some time upon this strange incident, until at last, all
around me having sunk into the usual monotonous calm, I rose to leave
the room. Lady Mary pushed away her embroidery frame, passed before me,
and made me a sign to follow. When we were both in another room she shut
the door, and raising her head, with the imperious air which was the
most habitual expression of her features: ‘Dr Barnaby,’ said she, ‘be so
good as never again to pronounce the name that just now escaped your
lips. It is a name Lord James Kysington must not hear.’ She bowed
slightly, and re-entered her brother-in-law’s apartment.
“Thoughts innumerable crowded upon my mind. This Eva, whose name was not
to be spoken, could it be Eva Meredith? Was she Lord Kysington’s
daughter-in-law? Was I in the house of William’s father? I hoped, but
still I doubted; for, after all, if there was but one Eva in the world
for me, in England the name was, doubtless, by no means uncommon. But
the thought that I was perhaps with the family of Eva Meredith, living
with the woman who robbed the widow and the orphan of their inheritance,
this thought was present to me by day and by night. In my dreams I
beheld the return of Eva and her son to the paternal residence, in
consequence of the pardon I had implored and obtained for them. But when
I raised my eyes, the cold impassible physiognomy of Lord Kysington
froze all the hopes of my heart. I applied myself to the examination of
that countenance as if I had never before seen it; I analysed its
features and lines to find a trace of sensibility. I sought the heart I
so gladly would have touched. Alas! I found it not. But I had so good a
cause that I was not to be discouraged. ‘Pshaw!’ I said to myself, ‘what
matters the expression of the face? why heed the external envelope? May
not the darkest coffer contain bright gold? Must all that is within us
reveal itself at a glance? Does not every man of the world learn to
separate his mind and his thoughts from the habitual expression of his
“I resolved to clear up my doubts, but how to do so was the difficulty.
Impossible to question Lady Mary or Lord James; the servants were
French, and had but lately come to the house. An English
valet-de-chambre had just been despatched to London on a confidential
mission. I directed my investigations to Lord James Kysington. The
severe expression of his countenance ceased to intimidate me. I said to
myself, ‘When the forester meets with a tree apparently dead, he strikes
his axe into the trunk to see whether sap does not still survive beneath
the withered bark; in like manner will I strike at the heart, and see
whether life be not somewhere hidden.’ And I only waited an opportunity.
“To await an opportunity with impatience is to accelerate its coming.
Instead of depending on circumstances we subjugate them. One night Lord
James sent for me. He was in pain. After administering the necessary
remedies, I remained by his bedside, to watch their effect. The room was
dark; a single wax candle showed the outline of objects, without
illuminating them. The pale and noble head of Lord James was thrown back
upon his pillow. His eyes were shut, according to his custom when
suffering, as if he concentrated his moral energies within him. He never
complained, but lay stretched out in his bed, straight and motionless as
a king’s statue upon a marble tomb. In general he got somebody to read
to him, hoping either to distract his thoughts from his pains, or to be
lulled to sleep by the monotonous sound.
“Upon that night he made sign to me with his meagre hand to take a book
and read, but I sought one in vain; books and newspapers had all been
removed to the drawing-room; the doors were locked, and unless I rang
and aroused the house, a book was not to be had. Lord James made a
gesture of impatience, then one of resignation, and beckoned me to
resume my seat by his side. We remained for some time without speaking,
almost in darkness, the silence broken only by the ticking of the clock.
Sleep came not. Suddenly Lord James opened his eyes.
“‘Speak to me,’ he said. ‘Tell me something; whatever you like.’
“His eyes closed, and he waited. My heart beat violently. The moment had
“‘My lord,’ said I, ‘I greatly fear I know nothing that will interest
your lordship. I can speak but of myself, of the events of my life,—and
the history of the great ones of the earth were necessary to fix your
attention. What can a peasant have to say, who has lived contented with
little, in obscurity and repose? I have scarcely quitted my village, my
lord. It is a pretty mountain hamlet, where even those not born there
might well be pleased to dwell. Near it is a country house, which I have
known inhabited by rich people, who could have left it if they liked,
but who remained, because the woods were thick, the paths bordered with
flowers, the streams bright and rapid in their rocky beds. Alas! they
were two in that house—and soon a poor woman was there alone, until the
birth of her son. My lord, she is a countrywoman of yours, an
Englishwoman, of beauty such as is seldom seen either in England or in
France; good as, besides her, only the angels in heaven can be! She had
just completed her eighteenth year when I left her, fatherless,
motherless, and already widowed of an adored husband; she is feeble,
delicate, almost ill, and yet she must live;—who would protect that
little child? Oh! my lord, there are very unhappy beings in this world!
To be unhappy in middle life or old age is doubtless sad, but still you
have pleasant memories of the past to remind you that you have had your
day, your share, your happiness; but to weep before you are eighteen is
far sadder, for nothing can bring back the dead, and the future is dim
with tears. Poor creature! We see a beggar by the road-side suffering
from cold and hunger, and we give him alms, and look upon him without
pain, because it is in our power to relieve him; but this unhappy,
broken-hearted woman, the only relief to give her would be to love
her—and none are there to bestow that alms upon her!
“‘Ah! my lord, if you knew what a fine young man her husband
was!—hardly three-and-twenty; a noble countenance, a lofty brow—like
your own, intelligent and proud; dark-blue eyes, rather pensive, rather
sad. I knew why they were sad. He loved his father and his native land,
and he was doomed to exile from both! And how good and graceful was his
smile! Ah! how he would have smiled at his little child, had he lived
long enough to see it. He loved it even before it was born: he took
pleasure in looking at the cradle that awaited it. Poor, poor young
man!—I saw him on a stormy night, in the dark forest, stretched upon
the wet earth, motionless, lifeless, his garments covered with mud, his
temples shattered, blood escaping in torrents from his wound. I
saw—alas! I saw William—’
“‘You saw my son’s death!’ cried Lord James, raising himself like a
spectre in the midst of his pillows, and fixing me with eyes so
distended and piercing, that I started back alarmed. But notwithstanding
the darkness, I thought I saw a tear moisten the old man’s eyelids.
“‘My lord,’ I replied, ‘I was present at your son’s death, and at the
birth of his child!’
“There was an instant’s silence. Lord James looked steadfastly at me. At
last he made a movement; his trembling hand sought mine, pressed it,
then his fingers relaxed their grasp, and he fell back upon the bed.
“‘Enough sir, enough; I suffer, I need repose. Leave me.’
“I bowed, and retired.
“Before I was out of the room, Lord James had relapsed into his habitual
position; into silence and immobility.
“I will not detail to you my numerous and respectful representations to
Lord James Kysington, his indecision and secret anxiety, and how at last
his paternal love, awakened by the details of the horrible catastrophe,
his pride of race, revived by the hope of leaving an heir to his name,
triumphed over his bitter resentment. Three months after the scene I
have described, I awaited, on the threshold of the house at Montpellier,
the arrival of Eva Meredith and her son, summoned to their family and to
the resumption of all their rights. It was a proud and happy day for me.
“Lady Mary, perfect mistress of herself, had concealed her joy when
family dissensions had made her son heir to her wealthy brother. Still
better did she conceal her regret and anger when Eva Meredith, or rather
Eva Kysington, was reconciled with her father-in-law. Not a cloud
appeared upon Lady Mary’s marble forehead. But beneath this external
calm how many evil passions fermented!
“When the carriage of Eva Meredith (I will still give her that name)
entered the courtyard of the house, I was there to receive her. Eva held
out her hand—‘Thanks, thanks, my friend!’ she murmured. She wiped the
tears that trembled in her eyes, and taking her boy, now three years
old, and of great beauty, by the hand, she entered her new abode. ‘I am
afraid,’ she said. She was still the weak woman, broken by affliction,
pale, sad, and beautiful, incredulous of earthly hopes, but firm in
heavenly faith. I walked by her side; and as she ascended the steps, her
gentle countenance bedewed with tears, her slender and feeble form
inclined towards the balustrade, her extended arm assisting the child,
who walked still more slowly than herself, Lady Mary and her son
appeared at the door. Lady Mary wore a brown velvet dress, rich
bracelets encircled her arms, a slender gold chain bound her brow, which
in truth was of those on which a diadem sits well. She advanced with an
assured step, her head high, her glance full of pride. Such was the
first meeting of the two mothers.
“‘You are welcome, madam,’ said Lady Mary, bowing to Eva Meredith.
“Eva tried to smile, and answered by a few affectionate words. How could
she forbode hatred, she who only knew love? We proceeded to Lord James’s
room. Mrs Meredith, scarcely able to support herself, entered first,
took a few steps, and knelt beside her father-in-law’s arm-chair. Taking
her child in her arms, she placed him on Lord James Kysington’s knee.
“‘His son!’ she said. Then the poor woman wept and was silent.
“Long did Lord James gaze upon the child. As he gradually recognised the
features of the son he had lost, his eyes became moist, and their
expression affectionate. There came a moment when, forgetting his age,
lapse of time, and past misfortune, he dreamed himself back to the happy
day when he first pressed his infant son to his heart. ‘William,
William!’ he murmured. ‘My daughter!’ added he, extending his hand to
“My eyes filled with tears. Eva had a family, a protector, a fortune. I
was happy; doubtless that was why I wept.
“The child remained quiet upon his grandfather’s knees, and showed
neither pleasure nor fear.
“‘Will you love me?’ said the old man.
“The child raised its head, but did not answer.
“‘Do you hear? I will be your father.’
“‘I will be your father,’ the child gently repeated.
“‘Excuse him,’ said his mother; ‘he has always been alone. He is very
young; the presence of many persons intimidates him. By-and-by, my lord,
he will better understand your kind words.’
“But I looked at the child; I examined him in silence; I recalled my
former gloomy apprehensions. Alas! those apprehensions now became a
certainty; the terrible shock experienced by Eva Meredith during her
pregnancy had had fatal consequences for her child, and a mother only,
in her youth, her love, and her inexperience, could have remained so
long ignorant of her misfortune.
“At the same time with myself Lady Mary looked at the child. I shall
never forget the expression of her countenance. She stood erect, and the
piercing gaze she fixed upon little William seemed to read his very
soul. As she gazed, her eyes sparkled, her mouth was half-opened as by a
smile—she breathed short and thick, like one oppressed by great and
sudden joy. She looked, looked—hope, doubt, expectation, replaced each
other on her face. At last her hatred was clear-sighted, an internal cry
of triumph burst from her heart, but was checked ere it reached her
lips. She drew herself up, let fall a disdainful glance upon Eva, her
vanquished enemy, and resumed her usual calm.
“Lord James, fatigued by the emotions of the day, dismissed us, and
remained alone all the evening.
“Upon the morrow, after an agitated night, when I entered Lord James’s
room, all the family were already assembled around him, and Lady Mary
had little William on her knees: it was the tiger clutching its prey.
“‘What a beautiful child!’ she said. ‘See, my lord, these fair and
silken locks! how brilliant they are in the sunshine! But, dear Eva, is
your son always so silent? does he never exhibit the vivacity and gaiety
of his age?’
“‘He is always sad,’ replied Mrs Meredith. ‘Alas! with me he could hardly
learn to laugh.’
“‘We will try to amuse and cheer him,’ said Lady Mary. ‘Come, my dear
child, kiss your grandfather! hold out your arms, and tell him you love
“William did not stir.
“‘Do you not know how? Harry, my love, kiss your uncle, and set your
cousin a good example.’
“Harry jumped upon Lord James’s knees, threw both arms round his neck,
and said, ‘I love you, dear uncle!’
“‘Now it is your turn, my dear William,’ said Lady Mary.
“William stirred not, and did not even look at his grandfather.
“A tear coursed down Eva Meredith’s cheek.
“‘’Tis my fault,’ she said. ‘I have brought up my child badly.’ And,
taking William upon her lap, her tears fell upon his face: he felt them
not, but slumbered upon his mother’s heavy heart.
“‘Try to make William less shy,’ said Lord James to his daughter-in-law.
“‘I will try,’ replied Eva, in her submissive tones, like those of an
obedient child. ‘I will try; and perhaps I shall succeed, if Lady Mary
will kindly tell me how she rendered her son so happy and so gay.’ Then
the disconsolate mother looked at Harry, who was at play near his
uncle’s chair, and her eyes reverted to her poor sleeping child. ‘He
suffered even before his birth,’ she murmured; ‘we have both been very
unhappy! but I will try to weep no more, that William may be cheerful
like other children.’
“Two days elapsed, two painful days, full of secret trouble and
ill-concealed uneasiness. Lord James’s brow was care-laden; at times his
look questioned me. I averted my eyes to avoid answering. On the morning
of the third day, Lady Mary came into the room with a number of
play-things for the children. Harry seized a sword, and ran about the
room, shouting for joy. William remained motionless, holding in his
little hand the toys that were given to him, but not attempting to use
them; he did not even look at them.
“‘Here, my lord,’ said Lady Mary to her brother, ‘give this book to your
grandson; perhaps his attention will be roused by the pictures it
contains.’ And she led William to Lord James. The child was passive; he
walked, stopped, and remained like a statue where he was placed. Lord
James opened the book. All eyes turned towards the group formed by the
old man and his grandson. Lord James was gloomy, silent, severe; he
slowly turned several pages, stopping at every picture, and looking at
William, whose vacant gaze was not directed to the book. Lord James
turned a few more pages; then his hand ceased to move; the book fell
from his knees to the ground, and an irksome silence reigned in the
apartment. Lady Mary approached me, bent forward as if to whisper in my
ear, and in a voice loud enough to be heard by all—
“‘The child is an idiot, doctor!’ she said.
“A shriek answered her. Eva started up as if she had received a blow; and
seizing her son, whom she pressed convulsively to her breast—
“‘Idiot!’ she exclaimed, her indignant glance flashing, for the first
time, with a vivid brilliance; ‘idiot!’ she repeated, ‘because he has
been unhappy all his life, because he has seen but tears since his eyes
first opened! because he knows not how to play like your son, who has
always had joy around him! Ah! madam, you insult misfortune! Come, my
child!’ cried Eva, all in tears. ‘Come, let us leave these pitiless
hearts, that find none but cruel words to console our misery!’
“And the unhappy mother carried off her boy to her apartment. I followed.
She set William down, and knelt before the little child. ‘My son! my
son!’ she cried.
“William went close to her, and rested his head on his mother’s shoulder.
“‘Doctor!’ cried Eva, ‘he loves me—you see he does! He comes when I call
him; he kisses me! His caresses have sufficed for my tranquillity—for
my sad happiness! My God! was it not then enough? Speak to me, my son;
reassure me! Find a consoling word, a single word for your despairing
mother! Till now I have asked nothing of you but to remind me of your
father, and leave me silence to weep. To-day, William, you must give me
words! See you not my tears—my terror? Dear child, so beautiful, so
like your father, speak, speak to me!’
“Alas! alas! the child remained motionless, without sign of fear or
intelligence; a smile only, a smile horrible to behold, flitted across
his features. Eva hid her face in both hands, and remained kneeling upon
the ground. For a long time no noise was heard save the sound of her
sobs. Then I prayed heaven to inspire me with consoling thoughts, such
as might give a ray of hope to this poor mother. I spoke of the future,
of expected cure, of change possible—even probable. But hope is no
friend to falsehood. Where she does not exist her phantom cannot
penetrate. A terrible blow, a mortal one, had been struck, and Eva
Meredith saw all the truth.
“From that day forwards, only one child was to be seen each morning in
Lord James Kysington’s room. Two women came thither, but only one of them seemed to live—the other was silent as the tomb. One said, ‘My
son!’ the other never spoke of her child; one carried her head high, the
other bowed hers upon her breast, the better to hide her tears; one was
blooming and brilliant, the other pale and a mourner. The struggle was
at an end. Lady Mary triumphed. It was cruel how they let Harry play
before Eva Meredith’s eyes. Careless of her anguish, they brought him to
repeat his lessons in his uncle’s presence; they vaunted his progress.
The ambitious mother calculated everything to consolidate her success;
and, whilst abounding in honeyed words and feigned consolation, she
tortured Eva Meredith’s heart each moment in the day. Lord James,
smitten in his dearest hopes, had resumed the cold impassibility which I
now saw formed the foundation of his character. Strictly courteous to
his daughter-in-law, he had no word of affection for her: only as the
mother of his grandson could the daughter of the American planter find a
place in his heart. And he considered the child as no longer in
existence. Lord James Kysington was more gloomy and taciturn than ever,
regretting, perhaps, to have yielded to my importunities, and to have
ruffled his old age by a painful and profitless emotion.
“A year elapsed; then a sad day came, when Lord James sent for Eva
Meredith, and signed to her to be seated beside his arm-chair.
“‘Listen to me, madam,’ he said, ‘listen with courage. I will act frankly
with you, and conceal nothing. I am old and ill, and must arrange my
affairs. The task is painful both for you and for me. I will not refer
to my anger at my son’s marriage; your misfortune disarmed me—I called
you to my side, and I desired to behold and to love in your son William,
the heir of my fortune, the pivot of my dreams of future ambition. Alas!
madam, fate was cruel to us! My son’s widow and orphan shall have all
that can insure them an honourable existence; but, sole master of a
fortune due to my own exertions, I adopt my nephew, and look upon him
henceforward as my sole heir. I am about to return to London, whither my
affairs call me. Come with me, madam—my house is yours—I shall be
happy to see you there.’
“Eva (she afterwards told me so) felt, for the first time, her
despondency replaced by courage. She had the strength that is given by a
noble pride: she raised her head, and her brow, less haughty than that
of Lady Mary, wore all the dignity of misfortune.
“‘Go, my lord,’ she answered, ‘go; I shall not accompany you. I will not
witness the usurpation of my son’s rights! You are in haste to condemn,
my lord. Who can foresee the future! You are in haste to despair of the
mercy of God!’
“‘The future,’ replied Lord James, ‘at my age, is bounded by the passing
day. What I would be certain to do I must do at once and without delay.’
“‘Act as you think proper,’ replied Eva. ‘I return to the dwelling where
I was happy with my husband. I return thither with your grandson,
William Kysington; of that name, his sole inheritance, you cannot
deprive him; and though the world should know it but by reading it on
his tomb, your name, my lord, is the name of my son!’
“A week later, Eva Meredith descended the stairs of the hotel, holding
her son by the hand, as she had done when she had entered this fatal
house. Lady Mary was a little behind her, a few steps higher up: the
numerous servants, sad and silent, beheld with regret the departure of
the gentle creature thus driven from the paternal roof. When she quitted
this abode, Eva quitted the only beings she knew upon the earth, the
only persons whose pity she had a right to claim—the world was before
her, an immense wilderness. It was Hagar going forth into the desert.”
“This is horrible, doctor!” cried Dr Barnaby’s audience. “Is it possible
there are persons so utterly unhappy? What! you witnessed all this
“I have not yet told you all,” replied the village doctor; “let me get
to the end.
“Shortly after Eva Meredith’s departure, Lord James went to London. Once
more my own master, I gave up all idea of further study; I had enough
learning for my village, and in haste I returned thither. Once more I
sat opposite to Eva in the little white house, as I had done two years
before. But how greatly had intervening events increased her misfortune!
We no longer dared talk of the future, that unknown moment of which we
all have so great need, and without which our present joys appear too
feeble, and our misfortunes too great.
“Never did I witness grief nobler in its simplicity, calmer in its
intensity, than that of Eva Meredith. She forgot not to pray to the God
who chastened her. For her, God was the being in whose hands are the
springs of hope, when earthly hopes are extinct. Her look of faith
remained fixed upon her child’s brow, as if awaiting the arrival of the
soul her prayers invoked. I cannot describe the courageous patience of
that mother speaking to her son, who listened without understanding. I
cannot tell you all the treasures of love, of thought, of ingenious
narrative she displayed before that torpid intelligence, which repeated,
like an echo, the last of her gentle words. She explained to him heaven,
God, the angels; she endeavoured to make him pray, and joined his hands,
but she could not make him raise his eyes to heaven. In all possible
shapes she tried to give him the first lessons of childhood; she read
to him, spoke to him, placed pictures before his eyes—had recourse to
music as a substitute for words. One day making a terrible effort, she
told William the story of his father’s death; she hoped, expected a
tear. The child fell asleep whilst yet she spoke: tears were shed, but
they fell from the eyes of Eva Meredith.
“Thus did she exhaust herself by vain efforts, by a persevering struggle.
That she might not cease to hope, she continued to toil; but to
William’s eyes pictures were merely colours; to his ears words were but
noise. The child, however, grew in stature and in beauty. One who had
seen him but for an instant would have taken the immobility of his
countenance for placidity. But that prolonged and continued calm, that
absence of all grief, of all tears, had a strange and sad effect upon
us. Suffering must indeed be inherent in our nature, since William’s
eternal smile made every one say, ‘The poor idiot!’ Mothers know not the
happiness concealed in the tears of their child. A tear is a regret, a
desire, a fear; it is life, in short, which begins to be understood.
Alas! William was content with everything. All day long he seemed to
sleep with his eyes open; anger, weariness, impatience, were alike
unknown to him. He had but one instinct: he knew his mother—he even
loved her. He took pleasure in resting on her knees, on her shoulder; he
kissed her. When I kept him long away from her, he manifested a sort of
anxiety. I took him back to his mother; he showed no joy, but he was
again tranquil. This tenderness, this faint glimmering of William’s
heart, was Eva’s life. It gave her strength to strive, to hope, to wait.
If her words were not understood, at least her kisses were! How often
she took her son’s head in her hands and kissed his forehead, as long
and fervently as if she hoped her love would warm and vivify his frozen
soul! How often did she dream a miracle whilst clasping her son in her
arms, and pressing his still heart to her burning bosom! Often she
lingered at night in the village church. (Eva Meredith was of a Roman
Catholic family.) Kneeling upon the cold stone before the Virgin’s
altar, she invoked the marble statue of Mary, holding her child in her
arms, ‘O virgin!’ she said, ‘my boy is inanimate as that image of thy
Son! Ask of God a soul for my child!’
“She was charitable to all the poor children of the village, giving them
bread and clothes, and saying to them, ‘Pray for him.’ She consoled
afflicted mothers, in the secret hope that consolation would come at
last to her. She dried the tears of others, to enjoy the belief that one
day she also should cease to weep. In all the country round, she was
loved, blessed, venerated. She knew it, and she offered up to Heaven,
not with pride but with hope, the blessings of the unfortunate in
exchange for the recovery of her son. She loved to watch William’s
sleep; then he was handsome and like other children. For an instant, for
a second perhaps, she forgot; and whilst contemplating those regular
features, those golden locks, those long lashes which threw their shadow
on his rose-tinted cheek, she felt a mother’s joy, almost a mother’s
pride. God has moments of mercy even for those He has condemned to
“Thus passed the first years of William’s childhood. He attained the age
of eight years. Then a sad change, which could not escape my attentive
observation, occurred in Eva Meredith. Either that her son’s growth made
his want of intelligence more striking, or that she was like a workman
who has laboured all day, and sinks at eve beneath the load of toil, Eva
ceased to hope; her soul seemed to abandon the task undertaken, and to
recoil with weariness upon itself, asking only resignation. She laid
aside the books, the engravings, the music, all the means, in short,
that she had called to her aid; she grew silent and desponding; only, if
that were possible, she was more affectionate than ever to her son. As
she lost hope in his cure, she felt the more strongly that her child had
but her in the world; and she asked a miracle of her heart—an increase
of the love she bore him. She became her son’s servant—his slave; her
whole thoughts were concentrated in his wellbeing. If she felt cold, she
sought a warmer covering for William; was she hungry, it was for
William she gathered the fruits of her garden; did she suffer from
fatigue, for him she selected the easiest chair and the softest
cushions; she attended to her own sensations only to guess those of her
son. She still displayed activity, though she no longer harboured hope.
“When William was eleven years old, the last phase of Eva Meredith’s
existence began. Remarkably tall and strong for his age, he ceased to
need that hourly care required by early childhood: he was no longer the
infant sleeping on his mother’s knees; he walked alone in the garden; he
rode on horseback with me, and accompanied me in my distant visits; in
short, the bird, although wingless, left the nest. His misfortune was in
no way shocking or painful to behold. He was of exceeding beauty,
silent, unnaturally calm—his eyes expressing nothing but repose: he was
not awkward, or disagreeable, or importunate: it was a mind sleeping
beside yours, asking no question, making no reply. The incessant
maternal care which had served to occupy Mrs Meredith, and to divert her
mind from dwelling on her sorrows, became unnecessary, and she resumed
her seat at the window, whence she beheld the village and the
church-steeple—at that same window where she had so long wept her
husband. Hope and occupation successively failed her, and nothing was
left her but to wait and watch, by day and by night, like the lamp that
ever burns beneath cathedral vaults.
“But her forces were exhausted. In the midst of this grief which had
returned to its starting-point, to silence and immobility, after having
in vain essayed exertion, courage, hope, Eva Meredith fell into a
decline. In spite of all the resources of my art, I beheld her grow weak
and thin. How apply a remedy, when the sickness is of the soul?
“The poor foreigner! she needed her native sun and a little happiness to
warm her; but the ray of sun and the ray of joy were alike wanting. It
was long before she perceived her danger, because she thought not of
herself; but when at last she was unable to leave her arm-chair, she was
compelled to understand. I will not describe to you all her anguish at
the thought of leaving William without a guide, without friend or
protector—of leaving him alone in the midst of strangers, he who needed
to be cherished and led by the hand like a child. Oh, how she struggled
for life! with what avidity she swallowed the potions I prepared! how
many times she tried to believe in a cure, whilst all the time the
disease progressed! Then she kept William more at home,—she could no
longer bear to lose sight of him.
“‘Remain with me,’ she said; and William, always content near his mother,
seated himself at her feet. She looked at him long, until a flood of
tears prevented her distinguishing his gentle countenance; then she drew
him still nearer to her, and pressed him to her heart. ‘Oh!’ she
exclaimed, in a kind of delirium, ‘if my soul, on leaving my body, might
become the soul of my child, how happy should I be to die!’ No
sufferings could make her wholly despair of divine mercy, and when all
human possibility disappeared, this loving heart had gentle dreams out
of which it reconstructed hopes. But how sad it was, alas! to see the
poor mother slowly perishing before the eyes of her son, of a son who
understood not death, and who smiled when she embraced him.
“‘He will not regret me,’ she said: ‘he will not weep: he will not
remember.’ And she remained motionless, in mute contemplation of her
child. Her hand then sometimes sought mine: ‘You love him, dear doctor?’
“‘I will never quit him,’ replied I, ‘so long as he has no better friends
than myself.’ God in heaven, and the poor village doctor upon earth,
were the two guardians to whom she confided her son.
“Faith is a great thing! This woman, widowed, disinherited, dying, an
idiot child at her side, was yet saved from that utter despair which
brings blasphemy to the lips of death. An invisible friend was near her,
on whom she seemed to rest, listening sometimes to holy words, which she
alone could hear.
“One morning she sent for me early. She had been unable to get up. With
her wan, transparent hand she showed me a sheet of paper on which a few
lines were written.
“‘Doctor,’ she said, in her gentlest tones, ‘I have not strength to
continue; finish this letter!’
“I read as follows:—
“‘My Lord,—I write to you for the last time. Whilst health is
restored to your old age, I suffer and am about to die. I leave
your grandson, William Kysington, without a protector. My Lord,
this last letter is to recall him to your memory; I ask for him a
place in your heart rather than a share of your fortune. Of all the
things of this world, he has understood but one—his mother’s love;
and now she must leave him for ever! Love him, my Lord,—love is
the only sentiment he can comprehend.’
“She could write no more. I added:—
“‘Mrs William Kysington has but few days to live. What are Lord
James Kysington’s orders with respect to the child who bears his
“This letter was sent to London, and we waited. Eva kept her bed.
William, seated near her, held her hand in his: his mother smiled sadly
upon him, whilst I, at the other side of the bed, prepared potions to
assuage her pains. Again she began to talk to her son, as if no longer
despairing that, after her death, some of her words might recur to his
memory. She gave the child all the advice, all the instructions she
would have given to an intelligent being. Then she turned to me—‘Who
knows, doctor,’ she said, ‘one day, perhaps, he will find my words at
the bottom of his heart!’
“Three more weeks elapsed. Death approached, and submissive as was the
Christian soul of Eva, she yet felt the anguish of separation and the
solemn awe of the future. The village priest came to see her, and when
he left her I met him and took his hand.
“‘You will pray for her,’ I said.
“‘I have entreated her to pray for me!’ was his reply.
“It was Eva Meredith’s last day. The sun had set: the window, near which
she so long had sat, was open: she could see from her bed the landscape
she had loved. She held her son in her arms and kissed his face and
hair, weeping sadly. ‘Poor child! what will become of you? Oh!’ she
said, with tender earnestness, ‘listen to me, William:—I am dying! Your
father is dead also; you are alone; you must pray to the Lord. I
bequeath you to Him who watches over the sparrow upon the house-top; He
will shield the orphan. Dear child, look at me! listen to me! Try to
understand that I die, that one day you may remember me!’ And the poor
mother, unable to speak longer, still found strength to embrace her
“At that moment an unaccustomed noise reached my ears. The wheels of a
carriage grated upon the gravel of the garden drive. I ran to the door.
Lord James Kysington and Lady Mary entered the house.
“‘I got your letter,’ said Lord James. ‘I was setting out for Italy, and
it was not much off my road to come myself and settle the future destiny
of William Meredith: so here I am. Mrs William——?’
“‘Mrs William Kysington still lives, my lord,’ I replied.
“It was with a painful sensation that I saw this calm, cold, austere man
approach Eva’s chamber, followed by the haughty woman who came to
witness what for her was a happy event—the death of her former rival!
They entered the modest little room, so different from the sumptuous
apartments of their Montpellier hotel. They drew near the bed, beneath
whose white curtains Eva, pale but still beautiful, held her son upon
her heart. They stood, one on the right, the other on the left of that
couch of suffering, without finding a word of affection to console the
poor woman who looked up at them. They barely gave utterance to a few
formal and unmeaning phrases. Averting their eyes from the painful
spectacle of death, and persuading themselves that Eva Meredith neither
saw nor heard, they passively awaited her spirit’s departure—their
countenances not even feigning an expression of condolence or regret.
Eva fixed her dying gaze upon them, and sudden terror seized the heart
which had almost ceased to throb. She comprehended, for the first time,
the secret sentiments of Lady Mary, the profound indifference and
egotism of Lord James; she understood at last that they were enemies
rather than protectors of her son. Despair and terror portrayed
themselves on her pallid face. She made no attempt to soften those
soulless beings. By a convulsive movement she drew William still closer
to her heart, and, collecting her last strength—
“‘My child, my poor child!’ she cried, ‘you have no support upon earth;
but God above is good. My God! succour my child!’
“With this cry of love, with this supreme prayer, she breathed out her
life: her arms opened, her lips were motionless on William’s cheek.
Since she no longer embraced her son, there could be no doubt she was
dead—dead before the eyes of those who to the very last had refused to
comfort her affliction—dead without giving Lady Mary the uneasiness of
hearing her plead the cause of her son—dead, leaving her a complete and
“There was a moment of solemn silence: none moved or spoke. Death makes
an impression upon the haughtiest. Lady Mary and Lord James Kysington
kneeled beside their victim’s bed. In a few minutes Lord James arose.
‘Take the child from his mother’s room,’ he said, ‘and come with me,
doctor; I will explain to you my intentions respecting him.’
“For two hours William had been resting on the shoulder of Eva Meredith,
his heart against her heart, his lips pressed to hers, receiving her
kisses and her tears. I approached him, and, without expending useless
words, I endeavoured to raise and lead him from the room; but he
resisted, and his arms clasped his mother more closely. This resistance,
the first the poor child had ever offered to living creature, touched my
very soul. On my renewing the attempt, however, William yielded; he made
a movement and turned towards me, and I saw his beautiful countenance
suffused with tears. Until that day, William had never wept. I was
greatly startled and moved, and I let the child throw himself again upon
his mother’s corpse.
“‘Take him away,’ said Lord James.
“‘My lord,’ I exclaimed, ‘he weeps! Ah, check not his tears!’
“I bent over the child, and heard him sob.
“‘William! dear William!’ I cried, anxiously taking his hand, ‘why do you
“For the second time he turned his head towards me; then, with a gentle
look, full of sorrow, ‘My mother is dead,’ he replied.
“I have not words to tell you what I felt. William’s eyes were now
intelligent: his tears were sad and significant; and his voice was
broken as when the heart suffers. I uttered a cry; I almost knelt down
beside Eva’s bed.
“‘Ah! you were right, Eva!’ I exclaimed, ‘not to despair of the mercy of
“Lord James himself had started. Lady Mary was as pale as Eva.
“‘Mother! mother!’ cried William, in tones that filled my heart with joy;
and then, repeating the words of Eva Meredith—those words which she had
so truly said he would find at the bottom of his heart—the child
“‘I am dying, my son. Your father is dead; you are alone upon the earth;
you must pray to the Lord!’
“I pressed gently with my hand upon William’s shoulder; he obeyed the
impulse, knelt down, joined his trembling hands—this time it was of his
own accord—and, raising to heaven a look full of life and feeling: ‘My
God! have pity on me!’ he murmured.
“I took Eva’s cold hand. ‘Oh mother! mother of many sorrows!’ I
exclaimed, ‘can you hear your child? do you behold him from above? Be
happy! your son is saved!’
“Dead at Lady Mary’s feet, Eva made her rival tremble; for it was not I
who led William from the room, it was Lord James Kysington who carried
out his grandson in his arms.
“I have little to add, ladies. William recovered his reason and departed
with Lord James. Reinstated in his rights, he was subsequently his
grandfather’s sole heir. Science has recorded a few rare instances of
intelligence revived by a violent moral shock. Thus does the fact I have
related find a natural explanation. But the simple women of the village,
who had attended Eva Meredith during her illness, and had heard her
fervent prayers, were convinced that, even as she had asked of Heaven,
the soul of the mother had passed into the body of the child.
“‘She was so good,’ said they, ‘that God could refuse her nothing.’ This
artless belief took firm root in the country. No one mourned Mrs
Meredith as dead.
“‘She still lives,’ said the people of the hamlet: ‘speak to her son, and
she will answer you.’
“And when Lord William Kysington, in possession of his grandfather’s
property, sent each year abundant alms to the village that had witnessed
his birth and his mother’s death, the poor folks exclaimed—‘There is
Mrs Meredith’s kind soul thinking of us still! Ah, when she goes to
heaven, it will be great pity for poor people!’
“We do not strew flowers upon her tomb, but upon the steps of the altar
of the Virgin, where she so often prayed to Mary to send a soul to her
son. When bearing thither their wreaths of wild blossoms, the villagers
say to each other—‘When she prayed so fervently, the good Virgin
answered her softly: “I will give thy soul to thy child!”’
“The curé has suffered our peasants to retain this touching
superstition; and I myself, when Lord William came to see me, when he
fixed upon me his eyes, so like his mother’s—when his voice, which had
a well-known accent, said, as Mrs Meredith was wont to say, ‘Dear
Doctor, I thank you!’ Then—smile, ladies, if you will—I wept, and I
believed, like all the village, that Eva Meredith was before me.
“She, whose existence was but a long series of sorrows, has left behind
her a sweet, consoling memory, which has nothing painful for those who
“In thinking of her we think of the mercy of God, and those who have hope
in their hearts, hope with the greater confidence.
“But it is very late, ladies—your carriages are at the door. Pardon this
long story: at my age it is difficult to be concise in speaking of the
events of one’s youth. Forgive the old man for having made you smile
when he arrived, and weep before he departed.”
These last words were spoken in the kindest and most paternal tone,
whilst a half-smile glided across Dr Barnaby’s lips. All his auditors
now crowded round him, eager to express their thanks. But Dr Barnaby got
up, made straight for his riding-coat of brown taffety, which hung
across a chair back, and, whilst one of the young men helped him to put
it on—“Farewell, gentlemen; farewell, ladies,” said the village doctor.
“My chaise is ready; it is dark, the road is bad; good-night: I must be
When Dr Barnaby was installed in his cabriolet of green wicker-work, and
the little grey cob, tickled by the whip, was about to set off, Madame
de Moncar stepped quickly forward, and leaning towards the doctor,
whilst she placed one foot on the step of his vehicle, she said, in a
“Doctor, I make you a present of the white cottage, and I will have it
fitted up as it was when you loved Eva Meredith!”
Then she ran back into the house. The carriages and the green chaise
departed in different directions.
A SINGULAR LETTER FROM SOUTHERN AFRICA
COMMUNICATED BY MR HOGG, THE ETTRICK SHEPHERD.
[MAGA. November 1829.]
My dear friend,—In my last I related to you all the circumstances of
our settlement here, and the prospect that we had of a peaceful and
pleasant habitation. In truth, it is a fine country, and inhabited by a
fine race of people, for the Kousies, as far as I have seen of them, are
a simple and ingenuous race, and Captain Johnstone having insured the
friendship and protection of their chief, we lived in the most perfect
harmony with them, trafficking with them for oxen, for which we gave
them iron and copper in exchange, the former being held in high
estimation by them. But alas! sir, such a fate has befallen to me since
I wrote you last, as I am sure never fell to the lot of a human being.
And I am now going to relate to you one of those stories which, were it
to occur in a romance, would be reckoned quite out of nature, and beyond
all bounds of probability, so true is it that there are many things in
heaven and earth that are not dreamed of in our philosophy.
You knew my Agnes from her childhood—you were at our wedding at
Beattock, and cannot but remember what an amiable and lovely girl she
then was. I thought so, and so did you—at least you said you never had
as bonny a bride on your knee. But you will hardly believe that her
beauty was then nothing in comparison with what it became afterwards;
and when she was going about our new settlement with our little boy in
her arms, I have often fancied that I never saw as lovely a human being.
Be that as it may, the chief Karoo came to me one day with his
interpreter, whom he caused to make a long palaver about his power, and
dominion, and virtues, and his great desire to do much good. The
language of this fellow being a mixture of Kaffre, High Dutch, and
English, was peculiarly ludicrous, and most of all so when he concluded
with expressing his lord’s desire to have my wife to be his own, and to
give me in exchange for her four oxen, the best that I could choose from
As he made the proposal in presence of my wife, she was so much tickled
with the absurdity of the proposed barter, and the manner in which it
was expressed, that she laughed immoderately. Karoo, thinking she was
delighted with it, eyed her with a look that surpasses all description,
and then caused his interpreter make another palaver to her concerning
all the good things she was to enjoy, one of which was, that she was to
ride upon an ox whose horns were tipped with gold. I thanked the great
Karoo for his kind intentions, but declared my incapability to part with
my wife, for that we were one flesh and blood, and nothing could
separate us but death. He could comprehend no such tie as this. All men
sold their wives and daughters as they listed, I was told,—for that the
women were the sole property of the men. He had bought many women from
the Tambookies, that were virgins, and had never given above two cows
for any of them; and because he desired to have my wife, he had offered
me as much for her as would purchase four of the best wives in all the
two countries, and that therefore I was bound to give her up to him. And
when I told him finally that nothing on earth could induce me to part
with her, he seemed offended, bit his thumb, knitted his brows, and
studied long in silence, always casting glances at Agnes of great pathos
and languishment, which were perfectly irresistible, and ultimately he
struck his spear’s head in the ground, and offered me ten cows and a
bull for my wife, and a choice virgin to boot. When this proffer was
likewise declined, he smiled in derision, telling me I was the son of
foolishness, and that he foretold I should repent it. Three times he
went over this, and then went away in high dudgeon. Will you, sir,
believe, or will any person alive believe, that it was possible I could
live to repent this?
My William was at this time about eleven months old, but was still at
the breast, as I could never prevail on his lovely mother to wean him;
and at the very time of which I am speaking, our little settlement was
invaded one night by a tribe of those large baboons called
ourang-outangs, pongos, or wild men of the woods, who did great mischief
to our fruits, yams, and carrots. From that time we kept a great number
of guns loaded, and set a watch; and at length the depredators were
again discovered. We sallied out upon them in a body, not without alarm,
for they are powerful and vindictive animals, and our guns were only
loaded with common shot. They fled at the first sight of us, and that
with such swiftness that we might as well have tried to catch deers, but
we got one close fire at them, and doubtless wounded a number of them,
as their course was traced with blood. We pursued them as far as the
Keys river, which they swam, and we lost them.
Among all the depredators, there was none fell but one youngling, which
I lifted in my arms, when it looked so pitifully, and cried so like a
child, that my heart bled for it. A large monster, more than six feet
high, perceiving that he had lost his cub, returned brandishing a huge
club, and grinning at me. I wanted to restore the abominable brat, for I
could not bear the thought of killing it, it was so like a human
creature; but before I could do this, several shots had been fired by my
companions at the hideous monster, which caused him once more to take to
his heels; but turning oft as he fled, he made threatening gestures at
me. A Kousi servant that we had, finished the cub, and I caused it to be
The very morning after that but one, Agnes and her black maid were
milking our few cows upon the green: I was in the garden, and William
was toddling about pulling flowers, when, all at once, the women were
alarmed by the sight of a tremendous ourang-outang issuing from our
house, which they had just left. They seem to have been struck dumb and
senseless with amazement, for not one of them uttered a sound, until the
monster, springing forward in one moment, snatched up the child and made
off with him. Instead of coming to me, the women pursued the animal with
the child, not knowing, I believe, what they were doing. The fearful
shrieks which they uttered alarmed me, and I ran to the milking-green,
thinking the cows had fallen on the women, as the cattle of that
district are ticklish for pushing when any way hurt or irritated. Before
I reached the green where the cows stood, the ourang-outang was fully
half a mile gone, and only the poor feeble exhausted women running
screaming after him. For a good while I could not conceive what was the
matter, but having my spade in my hand I followed spontaneously in the
same direction. Before I overtook the women, I heard the agonised cries
of my dear boy, my darling William, in the paws of that horrible
monster. There is no sensation of which the human heart is capable that
can at all be compared with the horror which at that dreadful moment
seized on mine. My sinews lost their tension, and my whole frame became
lax and powerless. I believe I ran faster than usual, but then I fell
every minute, and as I passed Agnes she fell into a fit. Kela-kal, the
black girl, with an astonishing presence of mind, had gone off at a
tangent, without orders, or without being once missed, to warn the rest
of the settlers, which she did with all expedition. I pursued on,
breathless, and altogether unnerved with agony; but, alas! I rather lost
than gained ground.
I think if I had been fairly started, that through desperation I could
have overtaken the monster, but the hopelessness of success rendered me
feeble. The truth is, that he did not make great speed, not nearly the
speed these animals are wont to make, for he was greatly encumbered with
the child. You perhaps do not understand the nature of these
animals—neither do I: but they have this peculiarity, that when they
are walking leisurely or running down-hill, they walk upright like a
human being; but when hard pressed on level ground, or up-hill, they use
their long arms as fore-legs, and then run with inconceivable swiftness.
When flying with their own young, the greater part of them will run
nearly twice as fast as an ordinary man, for the cubs cling to them with
both feet and hands, but as my poor William shrunk from the monster’s
touch, he was obliged to embrace him closely with one paw, and run on
three, and still in that manner he outran me. O may never earthly parent
be engaged in such a heartrending pursuit! Keeping still his distance
before me, he reached the Keys river, and there the last gleam of hope
closed on me, for I could not swim, while the ourang-outang, with much
acuteness, threw the child across his shoulders, held him by the feet
with one paw, and with the other three stemmed the river, though then in
flood, with amazing rapidity. It was at this dreadful moment that my
beloved babe got his eyes on me as I ran across the plain towards him,
and I saw him holding up his little hands in the midst of the foaming
flood, and crying out, “Pa! pa! pa!” which he seemed to utter with a
sort of desperate joy at seeing me approach.
Alas! that sight was the last, for in two minutes thereafter the monster
vanished, with my dear child, in the jungles and woods beyond the river,
and then my course was stayed, for to have thrown myself in, would only
have been committing suicide, and leaving a destitute widow in a foreign
land. I had therefore no other resource but to throw myself down, and
pour out my soul in lamentation and prayer to God. From this state of
hapless misery I was quickly aroused by the sight of twelve of my
countrymen coming full speed across the plain on my track. They were all
armed and stripped for the pursuit, and four of them, some of whom you
know—Adam Johnstone, Adam Haliday, Peter Carruthers, and Joseph
Nicholson—being excellent swimmers, plunged at once into the river and
swam across, though not without both difficulty and danger, and without
loss of time continued the pursuit.
The remainder of us, nine in number, were obliged to go half a day’s
journey up the river, to a place called Shekah, where the Tambookies
dragged us over on a hurdle; and we there procured a Kousi, who had a
hound, which he pretended could follow the track of an ourang-outang
over the whole world. Urged on by a sort of forlorn and desperate hope,
we kept at a running pace the whole afternoon; and at the fall of night
came up with Peter Carruthers, who had lost the other three. A singular
adventure had befallen to himself. He and his companions had agreed to
keep within call of each other; but as he advanced, he conceived he
heard the voice of a child crying behind him to the right, on which he
turned off in that direction, but heard no more of the wail. As he was
searching, however, he perceived an ourang-outang steal from a thicket,
which, nevertheless, it seemed loth to leave. When he pursued it, it
fled slowly, as with intent to entice him in pursuit from the spot; but
when he turned towards the thicket, it immediately followed. Peter was
armed with a pistol and rapier; but his pistol and powder had been
rendered useless by swimming the river, and he had nothing to depend on
but his rapier. The creature at first was afraid of the pistol, and kept
aloof; but seeing no fire issue from it, it came nigher and nigher, and
seemed determined to have a scuffle with Carruthers for the possession
of the thicket. At length it shook its head, grinning with disdain, and
motioned him to fling the pistol away as of no use; it then went and
brought two great clubs, of which it gave him the choice, to fight with
it. There was something so bold, and at the same time so generous, in
this, that Peter took one as if apparently accepting the challenge; but
that moment he pulled out his gleaming rapier, and ran at the hideous
brute, which frightened it so much that it uttered two or three loud
grunts like a hog, and scampered off; but soon turning, it threw the
club at Peter with such a certain aim that it had very nigh killed him.
He saw no more of the animal that night; but when we found Carruthers,
he was still lingering about the spot, persuaded that my child was
there, and that, if in life, he would soon hear his cries. We watched
the thicket all night, and at the very darkest hour, judge of my
trepidation when I heard the cries of a child in the thicket, almost
close by me, and well could distinguish that the cries proceeded from
the mouth of my own dear William—from that sweet and comely mouth which
I had often kissed a hundred times in a day. We all rushed spontaneously
into the thicket, and all towards the same point; but, strange to
relate, we only ran against one another, and found nothing besides. I
cried on my boy’s name, but all was again silent, and we heard no more.
He only uttered three cries, and then we all heard distinctly that his
crying was stopped by something stuffed into his mouth. I still wonder
how I retained my reason, for certainly no parent had ever such a trial
to undergo. Before day, we heard some movement in the thicket, and
though heard by us all at the same time, each of us took it for one of
our companions moving about; and it was not till long after the sun was
up, that we at length discovered a bed up among the thick branches of a
tree, and not above twelve feet from the ground; but the occupants had
escaped, and no doubt remained but that they were now far beyond our
reach. This was the most grievous and heartbreaking miss of all; and I
could not help giving vent to my grief in excessive weeping, while all
my companions were deeply affected with my overpowering sorrow.
We then tried the dog, and by him we learned the way the fliers had
taken; but that was all, for as the day grew warm, he lost all traces
whatever. We searched over all the country for many days, but could find
no traces of my dear boy, either dead or alive; and at length were
obliged to return home weary and broken-hearted. To describe the state
of my poor Agnes is impossible. It may be conceived, but can never be
expressed. But I must haste on with my narrative, for I have yet a great
deal to communicate.
About three months after this sad calamity, one evening, on returning
home from my labour, my Agnes was missing, and neither her maid-servant,
nor one of all the settlers, could give the least account of her. My
suspicions fell instantly on the Kousi chief, Karoo, for I knew that he
had been in our vicinity hunting, and remembered his threat. This was
the most grievous stroke of all, and in order to do all for the
preservation of my dear wife that lay in my power, I and three of my
companions set out and travelled night and day till we came to the
chief’s headquarters. I have not time to describe all the fooleries and
difficulties we had to encounter; suffice it, that Karoo denied the
deed, but still in such a manner that my suspicions were confirmed. I
threatened him terribly with the vengeance of his friend Captain
Johnstone, and the English army at the Cape, saying I would burn him and
all his wives and his people with fire. He wept out of fear and
vexation, and offered me the choice of his wives, or any two of them,
showing me a great number of them, many of whom he recommended for their
great beauty and fatness; and I believe he would have given me any
number if I would have gone away satisfied. But the language of the
interpreter being in a great measure unintelligible, we all deemed that
he said repeatedly that Karoo would not give the lady up.
What was I now to do? We had not force in our own small settlement to
compel Karoo to restore her; and I was therefore obliged to buy a
trained ox, on which I rode all the way to the next British settlement,
for there are no horses in that country. There I found Captain Johnstone
with three companies of the 72d, watching the inroads of the savage
Boshesmen. He was greatly irritated at Karoo, and despatched Lieutenant
M’Kenzie and fifty men along with me to chastise the aggressor. When the
chief saw the Highlanders, he was terrified out of his wits; but
nevertheless, not knowing what else to do, he prepared for resistance,
after once more proffering me the choice of his wives.
Just when we were on the eve of commencing a war, which must have been
ruinous to our settlement, a black servant of Adam Johnstone’s came to
me, and said that I ought not to fight and kill his good chief, for that
he had not the white woman. I was astonished, and asked the Kaffre what
he meant, when he told me that he himself saw my wife carried across the
river by a band of pongos (ourang-outangs), but he had always kept it a
secret, for fear of giving me distress, as they were too far gone for
pursuit when he beheld them. He said they had her bound, and were
carrying her gently on their arms, but she was either dead or in a
swoon, for she was not crying, and her long hair was hanging down.
I had kept up under every calamity till then, but these news fairly
upset my reason. I fell a-blaspheming, and accused the Almighty of
injustice for laying such fearful judgments on me. May He in mercy
forgive me, for I knew not what I said; but had I not been deprived of
reason I could not have outlived such a catastrophe as this; and
whenever it recurs to my remembrance, it will make my blood run chill
till the day of my death. A whole year passed over my head like one
confused dream; another came, and during the greater part of it my mind
was very unsettled; but at length I began to indulge in long fits of
weeping, till by degrees I awakened to a full sense of all my misery,
and often exclaimed that there was no sorrow like my sorrow. I lingered
on about the settlement, not having power to leave the spot where I had
once been so happy with those I loved, and all my companions joined in
the cultivation of my fields and garden, in hopes that I would become
resigned to the will of the Lord and the judgments of His providence.
About the beginning of last year a strange piece of intelligence reached
our settlement. It was said that two maids of Kamboo had been out on the
mountains of Norroweldt gathering fruits, where they had seen a pongo
taller than any Kousi, and that this pongo had a beautiful white boy
with him, for whom he was gathering the choicest fruits, and the boy was
gambolling and playing around him, and leaping on his shoulders.
This was a piece of intelligence so extraordinary, and so much out of
the common course of events, that every one of the settlers agreed that
it could not be a forgery, and that it behoved us immediately to look
after it. We applied to Karoo for assistance, who had a great number of
slaves from that country, much attached to him, who knew the language of
the place whither we were going, and all the passes of the country. He
complied readily with our request, giving us an able and intelligent
guide, with as many of his people as we chose. We raised in all fifty
Malays and Kousies; nine British soldiers, and every one of the settlers
that could bear arms, went with us, so that we had in all nearly a
hundred men, the blacks being armed with pikes, and all the rest with
swords, guns, and pistols. We journeyed for a whole week, travelling
much by night, and resting in the shade by day, and at last we came to
the secluded district of which we were in search, and in which we found
a temporary village, or camp, of one of these independent inland tribes.
They were in great alarm at our approach, and were apparently preparing
for a vigorous resistance; but on our guide going up to them, who was
one of their own tribe, and explaining our views, they received us
joyfully, and proffered their assistance.
From this people we got the heart-stirring intelligence, that a whole
colony of pongos had taken possession of that country, and would soon be
masters of it all; for that the Great Spirit had sent them a queen from
the country beyond the sun, to teach them to speak, and work, and go to
war; and that she had the entire power over them, and would not suffer
them to hurt any person who did not offer offence to them; that they
knew all she said to them, and answered her, and lived in houses and
kindled fires like other people, and likewise fought rank and file. That
they had taken one of the maidens of their own tribe to wait upon the
queen’s child; but because the girl wept, the queen caused them to set
her at liberty.
I was now rent between hope and terror—hope that this was my own wife
and child, and terror that they would be rent in pieces by the savage
monsters rather than given up. Of this last, the Lockos (the name of
this wandering tribe) assured us, we needed not to entertain any
apprehensions, for that they would, every one of them, die rather than
wrong a hair of their queen’s head. But that it behoved us instantly to
surround them; for if they once came to understand that we were in
pursuit, they would make their escape, and then the whole world would
not turn or detain them.
Accordingly, that very night, being joined by the Lockos, we surrounded
the colony by an extensive circle, and continuing to close as we
advanced. By the break of day we had them closely surrounded. The
monsters flew to arms at the word of command, nothing daunted, forming a
close circle round their camp and queen, the strongest of the males
being placed outermost, and the females inmost, but all armed alike, and
all having the same demure and melancholy faces. The circle being so
close that I could not see inside, I went with the nine red-coats to the
top of a cliff that in some degree overlooked the encampment, in order
that, if my Agnes really was there, she might understand who was near
her. Still I could not discover what was within, but I called her name
aloud several times, and in about five minutes after that, the whole
circle of tremendous brutal warriors flung away their arms and retired
backward, leaving an open space for me to approach their queen.
In the most dreadful trepidation I entered between the hideous files,
being well guarded by soldiers on either hand, and followed by the rest
of the settlers; and there I indeed beheld my wife, my beloved Agnes,
standing ready to receive me, with little William in her right hand, and
a beautiful chubby daughter in her left, about two years old, and the
very image of her mother. Conceive, if you can, sir, such a meeting!
Were there ever a husband and wife met in such circumstances before?
Never since the creation of the world! The two children looked healthy
and beautiful, with their fur aprons, but it struck me at first that my
beloved was much altered: it was only, however, caused by her internal
commotion, by feelings which overpowered her grateful heart, against
which nature could not bear up, for on my first embrace she fainted in
my arms, which kept us all in suspension and confusion for a long space.
The children fled from us, crying for their mother, and took shelter
with their friends the pongos, who seemed in great amazement, and part
of them began to withdraw as if to hide themselves.
As soon as Agnes was somewhat restored, I proposed that we should
withdraw from the camp of her savage colony; but she refused, and told
me that she behoved to part with her protectors on good terms, and that
she must depart without any appearance of compulsion, which they might
resent; and we actually rested ourselves during the heat of the day in
the shades erected by those savage inhabitants of the forest. My wife
went to her hoard of provisions, and distributed to every one of the
pongos his share of fruit, succulent herbs, and roots, which they ate
with great composure. It was a curious scene, something like what I had
seen in a menagerie; and there was my little William, serving out food
to the young ourang-outangs, cuffing them and ordering them, in the
broad Annandale dialect, to do this, that, and the other thing; and they
were not only obedient, but seemed flattered by his notice and
correction. We were then presented with delicious fruits, but I had no
heart to partake, being impatient to have my family away from the midst
of this brutal society; for as long as we were there, I could not
conceive them safe or fairly in my own power.
Agnes then stood up and made a speech to her subjects, accompanying her
expressions with violent motions and contortions to make them understand
her meaning. They understood it perfectly; for when they heard that she
and her children were to leave them, they set up such a jabbering of
lamentation as British ears never heard. Many of them came cowering and
fawning before her, and she laid her hand on their heads; many, too, of
the young ones came running, and lifting the children’s hands, they put
them on their own heads. We then formed a close circle round Agnes and
the children, to the exclusion of the pongos that still followed behind,
howling and lamenting; and that night we lodged in the camp of the
Lockos, placing a triple guard round my family, of which there stood
great need. We durst not travel by night, but we contrived two covered
hurdles, in which we carried Agnes and the children, and for three days
a considerable body of the tallest and strongest of the ourang-outangs
attended our steps, and some of them came to us fearlessly every day, as
she said, to see if she was well, and if we were not hurting her.
We reached our own settlement one day sooner than we took in marching
eastward; but then I durst not remain for a night, but getting into a
vessel, I sailed straight for the Cape, having first made over all my
goods and chattels to my countrymen, who are to send me down value here
in corn and fruit; and here I am, living with my Agnes and our two
children, at a little wigwam about five miles from Cape Town.
My Agnes’s part of the story is the most extraordinary of all. But here
I must needs be concise, giving only a short and general outline of her
adventures; for among dumb animals, whose signals and grimaces were so
liable to misinterpretation, much must have been left to her own
conjecture. The creatures’ motives for stealing and detaining her
appeared to have been as follows:—
These animals remain always in distinct tribes, and are perfectly
subordinate to a chief or ruler, and his secondary chiefs. For their
expedition to rob our gardens, they had brought their sovereign’s sole
heir along with them, as they never leave any of the royal family behind
them, for fear of a surprisal. It was this royal cub which we killed,
and the queen his mother having been distractedly inconsolable for the
loss of her darling, the old monarch had set out by night to try if
possible to recover it; and on not finding it, he seized on my boy in
its place, carried him home in safety to his queen, and gave her him to
nurse! She did so. Yes, she positively did nurse him at her breast for
three months, and never child throve better than he did. By that time he
was beginning to walk, and aim at speech, by imitating every voice he
heard, whether of beast or bird; and it had struck the monsters as a
great loss that they had no means of teaching their young sovereign to
speak, at which art he seemed so apt. This led to the scheme of stealing
his own mother to be his instructor, which they effected in the most
masterly style, binding and gagging her in her own house, and carrying
her from a populous hamlet in the fair forenoon, without having been
discovered. Their expertness, and the rapidity of their motions, Agnes
described as inconceivable by those who had never witnessed them. They
showed every sort of tenderness and kindness by the way, proffering her
plenty of fruit and water; but she gave herself totally up to despair,
till, behold! she was introduced to her own little William, plump,
thriving, and as merry as a cricket, gambolling away among his brutal
compeers, for many of whom he had conceived a great affection,—but then
they far outgrew him, while others as fast overtook him in size.
Agnes immediately took her boy under her tuition, and was soon given to
understand that her will was to be the sole law of the community; and
all the while that they detained her, they never refused her in aught
save to take her home again. Our little daughter she had named Beatrice,
after her maternal grandmother. She was born six months and six days
after Agnes’s abstraction. She spoke highly of the pongos, of their
docility, generosity, warmth of affection to their mates and young ones,
and of their irresistible strength. She conceived that, however, to have
been a tribe greatly superior to all others of the race, for she never
could regard them in any other light than as dumb human creatures. I
confess that I had the same sort of feeling while in their settlement,
for many of the young females in particular were much comelier than
negro savages whom I have often seen, and they laughed, smiled, and
cried very much like human creatures. At my wife’s injunctions, or from
her example, they all wore aprons: and the females had let the hair of
their heads grow long. It was glossy black, and neither curled nor
woolly, and on the whole, I cannot help having a lingering affection for
the creatures. They would make the most docile, powerful, and
affectionate of all slaves; but they come very soon to their growth, and
are but shortlived, in that way approximating to the rest of the brute
creation. They live entirely on fruits, roots, and vegetables, and taste
no animal food whatever.
I asked Agnes much of the civility of their manner to her, and she
always describes it as respectful and uniform. For a while she never
thought herself quite safe when near the queen, but the dislike of the
latter to her arose entirely out of her boundless affection for the boy.
No mother could possibly be fonder of her own offspring than this
affectionate creature was of William, and she was jealous of his mother
for taking him from her, and causing him instantly to be weaned. But
then the chief never once left the two queens by themselves; they had
always a guard day and night.
I have no objection to the publication of these adventures in Britain,
though I know they will not obtain credit; but I should not like that
the incidents reached the “Sidney Gazette,” as I intend emigrating to
that country as soon as I receive value for the stock I left at the
settlement, for I have a feeling that my family is scarcely safe as long
as I am on any part of the coast of Africa. And for the sake of my
rising family, I have an aversion at its being known that they were bred
among creatures that must still be conceived to be of the brute
creation. Do not write till you hear from me again; and believe me ever,
your old affectionate friend,
Vander Creek, near Cape Town,
Oct. 1, 1826.