STORIES BY AMERICAN
Stories in this Volume are protected by copyright, and are printed here by
authority of the authors or their representatives.
by American Authors
MISS GRIEF By CONSTANCE FENIMORE WOOLSON
LOVE IN OLD CLOATHES By H. C. BUNNER
TWO BUCKETS IN A WELL By N. P. WILLIS
FRIEND BARTON'S CONCERN By MARY HALLOCK FOOTE
AN INSPIRED LOBBYIST By J. W. DE FOREST
LOST IN THE FOG By NOAH BROOKS
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
Copyright, 1884, by
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
By Constance Fenimore Woolson.
Magazine, May, 1880.)
conceited fool" is a not uncommon expression. Now, I know that I am not a fool,
but I also know that I am conceited. But, candidly, can it be helped if one
happens to be young, well and strong, passably good-looking, with some money
that one has inherited and more that one has earned—in all, enough to make life
comfortable—and if upon this foundation rests also the pleasant superstructure
of a literary success? The success is deserved, I think: certainly it was not
lightly-gained. Yet even with this I fully appreciate its rarity. Thus, I find
myself very well entertained in life: I have all I wish in the way of society,
and a deep, though of course carefully concealed, satisfaction in my own little
fame; which fame I foster by a gentle system of non-interference. I know that I
am spoken of as "that quiet young fellow who writes those delightful little
studies of society, you know;" and I live up to that definition.
A year ago
I was in Rome, and enjoying life particularly. I had a large number of my
acquaintances there, both American and English, and no day passed without its
invitation. Of course I understood it: it is seldom that you find a literary man
who is good-tempered, well-dressed, sufficiently provided with money, and
amiably obedient to all the rules and requirements of "society." "When found,
make a note of it;" and the note was generally an invitation.
evening, upon returning to my lodgings, my man Simpson informed me that a person
had called in the afternoon, and upon learning that I was absent had left not a
card, but her name—"Miss Grief." The title lingered—Miss Grief! "Grief has not
so far visited me here," I said to myself, dismissing Simpson and seeking my
little balcony for a final smoke, "and she shall not now. I shall take care to
be 'not at home' to her if she continues to call." And then I fell to thinking
of Isabel Abercrombie, in whose society I had spent that and many evenings: they
were golden thoughts.
day there was an excursion; it was late when I reached my rooms, and again
Simpson informed me that Miss Grief had called.
coming continuously?" I said, half to myself.
she mentioned that she should call again."
sir, a lady, but not so prosperous as she was, I should say," answered Simpson,
with her, sir."
outside in my little high-up balcony with my cigar, I again forgot Miss Grief
and whatever she might represent. Who would not forget in that moonlight, with
Isabel Abercrombie's face to remember?
stranger came a third time, and I was absent; then she let two days pass, and
began again. It grew to be a regular dialogue between Simpson and myself when I
came in at night: "Grief to-day?"
man," I thought, "who can keep her confined to a particular hour!"
should not have treated my visitor so cavalierly if I had not felt sure that she
was eccentric and unconventional—qualities extremely tiresome in a woman no
longer young or attractive. If she were not eccentric she would not have
persisted in coming to my door day after day in this silent way, without stating
her errand, leaving a note, or presenting her credentials in any shape. I made
up my mind that she had something to sell—a bit of carving or some intaglio
supposed to be antique. It was known that I had a fancy for oddities. I said to
myself, "She has read or heard of my 'Old Gold' story, or else 'The Buried God,'
and she thinks me an idealizing ignoramus upon whom she can impose. Her
sepulchral name is at least not Italian; probably she is a sharp countrywoman of
mine, turning, by means of the present æsthetic craze, an honest penny when she
called seven times during a period of two weeks without seeing me, when one day
I happened to be at home in the afternoon, owing to a pouring rain and a fit of
doubt concerning Miss Abercrombie. For I had constructed a careful theory of
that young lady's characteristics in my own mind, and she had lived up to it
delightfully until the previous evening, when with one word she had blown it to
atoms and taken flight, leaving me standing, as it were, on a desolate shore,
with nothing but a handful of mistaken inductions wherewith to console myself. I
do not know a more exasperating frame of mind, at least for a constructor of
theories. I could not write, and so I took up a French novel (I model myself a
little on Balzac). I had been turning over its pages but a few moments when
Simpson knocked, and, entering softly, said, with just a shadow of a smile on
his well-trained face, "Miss Grief." I briefly consigned Miss Grief to all the
Furies, and then, as he still lingered—perhaps not knowing where they resided—I
asked where the visitor was.
sir—in the hall. I told her I would see if you were at home."
be unpleasantly wet if she had no carriage."
carriage, sir: they always come on foot. I think she is a little damp,
her in; but I don't want the maid. I may as well see her now, I suppose, and end
I did not
put down my book. My visitor should have a hearing, but not much more: she had
sacrificed her womanly claims by her persistent attacks upon my door. Presently
Simpson ushered her in. "Miss Grief," he said, and then went out, closing the
curtain behind him.
woman—yes, a lady—but shabby, unattractive, and more than middle-aged.
bowed slightly, and then dropped into my chair again, still keeping the book in
my hand. "Miss Grief?" I said interrogatively as I indicated a seat with my
Grief," she answered—"Crief: my name is Crief."
down, and I saw that she held a small flat box.
carving, then," I thought—"probably old lace, something that belonged to Tullia
or Lucrezia Borgia." But as she did not speak I found myself obliged to begin:
"You have been here, I think, once or twice before?"
times; this is the eighth."
often out; indeed, I may say that I am never in," I remarked carelessly.
have many friends."
perhaps buy old lace," I mentally added. But this time I too remained silent;
why should I trouble myself to draw her out? She had sought me; let her advance
her idea, whatever it was, now that entrance was gained.
Grief (I preferred to call her so) did not look as though she could advance
anything; her black gown, damp with rain, seemed to retreat fearfully to her
thin self, while her thin self retreated as far as possible from me, from the
chair, from everything. Her eyes were cast down; an old-fashioned lace veil with
a heavy border shaded her face. She looked at the floor, and I looked at her.
I grew a
little impatient, but I made up my mind that I would continue silent and see how
long a time she would consider necessary to give due effect to her little
pantomime. Comedy? Or was it tragedy? I suppose full five minutes passed thus in
our double silence; and that is a long time when two persons are sitting
opposite each other alone in a small still room.
At last my
visitor, without raising her eyes, said slowly, "You are very happy, are you
not, with youth, health, friends, riches, fame?"
It was a
singular beginning. Her voice was clear, low, and very sweet as she thus
enumerated my advantages one by one in a list. I was attracted by it, but
repelled by her words, which seemed to me flattery both dull and bold.
I said, "for your kindness, but I fear it is undeserved. I seldom discuss myself
even when with my friends."
"I am your
friend," replied Miss Grief. Then, after a moment, she added slowly, "I have
read every word you have written."
the edges of my book indifferently; I am not a fop, I hope, but—others have said
more, I know much of it by heart," continued my visitor. "Wait: I will show
you;" and then, without pause, she began to repeat something of mine word for
word, just as I had written it. On she went, and I—listened. I intended
interrupting her after a moment, but I did not, because she was reciting so
well, and also because I felt a desire gaining upon me to see what she would
make of a certain conversation which I knew was coming—a conversation between
two of my characters which was, to say the least, sphinx-like, and somewhat
incandescent as well. What won me a little, too, was the fact that the scene she
was reciting (it was hardly more than that, though called a story) was secretly
my favorite among all the sketches from my pen which a gracious public has
received with favor. I never said so, but it was; and I had always felt a
wondering annoyance that the aforesaid public, while kindly praising beyond
their worth other attempts of mine, had never noticed the higher purpose of this
little shaft, aimed not at the balconies and lighted windows of society, but
straight up toward the distant stars. So she went on, and presently reached the
conversation: my two people began to talk. She had raised her eyes now, and was
looking at me soberly as she gave the words of the woman, quiet, gentle, cold,
and the replies of the man, bitter, hot, and scathing. Her very voice changed,
and took, though always sweetly, the different tones required, while no point of
meaning, however small, no breath of delicate emphasis which I had meant, but
which the dull types could not give, escaped an appreciative and full, almost
overfull, recognition which startled me. For she had understood me—understood me
almost better than I had understood myself. It seemed to me that while I had
labored to interpret, partially, a psychological riddle, she, coming after, had
comprehended its bearings better than I had, though confining herself strictly
to my own words and emphasis. The scene ended (and it ended rather suddenly),
she dropped her eyes, and moved her hand nervously to and fro over the box she
held; her gloves were old and shabby, her hands small.
secretly much surprised by what I had heard, but my ill-humor was deep-seated
that day, and I still felt sure, besides, that the box contained something which
I was expected to buy.
recite remarkably well," I said carelessly, "and I am much flattered also by
your appreciation of my attempt. But it is not, I presume, to that alone that I
owe the pleasure of this visit?"
answered, still looking down, "it is, for if you had not written that scene I
should not have sought you. Your other sketches are interiors—exquisitely
painted and delicately finished, but of small scope. This is a sketch in
a few bold, masterly lines—work of entirely different spirit and purpose."
nettled by her insight. "You have bestowed so much of your kind attention upon
me that I feel your debtor," I said, conventionally. "It may be that there is
something I can do for you—connected, possibly, with that little box?"
impertinent, but it was true; for she answered, "Yes."
but her eyes were cast down and she did not see the smile.
have to show you is a manuscript," she said after a pause which I did not break;
"it is a drama. I thought that perhaps you would read it."
authoress! This is worse than old lace," I said to myself in dismay.—Then,
aloud, "My opinion would be worth nothing, Miss Crief."
"Not in a
business way, I know. But it might be—an assistance personally." Her voice had
sunk to a whisper; outside, the rain was pouring steadily down. She was a very
depressing object to me as she sat there with her box.
think I have the time at present—" I began.
raised her eyes and was looking at me; then, when I paused, she rose and came
suddenly toward my chair. "Yes, you will read it," she said with her hand on my
arm—"you will read it. Look at this room; look at yourself; look at all you
have. Then look at me, and have pity."
risen, for she held my arm, and her damp skirt was brushing my knees.
dark eyes looked intently into mine as she went on; "I have no shame in asking.
Why should I have? It is my last endeavor; but a calm and well-considered one.
If you refuse I shall go away, knowing that Fate has willed it so. And I shall
mad," I thought. But she did not look so, and she had spoken quietly, even
gently.—"Sit down," I said, moving away from her. I felt as if I had been
magnetized; but it was only the nearness of her eyes to mine, and their
intensity. I drew forward a chair, but she remained standing.
cannot," she said in the same sweet, gentle tone, "unless you promise."
well, I promise; only sit down."
As I took
her arm to lead her to the chair I perceived that she was trembling, but her
face continued unmoved.
not, of course, wish me to look at your manuscript now?" I said, temporizing;
"it would be much better to leave it. Give me your address, and I will return it
to you with my written opinion; though, I repeat, the latter will be of no use
to you. It is the opinion of an editor or publisher that you want."
be as you please. And I will go in a moment," said Miss Grief, pressing her
palms together, as if trying to control the tremor that had seized her slight
so pallid that I thought of offering her a glass of wine; then I remembered that
if I did it might be a bait to bring her there again, and this I was desirous to
prevent. She rose while the thought was passing through my mind. Her pasteboard
box lay on the chair she had first occupied; she took it, wrote an address on
the cover, laid it down, and then, bowing with a little air of formality, drew
her black shawl round her shoulders and turned toward the door.
followed, after touching the bell. "You will hear from me by letter," I said.
opened the door, and I caught a glimpse of the maid, who was waiting in the
anteroom. She was an old woman, shorter than her mistress, equally thin, and
dressed like her in rusty black. As the door opened she turned toward it a pair
of small, dim blue eyes with a look of furtive suspense. Simpson dropped the
curtain, shutting me into the inner room; he had no intention of allowing me to
accompany my visitor further. But I had the curiosity to go to a bay-window in
an angle from whence I could command the street-door, and presently I saw them
issue forth in the rain and walk away side by side, the mistress, being the
taller, holding the umbrella: probably there was not much difference in rank
between persons so poor and forlorn as these.
dark. I was invited out for the evening, and I knew that if I should go I should
meet Miss Abercrombie. I said to myself that I would not go. I got out my paper
for writing, I made my preparations for a quiet evening at home with myself; but
it was of no use. It all ended slavishly in my going. At the last allowable
moment I presented myself, and—as a punishment for my vacillation, I suppose—I
never passed a more disagreeable evening. I drove homeward in a murky temper; it
was foggy without, and very foggy within. What Isabel really was, now that she
had broken through my elaborately-built theories, I was not able to decide.
There was, to tell the truth, a certain young Englishman—But that is apart from
home, went up to my rooms, and had a supper. It was to console myself; I am
obliged to console myself scientifically once in a while. I was walking up and
down afterward, smoking and feeling somewhat better, when my eye fell upon the
pasteboard box. I took it up; on the cover was written an address which showed
that my visitor must have walked a long distance in order to see me: "A.
Crief."—"A Grief," I thought; "and so she is. I positively believe she has
brought all this trouble upon me: she has the evil eye." I took out the
manuscript and looked at it. It was in the form of a little volume, and clearly
written; on the cover was the word "Armor" in German text, and, underneath, a
pen-and-ink sketch of a helmet, breastplate, and shield.
certainly needs armor," I said to myself, sitting down by the table and turning
over the pages. "I may as well look over the thing now; I could not be in a
worse mood." And then I began to read.
next morning Simpson took a note from me to the given address, returning with
the following reply: "No; I prefer to come to you; at four;
These words, with their three semicolons, were written in pencil upon a piece of
coarse printing-paper, but the handwriting was as clear and delicate as that of
the manuscript in ink.
of a place was it, Simpson?"
poor, sir, but I did not go all the way up. The elder person came down, sir,
took the note, and requested me to wait where I was."
no chance, then, to make inquiries?" I said, knowing full well that he had
emptied the entire neighborhood of any information it might possess concerning
these two lodgers.
sir, you know how these foreigners will talk, whether one wants to hear or not.
But it seems that these two persons have been there but a few weeks; they live
alone, and are uncommonly silent and reserved. The people round there call them
something that signifies 'the Madames American, thin and dumb.'"
the "Madames American" arrived; it was raining again, and they came on foot
under their old umbrella. The maid waited in the anteroom, and Miss Grief was
ushered into my bachelor's parlor. I had thought that I should meet her with
great deference; but she looked so forlorn that my deference changed to pity. It
was the woman that impressed me then, more than the writer—the fragile,
nerveless body more than the inspired mind. For it was inspired: I had sat up
half the night over her drama, and had felt thrilled through and through more
than once by its earnestness, passion, and power.
could have been more surprised than I was to find myself thus enthusiastic. I
thought I had outgrown that sort of thing. And one would have supposed, too (I
myself should have supposed so the day before), that the faults of the drama,
which were many and prominent, would have chilled any liking I might have felt,
I being a writer myself, and therefore critical; for writers are as apt to make
much of the "how," rather than the "what," as painters, who, it is well known,
prefer an exquisitely rendered representation of a commonplace theme to an
imperfectly executed picture of even the most striking subject. But in this
case, on the contrary, the scattered rays of splendor in Miss Grief's drama had
made me forget the dark spots, which were numerous and disfiguring; or, rather,
the splendor had made me anxious to have the spots removed. And this also was a
philanthropic state very unusual with me. Regarding unsuccessful writers, my
motto had been "Væ victis!"
took a seat and folded her hands; I could see, in spite of her quiet manner,
that she was in breathless suspense. It seemed so pitiful that she should be
trembling there before me—a woman so much older than I was, a woman who
possessed the divine spark of genius, which I was by no means sure (in spite of
my success) had been granted to me—that I felt as if I ought to go down on my
knees before her, and entreat her to take her proper place of supremacy at once.
But there! one does not go down on one's knees, combustively, as it were, before
a woman over fifty, plain in feature, thin, dejected, and ill-dressed. I
contented myself with taking her hands (in their miserable old gloves) in mine,
while I said cordially, "Miss Crief, your drama seems to me full of original
power. It has roused my enthusiasm: I sat up half the night reading it."
I held shook, but something (perhaps a shame for having evaded the knees
business) made me tighten my hold and bestow upon her also a reassuring smile.
She looked at me for a moment, and then, suddenly and noiselessly, tears rose
and rolled down her cheeks. I dropped her hands and retreated. I had not thought
her tearful: on the contrary, her voice and face had seemed rigidly controlled.
But now here she was bending herself over the side of the chair with her head
resting on her arms, not sobbing aloud, but her whole frame shaken by the
strength of her emotion. I rushed for a glass of wine; I pressed her to take it.
I did not quite know what to do, but, putting myself in her place, I decided to
praise the drama; and praise it I did. I do not know when I have used so many
adjectives. She raised her head and began to wipe her eyes.
the wine," I said, interrupting myself in my cataract of language.
not," she answered; then added humbly, "that is, unless you have a biscuit here
or a bit of bread."
some biscuit; she ate two, and then slowly drank the wine, while I resumed my
verbal Niagara. Under its influence—and that of the wine too, perhaps—she began
to show new life. It was not that she looked radiant—she could not—but simply
that she looked warm. I now perceived what had been the principal discomfort of
her appearance heretofore: it was that she had looked all the time as if
suffering from cold.
At last I
could think of nothing more to say, and stopped. I really admired the drama, but
I thought I had exerted myself sufficiently as an anti-hysteric, and that
adjectives enough, for the present at least, had been administered. She had put
down her empty wine-glass, and was resting her hands on the broad cushioned arms
of her chair with, for a thin person, a sort of expanded content.
pardon my tears," she said, smiling; "it was the revulsion of feeling. My life
was at a low ebb: if your sentence had been against me it would have been my
end of my life; I should have destroyed myself."
would have been a weak as well as wicked woman," I said in a tone of disgust. I
do hate sensationalism.
you know nothing about it. I should have destroyed only this poor worn tenement
of clay. But I can well understand how you would look upon it. Regarding
the desirableness of life the prince and the beggar may have different
opinions.—We will say no more of it, but talk of the drama instead." As she
spoke the word "drama" a triumphant brightness came into her eyes.
I took the
manuscript from a drawer and sat down beside her. "I suppose you know that there
are faults," I said, expecting ready acquiescence.
"I was not
aware that there were any," was her gentle reply.
Here was a
beginning! After all my interest in her—and, I may say under the circumstances,
my kindness—she received me in this way! However, my belief in her genius was
too sincere to be altered by her whimsies; so I persevered. "Let us go over it
together," I said. "Shall I read it to you, or will you read it to me?"
not read it, but recite it."
never do; you will recite it so well that we shall see only the good points, and
what we have to concern ourselves with now is the bad ones."
recite it," she repeated.
Crief," I said bluntly, "for what purpose did you come to me? Certainly not
merely to recite: I am no stage-manager. In plain English, was it not your idea
that I might help you in obtaining a publisher?"
yes," she answered, looking at me apprehensively, all her old manner returning.
up my advantage, opened the little paper volume and began. I first took the
drama line by line, and spoke of the faults of expression and structure; then I
turned back and touched upon two or three glaring impossibilities in the plot.
"Your absorbed interest in the motive of the whole no doubt made you forget
these blemishes," I said apologetically.
But, to my
surprise, I found that she did not see the blemishes—that she appreciated
nothing I had said, comprehended nothing. Such unaccountable obtuseness puzzled
me. I began again, going over the whole with even greater minuteness and care. I
worked hard: the perspiration stood in beads upon my forehead as I struggled
with her—what shall I call it—obstinacy? But it was not exactly obstinacy. She
simply could not see the faults of her own work, any more than a blind man can
see the smoke that dims a patch of blue sky. When I had finished my task the
second time she still remained as gently impassive as before. I leaned back in
my chair exhausted, and looked at her.
she did not seem to comprehend (whether she agreed with it or not) what I must
be thinking. "It is such a heaven to me that you like it!" she murmured
dreamily, breaking the silence. Then, with more animation, "And now you
will let me recite it?"
I was too
weary to oppose her; she threw aside her shawl and bonnet, and, standing in the
centre of the room, began.
carried me along with her: all the strong passages were doubly strong when
spoken, and the faults, which seemed nothing to her, were made by her
earnestness to seem nothing to me, at least for that moment. When it was ended
she stood looking at me with a triumphant smile.
said, "I like it, and you see that I do. But I like it because my taste is
peculiar. To me originality and force are everything—perhaps because I have them
not to any marked degree myself—but the world at large will not overlook as I do
your absolutely barbarous shortcomings on account of them. Will you trust me to
go over the drama and correct it at my pleasure?" This was a vast deal for me to
offer; I was surprised at myself.
answered softly, still smiling. "There shall not be so much as a comma altered."
Then she sat down and fell into a reverie as though she were alone.
written anything else?" I said after a while, when I had become tired of the
"Can I see
it? Or is it them?"
them. Yes, you can see all."
call upon you for the purpose."
must not," she said, coming back to the present nervously. "I prefer to come to
moment Simpson entered to light the room, and busied himself rather longer than
was necessary over the task. When he finally went out I saw that my visitor's
manner had sunk into its former depression: the presence of the servant seemed
to have chilled her.
you say I might come?" I repeated, ignoring her refusal.
"I did not
say it. It would be impossible."
then, when will you come here?" There was, I fear, a trace of fatigue in my
good pleasure, sir," she answered humbly.
chivalry was touched by this: after all, she was a woman. "Come to-morrow," I
said. "By the way, come and dine with me then; why not?" I was curious to see
what she would reply.
indeed? Yes, I will come. I am forty-three: I might have been your mother."
not quite true, as I am over thirty: but I look young, while she—Well, I had
thought her over fifty. "I can hardly call you 'mother,' but we might compromise
upon 'aunt,'" I said, laughing. "Aunt what?"
is Aaronna," she gravely answered. "My father was much disappointed that I was
not a boy, and gave me as nearly as possible the name he had prepared—Aaron."
and dine with me to-morrow, and bring with you the other manuscripts, Aaronna,"
I said, amused at the quaint sound of the name. On the whole, I did not like
come," she answered.
twilight and still raining, but she refused all offers of escort or carriage,
departing with her maid, as she had come, under the brown umbrella. The next day
we had the dinner. Simpson was astonished—and more than astonished, grieved—when
I told him that he was to dine with the maid; but he could not complain in
words, since my own guest, the mistress, was hardly more attractive. When our
preparations were complete I could not help laughing: the two prim little
tables, one in the parlor and one in the anteroom, and Simpson disapprovingly
going back and forth between them, were irresistible.
my guest hilariously when she arrived, and, fortunately, her manner was not
quite so depressed as usual: I could never have accorded myself with a tearful
mood. I had thought that perhaps she would make, for the occasion, some change
in her attire; I have never known a woman who had not some scrap of finery,
however small, in reserve for that unexpected occasion of which she is ever
dreaming. But no: Miss Grief wore the same black gown, unadorned and unaltered.
I was glad that there was no rain that day, so that the skirt did not at least
look so damp and rheumatic.
quietly, almost furtively, yet with a good appetite, and she did not refuse the
wine. Then, when the meal was over and Simpson had removed the dishes, I asked
for the new manuscripts. She gave me an old green copybook filled with short
poems, and a prose sketch by itself; I lit a cigar and sat down at my desk to
look them over.
you will try a cigarette?" I suggested, more for amusement than anything else,
for there was not a shade of Bohemianism about her; her whole appearance was
not yet succeeded in learning to smoke."
tried?" I said, turning round.
Serena and I tried, but we did not succeed."
seized with inward laughter, and began hastily to look over her manuscripts with
my back toward her, so that she might not see it. A vision had risen before me
of those two forlorn women, alone in their room with locked doors, patiently
trying to acquire the smoker's art.
attention was soon absorbed by the papers before me. Such a fantastic collection
of words, lines, and epithets I had never before seen, or even in dreams
imagined. In truth, they were like the work of dreams: they were Kubla Khan,
only more so. Here and there was radiance like the flash of a diamond, but each
poem, almost each verse and line, was marred by some fault or lack which seemed
wilful perversity, like the work of an evil sprite. It was like a case of
jeweller's wares set before you, with each ring unfinished, each bracelet too
large or too small for its purpose, each breastpin without its fastening, each
necklace purposely broken. I turned the pages, marvelling. When about half an
hour had passed, and I was leaning back for a moment to light another cigar, I
glanced toward my visitor. She was behind me, in an easy-chair before my small
fire, and she was—fast asleep! In the relaxation of her unconsciousness I was
struck anew by the poverty her appearance expressed; her feet were visible, and
I saw the miserable worn old shoes which hitherto she had kept concealed.
looking at her for a moment I returned to my task and took up the prose story;
in prose she must be more reasonable. She was less fantastic perhaps, but hardly
more reasonable. The story was that of a profligate and commonplace man forced
by two of his friends, in order not to break the heart of a dying girl who loves
him, to live up to a high imaginary ideal of himself which her pure but mistaken
mind has formed. He has a handsome face and sweet voice, and repeats what they
tell him. Her long, slow decline and happy death, and his own inward ennui and
profound weariness of the rôle he has to play, made the vivid points of the
story. So far, well enough, but here was the trouble: through the whole
narrative moved another character, a physician of tender heart and exquisite
mercy, who practised murder as a fine art, and was regarded (by the author) as a
second Messiah! This was monstrous. I read it through twice, and threw it down;
then, fatigued, I turned round and leaned back, waiting for her to wake. I could
see her profile against the dark hue of the easy-chair.
she seemed to feel my gaze, for she stirred, then opened her eyes. "I have been
asleep," she said, rising hurriedly.
in that, Aaronna."
was deeply embarrassed and troubled, much more so than the occasion required; so
much so, indeed, that I turned the conversation back upon the manuscripts as a
diversion. "I cannot stand that doctor of yours," I said, indicating the prose
story; "no one would. You must cut him out."
self-possession returned as if by magic. "Certainly not," she answered
you do not care—I had labored under the impression that you were anxious these
things should find a purchaser."
"I am, I
am," she said, her manner changing to deep humility with wonderful rapidity.
With such alternations of feeling as this sweeping over her like great waves, no
wonder she was old before her time.
must take out that doctor."
willing, but do not know how," she answered, pressing her hands together
helplessly. "In my mind he belongs to the story so closely that he cannot be
separated from it."
Simpson entered, bringing a note for me: it was a line from Mrs. Abercrombie
inviting me for that evening—an unexpected gathering, and therefore likely to be
all the more agreeable. My heart bounded in spite of me; I forgot Miss Grief and
her manuscripts for the moment as completely as though they had never existed.
But, bodily, being still in the same room with her, her speech brought me back
to the present.
had good news?" she said.
nothing especial—merely an invitation."
news also," she repeated. "And now, as for me, I must go."
supposing that she would stay much later in any case, I had that morning ordered
a carriage to come for her at about that hour. I told her this. She made no
reply beyond putting on her bonnet and shawl.
hear from me soon," I said; "I shall do all I can for you."
reached the door, but before opening it she stopped, turned and extended her
hand. "You are good," she said: "I give you thanks. Do not think me ungrateful
or envious. It is only that you are young, and I am so—so old." Then she opened
the door and passed through the anteroom without pause, her maid accompanying
her and Simpson with gladness lighting the way. They were gone. I dressed
hastily and went out—to continue my studies in psychology.
passed; I was busy, amused and perhaps a little excited (sometimes psychology is
exciting). But, though much occupied with my own affairs, I did not altogether
neglect my self-imposed task regarding Miss Grief. I began by sending her prose
story to a friend, the editor of a monthly magazine, with a letter making a
strong plea for its admittance. It should have a chance first on its own merits.
Then I forwarded the drama to a publisher, also an acquaintance, a man with a
taste for phantasms and a soul above mere common popularity, as his own coffers
knew to their cost. This done, I waited with conscience clear.
passed. During this waiting period I heard nothing from Miss Grief. At last one
morning came a letter from my editor. "The story has force, but I cannot stand
that doctor," he wrote. "Let her cut him out, and I might print it." Just what I
myself had said. The package lay there on my table, travel-worn and grimed; a
returned manuscript is, I think, the most melancholy object on earth. I decided
to wait, before writing to Aaronna, until the second letter was received. A week
later it came. "Armor" was declined. The publisher had been "impressed" by the
power displayed in certain passages, but the "impossibilities of the plot"
rendered it "unavailable for publication"—in fact, would "bury it in ridicule"
if brought before the public, a public "lamentably" fond of amusement, "seeking
it, undaunted, even in the cannon's mouth." I doubt if he knew himself what he
meant. But one thing, at any rate, was clear: "Armor" was declined.
Now, I am,
as I have remarked before, a little obstinate. I was determined that Miss
Grief's work should be received. I would alter and improve it myself, without
letting her know: the end justified the means. Surely the sieve of my own good
taste, whose mesh had been pronounced so fine and delicate, would serve for two.
I began; and utterly failed.
I set to
work first upon "Armor." I amended, altered, left out, put in, pieced,
condensed, lengthened; I did my best, and all to no avail. I could not succeed
in completing anything that satisfied me, or that approached, in truth, Miss
Grief's own work just as it stood. I suppose I went over that manuscript twenty
times: I covered sheets of paper with my copies. But the obstinate drama refused
to be corrected; as it was it must stand or fall.
and annoyed, I threw it aside and took up the prose story: that would be easier.
But, to my surprise, I found that that apparently gentle "doctor" would not out:
he was so closely interwoven with every part of the tale that to take him out
was like taking out one especial figure in a carpet: that is, impossible, unless
you unravel the whole. At last I did unravel the whole, and then the story was
no longer good, or Aaronna's: it was weak, and mine. All this took time, for of
course I had much to do in connection with my own life and tasks. But, though
slowly and at my leisure, I really did try my best as regarded Miss Grief, and
without success. I was forced at last to make up my mind that either my own
powers were not equal to the task, or else that her perversities were as
essential a part of her work as her inspirations, and not to be separated from
it. Once during this period I showed two of the short poems to Isabel,
withholding of course the writer's name. "They were written by a woman," I
must have been disordered, poor thing!" Isabel said in her gentle way when she
returned them—"at least, judging by these. They are hopelessly mixed and vague."
were not vague so much as vast. But I knew that I could not make Isabel
comprehend it, and (so complex a creature is man) I do not know that I wanted
her to comprehend it. These were the only ones in the whole collection that I
would have shown her, and I was rather glad that she did not like even these.
Not that poor Aaronna's poems were evil: they were simply unrestrained, large,
vast, like the skies or the wind. Isabel was bounded on all sides, like a violet
in a garden-bed. And I liked her so.
afternoon, about the time when I was beginning to see that I could not "improve"
Miss Grief, I came upon the maid. I was driving, and she had stopped on the
crossing to let the carriage pass. I recognized her at a glance (by her general
forlornness), and called to the driver to stop: "How is Miss Grief?" I said. "I
have been intending to write to her for some time."
note, when it comes," answered the old woman on the crosswalk fiercely, "she
shall not see."
"I say she
shall not see it. Your patronizing face shows that you have no good news, and
you shall not rack and stab her any more on this earth, please God, while
I have authority."
racked or stabbed her, Serena?"
indeed! Rubbish! I'm no Serena: I'm her aunt. And as to who has racked and
stabbed her, I say you, you—you
literary men!" She had put her old head inside my carriage, and flung out these
words at me in a shrill, menacing tone. "But she shall die in peace in spite of
you," she continued. "Vampires! you take her ideas and fatten on them, and leave
her to starve. You know you do—you who have had her poor manuscripts
these months and months!"
ill?" I asked in real concern, gathering that much at least from the incoherent
dying," answered the desolate old creature, her voice softening and her dim eyes
filling with tears.
trust not. Perhaps something can be done. Can I help you in any way?"
ways if you would," she said, breaking down and beginning to sob weakly, with
her head resting on the sill of the carriage-window. "Oh, what have we not been
through together, we two! Piece by piece I have sold all."
good-hearted enough, but I do not like to have old women weeping across my
carriage-door. I suggested, therefore, that she should come inside and let me
take her home. Her shabby old skirt was soon beside me, and, following her
directions, the driver turned toward one of the most wretched quarters of the
city, the abode of poverty, crowded and unclean. Here, in a large bare chamber
up many flights of stairs, I found Miss Grief.
entered I was startled: I thought she was dead. There seemed no life present
until she opened her eyes, and even then they rested upon us vaguely, as though
she did not know who we were. But as I approached a light came into them: she
recognized me, and this sudden revivification, this return of the soul to the
almost deserted bod, was the most wonderful thing I ever saw. "You have good
news of the drama?" she whispered as I bent over her: "tell me. I know
you have good news."
What was I
to answer? Pray, what would you have answered, puritan?
have good news, Aaronna," I said. "The drama will appear." (And who knows?
Perhaps it will in some other world.)
smiled, and her now brilliant eyes did not leave my face.
I'm your aunt: I told him," said the old woman, coming to the bedside.
whispered Miss Grief, still gazing at me with a smile. "Then please, dear Aunt
Martha, give me something to eat."
Martha hurried across the room, and I followed her. "It's the first time she's
asked for food in weeks," she said in a husky tone.
a cupboard-door vaguely, but I could see nothing within. "What have you for
her?" I asked with some impatience, though in a low voice.
God, nothing!" answered the poor old woman, hiding her reply and her tears
behind the broad cupboard-door. "I was going out to get a little something when
I met you."
Heavens! is it money you need? Here, take this and send; or go yourself in the
carriage waiting below."
hurried out breathless, and I went back to the bedside, much disturbed by what I
had seen and heard. But Miss Grief's eyes were full of life, and as I sat down
beside her she whispered earnestly, "Tell me."
And I did
tell her—a romance invented for the occasion. I venture to say that none of my
published sketches could compare with it. As for the lie involved, it will stand
among my few good deeds; I know, at the judgment-bar.
was satisfied. "I have never known what it was," she whispered, "to be fully
happy until now." She closed her eyes, and when the lids fell I again thought
that she had passed away. But no, there was still pulsation in her small, thin
wrist. As she perceived my touch she smiled. "Yes, I am happy," she said again,
though without audible sound.
aunt returned; food was prepared, and she took some. I myself went out after
wine that should be rich and pure. She rallied a little, but I did not leave
her: her eyes dwelt upon me and compelled me to stay, or rather my conscience
compelled me. It was a damp night, and I had a little fire made. The wine,
fruit, flowers, and candles I had ordered made the bare place for the time being
bright and fragrant. Aunt Martha dozed in her chair from sheer fatigue—she had
watched many nights—but Miss Grief was awake, and I sat beside her.
you my executor," she murmured, "as to the drama. But my other manuscripts
place, when I am gone, under my head, and let them be buried with me. They are
not many—those you have and these. See!"
her gesture, and saw under her pillows the edges of two more copybooks like the
one I had. "Do not look at them—my poor dead children!" she said tenderly. "Let
them depart with me—unread, as I have been."
whispered, "Did you wonder why I came to you? It was the contrast. You were
young—strong—rich—praised—loved—successful: all that I was not. I wanted to look
at you—and imagine how it would feel. You had success—but I had the greater
power. Tell me, did I not have it?"
"It is all
in the past now. But I am satisfied."
another pause she said with a faint smile, "Do you remember when I fell asleep
in your parlor? It was the good and rich food. It was so long since I had had
food like that!"
I took her
hand and held it, conscience-stricken, but now she hardly seemed to perceive my
touch. "And the smoking?" she whispered. "Do you remember how you laughed? I saw
it. But I had heard that smoking soothed—that one was no longer tired and
hungry—with a cigar."
whispers of this sort, separated by long rests and pauses, the night passed.
Once she asked if her aunt was asleep, and when I answered in the affirmative
she said, "Help her to return home—to America: the drama will pay for it. I
ought never to have brought her away."
promised, and she resumed her bright-eyed silence.
she did not speak again. Toward morning the change came, and soon after sunrise,
with her old aunt kneeling by her side, she passed away.
arranged as she had wished. Her manuscripts, covered with violets, formed her
pillow. No one followed her to the grave save her aunt and myself; I thought she
would prefer it so. Her name was not "Crief," after all, but "Moncrief;" I saw
it written out by Aunt Martha for the coffin-plate, as follows: "Aaronna
Moncrief, aged forty-three years, two months, and eight days."
knew more of her history than is written here. If there was more that I might
have learned, it remained unlearned, for I did not ask.
drama? I keep it here in this locked case. I could have had it published at my
own expense; but I think that now she knows its faults herself, perhaps, and
would not like it.
I keep it;
and, once in a while, I read it over—not as a memento mori exactly, but
rather as a memento of my own good fortune, for which I should continually give
thanks. The want of one grain made all her work void, and that one grain was
given to me. She, with the greater power, failed—I, with the less, succeeded.
But no praise is due to me for that. When I die "Armor" is to be destroyed
unread: not even Isabel is to see it. For women will misunderstand each other;
and, dear and precious to me as my sweet wife is, I could not bear that she or
any one should cast so much as a thought of scorn upon the memory of the writer,
upon my poor dead, "unavailable," unaccepted "Miss Grief."
By H. C. Bunner.
Magazine, September, 1883.)
worste of my ailment is this, yt
groweth not Less with much nursinge, but is like to those fevres wch
leeches Starve, 'tis saide, for that ye
more Bloode there be in ye
Sicke man's Bodie, ye
more foode is there for ye
Distemper to feede upon.—And it is moste fittinge yt
come backe to ys
Journall (wherein I have not writt a Lyne these manye months) on ye
Aprile, beinge in some Sort myne owne foole and ye
foole of Love, and a poore Butt on whome his hearte hath play'd a Sorry tricke.—
For it is
surelie a strange happenninge, that I, who am ofte accompted a man of ye
Worlde, (as ye
Phrase goes,) sholde be soe Overtaken & caste downe lyke a Schoole-boy or a
countrie Bumpkin, by a meere Mayde, & sholde set to Groaninge and Sighinge, &,
for that She will not have me Sighe to Her, to Groaninge and Sighinge on paper,
greter Foolishnesse in Me, yt
some one maye reade it Here-after, who hath taken his dose of ye
same Physicke, and made no Wrye faces over it; in wch
case I double I shall be much laugh'd at.—Yet soe much am I a foole, and soe
enamour'd of my Foolishnesse, yt
have a sorte of Shamefull Joye in tellinge, even to my Journall, yt
am mightie deepe in Love withe ye
yonge Daughter of Mistresse Ffrench, and all maye knowe what an Angell is ye
Daughter, since I have chose Mrs.
Ffrench for my Mother in Lawe.—(Though she will have none of my choosinge.)—And
I likewise take comforte in ye
this poore Sheete, whon
write, may be made of ye
Raggs of some lucklesse Lover, and maye ye
more readilie drinke up my complaininge Inke.—
I have learnt yt
Fraunce distilles not, nor ye
Indies growe not, ye
Remedie for my Aile.—For when I 1st
became sensible of ye
folly of my Suite, I tooke to drynkinge & smoakinge, thinkinge to cure my minde,
but all I got was a head ache, for fellow to my Hearte ache.—A sorrie Payre!—I
then made Shifte, for a while, withe a Bicycle, but breakinge of Bones mendes no
breakinge of Heartes, and 60 myles a Daye bringes me no nearer to a
Weddinge.—This beinge Lowe Sondaye, (wch
Hearte telleth me better than ye
Allmanack,) I will goe to Churche; wh. I maye chaunce to see her.—Laste weeke,
her Eastre bonnett vastlie pleas'd me, beinge most cunninglie devys'd in ye
mode of oure Grandmothers, and verie lyke to a coales Scuttle, of white satine.—
I trust I
make no more moane, than is just for a man in my case, but there is small
comforte in lookinge at ye
backe of a white Satine bonnett for two Houres, and I maye saye as much.—Neither
any cheere in Her goinge out of ye
Churche, & Walkinge downe ye
Avenue, with a Puppe by ye
name of Williamson.
man have a Hatt with a Brimme to it like ye
Poope-Decke of a Steam-Shippe, and breeches lyke ye
Case of an umbrella, and have loste money on Hindoo, he is not therefore in ye
beste Societie.—I made this observation, at ye
Clubbe, laste nighte, in ye
hearinge of Wmson,
who made a mightie Pretence, to reade ye
Tymes.—I doubte it was scurvie of me, but it did me muche goode.
manner of my meetinge with Her and fallinge in Love with Her (for ye
were of one date) is thus—I was made acquainte withe Her on a Wednesdaie, at ye
House of Mistresse Varick, ('twas a Reception,) but did not hear Her Name, nor
She myne, by reason of ye
noise, and of Mrsse
Varick having but lately a newe sett of Teethe, of wh. she had not yet gott, as
it were, ye
just Pitche and accordance.—I sayde to Her that ye
Weather was warm for that season of ye
yeare.—She made answer She thought I was right, for Mr
Williamson had saide ye
same thinge to Her not a minute past—I tolde Her She muste not holde it
originall or an Invention of Wmson,
for ye Speache had beene manie yeares in my Familie.—Answer was made, She wolde
be muche bounden to me if I wolde maintaine ye
Rightes of my Familie, and lett all others from usinge of my propertie, when
perceivinge Her to be of a livelie Witt, I went about to ingage her in converse,
if onlie so I mighte looke into Her Eyes, wh. were of a coloure suche as I have
never seene before, more like to a Pansie, or some such flower, than anything
else I can compair with them.—Shortlie we grew most friendlie, so that She did
aske me if I colde keepe a Secrett.—I answering I colde, She saide She was
anhungred, having Shopp'd all ye
forenoone since Breakfast.—She pray'd me to gett Her some Foode.—What, I
ask'd.—She answer'd merrilie, a Beafe-steake.—I tolde Her yt
that Confection was not on ye
Side-Boarde; but I presentlie brought Her such as there was, & She beinge
behinde a Screane, I stoode in ye
waie, so yt
none mighte see Her, & She did eate and drynke as followeth, to witt—
cupps of Bouillon (wch
a Tea, or Tisane, of Beafe, made verie hott & thinne)
with divers small cates & comfeits whof
know not ye
was grievously afeard for Her Digestion, leste it be over-tax'd. Saide this to
Her, however addinge it was my Conceite, yt
some Processe, lyke Alchemie, whby
baser metals are transmuted into golde, so ye
grosse mortall foode was on Her lippes chang'd to ye
fabled Nectar & Ambrosia of ye
Gods.—She tolde me 'twas a sillie Speache, yet seam'd not ill-pleas'd
withall.—She hath a verie prettie Fashion, or Tricke, of smilinge, when She hath
made an end of speakinge, and layinge Her finger upon Her nether Lippe, like as
She wolde bid it be stille.—After some more Talke, whin
show'd that Her Witt was more deepe, and Her minde more seriouslie inclin'd,
than I had Thoughte from our first Jestinge, She beinge call'd to go thence, I
did see Her mother, whose face I knewe, & was made sensible, yt
had given my Hearte to ye
daughter of a House wh. with myne owne had longe been at grievous Feud, for ye
folly of oure Auncestres.—Havinge come to wh. heavie momente in my Tale, I have
no Patience to write more to-nighte.
mynded to write no more in ys
journall, for verie Shame's sake, yt
shoude so complayne, lyke a Childe, whose toie is taken fm
him, butt (mayhapp for it is nowe ye
fulle Moone, & a moste greavous period for them yt
Love-strucke) I am fayne, lyke ye
Drunkarde who maye not abstayne fm
cupp, to set me anewe to recordinge of My Dolorous mishapp.—When I sawe Her
agayn, She beinge aware of my name, & of ye
division betwixt oure Houses, wolde have none of me, butt I wolde nott be putt
Off, & made bolde to question Her, why She sholde showe me suche exceedg
Coldness.—She answer'd, 'twas wel knowne what Wronge my Grandefather had done
Her G.father.—I saide, She confounded me with My G.father—we were nott ye
same Persone, he beinge muche my Elder, & besydes Deade.—She wd
have it, 'twas no matter for jestinge.—I tolde Her, I wolde be resolv'd, what
grete Wronge yis
more for to make Speache thn
mine owne advertisemt,
for I knewe wel ye
whole Knaverie, wh. She rehears'd, Howe my G.father had cheated Her G.father of
Landes upp ye
River, with more, howe my G.father had impounded ye
Cattle of Hern.—I made answer, 'twas foolishnesse, in my mynde, for ye
Generation to so quarrell over a Parsel of rascallie Landes, yt
long ago beene solde for Taxes, yt
Cowes, I wolde make them goode, & thr
Produce & Offspringe, if it tooke ye
Markett.—She however tolde me yt
Ffrenche familie had ye
buye what they lack'd in Butter, Beafe & Milke, and likewise in Veale,
wh. laste I tooke much to Hearte, wh. She seeinge, became more gracious &, on my
pleadinge, accorded yt
sholde have ye
Privilege to speake with Her when we next met.—Butt neyther then, nor at anie
other Tyme thafter
wolde She suffer me to visitt Her. So I was harde putt to it to compass waies of
gettinge to see Her at such Houses as She mighte be att, for Routs or Feasts, or
I sawe Her manie tymes, oure converse was ever of yts
accursed G.father satt downe, & rose upp with us.—Yet colde I see by Her
had in some sorte Her favoure, & yt
mislyk'd Her not so gretelie as She wd
have me thinke.—So yt
daie, ('twas in Januarie, & verie colde,) I, beinge moste distrackt, saide to
Her, I had tho't 'twolde pleasure Her more, to be friends w. a man, who had a
knave for a G.father, yn
with One who had no G.father att alle, lyke Wmson
Puppe).—She made answer, I was exceedinge fresshe, or some such matter. She
cloath'd her thoughte in phrase more befittinge a Gentlewoman.—Att this I colde
no longer contayne myself, but tolde Her roundlie, I lov'd Her, & 'twas my Love
made me soe unmannerlie.—And w. yts
speache I att ye
leaste made an End of my Uncertaintie, for She bade me speake w. Her no more.—I
wolde be determin'd, whether I was Naught to Her.—She made Answer She colde not
justlie say I was Naught, seeing yt
mighte bee, I was One too manie.—I saide, 'twas some Comforte, I had even a
Place in Her thoughtes, were it onlie in Her disfavour.—She saide, my Solace was
indeede grete, if it kept pace with ye
measure of Her Disfavour, for, in plain Terms, She hated me, & on Her
intreatinge of me to goe, I went.—Yis
happ'd att ye
house of Mrss
Varicke, wh. I 1st
Her, who (Mrss
Varicke) was for staying me, yt
might eate some Ic'd Cream, butt of a Truth I was chill'd to my Taste
allreadie.—Albeit I afterwards tooke to walkinge of ye
Streets till near Midnight.—'Twas as I saide before in Januarie & exceedinge
dulle procession of ye
Yeare! For it irketh my Soule yt
eache Monthe shoude come so aptlie after ye
Month afore, & Nature looke so Smug, as She had done some grete thinge.—Surelie
if she make no Change, she hath work'd no Miracle, for we knowe wel, what we
maye look for.—Ye
Vine under my Window hath broughte forth Purple Blossoms, as itt hath eache
Springe these xii Yeares.—I wolde have had them Redd, or Blue, or I knowe not
what Coloure, for I am sicke of likinge of Purple a Dozen Springes in Order.—And
wh. moste galls me is yis,
I knowe howe yis
sadd Rounde will goe on, & Maie give Place to June, & she to July, & onlie my
Hearte blossom not nor my Love growe no greener.
I and my
Foolishnesse, we laye Awake last night till ye
Sunrise gun, wh. was Shott att 4½ o'ck, & wh. beinge hearde in yt
stillnesse fm. an Incredible Distance, seem'd lyke as 'twere a Full Stopp, or
Period putt to yis
did turne a newe Leafe in my Counsells, and after much Meditation, have
commenc't a newe Chapter, wh. I hope maye leade to a better Conclusion, than
came afore.—For I am nowe resolv'd, & havinge begunn wil carry to an Ende, yt
I maie not over-come my Passion, I maye at ye
least over-com ye
Melanchollie, & Spleene, borne yof,
& beinge a Lover, be none ye
lesse a Man.—To wh. Ende I have come to yis
Resolution, to departe fm. ye
Towne, & to goe to ye
Countrie-House of my Frend, Will Winthrop, who has often intreated me, & has
instantlie urg'd, yt
sholde make him a Visitt.—And I take much Shame to myselfe, yt
have not given him yis
Satisfaction since he was married, wh. is nowe ii Yeares.—A goode Fellowe, & I
minde me a grete Burden to his Frends when he was in Love, in wh. Plight I mockt
him, who am nowe, I much feare me, mockt myselfe.
cloathes, beinge Sundaye. Ye
to Babylon to-daye.
Babylon, att ye
Cottage of Will Winthrop, wh. is no Cottage, but a grete House, Red, w.
Verandahs, & builded in ye
Her Maiestie Q. Anne.—Found a mightie Housefull of People.—Will, his Wife, a
verie proper fayre Ladie, who gave me moste gracious Reception, Mrss
Gresham girles (knowne as ye
Titteringe Twins), Bob White, Virginia Kinge & her Mothr,
Clarence Winthrop, & ye
whole Alexander Family.—A grete Gatheringe for so earlie in ye
afternoone play'd Lawne-Tenniss.—Had for Partner one of ye
Clarence Winthrop & ye
other Twinn, wh. by beinge Confus'd, I loste iii games.—Was voted a
Duffer.—Clarence Winthrop moste unmannerlie merrie.—He call'd me ye
Sad-Ey'd Romeo, & lykewise cut down ye
laye, allso tied up my Cloathes wh. we were att Bath.—He sayde, he Chaw'd them,
a moste barbarous worde for a moste barbarous Use.—Wh. we were Boyes, & he did yis
thinge, I was wont to trounce him Soundlie, but nowe had to contente Myselfe w.
beatinge of him iii games of Billyardes in ye
Evg., & w. daringe of him to putt on ye
Gloves w. me, for Funne, wh. he mighte not doe, for I coude knocke him colde.
to my Roome somewhatt earlie, for I found myselfe of a peevish humour, Clarence
came to me, and prayd
few minutes' Speache.—Sayde 'twas Love made him so Rude & Boysterous he was
privilie betroth'd to his Cozen, Angelica Robertes, she whose Father lives at
Islipp, & colde not containe Himselfe for Joye.—I sayinge, there was a Breache
Familie, he made Answer, 'twas true, her Father & His, beinge Cozens, did hate
each other moste heartilie, butt for him he cared not for that, & for Angelica,
She gave not a Continentall.—But, sayde I, Your Consideration matters mightie
Little, synce ye
Governours will not heare to it.—He answered 'twas for that he came to me, I
must be his allie, for reason of our olde Friendsp.
With that I had no Hearte to heare more, he made so Light of suche a Division as
parted me & my Happinesse, but tolde him I was his Frend, wolde serve him when
he had Neede of me, & presentlie seeing my Humour, he made excuse to goe, & left
me to write downe this, sicke in Mynde, and thinkinge ever of ye
Woman who wil not oute of my Thoughtes for any change of Place, neither of
employe.—For indeede I doe love Her moste heartilie, so yt
Wordes can not saye it, nor will yis
Booke containe it.—So I wil even goe to Sleepe, yt
my Dreames perchaunce my Fancie maye do my Hearte better Service.
here.—What Spyte is yis
Fate & ye
alter'd gods! That I, who mighte nott gett to see Her when to See was to Hope,
muste nowe daylie have Her in my Sighte, stucke lyke a fayre Apple under olde
Tantalus his Nose.—Goinge downe to ye
Hotell to-day, for to gett me some Tobackoe, was made aware yt
Ffrench familie had hyred one of ye
Cottages round-abouts.—'Tis a goodlie Dwellinge Without—Woude I coude speake
with as much Assurance of ye
downe to ye
Hotell againe To-day, for more Tobackoe, sawe ye
accursed name of Wmson
Registre.—Went about to a neighbouringe Farm & satt me downe behynd ye
Barne, for a ½ an Houre.—Frighted ye
Horned Cattle w. talkinge to My Selfe.
I wil make
an Ende to yis
Businesse.—Wil make no longer Staye here.—Sawe Her to-day, driven Home fm. ye
Beache, about 4½ of ye
After-noone, by Wmson,
in his Dogge-Carte, wh. ye
Cadde has broughten here.—Wil betake me to ye
Boundlesse Weste—Not yt
care aught for ye
Boundlesse Weste, butt yt
shal doe wel if haplie I leave my Memourie amg
Apaches & bringe Home my Scalpe.
Islande, in Winthrop's Yacht—ye
Twinnes w. us, so Titteringe & Choppinge Laughter, yt
'twas worse yn
Flocke of Sandpipers.—Found a grete Concourse of people there, Her amonge them,
in a Suite of blue, yt
became Her bravelie.—She swimms lyke to a Fishe, butt everie Stroke of Her white
Arms (of a lovelie Roundnesse) clefte, as 'twere, my Hearte, rather yn
Water.—She bow'd to me, on goinge into ye
Water, w. muche Dignitie, & agayn on Cominge out, but yis
Tyme w. lesse Dignitie, by reason of ye
Water in Her Cloathes, & Her Haire in Her Eyes.—
goinge awaie To-morrowe, butt Clarence cominge againe to my Chamber, & mightilie
purswadinge of me, I feare I am comitted to a verie sillie Undertakinge.—For I
am promis'd to Help him, secretlie to wedd his Cozen.—He wolde take no Deniall,
wolde have it, his Brother car'd Naughte, 'twas but ye
Fighte of theyre Fathers, he was bounde it sholde be done, & 'twere best I
stoode his Witnesse, who was wel lyked of bothe ye
Braunches of ye
Family.—So 'twas agree'd, yt
shal stay Home to-morrowe fm. ye
Expedition to Fyre Islande, feigning a Head-Ache, (wh. indeede I meante to do,
in any Happ, for I cannot see Her againe,) & shall meet him at ye
little Churche on ye
Southe Roade.—He to drive to Islipp to fetch Angelica, lykewise her Witnesse,
who sholde be some One of ye
Girles, she hadd not yet made her Choice.—I made yis
Condition, it sholde not be either of ye
Twinnes.—No, nor Bothe, for that matter.—Inquiringe as to ye
Clergyman, he sayde ye
Dominie was allreadie Squar'd.
Newe York, ye
I am come
laste Entrie I shall ever putt downe in ys
Booke, and needes must yt
putt it downe quicklie, for all hath Happ'd in so short a Space, yt
Heade whirles w. thynkinge of it. Ye
after-noone of Yesterdaye, I set about Counterfeittinge of a Head-Ache, & so wel
did I compasse it, yt
verilie thinke one of ye
Twinnes was mynded to Stay Home & nurse me.—All havinge gone off, & Clarence on
his waye to Islipp, I sett forth for ye
Churche, where arriv'd I founde it emptie, w. ye
Door open.—Went in & writh'd on ye
hard Benches a ¼ of an Houre, when, hearinge a Sounde, I look'd up & saw
standinge in ye
Door-waye, Katherine Ffrench.—She seem'd muche astonished, saying You Here! or ye
lyke.—I made Answer & sayde yt
though my Familie were greate Sinners, yet had they never been Excommunicate by
Churche.—She sayde, they colde not Putt Out what never was In.—While I was
bethynkinge me wh. I mighte answer to yis,
she went on, sayinge I must excuse Her, She wolde goe upp in ye
Organ-Lofte.—I enquiring what for? She sayde to practice on ye
Organ.—She turn'd verie Redd, of a warm Coloure, as She sayde this.—I ask'd Do
you come hither often? She replyinge Yes, I enquir'd how ye
Organ lyked Her.—She sayde Right well, when I made question more curiously (for
She grew more Redd eache moment) how was ye
Tone? how manie Stopps? What
growinge gretelie Confus'd, I led Her into ye
Churche, & show'd Her yt
there was no Organ, ye
Choire beinge indeede a Band, of i Tuninge-Forke, i Kitt, & i Horse-Fiddle.—At
this She fell to Smilinge & Blushinge att one Tyme.—She perceiv'd our Errandes
Same, & crav'd Pardon for Her Fibb.—I tolde Her, If She came Thither to be
Witness at her Frend's Weddinge, 'twas no greate Fibb, 'twolde indeede be
Practice for Her.—This havinge a rude Sound, I added I thankt ye
bro't us Together. She sayde if ye
Starrs appoint'd us to meete no oftener yn
this Couple shoude be Wedded, She was wel content. This cominge on me lyke a
last Buffett of Fate, that She shoude so despitefully intreate me, I was
suddenlie Seized with so Sorrie a Humour, & withal so angrie, yt
colde scarce Containe myselfe, but went & Sat downe neare ye
Doore, lookinge out till Clarence shd. come w. his Bride.—Looking over my
Sholder, I sawe yt
wente fm. Windowe to Windowe within, Pluckinge ye
Blossoms fm. ye
Vines, & settinge them in her Girdle.—She seem'd most tall and faire, & swete to
look uponn, & itt Anger'd me ye
More.—Meanwhiles, She discours'd pleasantlie, askinge me manie questions, to the
wh. I gave but shorte and churlish answers. She ask'd Did I nott Knowe Angelica
Roberts was Her best Frend? How longe had I knowne of ye
Betrothal? Did I thinke 'twolde knitt ye
House together, & Was it not Sad to see a Familie thus Divided?—I answer'd Her,
I wd. not robb a Man of ye
precious Righte to Quarrell with his Relations.—And then, with meditatinge on ye
goode Lucke of Clarence, & my owne harde Case, I had suche a sudden Rage of
knewe scarcelie what I did.—Soe when She ask'd me merrilie why I turn'd my Backe
on Her, I made Reply I had turn'd my Backe on muche Follie.—Wh. was no sooner
oute of my Mouthe than I was mightilie Sorrie for it, and turninge aboute, I
perceiv'd She was in Teares & weepinge bitterlie. What
Hearte wolde holde no More, & I rose upp & tooke Her in my arms & Kiss'd &
Comforted Her, She makinge no Denyal, but seeminge gretelie to Neede such
Solace, wh. I was not Loathe to give Her.—Whiles we were at This, onlie She had
gott to Smilinge, & to sayinge of Things which even yis
paper shal not knowe, came in ye
Dominie, sayinge He judg'd We were the Couple he came to Wed.—With him ye
Sexton & ye
Sexton's Wife.—My swete Kate, alle as rosey as Venus's Nape, was for Denyinge of
butt I wolde not have it, & sayde Yes.—She remonstrating w. me, privilie, I
tolde Her She must not make me Out a Liar, yt
of God were a greavous Sinn, yt
had gott Her nowe, & wd. not lett her Slipp from me, & did soe Talke Her Downe,
& w. suche Strengthe of joie, yt
allmost before She knewe it, we Stoode upp, & were Wed, w. a Ringe (tho' She
Knewe it nott) wh. belong'd to My G. father. (Him yt
Wh. was no
sooner done, than in came Clarence & Angelica, & were Wedded in theyre Turn.—The
Clergyman greatelie surprised, but more att ye
Largenesse of his Fee.
Businesse beinge Ended, we fled by ye
Trayne of 4½ o'cke, to yis
Place, where we wait till ye
Bloode of all ye
Ffrenches have Tyme to coole downe, for ye
wise Mann who meeteth his Mother in Lawe ye
tyme, wil meete her when she is Milde.—
And so I
Journall, wh., tho' for ye
moste Parte 'tis but a peevish Scrawle, hath one Page of Golde, whon
have writt ye laste strange Happ whby
have layd Williamson by ye
Heeles & found me ye
sweetest Wife yt
man's Mouthe w. kisses for writinge of Her Prayses.
BUCKETS IN A WELL.
By N. P. Willis.
"People I Have Met" (now out of print).)
hundred dollars a year!" echoed Fanny Bellairs, as the first silver gray of the
twilight spread over her picture.
art," modestly added the painter, prying into his bright copy of the lips
pronouncing upon his destiny.
much may that be, at the present rate of patronage—one picture a year, painted
how can you be so calculating!"
bumps over my eyebrows, I suppose. Why, my dear coz, we have another state of
existence to look forward to—old man-age and old woman-age! What am I to do with
five hundred dollars a year, when my old frame wants gilding—(to use one of your
own similes)—I sha'n't always be pretty Fanny Bellairs!"
Heavens! we shall grow old together!" exclaimed the painter, sitting down at her
feet, "and what will you care for other admiration, if your husband see you
still beautiful, with the eyes of memory and habit."
"Even if I
were sure he would so look upon me," answered Miss Bellairs, more seriously, "I
cannot but dread an old age without great means of embellishment. Old people,
except in poetry and in very primitive society, are dishonored by wants and
cares. And, indeed, before we are old—when neither young nor old—we want horses
and ottomans, kalydor and conservatories, books, pictures, and silk curtains—all
quite out of the range of your little allowance, don't you see!"
not love me, Fanny!"
will marry you, Philip—as I, long ago, with my whole heart, promised. But I wish
to be happy with you—as happy, quite as happy, as is at all possible, with our
best efforts, and coolest, discreetest management. I laugh the matter over
sometimes, but I may tell you, since you are determined to be in earnest, that I
have treated it, in my solitary thought, as the one important event of my
life—(so indeed it is!)—and, as such, worthy of all forethought, patience,
self-denial, and calculation. To inevitable ills I can make up my mind like
other people. If your art were your only hope of subsistence—why—I don't
know—(should I look well as a page?)—I don't know that I couldn't run your
errands and grind your paints in hose and doublet. But there is another door
open for you—a counting-house door, to be sure—leading to opulence and all the
appliances of dignity and happiness, and through this door, my dear Philip, the
art you would live by comes to pay tribute and beg for patronage. Now, out of
your hundred and twenty reasons, give me the two stoutest and best, why you
should refuse your brother's golden offer of partnership—my share, in your
alternative of poverty, left for the moment out of the question."
overborne by the confident decision of his beautiful cousin, and having probably
made up his mind that he must ultimately yield to her, Philip replied in a lower
and more dejected tone:
were not to be a sharer in my renown, should I be so fortunate as to acquire it,
I should feel as if it were selfish to dwell so much on my passion for
distinction, and my devotion to my pencil as a means of winning it. My heart is
full of you—but it is full of ambition, too, paradox though it be. I cannot live
ignoble. I should not have felt worthy to press my love upon you—worthy to
possess you—except with the prospect of celebrity in my art. You make the world
dark to me, Fanny! You close down the sky, when you shut out this hope! Yet it
shall be so."
paused a moment, and the silence was uninterrupted.
another feeling I had, upon which I have not insisted," he continued. "By my
brother's project, I am to reside almost wholly abroad. Even the little stipend
I have to offer you now is absorbed of course by the investment of my property
in his trading capital, and marriage, till I have partly enriched myself, would
be even more hopeless than at present. Say the interval were five years—and five
years of separation!"
happiness in prospect, it would soon pass, my dear Philip!"
there nothing wasted in this time? My life is yours—the gift of love. Are not
these coming five years the very flower of it!—a mutual loss, too, for are they
not, even more emphatically, the very flower of yours? Eighteen and twenty-five
are ages at which to marry, not ages to defer. During this time the entire flow
of my existence is at its crowning fulness—passion, thought, joy, tenderness,
susceptibility to beauty and sweetness—all I have that can be diminished or
tarnished, or made dull by advancing age and contact with the world, is thrown
away—for its spring and summer. Will the autumn of life repay us for this? Will
it—even if we are rich and blest with health, and as capable of an unblemished
union as now? Think of this a moment, dear Fanny!"
is full of force and meaning, and, could we marry now, with a tolerable prospect
of competency, it would be irresistible. But poverty in wedlock, Philip—"
you call poverty? If we can suffice for each other, and have the necessaries of
life, we are not poor! My art will bring us consideration enough—which is the
main end of wealth, after all—and, of society, speaking for myself only, I want
nothing. Luxuries for yourself, Fanny—means for your dear comfort and
pleasure—you should not want if the world held them, and surely the unbounded
devotion of one man to the support of the one woman he loves, ought to
suffice for the task! I am strong—I am capable of labor—I have limbs to toil, if
my genius and my present means fail me, and, oh, Heaven! you could not want!"
no! I thought not of want!" murmured Miss Bellairs, "I thought only—"
was not permitted to finish the sentence.
bright picture for the future may be realized!" exclaimed Philip,
knitting his hands together in a transport of hope. "I may build up a
reputation, with you for the constant partner of its triumphs and
excitements! I may go through the world, and have some care in life besides
subsistence, how I shall sleep, and eat, and accumulate gold; some companion,
who, from the threshold of manhood, shared every thought—and knew every
feeling—some pure and present angel who walked with me and purified my motives
and ennobled my ambitions, and received from my lips and eyes, and from the
beating of my heart against her own, all the love I had to give in a lifetime.
Tell me, Fanny! tell me, my sweet cousin! is not this a picture of bliss, which,
combined with success in my noble art, might make a Paradise on earth for you
of Fanny Bellairs rested on the upturned forehead of her lover as he sat at her
feet in the deepening twilight, and she answered him with such sweet words as
are linked together by spells known only to woman—but his palette and pencils
were, nevertheless, burned in solemn holocaust that very night, and the lady
carried her point, as ladies must. And, to the importation of silks from Lyons,
was devoted, thenceforth, the genius of a Raphael—perhaps! Who knows?
will naturally have gathered from this dialogue that Miss Fanny Bellairs had
black eyes, and was rather below the middle stature. She was a belle, and it is
only belle-metal of this particular description which is not fusible by "burning
words." She had mind enough to appreciate fully the romance and enthusiasm of
her cousin, Philip Ballister, and knew precisely the phenomena which a tall
blonde (this complexion of woman being soluble in love and tears) would have
exhibited under a similar experiment. While the fire of her love glowed,
therefore, she opposed little resistance, and seemed softened and yielding, but
her purpose remained unaltered, and she rang out "No!" the next morning, with a
tone as little changed as a convent-bell from matins to vespers, though it has
passed meantime through the furnace of an Italian noon.
not a designing girl, either. She might have found a wealthier customer for her
heart than her cousin Philip. And she loved this cousin as truly and well as her
nature would admit, or as need be, indeed. But two things had conspired to give
her the unmalleable quality just described—a natural disposition to confide,
first and foremost, on all occasions, in her own sagacity, and a vivid
impression made upon her mind by a childhood of poverty. At the age of twelve
she had been transferred from the distressed fireside of her mother, Mrs.
Bellairs, to the luxurious roof of her aunt, Mrs. Ballister, and, her mother
dying soon after, the orphan girl was adopted, and treated as a child; but the
memory of the troubled hearth at which she had first learned to observe and
reason, colored all the purposes and affections, thoughts, impulses, and wishes
of the ripening girl, and to think of happiness in any proximity to privation
seemed to her impossible, even though it were in the bosom of love. Seeing no
reason to give her cousin credit for any knowledge of the world beyond his own
experience, she decided to think for him as well as love him, and, not being so
much pressed as the enthusiastic painter by the "besoin d'aimer et de se
faire aimer," she very composedly prefixed, to the possession of her hand,
the trifling achievement of getting rich—quite sure that if he knew as much as
she, he would willingly run that race without the incumbrance of matrimony.
of Mr. Ballister, senior, had left the widow and her two boys more slenderly
provided for than was anticipated—Phil's portion, after leaving college,
producing the moderate income before mentioned. The elder brother had embarked
in his father's business, and it was thought best on all hands for the younger
Ballister to follow his example. But Philip, whose college leisure had been
devoted to poetry and painting, and whose genius for the latter, certainly, was
very decided, brought down his habits by a resolute economy to the limits of his
income, and took up the pencil for a profession. With passionate enthusiasm,
great purity of character, distaste for all society not in harmony with his
favorite pursuit, and an industry very much concentrated and rendered effective
by abstemious habits, Philip Ballister was very likely to develop what genius
might lie between his head and hand, and his progress in the first year had been
allowed, by eminent artists, to give very unusual promise. The Ballisters were
still together, under the maternal roof, and the painter's studies were the
portraits of the family, and Fanny's picture, of course, much the most difficult
to finish. It would be very hard if a painter's portrait of his liege mistress,
the lady of his heart, were not a good picture, and Fanny Bellairs on canvas was
divine accordingly. If the copy had more softness of expression than the
original (as it was thought to have), it only proves that wise men have for some
time suspected, that love is more dumb than blind, and the faults of our
faultless idols are noted, however unconsciously. Neither thumb-screws nor hot
coals—nothing probably but repentance after matrimony—would have drawn from
Philip Ballister, in words, the same correction of his mistress's foible that
had oozed out through his treacherous pencil!
often drawn as a stranger pleading to be "taken in," but it is a miracle that he
is not invariably drawn as a portrait-painter. A bird tied to the muzzle of a
gun—an enemy who has written a book—an Indian prince under the protection of
Giovanni Bulletto (Tuscan for John Bull),—is not more close upon demolition, one
would think, than the heart of a lady delivered over to a painter's eyes, posed,
draped, and lighted with the one object of studying her beauty. If there be any
magnetism in isolated attention, any in steadfast gazing, any in passes of the
hand hither and thither—if there be any magic in ce doux demi-jour so
loved in France, in stuff for flattery ready pointed and feathered, in freedom
of admiration, "and all in the way of business"—then is a lovable sitter to a
love-like painter in "parlous" vicinity (as the new school would phrase it) to
sweet heart-land! Pleasure in a vocation has no offset in political economy as
honor has ("the more honor the less profit"), or portrait-painters would be
poorer than poets.
malgré his consciousness of the quality which required softening in his
cousin's beauty, and malgré his rare advantages for obtaining over her a
lover's proper ascendency, Mr. Philip Ballister bowed to the stronger will of
Miss Fanny Bellairs, and sailed for France on his apprenticeship to Mammon.
will please to advance five years. Before proceeding thence with our story,
however, let us take a Parthian glance at the overstepped interval. Philip
Ballister had left New York with the triple vow that he would enslave every
faculty of his mind and body to business, that he would not return till he had
made a fortune, and that such interstices as might occur in the building up of
this chateau for felicity should be filled with sweet reveries about Fanny
Bellairs. The forsworn painter had genius, as we have before hinted, and genius
is (as much as it is any one thing) the power of concentration. He entered upon
his duties, accordingly with a force and patience of application which soon made
him master of what are called business habits, and, once in possession of the
details, his natural cleverness gave him a speedy insight to all the scope and
tactics of his particular field of trade. Under his guidance, the affairs of the
house were soon in a much more prosperous train, and, after a year's residence
at Lyons, Philip saw his way very clear to manage them with a long arm and take
up his quarters in Paris. "Les fats sont les seuls hommes qui aient soin
d'eux mêmes," says a French novelist, but there is a period, early or late,
in the lives of the cleverest men, when they become suddenly curious as to their
capacity for the graces. Paris, to a stranger who does not visit in the Faubourg
St. Germain, is a republic of personal exterior, where the degree of privilege
depends, with Utopian impartiality, on the style of the outer man; and Paris,
therefore, if he is not already a Bachelor of Arts (qu?—beau's Arts),
usually serves the traveller as an Alma Mater of the pomps and vanities.
Ballister, up to the time of his matriculation in Chaussée d'Antin, was a
romantic-looking sloven. From this to a very dashing coxcomb is but half a step,
and, to be rid of the coxcombry and retain a look of fashion, is still within
the easy limits of imitation. But—to obtain superiority of presence, with no
apparent aid from dress and no describable manner, and to display, at the same
time, every natural advantage in effective relief, and, withal, to adapt this
subtle philtre, not only to the approbation of the critical and censorious, but
to the taste of fair women gifted with judgment as God pleases—this is a finish
not born with any man (though unsuccessful if it do not seem to be), and never
reached in the apprenticeship of life, and never reached at all by men not much
above their fellows. He who has it, has "bought his doublet in Italy, his round
hose in France, his bonnet in Germany, and his behavior everywhere," for he must
know, as a chart of quicksands, the pronounced models of other nations; but to
be a "picked man of countries," and to have been a coxcomb and a man of
fashion, are, as a painter would say, but the setting of the palette toward the
making of the chef-d'œuvre.
prospered, and the facilities of leisure increased, while Ballister passed
through these transitions of taste, and he found intervals to travel, and time
to read, and opportunity to indulge, as far as he could with the eye only, his
passion for knowledge in the arts. To all that appertained to the refinement of
himself, he applied the fine feelers of a delicate and passionate construction,
physical and mental, and, as the reader will already have included, wasted on
culture comparatively unprofitable, faculties that would have been better
employed but for the meddling of Miss Fanny Bellairs.
Ballister's return from France was heralded by the arrival of statuary and
pictures, books, furniture, and numberless articles of tasteful and costly
luxury. The reception of these by the family at home threw rather a new light on
the probable changes in the long-absent brother, for, from the signal success of
the business he had managed, they had very naturally supposed that it was the
result only of unremitted and plodding care. Vague rumors of changes in his
personal appearance had reached them, such as might be expected from conformity
to foreign fashions, but those who had seen Philip Ballister in France, and
called subsequently on the family in New York, were not people qualified to
judge of the man, either from their own powers of observation or from any
confidence he was likely to put forward while in their society. His letters had
been delightful, but they were confined to third-person topics, descriptions of
things likely to interest them, etc., and Fanny had few addressed personally to
herself, having thought it worth while, for the experiment sake, or for some
other reason, to see whether love would subsist without it usual pabulum
of tender correspondence, and a veto on love-letters having served her
for a parting injunction at Phil's embarkation for Havre. However varied by
their different fancies, the transformation looked for by the whole family was
substantially the same—the romantic artist sobered down to a practical, plain
man of business. And Fanny herself had an occasional misgiving as to her relish
for his counting-house virtues and manners; though, on the detection of the
feeling, she immediately closed her eyes upon it, and drummed up her delinquent
constancy for "parade and inspection."
bustles are very much alike (we use the word as defined in Johnson), and the
reader will appreciate our delicacy, besides, in not intruding on the first
reunion of relatives and lovers long separated.
morning after Philip Ballister's arrival, the family sat long at breakfast. The
mother's gaze fastened untiringly on the features of her son—still her
boy—prying into them with a vain effort to reconcile the face of the man with
the cherished picture of the child with sunny locks, and noting little else than
the work of inward change upon the countenance and expression. The brother, with
the predominant feeling of respect for the intelligence and industry of one who
had made the fortunes of the house, read only subdued sagacity in the perfect
simplicity of his whole exterior. And Fanny—Fanny was puzzled. The
bourgeoisie and ledger-bred hardness of manner which she had looked for were
not there, nor any variety of the "foreign slip-slop" common to travelled youth,
nor any superciliousness, nor (faith!) any wear and tear of youth and good
looks—nothing that she expected—nothing! Not even a French guard-chain!
was in her cousin's manners and exterior, however, was much more
difficult to define by Miss Bellairs than what there was not. She began
the renewal of their intercourse with very high spirits, herself—the simple
nature and unpretendingness of his address awakening only an unembarrassed
pleasure at seeing him again—but she soon began to suspect there was an
exquisite refinement in this very simplicity, and to wonder "at the trick of
it;" and, after the first day passed in his society, her heart beat when he
spoke to her, as it did not use to beat when she was sitting to him for her
picture, and listening to his passionate love-making. And, with all her
faculties, she studied him. What was the charm of his presence? He was himself,
and himself only. He seemed perfect, but he seemed to have arrived at perfection
like a statue, not like a picture—by what had been taken away, not by what had
been laid on. He was as natural as a bird, and as graceful and unembarrassed. He
neither forced conversation, nor pressed the little attentions of the
drawing-room, and his attitudes were full of repose; yet she was completely
absorbed in what he said, and she had been impressed imperceptibly with his
high-bred politeness, and the singular elegance of his person. Fanny felt there
was a change in her relative position to her cousin. In what it consisted, or
which had the advantage, she was perplexed to discover—but she bit her lips as
she caught herself thinking that if she were not engaged to marry Philip
Ballister, she should suspect that she had just fallen irrecoverably in love
have been a novelty in the history of Miss Bellairs that any event to which she
had once consented, should admit of reconsideration; and the Ballister family,
used to her strong will, were confirmed fatalists as to the coming about of her
ends and aims. Her marriage with Philip, therefore, was discussed, cœur
ouvert, from his first arrival, and, indeed, in her usual fashion of saving
others the trouble of making up their minds, "herself had named the day." This,
it is true, was before his landing, and was, then, an effort of considerable
magnanimity, as the expectant Penelope was not yet advised of her lover's state
of preservation or damages by cares and keeping. If Philip had not found his
wedding-day fixed on his arrival, however, he probably would have had a voice in
the naming of it, for, with Fanny's new inspirations as to his character, there
had grown up a new flower in her garden of beauties—timidity! What bird of the
air had sown the seed in such a soil was a problem to herself—but true it
was!—the confident belle had grown a blushing trembler! She would as soon have
thought of bespeaking her wings for the sky, as to have ventured on naming the
day in a short week after.
was named, however, and the preparations went on—nem. con.—the person
most interested (after herself) accepting every congratulation and allusion,
touching the event, with the most impenetrable suavity. The marbles and
pictures, upholstery and services, were delivered over to the order of Miss
Bellairs, and Philip, disposed, apparently, to be very much a recluse in his
rooms, or, at other times, engrossed by troops of welcoming friends, saw much
less of his bride elect than suited her wishes, and saw her seldom alone. By
particular request, also, he took no part in the plenishing and embellishing of
the new abode—not permitted even to inquire where it was situated; and, under
this cover, besides the pleasure of having her own way, Fanny concealed a little
secret, which, when disclosed, she now felt, would figure forth Philip's
comprehension, her whole scheme of future happiness. She had taken the elder
brother into her counsels a fortnight after Philip's return, and, with his aid
and consent, had abandoned the original idea of a house in town, purchased a
beautifully-secluded estate and cottage ornée, on the East River, and
transferred thither all the objects of art, furniture, etc. One room only of the
maternal mansion was permitted to contribute its quota to the completion of the
bridal dwelling—the wing, never since inhabited, in which Philip had made his
essay as a painter—and, without variation of a cobweb, and, with whimsical care
and effort on the part of Miss Fanny, this apartment was reproduced at
Revedere—her own picture on the easel, as it stood on the night of his
abandonment of his art, and palette, pencils and colors in tempting readiness on
the table. Even the fire-grate of the old studio had been re-set in the new, and
the cottage throughout had been refitted with a view to occupation in the
winter. And to sundry hints on the part of the elder brother, that some thought
should be given to a city residence—for the Christmas holidays at least—Fanny
replied, through a blush, that she would never wish to see the town—with Philip
had ripened and mellowed the beauty of Fanny Bellairs, and the same summer-time
of youth had turned into fruit the feeling left by Philip in bud and flower. She
was ready now for love. She had felt the variable temper of society, and there
was a presentiment in the heart, of receding flatteries and the winter of life.
It was with mournful self-reproach that she thought of the years wasted in
separation, of her own choosing, from the man she loved; and, with the power to
recall time, she would have thanked God with tears of joy for the privilege of
retracing the chain of life to that link of parting. Not worth a day of those
lost years, she bitterly confessed to herself, was the wealth they had
as little as one week of "the happy day," when the workmen were withdrawn from
Revedere, and the preparations for a family breakfast, to be succeeded by the
agreeable surprise to Philip of informing him he was at home, were finally
completed. One or two very intimate friends were added to the party, and the
invitations (from the elder Ballister) proposed simply a déjeuner sur l'herbe
in the grounds of an unoccupied villa, the property of an acquaintance.
subsiding of the excitement of return, the early associations which had
temporarily confused and colored the feelings of Philip Ballister settled
gradually away, leaving uppermost once more the fastidious refinement of the
Parisian. Through this medium, thin and cold, the bubbles from the breathing of
the heart of youth, rose rarely and reluctantly. The Ballisters held a good
station in society, without caring for much beyond the easy conveniences of
life, and Fanny, though capable of any degree of elegance, had not seen the
expediency of raising the tone of her manners above that of her immediate
friends. Without being positively distasteful to Philip, the family circle,
Fanny included, left him much to desire in the way of society, and, unwilling to
abate the warmth of his attentions while with them, he had latterly pleaded
occupation more frequently, and passed his time in the more congenial company of
his library of art. This was the less noticed that it gave Miss Bellairs the
opportunity to make frequent visits to the workmen at Revedere, and, in the
polished devotion of her betrothed when with her, Fanny saw nothing reflected
but her own daily increasing tenderness and admiration.
morning of fête came in like the air in an overture—a harmony of all the
instruments of summer. The party were at the gate of Revedere by ten, and the
drive through the avenue to the lawn drew a burst of delighted admiration from
all. The place was exquisite, and seen in its glory, and Fanny's heart was
brimming with gratified pride and exultation. She assumed at once the
dispensation of the honors, and beautiful she looked with her snowy dress and
raven ringlets flitting across the lawn, and queening it like Perdita among the
flowers. Having narrowly escaped bursting into tears of joy when Philip
pronounced the place prettier than anything he had seen in his travels, she was,
for the rest of the day, calmly happy; and, with the grateful shade, the
delicious breakfast in the grove, the rambling and boating on the river, the
hours passed off like dreams, and no one even hinted a regret that the house
itself was under lock and bar. And so the sun set, and the twilight came on, and
the guests were permitted to order round their carriages and depart, the
Ballisters accompanying them to the gate. And, on the return of the family
through the avenue, excuses were made for idling hither and thither, till light
began to show through the trees, and, by the time of their arrival at the lawn,
the low windows of the cottage poured forth streams of light, and the open
doors, and servants busy within, completed a scene more like magic than reality.
Philip was led in by the excited girl who was the fairy of the spell, and his
astonishment at the discovery of his statuary and pictures, books and furniture,
arranged in complete order within, was fed upon with the passionate delight of
love in authority.
hour had been spent in examining and admiring the different apartments, an inner
room was thrown open, in which supper was prepared, and this fourth act in the
day's drama was lingered over in untiring happiness by the family.
Ballister, the mother, rose and retired, and Philip pleaded indisposition, and
begged to be shown to the room allotted to him. This was ringing-up the curtain
for the last act sooner than had been planned by Fanny, but she announced
herself as his chamberlain, and, with her hands affectionately crossed on his
arm, led him to a suite of rooms in a wing still unvisited, and, with a
goodnight kiss, left him at the open door of the revived studio, furnished for
the night with a bachelor's bed. Turning upon the threshold, he closed the door
with a parting wish of sweet dreams, and Fanny, after listening a moment with a
vain hope of overhearing some expression of pleasure, and lingering again on her
way back, to be overtaken by her surprised lover, sought her own bed without
rejoining the circle, and passed a sleepless and happy night of tears and joy.
was served the next morning on a terrace overlooking the river, and it was voted
by acclamation that Fanny never before looked so lovely. As none but the family
were to be present, she had stolen a march on her marriage wardrobe, and added
to her demi-toilet a morning cap of exquisite becomingness. Altogether she
looked deliciously wife-like, and did the honors of the breakfast-table with a
grace and sweetness that warmed out love and compliments even from the sober
soil of household intimacy. Philip had not yet made his appearance, and they
lingered long at table, till at last, a suggestion that he might be ill started
Fanny to her feet, and she ran to his door before a servant could be summoned.
were open, and the bed had not been occupied. The candle was burned to the
socket, and on the easel, resting against the picture, was a letter
addressed—"Miss Fanny Bellairs."
followed up to this hour, my fair cousin, in the path you have marked out for
me. It has brought me back, in this chamber, to the point from which I started
under your guidance, and if it had brought me back unchanged—if it restored me
my energy, my hope, and my prospect of fame, I should pray Heaven that it would
also give me back my love, and be content—more than content, if it gave me back
also my poverty. The sight of my easel, and of the surroundings of my boyish
dreams of glory, have made my heart bitter. They have given form and voice to a
vague unhappiness, which has haunted me through all these absent years—years of
degrading pursuits and wasted powers—and it now impels me from you, kind and
lovely as you are, with an aversion I cannot control. I cannot forgive you. You
have thwarted my destiny. You have extinguished with sordid cares a lamp within
me, that might, by this time, have shone through the world. And what am I, since
your wishes are accomplished? Enriched in pocket, and bankrupt in happiness and
heart sick, and a brain aching for distinction, I have come to an unhonored
stand-still at thirty! I am a successful tradesman, and in this character I
shall probably die. Could I begin to be a painter now, say you? Alas! my
knowledge of the art is too great for patience with the slow hand! I could not
draw a line without despair. The pliant fingers and the plastic mind must keep
pace to make progress in art. My taste is fixed, and my imagination uncreative,
because chained down by certainties; and the shortsighted ardor and daring
experiments which are indispensable to sustain and advance the follower in
Raphael's footsteps, are too far behind for my resuming. The tide ebbed from me
at the accursed burning of my pencils by your pitiless hand, and from that hour
I have felt hope receding. Could I be happy with you, stranded here in ignoble
idleness, and owing to you the loss of my whole venture of opportunity? No,
not be unnecessarily harsh. I am sensible of your affection and constancy. I
have deferred this explanation unwisely, till the time and place make it seem
more cruel. You are at this very moment, I well know, awake in your chamber,
devoting to me the vigils of a heart overflowing with tenderness. And I would—if
it were possible—if it were not utterly beyond my powers of self sacrifice and
concealment—I would affect a devotion I cannot feel, and carry out this error
through a life of artifice and monotony. But here, again, the work is your own,
and my feelings revert bitterly to your interference. If there were no other
obstacle to my marrying you—if you were not associated repulsively with the dark
cloud on my life, you are not the woman I could now enthrone in my bosom. We
have diverged since the separation which I pleaded against, and which you
commanded. I need for my idolatry, now, a creature to whom the sordid cares you
have sacrificed me to, are utterly unknown—a woman born and educated in
circumstances where want is never feared, and where calculation never enters. I
must lavish my wealth, if I fulfil my desire, on one who accepts it like the air
she breathes, and who knows the value of nothing but love—a bird with a human
soul and form, believing herself free of all the world is rich in, and careful
only for pleasure and the happiness of those who belong to her. Such women,
beautiful and highly educated, are found only in ranks of society between which
and my own I have been increasing in distance—nay, building an impassable
barrier, in obedience to your control. Where I stop, interdicted by the stain of
trade, the successful artist is free to enter. You have stamped me plebeian—you
would not share my slow progress toward a higher sphere, and you have
disqualified me for attaining it alone. In your mercenary and immovable will,
and in that only, lies the secret of our twofold unhappiness.
you, to return to Europe. My brother and my friends will tell you I am mad and
inexcusable, and look upon you as a victim. They will say that, to have been a
painter, were nothing to the career that I might mark out for my ambition, if
ambition I must have, in politics. Politics in a country where distinction is a
pillory! But I could not live here. It is my misfortune that my tastes are so
modified by that long and compulsory exile, that life, here, would be a
perpetual penance. This unmixed air of merchandise suffocates me. Our own home
is tinctured black with it. You yourself, in this rural Paradise you have
conjured up, move in it like a cloud. The counting-house rings in your voice,
calculation draws together your brows, you look on everything as a means,
and know its cost; and the calm and means-forgetting fruition, which
forms the charm and dignity of superior life, is utterly unknown to you. What
would be my happiness with such a wife? What would be yours with such a husband?
Yet I consider the incompatibility between us as no advantage on my part—on the
contrary, a punishment, and of your inflicting. What shall I be, anywhere, but a
Tantalus—a fastidious ennuyé, with a thirst for the inaccessible burning
in my bosom continually!
you let us avoid another meeting before my departure. Though I cannot forgive
you as a lover, I can think of you with pleasure as a cousin, and I give you as
your due ('damages,' the law would phrase it,) the portion of myself which you
thought most important when I offered you my all. You would not take me without
the fortune, but perhaps you will be content with the fortune without me. I
shall immediately take steps to convey to you this property of Revedere, with an
income sufficient to maintain it, and I trust soon to hear that you have found a
husband better worthy of you than your cousin—
By Mary Hallock Foote.
Magazine, July, 1879.)
been "borne in" upon him, more or less, during the long winter; it had not
relaxed its hold when the frosts unlocked and the streams were set free from
their long winter's silence among the hills. He grew restless and abstracted
under "the turnings of the Lord's hand upon him," and his speech unconsciously
shaped itself into the Biblical cadences which came to him in his moments of
bedrabbled snows of March shrank away before the keen, quickening sunbeams; the
hills emerged, brown and sodden, like the chrysalis of the new year. The streams
woke in a tumult, and all day and night their voices called from the hills back
of the mill. The waste-weir was a foaming torrent, and spread itself in muddy
shallows across the meadow beyond the old garden where the robins and blue birds
were house-hunting. Friend Barton's trouble stirred with the life-blood of the
year, and pressed upon him sorely; but as yet he gave it no words. He plodded
about among his lean kine, tempering the winds of March to his untimely lambs,
and reconciling unnatural ewes to their maternal duties.
Barton had never heard of the doctrine of the survival of the fittest; though it
was the spring of 1812, and England and America were investigating the subject
on the seas, while the nations of Europe were practically illustrating it. The
"hospital tent," as the boys called an old corn-basket, covered with carpet,
which stood beside the kitchen chimney, was seldom without an occupant,—a brood
of chilled chickens, a weakly lamb, or a wee pig (with too much blue in its
pinkness), which had been left behind by its stouter brethren in the race for
existence. The old mill hummed away through the day, and often late in the
evening if time pressed, upon the grists which added a thin, intermittent stream
of tribute to the family income. Whenever work was "slack," Friend Barton was
sawing or chopping in the wood-shed adjoining the kitchen; every moment he could
seize or make he was there, stooping over the rapidly growing pile.
me, father, thee's in a great hurry with the wood this spring. I don't know when
we've had such a pile ahead."
burn up any faster for being chopped," Friend Barton said; and then his wife
Rachel knew that if he had a reason for being "forehanded" with the wood, he was
not ready to give it.
April afternoon, when the smoky gray distances began to take a tinge of green,
and through the drip and rustle of the rain the call of the robins sounded,
Friend Barton sat in the door of the barn, oiling the road-harness. The old
chaise had been wheeled out and greased, and its cushions beaten and dusted.
An ox team
with a load of grain creaked up the hill and stopped at the mill door. The
driver, seeing Friend Barton's broad-brimmed drab felt hat against the dark
interior of the barn, came down the short lane leading from the mill past the
house and farm-buildings.
for travellin', Uncle Tommy?"
compliments were unacceptable to Thomas Barton, and he was generally known and
addressed as "Uncle Tommy" by the world's people of a younger generation.
"It is not
in man that walketh to direct his own steps, neighbor Gordon. I am getting
myself in readiness to obey the Lord, whichever way He calls me."
Gordon cast a shrewd eye over the premises. They wore that patient, sad, exhumed
look which old farm-buildings are apt to have in early spring. The roofs were
black with rain, and brightened with patches of green moss. Farmer Gordon
instinctively calculated how many "bunches o' shingle" would be required to
rescue them from the decline into which they had fallen, in spite of the hectic
Lord calls most of us to stay at home and look after things, such weather as
this. Good plantin' weather; good weather for breakin' ground; fust-rate weather
for millin'! This is a reg'lar miller's rain, Uncle Tommy. You ought to be
takin' advantage of it. I've got a grist back here; wish ye could manage to let
me have it when I come back from store."
was ground and delivered before Friend Barton went in to his supper that night.
Dorothy Barton had been mixing bread, and was wiping her white arms and hands on
the roller towel by the kitchen door, as her father stamped and scraped his feet
on the stones outside.
believe I forgot to toll neighbor Gordon's rye," he said, as he gave a final rub
on the broom Dorothy handed out to him. "It's wonderful how careless I get!"
father, I don't suppose thee'd ever forget, and toll a grist twice!"
I've been mostly preserved from mistakes of that kind," said Friend Barton
gently. "It may have been the Lord who stayed my hand from gathering profit unto
myself while his lambs go unfed."
put her hands on her father's shoulders. She was almost as tall as he, and could
look into his patient, troubled eyes.
know what thee is thinking of; but do think long. It will be a hard year;
the boys ought to go to school; and mother is so feeble."
Barton's "concern" kept him awake long that night. His wife watched by his side,
giving no sign, lest her wakeful presence should disturb his silent wrestlings.
The tall, cherry-wood clock in the entry measured the hours as they passed with
its slow, dispassionate tick.
o'clock Rachel Barton was awakened from her first sleep of weariness by her
husband's voice whispering heavily in the darkness.
"My way is
hedged up! I see no way to go forward. Lord, strengthen my patience, that I
murmur not, after all I have seen of Thy goodness. I find daily bread is very
desirable; want and necessity are painful to nature; but shall I follow Thee for
the sake of the loaves, or will it do to forsake Thee in times of emptiness and
silence again, and restless tossings and sighings continued the struggle.
the wife's voice spoke tremulously in the darkness, "my dear husband, I know
where thy thoughts are tending. If the Spirit is with thee, do not deny it for
our sakes, I pray thee. The Lord did not give thee thy wife and children to hang
as a millstone round thy neck. I am thy helpmeet, to strengthen thee in his
service. I am thankful that I have my health this spring better than usual, and
Dorothy is a wonderful help. Her spirit was sent to sustain me in thy long
absences. Go, dear, and serve our Master, who has called thee in these bitter
strivings! Dorothy and I will keep things together as well as we can. The way
will open—never fear!" She put out her hand and touched his face in the
darkness; there were tears on the furrowed cheeks. "Try to sleep, dear, and let
thy spirit have rest. There is but one answer to this call."
first drowsy twitterings of the birds, when the crescent-shaped openings in the
board shutters began to define themselves clearly in the shadowy room, they
arose and went about their morning tasks in silence. Friend Barton's step was a
little heavier than usual, and the hollows round his wife's pale brown eyes were
a little deeper. As he sat on the splint-bottomed chair by the kitchen
fireplace, drawing on his boots, she laid her hands on his shoulders, and her
cheek on the worn spot on the top of his head.
lay this concern before meeting to-morrow, father?"
"I had it
on my mind to do so,—if my light be not quenched before then."
Barton's light was not quenched. Words came to him without seeking, in which to
"open the concern which had ripened in his mind," of a religious visit to the
meeting constituting the yearly meetings of Philadelphia and Baltimore. A
"minute" was given him encouraging him in the name of, and with the full
concurrence of, the monthly meetings of Nine Partners, and Stony Valley, to go
wherever the Truth might lead him. While Friend Barton was thus freshly
anointed, and "abundantly encouraged," his wife, Rachel, was talking with
Dorothy in the low upper chamber, known as the "wheel-room."
was spinning wool on the big wheel, dressed in her light calico short-gown and
brown quilted petticoat; her arms were bare, and her hair was gathered away from
her flushed cheeks and knotted behind her ears. The roof sloped down on one
side, and the light came from a long low window under the eaves. There was
another window (shaped like a half moon high up in the peak), but it sent down
only one long beam of sunlight, which glimmered across the dust and fell upon
Dorothy's white neck.
was humming a quick measure, and Dorothy trod lightly back and forth, the
wheel-pin in one hand, the other upraised holding the tense, lengthening thread,
which the spindle devoured again.
thee looks warm:—can't thee sit down a moment, while I talk to thee?"
anything important, mother? I want to get my twenty knots before dinner." She
paused as she joined a long tress of wool at the spindle. "Is it anything about
about father, and all of us."
said Dorothy, stretching herself back with a sigh. "He's going away again!"
dear. He feels that he is called. It is a time of trouble and contention
everywhere,—'the harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.'"
not so many 'laborers' here, mother, though to be sure, the
my daughter! don't let a spirit of levity creep into thy speech. Thy father has
striven and wrestled with his urgings. I've seen it working on him all winter;
he feels now it is the Lord's will."
see how he can be so sure," said Dorothy, swaying gloomily to and fro against
the wheel. "I don't care for myself,—I'm not afraid of work,—but thee's
not able to do what thee does now, mother. If I have outside things to
look after, how can I help thee as I should? The boys are about as much
dependence as a flock of barn swallows!"
fret about me, dear; the way will open. Thy father has thought and planned for
us; have patience while I tell thee. Thee knows Walter Evesham's pond is small
and his mill is doing a thriving business?"
know it!" Dorothy exclaimed. "He has his own share, and ours too—most of it!"
dear, wait! Thy father has rented him the ponds to use when his own gives out.
He is to have the control of the water, and it will give us a little income,
even though the old mill does stand idle."
"He may as
well take the mill, too. If father is away all summer it will be useless ever to
start it again. Thee'll see, mother, how it will end if Walter Evesham has the
custom and the water all summer. I think it's miserable for a young man to be so
keen about money."
seems to me thee's hasty in thy judgments. I never heard that said of Walter
Evesham. His father left him with capital to improve his mill. It does better
work than ours; we can't complain of that. Thy father was never one to study
much after ways of making money. He felt he had no right to more than an honest
livelihood. I don't say that Walter Evesham's in the wrong. We know that Joseph
took advantage of his opportunities, though I can't say that I ever felt much
unity with some of his transactions. What would thee have, my dear? Thee's
discouraged with thy father for choosing the thorny way, which we tread with
him; but thee seems no better satisfied with one who considers the flesh and its
know, mother, what I want for myself. It doesn't matter, but for
thee I would have rest from all these cruel worries thee has borne so long."
her face in her mother's lap and put her strong young arms about the frail,
there, dear. Try to rule thy spirit, Dorothy. Thee's too much worked up about
this. They are not worries to me. I am thankful we have nothing to decide, one
way or the other—only to do our best with what is given us. Thee's not thyself,
dear. Go down-stairs and fetch in the clothes, and don't hurry; stay out till
thee gets more composed."
did not succeed in bringing herself into unity with her father's call, but she
came to a fuller realization of his struggle. When he bade them good-by, his
face showed what it had cost him, but Rachel was calm and cheerful. The pain of
parting is keenest to those who go, but it stays longer with those who are left
take good care of thy mother!" Friend Barton said, taking his daughter's face
between his hands and gravely kissing her brow between the low-parted ripples of
father," she said, looking into his eyes. "Thee knows I'm thy eldest son."
watched the old chaise swing round the corner of the lane, then the pollard
willows shut it from sight.
mother," said Dorothy, hurrying her in at the gate. "I'm going to make a great
pot of mush, and have it hot for supper, and fried for breakfast, and warmed up
with molasses for dinner, and there'll be some cold with milk for supper, and we
shan't have any cooking to do at all."
round to the kitchen door. Rachel stopped in the wood-shed, and the tears rushed
to her eyes.
father! How he has worked over that wood, early and late, to spare us!"
not revive Dorothy's struggles with the farm-work and with the boys. They were
an isolated family at the mill-house; their peculiar faith isolated them still
more, and they were twelve miles from meeting and the settlement of Friends at
Stony Valley. Dorothy's pride kept her silent about her needs, lest they might
bring reproach upon her father among the neighbors, who would not be likely to
feel the urgency of his spiritual summons.
heats came on apace and the nights grew shorter. It seemed to Dorothy that she
had hardly stretched out her tired young body and forgotten her cares in the low
attic bedroom, before the east was streaked with light and the birds were
singing in the apple-trees, whose falling blossoms drifted in at the window.
One day in
early June, Friend Barton's flock of sheep—consisting of nine experienced ewes,
six yearlings, and a sprinkling of close-curled lambs whose legs had not yet
come into mature relations with their bodies—were gathered in a little railed
inclosure, beside the stream which flowed into the "mill head." It was supplied
by the waste from the pond, and when the gate was shut, rambled easily over the
gray slate pebbles, with here and there a fall, just forcible enough to serve as
a douche bath for a well-grown sheep. The victims were panting in their heavy
fleeces, and their hoarse, plaintive tremolo mingled with the ripple of the
water and the sound of young voices in a frolic. Dorothy had divided her forces
for the washing to the best advantage. The two elder boys stood in the stream to
receive the sheep, which she, with the help of little Jimmy, caught and dragged
to the bank.
were at work now upon an elderly ewe, while Dorothy stood on the brink of the
stream, braced against an ash sapling, dragging at the fleece of a beautiful but
reluctant yearling. Her bare feet were incased in a pair of moccasins which
laced around the ankle; her petticoats were kilted, and her broad hat bound down
with a ribbon; one sleeve was rolled up, the other had been sacrificed in a
scuffle in the sheep-pen. The new candidate for immersion stood bleating and
trembling, with her fore feet planted against the slippery bank, pushing back
with all her strength, while Jimmy propelled from the rear.
Dorothy's clear voice called across the stream. "Do hurry! She's been in
long enough, now! Keep her head up, can't you, and squeeze the wool hard!
You're not half washing! Oh, Reuby! thee'll drown her! Keep her head
unlucky douse and another half-smothered bleat,—Dorothy released the yearling
and plunged to the rescue. "Go after that lamb, Reuby!" she cried, with
exasperation in her voice. Reuby followed the yearling, which had disappeared
over the orchard slope, upsetting an obstacle in its path, which happened to be
Jimmy. He was now wailing on the bank, while Dorothy, with the ewe's nose tucked
comfortably in the bend of her arm, was parting and squeezing the fleece, with
the water swirling round her. Her stout arms ached, and her ears were stunned
with the incessant bleating; she counted with dismay the sheep still waiting in
the pen. "Oh, Jimmy! do stop crying, or else go to the house!"
better go after Reuby," said Sheppard Barton, who was now Dorothy's sole
do, Jimmy, that's a good boy. Tell him to let the yearling go, and come back
had run low that morning in Evesham's pond. He shut down the mill, and strode up
the hills, across lots, to raise the gate of the lower Barton Pond, which had
been heading up for his use. He passed the corn-field where, a month before, he
had seen pretty Dorothy Barton dropping corn with her brothers. It made him ache
to think of Dorothy, with her feeble mother, the boys, as wild as preacher's
sons proverbially are, and the old farm running down on her hands; the fences
all needed mending, and there went Reuben Barton, now, careering over the fields
in chase of a stray yearling. His mother's house was big, and lonely, and empty;
and he flushed as he thought of the "one ewe-lamb" he coveted, out of Friend
Barton's rugged pastures. As he raised the gate, and leaned to watch the water
swirl and gurgle through the "trunk," sucking the long weeds with it, and
thickening with its tumult the clear current of the stream, the sound of voices
and bleating of sheep came up from below. He had not the farming instincts in
his blood;—the distant bleating, the hot June sunshine and cloudless sky, did
not suggest to him sheep-washing;—but now came a boy's voice shouting and a cry
of distress, and he remembered, with a thrill, that Friend Barton used the
stream for that peaceful purpose. He shut down the gate and tore along through
the ferns and tangled grass till he came to the sheep-pen, where the bank was
muddy and trampled. The prisoners were bleating drearily and looking with
longing eyes across to the other side, where those who had suffered were now
straying and cropping the short turf, through the lights and shadows of the
no other sign of life, except a broad hat with a brown ribbon, buffeted about in
an eddy, among the stones. The stream dipped now below the hill, and the
current, still racing fast with the impetus he had given it, shot away among the
hazel thickets which crowded close to the brink. He was obliged to make a detour
by the orchard, and come out at the "mill-head" below;—a black, deep pool, with
an ugly ripple setting across it to the "head-gate." He saw something white
clinging there and ran round the brink. It was the sodden fleece of the old ewe
which had been drifted against the "head-gate," and held there to her death.
Evesham, with a sickening contraction of the heart, threw off his jacket for a
plunge, when Dorothy's voice called rather faintly from the willows on the
jump! I'm here," she said. Evesham searched the willows, and found her seated in
the sun just beyond, half buried in a bed of ferns.
wouldn't have called thee," she said shyly, as he sank, pale and panting, beside
her, "but thee looked—I thought thee was going to jump into the mill-head!"
you were there, Dorothy!"
there quite long enough. Shep pulled me out; I was too tired to help myself
much." Dorothy held her palm pressed against her temple, and the blood trickled
from beneath, streaking her pale, wet cheek.
to the house to get me a cloak. I don't want mother to see me—not yet," she
afraid you ought not to wait, Dorothy. Let me take you to the house, won't you?
I'm afraid you'll get a deadly chill."
did not look in the least like death. She was blushing now, because Evesham
would think it so strange of her to stay, and yet she could not rise in her wet
clothes, which clung to her like the calyx to a bud.
see that cut, Dorothy, please!"
nothing. I don't wish thee to look at it!"
will! Do you want to make me your murderer—sitting there in your wet clothes,
with a cut on your head?"
away her hand, and the wound, indeed, was no great affair, but he bound it up
deftly with strips of his handkerchief. Dorothy's wet curls touched his fingers
and clung to them, and her eyelashes drooped lower and lower.
it was very stupid of thee. Didn't thee hear us from the dam? I'm sure we
made noise enough."
heard you when it was too late. I heard the sheep before, but how could I
imagine that you, Dorothy, and three boys, as big as cockerels, were
sheep-washing? It's the most preposterous thing I ever heard of!"
can't help being a woman, and the sheep had to be washed. I think there ought to
be more men in the world when half of them are preaching and fighting."
only let the men who are left help you a little, Dorothy!"
want any help. I only don't want to be washed into the mill-head."
laughed, and Evesham began again entreating her to let him take her to the
thee a coat or something I could put around me until Shep comes?" said Dorothy.
"He must be here soon."
got a jacket here somewhere."
away to find it, and faithless Dorothy, as the willows closed between them,
sprang to her feet and fled like a startled Naiad to the house.
Evesham, pushing through the willows, saw nothing but the bed of wet, crushed
ferns and the trail through the long grass where Dorothy's feet had fled, he
smiled grimly to himself, remembering that "ewe-lambs" are not always as meek as
evening Rachel had received a letter from Friend Barton, and was preparing to
read it aloud to the children. They were in the kitchen, where the boys had been
helping Dorothy, in a desultory manner, to shell corn for the chickens; but now
all was silence, while Rachel wiped her glasses and turned the large sheet of
paper, squared with many foldings, to the candle.
the date, "London Grove, 5th month, 22nd.—Most affectionately beloved." "He
means us all," said Rachel, turning to the children with a tender smile. "It's
spelled with a small b."
thee!" said Dorothy, laughing. "Thee's not such a very big beloved."
a moment's silence. "I don't know that the opening of the letter is of general
interest," Rachel mused, with her eyes travelling slowly down the page. "He
says: 'In regard to my health, lest thee should concern thyself, I am thankful
to say I have never enjoyed better since years have made me acquainted with my
infirmities of body, and I earnestly hope that my dear wife and children are
enjoying the same blessing.
the boys are not deficient in obedience and helpfulness. At Sheppard's age I had
already begun to take the duties of a man upon my shoulders.'"
giggled uncomfortably, and Dorothy laughed outright.
father only knew how good the boys are! Mother, thee must write and tell
him about their 'helpfulness and obedience'! Thee can tell him their appetites
keep up pretty well; they manage to take their meals regularly, and they are
always out of bed by eight o'clock, to help me hang up the milking-stool!"
till thee gets in the mill-head again, Dorothy Barton! Thee needn't come to
me to help thee out!"
mother! Don't let the boys interrupt thee!"
said Rachel, rousing herself, "where was I? Oh, 'when I was Sheppard's age'!
Well, next come some allusions to the places where he has visited, and his
spiritual exercises there. I don't know that the boys are quite old enough to
enter into this yet. Thee'd better read it thyself, Dorothy. I'm keeping all
father's letters for the boys to read, when they are old enough to appreciate
think thee might read us about where he's been preachin'! We can understand a
great deal more than thee thinks we can!" said Shep, in an injured voice.
"Reuby, he can preach some himself! Thee ought to hear him, mother. It's almost
as good as meetin'!"
wondered how Reuby spent his time!" said Dorothy, and the mother hastened to
here's a passage that may be interesting: 'On sixth day attended the youths'
meeting here,—a pretty favored time on the whole. Joseph' [that's Joseph
Carpenter; he mentions him aways back] 'had good service in lively testimony,
while I was calm and easy, without a word to say. At a meeting at Plumstead, we
suffered long, but at length we felt relieved. The unfaithful were admonished,
the youth invited, and the heavy-hearted encouraged. It was a heavenly time!'
Heretofore he seems to have been closed up with silence a good deal; but now the
way opens continually for him to free himself. He's been 'much favored,' he
says, 'of late.' Reuby, what's thee doing to thy brothers?" (Shep and Reuby, who
had been persecuting Jimmy by pouring handfuls of corn down the neck of his
jacket until he had taken refuge behind Dorothy's chair, were now recriminating
with corn-cobs on each other's faces.) "Dorothy, can't thee keep those boys
ever know them to be quiet?" said Dorothy, helping Jimmy to relieve himself of
listen!" Rachel continued placidly, "'Second day, 27th' (of fifth month, he
means, the letter's been a long time coming), 'attended their mid-week
meeting at London Grove, where my tongue as it were clave to the roof of my
mouth, while Hannah Husbands was much favored, and enabled to lift up her voice
like the song of an angel'"—
Hannah Husbands?" cried Dorothy.
don't know her, dear. She was second cousin to thy father's step-mother; the
families were not congenial, I believe; but she has a great gift for the
think she'd better be at home with her children,—if she has any. Fancy thee,
mother, going about to strange meetings, and lifting up thy voice."
hush! Dorothy! Thy tongue's running away with thee. Consider the example thee's
setting the boys."
better write to father about Dorothy, mother! Perhaps Hannah Husbands would like
to know what she thinks about her preachin'!"
be quiet, all of you. Here's something about Dorothy: 'I know that my dear
daughter Dorothy is faithful and loving, albeit somewhat quick of speech, and
restive under obligation. I would have thee remind her that an unwillingness to
accept help from others argues a want of Christian Meekness. Entreat her, from
me, not to conceal her needs from our neighbors, if so be she find her work
oppressive. We know them to be of kindly intention, though not of our way of
thinking in all particulars. Let her receive help from them, not as individuals,
but as instruments of the Lord's protection, which it were impiety and
ingratitude to deny.'"
cried Shep. "That means thee's to let Luke Jordan finish the sheep-washing.
Thee'd better have done it in the first place. We wouldn't have the old ewe to
pick if thee had!"
was dimpling at the idea of Luke Jordan in the character of an instrument of
heavenly protection. She had not regarded him in that light, it must be
confessed, and had rejected him with scorn.
"He may if
he wants to," she said; "but you boys shall drive them over. I'll have nothing
to do with it."
them too, Dorothy? He asked to shear them long ago."
let him shear them, and keep the wool too."
wouldn't say that, Dorothy!" said Rachel Barton. "We need the wool, and it seems
as if over-payment might not be quite honest either."
mother, mother! What a mother thee is!" cried Dorothy laughing, and rumpling her
cap-strings in a tumultuous embrace.
great deal too good for thee, Dorothy Barton."
good for all of us! How did thee ever come to have such a graceless set of
well satisfied," said Rachel. "But now do be quiet, and let's finish the letter.
We must get to bed some time to-night!"
clematis was in blossom now—the fences were white with it, and the rusty cedars
were crowned with virgin wreaths, but the weeds were thick in the garden and in
the potato patch. Dorothy, stretching her cramped back, looked longingly up the
shadowy vista of the farm-lane, which had nothing to do but ramble off into the
remotest green fields, where the daisies' faces were as white and clear as in
August night she came home late from the store. The stars were thick in the sky;
the katydids made the night oppressive with their rasping questionings, and a
hoarse revel of frogs kept the ponds from falling asleep in the shadow of the
very tired to-night, Dorothy?" her mother asked, as she took her seat on the low
step of the porch. "Would thee mind turning old John out thyself?"
mother, I'm not tired. But why—oh, I know!" cried Dorothy, with a quick
laugh. "The dance—at Slocum's barn. I thought those boys were uncommonly
dear, it's but natural they should want to see it. Hark! we can hear the music
listened, and the breeze brought across the fields the sound of fiddles and the
rhythmic tramp of feet, softened by the distance. Dorothy's young pulses leaped.
is it any harm for them just to see it? They have so little fun except
what they get out of teasing and shirking."
thy father would never countenance such a scene of frivolity, or permit one of
his children to look upon it."
our eyes and ears the world takes possession of our hearts.
to spare the boys this temptation, mother? Thee will trust me to pass the
trust my boys, if they were thy age Dorothy. But their resolution is tender,
like their years."
be questioned whether the frame of mind in which the boys went to bed that
night, under their mother's eye,—for Rachel could be firm in a case of
conscience,—was more improving than the frivolity of Slocum's barn.
called Dorothy, looking in at the kitchen window, where Rachel was stooping over
the embers in the fireplace, to light a bedroom candle, "I want to speak to
came to the window, screening the candle with her hand.
trust me to look at the dancing a little while? It is so very near."
Dorothy, does thee want to?"
mother, I believe I do. I've never seen a dance in my life. It cannot ruin me to
look just once."
old enough to judge for thyself, Dorothy. But, my child, do not tamper with thy
inclinations through heedless curiosity. Thee knows thee's more impulsive than I
could wish—for thy own peace."
very careful, mother. If I feel in the least wicked I will not look."
her mother's hand, which rested on the window-sill. Rachel did not like the
kiss, or Dorothy's brilliant eyes and flushed cheeks, as the candle revealed
them like a fair picture painted on the darkness. She hesitated, and Dorothy
sped away up the lane with old John lagging at his halter.
Was it the
music growing nearer that quickened her breathing, or only the closeness of the
night, shut in between the wild grape-vine curtains, swung from one dark cedar
column to another? She caught the sweet-brier breath as she hurried by, and now,
a loop in the leafy curtain revealed the pond lying black in a hollow of the
hills, with a whole heaven of stars reflected in it. Old John stumbled along
over the stones, cropping the grass as he went. Dorothy tugged at his halter and
urged him on to the head of the lane where two farm-gates stood at right angles.
One of them was open, and a number of horses were tethered in a row along the
fence within. They whinneyed a cheerful greeting to John as Dorothy slipped his
halter and shut him into the field adjoining. Now should she walk into
temptation with her eyes and ears open? The gate stood wide, with only one field
of perfumed meadow-grass between her and the lights and music of Slocum's barn!
The sound of revelry by night could hardly have taken a more innocent form than
this rustic dancing of neighbors after a "raisin' bee," but had it been the rout
of Comus and his crew, and Dorothy the Lady Una, trembling near, her heart could
hardly have throbbed more thickly as she crossed the dewy meadow. A young maple
stood within ten rods of the barn, and here she crouched in shadow.
doors stood wide open, and lanterns were hung from the beams lighting the space
between the mows, where a dance was set, with youths and maidens in two long
rows. The fiddlers sat on barrel-heads near the door; a lantern hanging just
behind projected their shadows across the square of light on the trodden space
in front where they executed a grotesque pantomime, keeping time to the music
with spectral wavings and noddings. The dancers were Dorothy's young neighbors,
whom she had known and yet not known all her life, but they had the strangeness
of familiar faces seen suddenly in some fantastic dream.
that was Nancy Slocum, in the bright pink gown, heading the line of girls, and
that was Luke Jordan's sunburnt profile leaning from his place to pluck a straw
from the mow behind him. They were marching now, and the measured tramp of feet,
keeping solid time to the fiddles, set a strange tumult vibrating in Dorothy's
blood; and now it stopped with a thrill as she recognized that Evesham was there
marching with the young men, and that his peer was not among them. The
perception of his difference came to her with a vivid shock. He was coming
forward now, with his light, firm step, formidable in evening dress, and with a
smile of subtle triumph in his eyes, to meet Nancy Slocum, in the bright pink
gown; Dorothy felt she hated pink, of all the colors her faith had abjured. She
could see, in spite of the obnoxious gown, that Nancy was very pretty. He was
taking her first by the right hand, then by the left, and turning her gayly
about;—and now they were meeting again, for the fourth or fifth time, in the
centre of the barn, with all eyes upon them, and the music lingered while Nancy,
holding out her pink petticoats, coyly revolved around him. Then began a
mysterious turning, and clasping of hands, and weaving of Nancy's pink frock and
Evesham's dark blue coat and white breeches in and out of the line of figures,
until they met at the door, and taking each other by both hands, swept with a
joyous measure to the head of the barn. Dorothy gave a little choking sigh.
senseless whirl it was! But she was thrilling with a new and strange excitement,
too near the edge of pain to be long endured as a pleasure. If this were the
influence of dancing, she did not wonder so much at her father's scruples,—and
yet it held her like a spell.
were lifted now, making an arch, through which Evesham, holding Nancy by the
hands, raced stooping and laughing. As they emerged at the door, he threw up his
head to shake a brown lock back. He looked flushed, and boyishly gay, and his
hazel eye searched the darkness with that subtle ray of triumph in it which had
made Dorothy afraid. She drew back behind the tree and pressed her hot cheek to
the cool, rough bark. She longed for the stillness of the starlit meadow, and
the dim lane, with its faint perfumes and whispering leaves.
suddenly the music stopped, and the dance broke up in a tumult of voices.
Dorothy stole backward in the shadow of the tree-trunk, till it joined the
darkness of the meadow, and then fled,—stumbling along with blinded eyes, and
the music still vibrating in her ears. There came a quick rush of footsteps
behind her, swishing through the long grass. She did not look back, but
quickened her pace, struggling to reach the gate. Evesham was there before her.
He had swung the gate to and was leaning with his back against it, laughing and
caught you, Dorothy, you little deceiver! You'll not get rid of me to-night with
any of your tricks. I'm going to take you home to your mother, and tell her you
were peeping at the dancing."
knows I am here," said Dorothy. "I asked her!" Her knees were trembling, and her
heart almost choked her with its throbbing.
glad you don't dance, Dorothy. This is much nicer than the barn; and the
katydids are better fiddlers than old Darby and his son. I'll open the gate if
you will put your hand in mine, so I can be sure of you—you little runaway!"
stay here all night, first!" said Dorothy, in a low quivering voice.
choose. I shall be happy as long as you are here."
silence, while the katydids seemed to keep time to their heart-beats; the
fiddles began tuning for another reel, and the horses tethered near stretched
out their necks with low inquiring whinneys.
said Evesham, softly, leaning toward her and trying to see her face in the
darkness, "are you angry with me? Don't you think you deserve a little
punishment for the trick you played me at the mill-head?"
thy fault for wetting me!" Dorothy was too excited and angry to cry, but she was
as miserable as she had ever been in her life before. "I didn't want thee
to stay. People who force themselves where they are not wanted must take what
you say, Dorothy?"
"I say I
didn't want thee then. I do not want thee now! Thee may go back to thy fiddling
and dancing! I'd rather have one of those dumb brutes for company to-night than
thee, Walter Evesham!"
well! The reel has begun," said Evesham. "Fanny Jordan is waiting to dance it
with me, or if she isn't she ought to be! Shall I open the gate for you?"
out in silence, and the gate swung to with a heavy jar. She made good speed down
the lane, and then waited outside the fence till her breath came more quietly.
thee, Dorothy?" Rachel's voice called from the porch. She came out to meet her,
and they went along the walk together. "How damp thy forehead is, child! is the
night so warm?" They sat down on the low steps, and Dorothy slid her arm under
her mother's and laid her soft palm against the one less soft by twenty years of
toil for others. "Thee's not been long, dear; was it as much as thee expected?"
it was dreadful! I never wish to hear a fiddle again as long as I live!"
opened the way for Dorothy to speak further; she was not without some mild
stirrings of curiosity on the subject herself; but Dorothy had no more to say.
into the house soon after, and as they separated for the night, Dorothy clung to
her mother with a little nervous laugh.
what is that text about Ephraim?"
is joined to idols?" Rachel suggested.
Ephraim is joined to his idols!" said Dorothy, lifting her head. "Let him go!"
alone," corrected Rachel.
alone!" Dorothy repeated. "That is better yet."
thee thinking of, dear?"
thinking about the dance in the barn."
thee looks at it in that light," said Rachel.
knelt by her bed in the low chamber under the eaves, crying to herself that she
was not the child of her mother any more.
she had lost something, which, in truth, had never been hers. It was only the
unconscious poise of her unawakened girlhood which had been stirred. She had
mistaken it for that abiding peace which is not lost or won in a day.
could not stifle the spring thrills in her blood any more than she could crush
its color out of her cheek or brush the ripples out of her bright hair, but she
longed for the cool grays and the still waters. She prayed that the "grave and
beautiful damsel called Discretion" might take her by the hand and lead her to
that "upper chamber, whose name is Peace." She lay awake, listening to the music
from the barn, and waiting through breathless silences for it to begin again.
She wondered if Fanny Jordan had grown any prettier since she had seen her as a
half-grown girl; and then she despised herself for the thought. The katydids
seemed to beat their wings upon her brain, and all the noises of the night, far
and near, came to her strained senses, as if her silent chamber were a
whispering gallery. The clock struck twelve, and in the silence that followed
she missed the music; but voices, talking and laughing, were coming down the
lane. There was the clink of a horse's hoof on the stones; now it was lost on
the turf; and now they were all trooping noisily past the house. She buried her
head in her pillow, and tried to bury with it the consciousness that she was
wondering if Evesham were there, laughing with the rest.
Evesham was there. He walked with Farmer Jordan, behind the young men and girls,
and discussed with him, somewhat absently, the war news and the prices of grain.
passed the dark old house, spreading its wide roofs, like a hen gathering her
chickens under her wing, he became suddenly silent. A white curtain flapped in
and out of an upper window. It was the window of the boys' room; but Evesham's
instincts failed him there.
kinks them old Friend preachers git into their heads sometimes!" said farmer
Jordan, as they passed the empty mill. "Now what do you s'pose took Uncle Tommy
Barton off right on top of plantin', leavin' his wife 'n' critters 'n' child'en
to look after themselves? Mighty good preachin' it ought to be, to make up for
such practicin'. Wonderful set ag'in the war, Uncle Tommy is! He's a-preachin'
up peace now. But Lord! all the preachin' sence Moses won't keep men from
fightin' when their blood's up and there's ter'tory in it!"
saints of the women," said Evesham shortly.
Saints in heaven before their time, some of 'em. There's Dorothy, now. She'll
hoe her row with any saint in the kingdom or out of it. I never see a
hulsomer-lookin' gal. My Luke, he run the furrers in her corn-patch last May.
Said it made him sick to see a gal like that a-staggerin' after a plow. She
wouldn't more'n half let him! She's a proud little piece. They're all
proud, Quakers is. I never could see no 'poorness of spirit,' come to git at
'em! And they're wonderful clannish, too. My Luke, he'd a notion he'd like to
run the hull concern—Dorothy 'n' all; but I told him he might 's well p'int off.
Them Quaker gals don't never marry out o' meetin'. Besides, the farm's too
"Good-night, Mr. Jordan!" said Evesham suddenly. "I'm off across lots!" He
leaped the fence, crashed through the alder hedge-row, and disappeared in the
was by no means satisfied with his experiments in planetary distances.
Somewhere, he felt sure, either in his orbit or hers, there must be a point
where Dorothy would be less insensible to the attraction of atoms in the mass.
Thus far, she had reversed the laws of the spheres, and the greater had followed
the less. When she had first begun to hold a permanent place in his thoughts, he
had invested her with something of that atmosphere of peace and cool passivity
which hedges in the women of her faith. It had been like a thin, clear glass,
revealing her loveliness, but cutting off the magnetic currents. A young man is
not long satisfied with the mystery his thoughts have woven around the woman who
is their object. Evesham had grown impatient; he had broken the spell of her
sweet remoteness. He had touched her, and found her human,—deliciously,
distractingly human, but with a streak of obduracy which history has attributed
to the Quakers under persecution. In vain he haunted the mill-dam, and bribed
the boys with traps and pop-guns, and lingered at the well-curb to ask Dorothy
for water, which did not reach his thirst. She was there in the flesh, with her
arms aloft, balancing the well-sweep, while he stooped with his lips at the
bucket; but in spirit she was unapproachable. He felt, with disgust at his own
persistence, that she even grudged him the water! He grew savage and restless,
and fretted over the subtle changes which he counted in Dorothy, as the summer
waned. She was thinner and paler,—perhaps with the heats of harvest, which had
not, indeed, been burdensome from its abundance. Her eyes were darker and shyer,
and her voice more languid. Was she wearing down, with all this work and care? A
fierce disgust possessed him, that this sweet life should be cast into the
breach between faith and works.
He did not
see that Rachel Barton had changed, too,—with a change that meant more, at her
age, than Dorothy's flushings and palings. He did not miss the mother's bent
form from the garden, or the bench by the kitchen door, where she had been used
to wash the milk-things.
washed the milk-things now, and the mother spent her days in the sunny east
room, between her bed and the easy-chair, where she sat and mused for hours over
the five letters she had received from her husband in as many months. The boys
had, in a measure, justified their father's faith in them, since Rachel's
illness, and Dorothy was released from much of her out-door work; but the
silence of the kitchen, when she was there alone with her ironing and
dish-washing, was a heavier burden than she had yet known.
sometimes strikes in upon the hopeless monotony of life in remote farm-houses,
with one of her phenomenal moods. They come like besoms of destruction; but they
scatter the web of stifling routine; they fling into the stiffening pool the
stone which jars the atoms into crystal.
which had ambushed in the lurid August skies, and circled ominously round the
horizon during the first weeks of September, broke at last in an equinoctial
which was long remembered in the mill-house. It took its place in the family
calendar of momentous dates with the hard winter of 1800; with the late frost,
which coated the incipient apples with ice, and froze the new potatoes in the
ground; and with the year the typhus got into the valley.
had been falling a night and a day. It had been welcomed with thanksgiving; but
it had worn out its welcome some hours since, and now the early darkness was
coming on without a lull in the storm. Dorothy and the two biggest boys had made
the rounds of the farm-buildings, seeing all safe for the second night. The
barns and mill stood on high ground, while the house occupied the sheltered
hollow between. Little streams from the hills were washing in turbid currents
across the lower levels; the waste-weir roared as in early spring; the garden
was inundated, and the meadow a shallow pond. The sheep had been driven into the
upper barn floor; the chickens were in the corn-bin; and old John and the cows
had been transferred from the stable, which stood low, to the weighing-floor of
the mill. A gloomy echoing and gurgling sounded from the dark wheel-chamber,
where the water was rushing under the wheel, and jarring it with its tumult. At
eight o'clock the wood-shed was flooded, and water began to creep under the
kitchen door. Dorothy and the boys carried armfuls of wood, and stacked them in
the passage to the sitting-room, two steps higher up. At nine o'clock the boys
were sent, protesting, to bed; and Dorothy, looking out of their window, as she
fumbled about in the dark for a pair of Shep's trowsers which needed mending,
saw a lantern flickering up the road. It was Evesham, on his way to the
mill-dams. The light glimmered on his oil-skin coat as he climbed the stile
behind the well-curb.
the flood-gates at noon," Dorothy said to herself. "I wonder if he is anxious
about the dams." She resolved to watch for his return, but she was busy settling
her mother for the night when she heard his footsteps on the porch. The roar of
water from the hills startled Dorothy as she opened the door;—it had increased
in violence within an hour. A gust of wind and rain followed Evesham into the
she said, running lightly across the sitting-room to close the door of her
opposite her on the hearth-rug and looked into her eyes across the estrangement
of the summer. It was not Dorothy of the mill-head, or of Slocum's meadow, or
the cold maid of the well: it was a very anxious, lovely little girl, in a
crumbling old house, with a foot of water in the cellar, and a sick mother in
the next room. She had forgotten about Ephraim and his idols; she picked up
Shep's trowsers from the rug, where she had dropped them, and looking intently
at her thimble finger, told him she was very glad he had come.
think I wouldn't come?" said he. "I'm going to take you home with me,
Dorothy,—you and your mother and the boys. It's not fit for you to be here
know of any danger?"
of none, but water's a thing you can't depend on. It's an ugly rain; older
men than your father remember nothing like it."
be glad to have mother go, and Jimmy;—the house is very damp. It's an awful
night for her to be out, though!"
must go!" said Evesham. "You must all go. I'll be back in half an hour—"
shall not go," Dorothy said; "the boys and I must stay and look after the
that?" Evesham was listening to a trickling of water outside the door.
from the kitchen! The door's blown open, I guess!"
looked out into the passage; a strong wind was blowing in from the kitchen,
where the water covered the floor and washed against the chimney.
"This is a
nice state of things! What's all this wood here for?"
wood-shed's under water, you know."
get yourself ready, Dorothy! I'll come for your mother first in the chaise."
go," she said; "I don't believe there is any danger. This old house has stood
for eighty years; it's not likely this is the first big rain in all that time."
Dorothy's spirits had risen. "Besides, I have a family of orphans to take care
of! See here," she said, stooping over a basket in the shadow of the chimney. It
was the "hospital tent," and as she uncovered it, a brood of belated chickens
stretched out their thin necks with plaintive peeps.
covered them with her hands, and they nestled with cozy twitterings into
kind of special providence, aren't you, Dorothy? But I've no sympathy with
chickens who will be born just in time for the equinoctial."
didn't want them," said Dorothy, anxious to defend her management. "The old hen
stole her nest, and she left them the day before the rain. She's making herself
comfortable now in the corn-bin."
to be made an example of;—that's the way of the world, however;—retribution
don't fall always on the right shoulders. I must go now. We'll take your mother
and Jimmy first, and then, if you won't come, you shall let me stay with
you. The mill is safe enough, anyhow."
returned with the chaise and a man who he insisted should drive away old John
and the cows, so Dorothy should have less care. The mother was packed into the
chaise with a vast collection of wraps, which almost obliterated Jimmy. As they
started, Dorothy ran out in the rain with her mother's spectacles and the five
letters, which always lay in a box on the table by her bed. Evesham took her
gently by the arms and lifted her back across the puddles to the stoop.
chaise drove off, she went back to the sitting-room and crouched on the rug, her
wet hair shining in the firelight. She took out her chickens one by one and held
them under her chin, with tender words and finger-touches. If September chickens
have hearts as susceptible as their bodies, Dorothy's orphans must have been
imperilled by her caresses.
here, Dorothy! Where's my trowsers?" cried Shep, opening the door at the foot of
behind him, fully arrayed in the aforesaid articles, and carrying the bedroom
are—with a needle in them," said Dorothy. "What are you getting up in the middle
of the night for?"
guess it's time somebody's up. Who's that man driving off our cows?"
It's Walter Evesham's man. He came for mother and all of us, and he's taken old
John and the cows to save us so much foddering."
see why we should, just because there happens to be a little water in the
kitchen. I've often seen it come in there before."
thee never saw anything like this before—nor anybody else, either," said
care," said Reuby; "I wish there'd come a reg'lar flood. We could climb up in
the mill-loft and go sailin' down over Jordan's meadows. Wouldn't Luke Jordan
open that big mouth of his to see us heave in sight about cock-crow—three sheets
in the wind, and the old tackle a-swingin'!"
said Dorothy. "We may have to try it yet."
an awful roarin' from our window," said Shep. "Thee can't half hear it down
here. Come out on the stoop. The old ponds have got their dander up this time."
opened the door and listened, standing together on the low step. There was,
indeed, a hoarse murmur from the hills which grew louder as they listened.
comin'! There goes the stable-door! There was only one hinge left, anyway," said
Reuby. "Mighty! Look at that wave!"
through the gate, swept across the garden, and broke at their feet, sending a
thin sheet of water over the floor and stoop.
gone into the entry. Why didn't thee shut the door, Shep?"
think we'd better clear out, anyhow. Let's go over to the mill. Say, Dorothy,
There comes another wave!"
onset was not so violent, but they hastened to gather together a few blankets,
and the boys filled their pockets, with a delightful sense of unusualness and
peril, almost equal to a shipwreck or an attack by Indians. Dorothy took her
unlucky chickens under her cloak and they made a rush, all together, across the
road and up the slope to the mill.
didn't we think to bring a lantern?" said Dorothy, as they huddled together on
the platform of the scale. "Will thee go back after one, Shep?"
Reuby'll go, too."
my legs are wet enough now! What's the use of a lantern? Mighty Moses!
mill's got under weigh!" cried Shep. "She's going to tune up for Kingdom
head of water was rushing along the race. The great wheel creaked and swung
over, and with a shudder the old mill awoke from its long sleep. The cogs
clenched their teeth, the shafting shook and rattled, the stones whirled merrily
goes it!" cried Shep, as the humming increased to a tremor, and the tremor to a
wild, unsteady din, till the timbers shook and the bolts and windows rattled. "I
just wish father could hear them old stones hum."
is awful!" said Dorothy. She was shivering, and sick with terror at this
unseemly midnight revelry of her grandfather's old mill. It was as if it had
awakened in a fit of delirium, and given itself up to a wild travesty of its
years of peaceful work.
creeping about in the darkness.
here! We've got to stop this clatter somehow. The stones are hot now. The whole
thing'll burn up like tinder if we can't chock her wheels."
Does thee mean it?"
see if I don't. Thee won't need any lantern either."
break away the race?"
there's a way to stop it. There's the tip-trough, but it's down-stairs, and we
can't reach the pole."
outside, thee knows. Thee'll get awful wet, Dorothy."
just as soon be drowned as burned up. Come with me to the head of the stairs."
their way hand in hand in the darkness, and Dorothy went down alone. She had
forgotten about the "tip-trough," but she understood its significance. In a few
moments a cascade shot out over the wheel, sending the water far into the
over my chrysanthemum bed!" sighed Dorothy.
swung slower and slower, the mocking tumult subsided, and the old mill sank into
nothing now to drown the roaring of the floods and the steady drive of the
lantern," Shep called from the door. He had opened the upper half, and was
shielding himself behind it. "I guess it's Evesham coming back for us. He's a
pretty good sort of a fellow, after all; don't thee think so, Dorothy? He owes
us something for drowning us out at the sheep-washing."
does all this mean?" said Dorothy, as Evesham swung himself over the
half-door, and his lantern showed them in their various phases of wetness.
big leak in the lower dam! I've been afraid of it all along; there's something
wrong in the principle of the thing."
felt as if he had called her grandfather a fraud, and her father a delusion and
a snare. She had grown up in the belief that the mill-dams were part of Nature's
original plan, in laying the foundations of the hills;—but it was no time to be
resentful, and the facts were against her.
said Evesham, as he tucked the buffalo about her, "this is the second time I've
tried to save you from drowning, but you never will wait! I'm all ready
to be a hero, but you won't be a heroine."
practical for a heroine," said Dorothy. "There! I've forgotten my chickens."
of it! Those chickens were a mistake. They oughtn't to be perpetuated."
happiness can stand a great deal of cold water; but it was not to be expected
that Rachel Barton should be especially benefited by her night journey through
the floods. Evesham waited in the hall when he heard the door of her room open
next morning. Dorothy came slowly down the stairs; he knew by her lingering step
and the softly closed door that she was not happy.
very sick," she answered his inquiry.
like the turn of inflammation and rheumatism she had once before. It will be
very slow,—and oh! it is such suffering! Why do the best women in the
world have to suffer so?"
let me talk things over with you after breakfast, Dorothy?"
she said; "there is so much to do and think about. I wish father would
came into Dorothy's eyes as she looked at him. Rest—such as she had never known,
or felt the need of till now—and strength immeasurable, since it would multiply
her own by an unknown quantity, stood within reach of her hand, but she might
not put it out! And Evesham was dizzy with the struggle between longing and
braced his nerves for a long and hungry waiting, but fate had yielded
suddenly;—the floods had brought her to him,—his flotsam and jetsam, more
precious than all the guarded treasures of the earth. She had come, with all her
girlish, unconscious beguilements, and all her womanly cares, and anxieties too.
He must strive against her sweetness, while he helped her to bear her burdens.
the boys, Dorothy," he said two hours later, as they stood together by the fire
in the low, oak-finished room at the foot of the stairs, which was his office
and book-room. The door was ajar, so Dorothy might hear her mother's bell.
"Don't you think they had better be sent to school somewhere?"
said Dorothy, "they ought to go to school—but—well, I may as well tell
thee the truth! There's very little to do it with. We've had a poor summer. I
suppose I've managed badly, and mother has been sick a good while."
forgotten about the pond-rent, Dorothy."
said, with a quick flush; "I hadn't forgotten it; but I couldn't ask thee
to your father about monthly payments; but he said better leave it to accumulate
for emergencies. Shouldn't you call this an 'emergency,' Dorothy?"
thee think we ought to ask rent for a pond that has all leaked away?"
there's pond enough left, and I've used it a dozen times over this summer! I
would be ashamed to tell you, Dorothy, how my horn has been exalted in your
father's absence. However, retribution has overtaken me at last; I'm
responsible, you know, for all the damage last night. It was in the agreement
that I should keep up the dams."
Dorothy; "is thee sure?"
father were like any other man, Dorothy, he'd make me 'sure,' when he gets home!
I will defend myself to this extent: I've patched and propped them all summer,
after every rain, and tried to provide for the fall storms; but there's a flaw
in the original plan—"
that once before," said Dorothy. "I wish thee wouldn't say it again."
love those old mill-dams! I've trotted over them ever since I could walk alone!"
trot over them still! We will make them as strong as the everlasting hills. They
shall outlast our time, Dorothy."
about the rent," said Dorothy. "I'm afraid it will not take us through the
winter, unless there is something I can do. Mother couldn't possibly be moved
now, and if she could, it will be months before the house is fit to live in. But
we cannot stay here in comfort, unless thy mother will let me make up in some
way. Mother will not need me all the time, and I know thy mother hires women to
let you do all you like, if it will make you any happier. But you don't know how
much money is coming to you. Come, let us look over the figures."
the lid of the black mahogany secretary, placed a chair for Dorothy, and opened
a great ledger before her, bending down, with one hand on the back of the chair,
the other turning the leaves of the ledger. Considering the index, and the
position of the letter B in the alphabet, he was a long time finding his place.
Dorothy looked out of the window, over the tops of the yellowing woods, to the
gray and turbid river below. Where the hemlocks darkened the channel of the
glen, she heard the angry floods rushing down. The formless rain mists hung low,
and hid the opposite shore.
said Evesham, with his finger wandering rather vaguely down the page. "Your
father went away on the third of May. The first month's rent came due on the
third of June. That was the day I opened the gate and let the water down on you,
Dorothy. I'm responsible for everything, you see,—even for the old ewe that was
came in a dream as he bent over her, resting his unsteady hand heavily on the
laid her cheek on the date she could not see, and burst into tears.
"Don't—please don't!" he said, straightening himself, and locking his hands
behind him. "I am human, Dorothy!"
of Rachel's sickness that followed were perhaps the best discipline Evesham's
life had ever known. He held the perfect flower of his bliss, unclosing in his
hand; yet he might barely permit himself to breathe its fragrance! His mother
had been a strong and prosperous woman; there was little he could ever do for
her. It was well for him to feel the weight of helpless infirmity in his arms,
as he lifted Dorothy's mother from side to side of her bed, while Dorothy's
hands smoothed the coverings. It was well for him to see the patient endurance
of suffering, such as his youth and strength defied. It was bliss to wait on
Dorothy, and follow her with little watchful homages, received with a shy wonder
which was delicious to him,—for Dorothy's nineteen years had been too full of
service to others to leave much room for dreams of a kingdom of her own. Her
silent presence in her mother's sick-room awed him. Her gentle, decisive voice
and ways, her composure and unshaken endurance through nights of watching and
days of anxious confinement and toil, gave him a new reverence for the mysteries
of her unfathomable womanhood.
of Friend Barton's return drew near. It must be confessed that Dorothy welcomed
it with a little dread, and Evesham did not welcome it at all. On the contrary,
the thought of it roused all his latent obstinacy and aggressiveness. The first
day or two after the momentous arrival wore a good deal upon every member of the
family, except Margaret Evesham, who was provided with a philosophy of her own,
which amounted almost to a gentle obtuseness, and made her a comfortable
non-conductor, preventing more electric souls from shocking each other.
morning of the fourth day, Dorothy came out of her mother's room with a tray of
empty dishes in her hands. She saw Evesham at the stair-head and hovered about
in the shadowy part of the hall till he should go down.
he said, "I'm waiting for you." He took the tray from her and rested it on the
banisters. "Your father and I have talked over all the business. He's got the
impression I'm one of the most generous fellows in the world. I intend to let
him rest in that delusion for the present. Now may I speak to him about
something else, Dorothy? Have I not waited long enough for my heart's desire?"
care!" said Dorothy, softly,—"thee'll upset the tea-cups!"
the tea-cups!" He stooped to place the irrelevant tray on the floor, but now
Dorothy was half-way down the staircase. He caught her on the landing, and
taking both her hands, drew her down on the step beside him.
this is the second time you've taken advantage of my unsuspicious nature! This
time you shall be punished! You needn't try to hide your face, you little
traitor! There's no repentance in you!"
"If I'm to
be punished there's no need of repentance."
do you know, I've never heard you speak my name, except once, when you were
angry with me."
I caught you at the gate. You said, 'I would rather have one of those dumb
brutes for company than thee, Walter Evesham.' You said it in the fiercest
little voice! Even the 'thee' sounded as if you hated me."
said Dorothy promptly. "I had reason to."
hate me now, Dorothy?"
much as I did then."
implacable little Quaker you are!"
is always hated," said Dorothy, trying to release her hands.
will look in my eyes, Dorothy, and call me by my name, just once,—I'll let
Evesham!" said Dorothy, with great firmness and decision.
won't do! You must look at me,—and say it softly,—in a little sentence,
please let me go, Walter?"
Evesham was a man of his word, but as Dorothy sped away, he looked as if he
wished he were not.
evening, Friend Barton sat by his wife's easy-chair, drawn into the circle of
firelight, with his elbows on his knees, and his head between his hands.
spot on the top of his head had widened considerably during the summer, but
Rachel looked stronger and brighter than she had for many a day. There was even
a little flush on her cheek, but that might have come from the excitement of a
long talk with her husband.
thee takes it so hard, Thomas; I was afraid thee would. But the way didn't seem
to open for me to do much. I can see now, that Dorothy's inclinations have been
turning this way for some time, though it's not likely she would own it, poor
child; and Walter Evesham's not one who is easily gainsayed. If thee
could only feel differently about it, I can't say but it would make me very
happy to see Dorothy's heart satisfied. Can't thee bring thyself into unity with
it, father? He's a nice young man. They're nice folks. Thee can't complain of
the blood. Margaret Evesham tells me a cousin of hers married one of the
Lawrences, so we are kind of kin, after all."
complain of the blood; they're well enough placed as far as the world is
concerned! But their ways are not our ways, Rachel! Their faith is not our
can't see such a very great difference, come to live among them! 'By their
fruits ye shall know them.' To comfort the widow and the fatherless, and keep
ourselves unspotted from the world!—thee's always preached that, father! I
really can't see any more worldliness here than among many households with
us,—and I'm sure if we haven't been the widow and the fatherless this summer,
we've been next to it!"
Barton raised his head a little, and rested his forehead on his clasped hands.
he said, "look at that!" He pointed upward to an ancient sword with belt and
trappings, which gleamed on the panelled chimney-piece—crossed by an old queen's
arm. Evesham had given up his large sunny room to Dorothy's mother, but he had
not removed all his lares and penates.
dear; that's his grandfather's sword—Colonel Evesham, who was killed at
he hang up that thing of abomination for a light and a guide to his footsteps,
if his way be not far from ours?"
father! Colonel Evesham was a good man!—I dare say he fought for the same reason
that thee preaches—because he felt it his duty!"
"I find no
fault with him, Rachel. Doubtless he followed his light, as thee says;
but he followed it in better ways too. He cleared land and built a homestead and
a meeting-house. Why don't his grandson hang up his old broad-ax and
ploughshare, and worship them, if he must have idols, instead of that
symbol of strife and bloodshed. Does thee want our Dorothy's children to grow up
under the shadow of that sword?"
a stern light of prophecy in the old man's eyes.
Walter Evesham would take it down," said Rachel, leaning back wearily and
closing her eyes. "I never was much of a hand to argue, even if I had the
strength for it; but it would hurt me a good deal—I must say it—if thee denies
Dorothy in this matter, Thomas. It's a very serious thing to have old folks try
to turn young hearts the way they think they ought to go. I remember now,—I was
thinking about it last night, and it all came back as fresh! I don't know that I
ever told thee about that young friend who visited me before I heard thee preach
at Stony Valley? Well! father, he was wonderful pleased with him, but I
didn't feel any drawing that way. He urged me a good deal, more than was
pleasant for either of us. He wasn't at all reconciled to thee, Thomas, if thee
remember," said Thomas Barton, "it was an anxious time."
dear, if father had insisted, and sent thee away, I can't say but life
would have been a very different thing to me."
thee for saying it, Rachel." Friend Barton's head drooped between his hands.
suffered much through me; thee's had a hard life, but thee's been well beloved."
leaped and flickered in the chimney, they touched the wrinkled hands, whose only
beauty was in their deeds; they crossed the room and lit the pillows where, for
three generations, young heads had dreamed, and gray heads had watched and
suffered; then they mounted to the chimney and struck a gleam from the sword.
father," said Rachel, "what answer is thee going to give Walter Evesham?"
say no more, my dear. Let the young folks have their way. There's strife and
contention enough in the world without my stirring up more. And it may be I'm
resisting the Master's will; I left her in His care: this may be His way of
dealing with her."
Evesham did not take down his grandfather's sword. Fifty years later another
went up beside it,—the sword of a young Evesham who never left the field of
Shiloh; and beneath them both hangs the portrait of the Quaker grandmother,
Dorothy Evesham, at the age of sixty-nine.
ripples, silver now, are hidden under a "round-eared cap," the quick flush has
faded in her cheek, and fold upon fold of snowy gauze and creamy silk are
crossed over the bosom that thrilled to the fiddles of Slocum's barn. She has
found the cool grays and the still waters; but on Dorothy's children rests the
"Shadow of the Sword"!
By J. W. DeForest.
Monthly, December, 1872.)
fallen angel (politeness toward his numerous and influential friends forbids me
to mention his name abruptly) lately entered into the body of Mr. Ananias
Pullwool, of Washington, D.C.
said body was a capacious one, having been greatly enlarged circumferentially
since it acquired its full longitude, there was accommodation in it for both the
soul of Pullwool himself (it was a very little one) and for his distinguished
visitant. Indeed, there was so much room in it that they never crowded each
other, and that Pullwool hardly knew, if he even so much as mistrusted, that
there was a chap in with him. But other people must have been aware of this
double tenantry, or at least must have been shrewdly suspicious of it, for it
soon became quite common to hear fellows say, "Pullwool has got the Devil in
indeed, a remarkable change—a change not so much moral as physical and mental—in
this gentleman's ways of deporting and behaving himself. From being logy in
movement and slow if not absolutely dull in mind, he became wonderfully agile
and energetic. He had been a lobbyist, and he remained a lobbyist still, but
such a different one, so much more vigorous, eager, clever, and impudent, that
his best friends (if he could be said to have any friends) scarcely knew him for
the same Pullwool. His fat fingers were in the buttonholes of Congressmen from
the time when they put those buttonholes on in the morning to the time when they
took them off at night. He seemed to be at one and the same moment treating some
honorable member in the bar-room of the Arlington and running another honorable
member to cover in the committee-rooms of the Capitol. He log-rolled bills which
nobody else believed could be log-rolled, and he pocketed fees which absolutely
and point-blank refused to go into other people's pockets. During this short
period of his life he was the most successful and famous lobbyist in Washington,
and the most sought after by the most rascally and desperate claimants of
many another man who has the Devil in him, Mr. Pullwool ran his luck until he
ran himself into trouble. An investigating committee pounced upon him; he was
put in confinement for refusing to answer questions; his filchings were held up
to the execration of the envious both by virtuous members and a virtuous press;
and when he at last got out of durance he found it good to quit the District of
Columbia for a season. Thus it happened that Mr. Pullwool and his eminent lodger
took the cars and went to and fro upon the earth seeking what they might devour.
course of their travels they arrived in a little State, which may have been
Rhode Island, or may have been Connecticut, or may have been one of the
Pleiades, but which at all events had two capitals. Without regard to Morse's
Gazetteer, or to whatever other Gazetteer may now be in currency, we shall
affirm that one of these capitals was called Slowburg and the other Fastburg.
For some hundreds of years (let us say five hundred, in order to be sure and get
it high enough) Slowburg and Fastburg had shared between them, turn and turn
about, year on and year off, all the gubernatorial and legislative pomps and
emoluments that the said State had to bestow. On the 1st of April of every odd
year the governor, preceded by citizen soldiers, straddling or curvetting
through the mud—the governor, followed by twenty barouches full of eminent
citizens, who were not known to be eminent at any other time, but who made a
rush for a ride on this occasion as certain old ladies do at funerals—the
governor, taking off his hat to pavements full of citizens of all ages, sizes,
and colors, who did not pretend to be eminent—the governor, catching a fresh
cold at every corner, and wishing the whole thing were passing at the
equator,—the governor triumphantly entered Slowburg,—observe, Slowburg,—read his
always enormously long message there, and convened the legislature there. On the
1st of April of every even year the same governor, or a better one who had
succeeded him, went through the same ceremonies in Fastburg. Each of these
capitals boasted, or rather blushed over, a shabby old barn of a State-House,
and each of them maintained a company of foot-guards and ditto of horse-guards,
the latter very loose in their saddles. In each the hotels and boarding-houses
had a full year and a lean year, according as the legislature sat in the one or
in the other. In each there was a loud call for fresh shad and stewed oysters,
or a comparatively feeble call for fresh shad and stewed oysters, under the same
the oscillation of grandeur and power between the two cities. It was an old-time
arrangement, and like many other old-fashioned things, as for instance wood
fires in open fireplaces, it had not only its substantial merits but its
superficial inconveniences. Every year certain ancient officials were obliged to
pack up hundreds of public documents and expedite them from Fastburg to
Slowburg, or from Slowburg back to Fastburg. Every year there was an expense of
a few dollars on this account, which the State treasurer figured up with agonies
of terror, and which the opposition roared at as if the administration could
have helped it. The State-Houses were two mere deformities of patched plaster
and leprous whitewash; they were such shapeless, graceless, dilapidated wigwams,
that no sensitive patriot could look at them without wanting to fly to the
uttermost parts of the earth; and yet it was not possible to build new ones, and
hardly possible to obtain appropriations enough to shingle out the weather; for
Fastburg would vote no money to adorn Slowburg, and Slowburg was equally
niggardly toward Fastburg. The same jealousy produced the same frugality in the
management of other public institutions, so that the patients of the lunatic
asylum were not much better lodged and fed than the average sane citizen, and
the gallows-birds in the State's prison were brought down to a temperance which
caused admirers of that species of fowl to tremble with indignation. In short,
the two capitals were as much at odds as the two poles of a magnet, and the
results of this repulsion were not all of them worthy of hysterical admiration.
advantages seesawed with disadvantages. In this double-ender of a State
political jobbery was at fault, because it had no headquarters. It could not get
together a ring; it could not raise a corps of lobbyists. Such few axe-grinders
as there were had to dodge back and forth between the Fastburg grindstone and
the Slowburg grindstone, without ever fairly getting their tools sharpened.
Legislature here and legislature there; it was like guessing at a pea between
two thimbles; you could hardly ever put your finger on the right one. Then what
one capital favored the other disfavored; and between them appropriations were
kicked and hustled under the table; the grandest of railroad schemes shrunk into
waste-paper baskets; in short, the public treasury was next door to the
unapproachable. Such, indeed, was the desperate condition of lobbyists in this
State, that, had it contained a single philanthropist of the advanced radical
stripe, he would surely have brought in a bill for their relief and
midst of this happily divided community dropped Mr. Ananias Pullwool with the
Devil in him. It remains to be seen whether this pair could figure up anything
worth pocketing out of the problem of two capitals.
It was one
of the even years, and the legislature met in Fastburg, and the little city was
brimful. Mr. Pullwool with difficulty found a place for himself without causing
the population to slop over. Of course he went to a hotel, for he needed to make
as many acquaintances as possible, and he knew that a bar was a perfect
hot-house for ripening such friendships as he cared for. He took the best room
he could get; and as soon as chance favored he took a better one, with parlor
attached; and on the sideboard in the parlor he always had cigars and decanters.
The result was that in a week or so he was on jovial terms with several
senators, numerous members of the lower house, and all the members of the "third
house." But lobbying did not work in Fastburg as Mr. Pullwool had found it to
work in other capitals. He exhibited the most dazzling double-edged axes, but
nobody would grind them; he pointed out the most attractive and convenient of
logs for rolling, but nobody would put a lever to them.
doose does this mean?" he at last inquired of Mr. Josiah Dicker, a member who
had smoked dozens of his cigars and drunk quarts out of his decanters. "I don't
understand this little old legislature at all, Mr. Dicker. Nobody wants to make
any money; at least, nobody has the spirit to try to make any. And yet the State
is full; never been bled a drop; full as a tick. What does it mean?"
looked disconsolate. Perhaps it may be worth a moment's time to explain that he
could not well look otherwise. Broken in fortune and broken in health, he was a
failure and knew it. His large forehead showed power, and he was in fact a
lawyer of some ability; and still he could not support his family, could not
keep a mould of mortgages from creeping all over his house-lot, and had so many
creditors that he could not walk the streets comfortably. The trouble lay in
hard drinking, with its resultant waste of time, infidelity to trust, and
impatience of application. Thin, haggard, duskily pallid, deeply wrinkled at
forty, his black eyes watery and set in baggy circles of a dull brown, his lean
dark hands shaky and dirty, his linen wrinkled and buttonless, his clothing
frayed and unbrushed, he was an impersonation of failure. He had gone into the
legislature with a desperate hope of somehow finding money in it, and as yet he
had discovered nothing more than his beggarly three dollars a day, and he felt
himself more than ever a failure. No wonder that he wore an air of profound
depression, approaching to absolute wretchedness and threatening suicide.
the more cast down by contrast with the successful Mr. Pullwool, gaudily alight
with satin and jewelry, and shining with conceit. Pullwool, by the way, although
a dandy (that is, such a dandy as one sees in gambling-saloons and behind
liquor-bars), was far from being a thing of beauty. He was so obnoxiously gross
and shapeless, that it seemed as if he did it on purpose and to be irritating.
His fat head was big enough to make a dwarf of, hunchback and all. His mottled
cheeks were vast and pendulous to that degree that they inspired the imaginative
beholder with terror, as reminding him of avalanches and landslides which might
slip their hold at the slightest shock and plunge downward in a path of
destruction. One puffy eyelid drooped in a sinister way; obviously that was the
eye that the Devil had selected for his own; he kept it well curtained for
purposes of concealment. Looking out of this peep-hole, the Satanic badger could
see a short, thick nose, and by leaning forward a little he could get a glimpse
of a broad chin of several stories. Another unpleasing feature was a full set of
false teeth, which grinned in a ravenous fashion that was truly disquieting, as
if they were capable of devouring the whole internal revenue. Finally, this
continent of physiognomy was diversified by a gigantic hairy wart, which
sprouted defiantly from the temple nearest the game eye, as though Lucifer had
accidentally poked one of his horns through. Mr. Dicker, who was a sensitive,
squeamish man (as drunkards sometimes are, through bad digestion and shaky
nerves), could hardly endure the sight of this wart, and always wanted to ask
Pullwool why he didn't cut it off.
the meaning of it all?" persisted the Washington wire-puller, surveying the
Fastburg wire-puller with bland superiority, much as the city mouse may have
surveyed the country mouse.
capitals," responded Dicker, withdrawing his nervous glance from the wart, and
locking his hands over one knee to quiet their trembling.
Pullwool, having the Old Harry in him, and being consequently full of all malice
and subtlety, perceived at once the full scope and force of the explanation.
he said, dropping gently back into his arm-chair, with the plethoric, soft
movement of a subsiding pillow. The puckers of his cumbrous eyelids drew a
little closer together; his bilious eyes peered out cautiously between them,
like sallow assassins watching through curtained windows; for a minute or so he
kept up what might without hyperbole be called a devil of a thinking.
it," he broke out at last. "Dicker, I want you to bring in a bill to make
Fastburg the only capital."
the use?" asked the legislator, looking more disconsolate, more hopeless than
ever. "Slowburg will oppose it and beat it."
mind," persisted Mr. Pullwool. "You bring in your little bill and stand up for
it like a man. There's money in it. You don't see it? Well, I do; I'm used to
seeing money in things; and in this case I see it plain. As sure as whiskey is
whiskey, there's money in it."
Pullwool's usually dull and, so to speak, extinct countenance was fairly alight
and aflame with exultation. It was almost a wonder that his tallowy person did
not gutter beneath the blaze, like an over-fat candle under the flaring of a
wick too large for it.
I'll bring in the bill," agreed Mr. Dicker, catching the enthusiasm of his
counsellor and shaking off his lethargy. He perceived a dim promise of fees, and
at the sight his load of despondency dropped away from him, as Christian's
burden loosened in presence of the cross. He looked a little like the confident,
resolute Tom Dicker, who twenty years before had graduated from college the
brightest, bravest, most eloquent fellow in his class, and the one who seemed to
have before him the finest future.
said Mr. Pullwool.
brazen word Mr. Dicker's countenance fell again; he was ashamed to talk so
frankly about plundering his fellow-citizens; "a little grain of conscience
turned him sour."
take pay for whatever I can do as a lawyer," he stammered.
laughed the Satanic one. "You just take all there is a-going! You need it bad
enough. I know when a man's hard up. I know the signs. I've been as bad off as
you; had to look all ways for five dollars; had to play second fiddle and say
thanky. But what I offer you ain't a second fiddle. It's as good a chance as my
own. Even divides. One half to you and one half to me. You know the people and I
know the ropes. It's a fair bargain. What do you say?"
thought of his decayed practice and his unpaid bills; and flipping overboard his
little grain of conscience, he said, "Snacks."
right," grinned Pullwool, his teeth gleaming alarmingly. "Word of a gentleman,"
he added, extending his pulpy hand, loaded with ostentatious rings, and grasping
Dicker's recoiling fingers. "Harness up your little bill as quick as you can,
and drive it like Jehu. Fastburg to be the only capital. Slowburg no claims at
all, historical, geographical, or economic. The old arrangement a humbug; as
inconvenient as a fifth wheel of a coach; costs the State thousands of
greenbacks every year. Figure it all up statistically and dab it over with your
shiniest rhetoric and make a big thing of it every way. That's what you've got
to do; that's your little biz. I'll tend to the rest."
quite see where the money is to come from," observed Mr. Dicker.
that to me," said the veteran of the lobbies; "my name is Pullwool, and I know
how to pull the wool over men's eyes, and then I know how to get at their
britches-pockets. You bring in your bill and make your speech. Will you do it?"
answered Dicker, bolting all scruples in another half tumbler of brandy.
his word. As promptly as parliamentary forms and mysteries would allow, there
was a bill under the astonished noses of honorable lawgivers, removing the seat
of legislation from Slowburg and centring it in Fastburg. This bill Mr. Thomas
Dicker supported with that fluency and fiery enthusiasm of oratory which had for
a time enabled him to show as the foremost man of his State. Great was the
excitement, great the rejoicing and anger. The press of Fastburg sent forth
shrieks of exultation, and the press of Slowburg responded with growlings of
disgust. The two capitals and the two geographical sections which they
represented were ready to fire Parrott guns at each other, without regard to
life and property in the adjoining regions of the earth. If there was a citizen
of the little Commonwealth who did not hear of this bill and did not talk of it,
it was because that citizen was as deaf as a post and as dumb as an oyster.
Ordinary political distinctions were forgotten, and the old party-whips could
not manage their very wheel-horses, who went snorting and kicking over the
traces in all directions. In short, both in the legislature and out of it,
nothing was thought of but the question of the removal of the capital.
loudest of the agitators was Mr. Pullwool; not that he cared one straw whether
the capital went to Fastburg, or to Slowburg, or to Ballyhack; but for the money
which he thought he saw in the agitation he did care mightily, and to get that
money he labored with a zeal which was not of this world alone. At the table of
his hotel, and in the barroom of the same institution, and in the lobbies of the
legislative hall, and in editorial sanctums and barbers' shops, and all other
nooks of gossip, he trumpeted the claims of Fastburg as if that little city were
the New Jerusalem and deserved to be the metropolis of the sidereal universe.
All sorts of trickeries, too; he sent spurious telegrams and got fictitious
items into the newspapers; he lied through every medium known to the highest
civilization. Great surely was his success, for the row which he raised was
tremendous. But a row alone was not enough; it was the mere breeze upon the
surface of the waters; the treasure-ship below was still to be drawn up and
cost money," he whispered confidentially to capitalists and land-owners. "We
must have the sinews of war, or we can't carry it on. There's your city lots
goin' to double in value if this bill goes through. What per cent will you pay
on the advance? That's the question. Put your hands in your pockets and pull 'em
out full, and put back ten times as much. It's a sure investment; warranted to
yield a hundred per cent; the safest and biggest thing agoing."
Capitalists and land-owners and merchants hearkened and believed and subscribed.
The slyest old hunks in Fastburg put a faltering forefinger into his long
pocket-book, touched a greenback which had been laid away there as neatly as a
corpse in its coffin, and resurrected it for the use of Mr. Pullwool. By tens,
by twenties, by fifties, and by hundreds the dollars of the ambitious citizens
of the little metropolis were charmed into the portemonnaie of this rattlesnake
of a lobbyist.
saw a greener set," chuckled Pullwool. "By jiminy, I believe they'd shell out
for a bill to make their town a seaport, if it was a hundred miles from a drop
But he was
not content with individual subscriptions, and conscientiously scorned himself
until he had got at the city treasury.
corporation must pony up," he insisted, with the mayor. "This bill is just
shaking in the wind for lack of money. Fastburg must come down with the dust.
You ought to see to it. What are you chief magistrate for? Ain't it to tend to
the welfare of the city? Look here, now; you call the common council together;
secret session, you understand. You call 'em together and let me talk to 'em. I
want to make the loons comprehend that it's their duty to vote something
handsome for this measure."
hummed and hawed one way, and then he hawed and hummed the other way, and the
result was that he granted the request. There was a secret session in the
council-room, with his honor at the top of the long green table, with a row of
more or less respectable functionaries on either side of it, and with Mr.
Pullwool and the Devil at the bottom. Of course it is not to be supposed that
this last-named personage was visible to the others, or that they had more than
a vague suspicion of his presence. Had he fully revealed himself, had he plainly
exhibited his horns and hoofs, or even so much as uncorked his perfume-bottle of
brimstone, it is more than probable that the city authorities would have been
exceedingly scandalized, and they might have adjourned the session. As it was,
seeing nothing more disagreeable than the obese form of the lobbyist, they
listened calmly while he unfolded his project.
Pullwool spoke at length, and to Fastburg ears eloquently. Fastburg must be the
sole capital; it had every claim, historical, geographical, and commercial, to
that distinction; it ought, could, would, and should be the sole capital; that
was about the substance of his exordium.
gentlemen, it will cost," he went on. "There is an unscrupulous and furious
opposition to the measure. The other side—those fellows from Slowburg and
vicinity—are putting their hands into their britches-pockets. You must put your
hands into yours. The thing will be worth millions to Fastburg. But it will cost
thousands. Are you ready to fork over? Are you ready?"
the figure?" asked one of the councilmen. "What do you estimate?"
"Gentlemen, I shall astonish some of you," answered Mr. Pullwool,
cunningly. It was well put; it was as much as to say, "I shall astonish the
green ones; of course the really strong heads among you won't be in the least
bothered." "I estimate," he continued, "that the city treasury will have to put
up a good round sum, say a hundred thousand dollars, be it more or less."
of surprise, of chagrin, and of something like indignation ran along the line of
official mustaches. "Nonsense," "The dickens," "Can't be done," "We can't think
of it," broke out several councilmen, in a distinctly unparliamentary manner.
"Gentlemen, one moment," pleaded Pullwool, passing his greasy smile around the
company, as though it were some kind of refreshment. "Look at the whole job;
it's a big job. We must have lawyers; we must have newspapers in all parts of
the State; we must have writers to work up the historical claims of the city; we
must have fellows to buttonhole honorable members; we must have fees for
honorable members themselves. How can you do it for less?"
showed a schedule; so much to this wire-puller and that and the other; so much
apiece to so many able editors; so much for eminent legal counsel; finally, a
trifle for himself. And one hundred thousand dollars or thereabouts was what the
schedule footed up, turn it whichever way you would.
this common council of Fastburg did not dare to vote such a sum for such a
purpose. Mr. Pullwool had not expected that it would; all that he had hoped for
was the half of it; but that half he got.
do it?" breathlessly inquired Tom Dicker of him, when he returned to the hotel.
it," calmly, yet triumphantly, responded Mr. Pullwool.
exclaimed the amazed Dicker. "You are the most extraordinary man! You must have
the very Devil in you!"
being startled by this alarming supposition, Mr. Pullwool looked gratified.
People thus possessed generally do look gratified when the possession is alluded
inspired lobbyist did not pass his time in wearing an aspect of satisfaction.
When there was money to get and to spend he could run his fat off almost as fast
as if he were pouring it into candle-moulds. The ring—the famous capital ring of
Fastburg—must be seen to, its fingers greased, and its energy quickened. Before
he rolled his apple-dumpling of a figure into bed that night he had interviewed
Smith and Brown the editors, Jones and Robinson the lawyers, Smooth and Slow the
literary characters, various lobbyists, and various lawgivers.
gentlemen, and capitalize Fastburg and get your dividends," was his inspiring
message to one and all. He promised Smith and Brown ten dollars for every
editorial, and five dollars for every humbugging telegram, and two dollars for
every telling item. Jones and Robinson were to have five hundred dollars apiece
for concurrent legal statements of the claim of the city; Smooth and Slow, as
being merely authors and so not accustomed to obtain much for their labor, got a
hundred dollars between them for working up the case historically. To the
lobbyists and members Pullwool was munificent; it seemed as if those gentlemen
could not be paid enough for their "influence;" as if they alone had that kind
of time which is money. Only, while dealing liberally with them, the inspired
one did not forget himself. A thousand for Mr. Sly; yes, Mr. Sly was to receipt
for a thousand; but he must let half of it stick to the Pullwool fingers. The
same arrangement was made with Mr. Green and Mr. Sharp and Mr. Bummer and Mr.
Pickpurse and Mr. Buncombe. It was a game of snacks, half to you and half to me;
and sometimes it was more than snacks,—a thousand for you two and a thousand for
a greasing of the wheels, you may imagine that the machinery of the ring worked
to a charm. In the city and in the legislature and throughout the State there
was the liveliest buzzing and humming and clicking of political wheels and
cranks and cogs that had ever been known in those hitherto pastoral localities.
The case of Fastburg against Slowburg was put in a hundred ways, and proved as
sure as it was put. It really seemed to the eager burghers as if they already
heard the clink of hammers on a new State-House and beheld a perpetual
legislature sitting on their fences and curbstones until the edifice should be
finished. The great wire-puller and his gang of stipendiaries were the objects
of popular gratitude and adoration. The landlord of the hotel which Mr. Pullwool
patronized actually would not take pay for that gentleman's board.
declared this simple Boniface, turning crimson with enthusiasm. "You are going
to put thousands of dollars into my purse, and I'll take nothing out of yours.
And any little thing in the way of cigars and whiskey that you want, sir, why,
call for it. It's my treat, sir."
you, sir," kindly smiled the great man. "That's what I call the square thing.
Mr. Boniface, you are a gentleman and a scholar; and I'll mention your admirable
house to my friends. By the way, I shall have to leave you for a few days."
leave us!" exclaimed Mr. Boniface, aghast. "I hope not till this job is put
run about a bit," muttered Pullwool, confidentially. "A little turn through the
State, you understand, to stir up the country districts. Some of the members
ain't as hot as they should be, and I want to set their constituents after them.
Nothing like getting on a few deputations."
exactly!" chuckled Mr. Boniface, ramming his hands into his pockets and
cheerfully jingling a bunch of keys and a penknife for lack of silver. It was
strange indeed that he should actually see the Devil in Mr. Pullwool's eye and
should not have a suspicion that he was in danger of being humbugged by him.
"And your rooms?" he suggested. "How about them?"
them," replied the lobbyist, grandly, as if blaspheming the expense—to Boniface.
"Our friends must have a little hole to meet in. And while you are about it, Mr.
Boniface, see that they get something to drink and smoke; and we'll settle it
"Pre—cisely!" laughed the landlord, as much as to say, "My treat!"
And so Mr.
Pullwool, that Pericles and Lorenzo de' Medici rolled in one, departed for a
season from the city which he ruled and blessed. Did he run about the State and
preach and crusade in behalf of Fastburg, and stir up the bucolic populations to
stir up their representatives in its favor? Not a bit of it; the place that he
went to and the only place that he went to was Slowburg; yes, covering up his
tracks in his usual careful style, he made direct for the rival of Fastburg.
What did he propose to do there? Oh, how can we reveal the whole duplicity and
turpitude of Ananias Pullwool? The subject is too vast for a merely human pen;
it requires the literary ability of a recording angel. Well, we must get our
feeble lever under this boulder of wickedness as we can, and do our faint best
to expose all the reptiles and slimy things beneath it.
person whom this apostle of lobbyism called upon in Slowburg was the mayor of
that tottering capital.
is Pullwool," he said to the official, and he said it with an almost enviable
ease of impudence, for he was used to introducing himself to people who despised
and detested him. "I want to see you confidentially about this capital ring
which is making so much trouble."
you were in it," replied the mayor, turning very red in the face, for he had
heard of Mr. Pullwool as the leader of said ring; and being an iracund man, he
was ready to knock his head off.
exclaimed the possessed one. "I wish I was. It's a fat thing. More than fifty
thousand dollars paid out already!"
gracious!" exclaimed the mayor in despair.
way, this is between ourselves," added Pullwool. "You take it so, I hope. Word
of honor, eh?"
you have anything to communicate that will help us, why, of course, I promise
secrecy," stammered the mayor. "Yes, certainly; word of honor."
I've been looking about among those fellows a little," continued Ananias. "I've
kept my eyes and ears open. It's a way I have. And I've learned a thing or two
that it will be to your advantage to know. Yes, sir! fifty thousand dollars!—the
city has voted it and paid it, and the ring has got it. That's why they are all
working so. And depend upon it, they'll carry the legislature and turn Slowburg
out to grass, unless you wake up and do something."
heavens!" exclaimed the iracund mayor, turning red again. "It's a piece of
confounded rascality. It ought to be exposed."
expose it," put in Mr. Pullwool, somewhat alarmed. "That game never works. Of
course they'd deny it and swear you down, for bribing witnesses is as easy as
bribing members. I'll tell you what to do. Beat them at their own weapons. Raise
a purse that will swamp theirs. That's the way the world goes. It's an auction.
The highest bidder gets the article."
result of it all was that the city magnates of Slowburg did just what had been
done by the city magnates of Fastburg, only, instead of voting fifty thousand
dollars into the pockets of the ring, they voted sixty thousand. With a portion
of this money about him, and with authority to draw for the rest on proper
vouchers, Mr. Pullwool, his tongue in his cheek, bade farewell to his new
allies. As a further proof of the ready wit and solid impudence of this sublime
politician and model of American statesmen, let me here introduce a brief
anecdote. Leaving Slowburg by the cars, he encountered a gentleman from
Fastburg, who saluted him with tokens of amazement, and said, "What are you
doing here, Mr. Pullwool?"
breaking up these fellows a little," whispered the man with the Devil in him.
"They were making too strong a fight. I had to see some of them," putting
one hand behind his back and rubbing his fingers together, to signify that there
had been a taking of bribes. "But be shady about it. For the sake of the good
cause, keep quiet. Mum's the word."
can imagine how briskly the fight between the two capitals reopened when Mr.
Pullwool re-entered the lobby. Slowburg now had its adherents, and they
struggled like men who saw money in their warfare, and they struggled not in
vain. To cut a very long story very short, to sum the whole of an exciting drama
in one sentence, the legislature kicked overboard the bill to make Fastburg the
sole seat of government. Nothing had come of the whole row, except that a pair
of simple little cities had spent over one hundred thousand dollars, and that
the capital ring, fighting on both sides and drawing pay from both sides, had
lined its pockets, while the great creator of the ring had crammed his to
this mean, Mr. Pullwool?" demanded the partially honest and entirely puzzled Tom
Dicker, when he had discovered by an unofficial count of noses how things were
going. "Fastburg has spent all its money for nothing. It won't be sole capital,
expected it would be," replied Pullwool, so tickled by the Devil that was in him
that he could not help laughing. "I never wanted it to be. Why, it would spoil
the little game. This is a trick that can be played every year."
exclaimed Mr. Dicker, and was dumb with astonishment for a minute.
you see through it before?" grinned the grand master of all guile and subtlety.
not," confessed Mr. Dicker, with a mixture of shame and abhorrence. "Well," he
presently added, recovering himself, "shall we settle?"
certainly, if you are ready," smiled Pullwool, with the air of a man who has
something coming to him.
exactly, will be my share?" asked Dicker, humbly.
you mean?" stared Pullwool, apparently in the extremity of amazement.
snacks, didn't you?" urged Dicker, trembling violently.
snacks it is," replied Pullwool. "Haven't you had a thousand?"
owe me five hundred?"
did not faint, though he came very near it, but he staggered out of the room as
white as a sheet, for he was utterly crushed by this diabolical impudence.
day Mr. Pullwool left for Washington, and the Devil left for his place,
each of them sure to find the other when he wanted him, if indeed their roads
By Noah Brooks.
Monthly, December, 1868.)
your helm! you'll have us hard and fast aground!"
acquaintance with Captain Booden was at that time somewhat limited, and if
possible I knew less of the difficult and narrow exit from Bolinas Bay than I
did of Captain Booden. So with great trepidation I jammed the helm hard down,
and the obedient little Lively Polly fell off easily, and we were over the bar
and gliding gently along under the steep bluff of the Mesa, whose rocky edge,
rising sheer from the beach and crowned with dry grass, rose far above the
pennon of the little schooner. I did not intend to deceive Captain Booden, but
being anxious to work my way down to San Francisco, I had shipped as "able
seaman" on the Lively Polly, though it was a long day since I had handled a
foresheet or anything bigger than the little plungers which hover about Bolinas
Bay, and latterly I had been ranching it at Point Reyes, so what could I know
about the bar and the shoals of the harbor, I would like to know? We had glided
out of the narrow channel which is skirted on one side by a long sandspit that
curves around and makes the southern and western shelter of the bay, and on the
other side by a huge elevated tongue of table-land, called by the inhabitants
thereabouts the Mesa. High, precipitous, perpendicular, level, and dotted with
farm-houses, this singular bit of land stretches several miles out southward to
sea, bordered with a rocky beach, and tapered off into the wide ocean with
Duxbury Reef—a dangerous rocky reef, curving down to the southward and almost
always white with foam, save when the sea is calm, and then the great lazy green
waves eddy noiselessly over the half-hidden rocks, or slip like oil over the
dreadful dangers which they hide.
was the lovely bay of Bolinas, blue and sparkling in the summer afternoon sun,
its borders dotted with thrifty ranches, and the woody ravines and bristling
Tamalpais Range rising over all. The tide was running out, and only a peaceful
swash whispered along the level sandy beach on our left, where the busy
sandpiper chased the playful wave as it softly rose and fell along the shore. On
the higher centre of the sandspit which shuts in the bay on that side, a row of
ashy-colored gulls sunned themselves, and blinked at us sleepily as we drifted
slowly out of the channel, our breeze cut off by the Mesa that hemmed us in on
the right. I have told you that I did not much pretend to seamanship, but I was
not sorry that I had taken passage on the Lively Polly, for there is always
something novel and fascinating to me in coasting a region which I have
heretofore known only by its hills, cañons, and sea-beaches. The trip is usually
made from Bolinas Bay to San Francisco in five or six hours, when wind and tide
favor; and I could bear being knocked about by Captain Booden for that length of
time, especially as there was one other hand on board—"Lanky" he was called—but
whether a foremast hand or landsman I do not know. He had been teaching school
at Jaybird Cañon, and was a little more awkward with the running rigging of the
Lively Polly than I was. Captain Booden was, therefore, the main reliance of the
little twenty-ton schooner, and if her deck-load of firewood and cargo of butter
and eggs ever reached a market, the skilful and profane skipper should have all
the credit thereof.
died away, and the sea, before ruffled with a wholesale breeze, grew as calm as
a sheet of billowy glass, heaving only in long, gentle undulations on which the
sinking sun bestowed a green and golden glory, dimmed only by the white fog-bank
that came drifting slowly up from the Farralones, now shut out from view by the
lovely haze. Captain Booden gazed morosely on the western horizon, and swore by
a big round oath that we should not have a capful of wind if that fog-bank did
not lift. But we were fairly out of the bay; the Mesa was lessening in the
distance, and as we drifted slowly southward the red-roofed buildings on its
level rim grew to look like toy-houses, and we heard the dull moan of the
ebb-tide on Duxbury Reef on our starboard bow. The sea grew dead calm and the
wind fell quite away, but still we drifted southward, passing Rocky Point and
peering curiously into Pilot Boat Cove, which looked so strangely unfamiliar to
me from the sea, though I had fished in its trout-brooks many a day, and had
hauled driftwood from the rocky beach to Johnson's ranch in times gone by. The
tide turned after sundown, and Captain Booden thought we ought to get a bit of
wind then; but it did not come, and the fog crept up and up the glassy sea,
rolling in huge wreaths of mist, shutting out the surface of the water, and
finally the gray rocks of North Heads were hidden, and little by little the
shore was curtained from our view and we were becalmed in the fog.
that the skipper swore would hardly describe his case. He cursed his luck, his
stars, his foretop, his main hatch, his blasted foolishness, his lubberly
crew—Lanky and I—and a variety of other persons and things; but all to no avail.
Night came on, and the light on North Heads gleamed at us with a sickly eye
through the deepening fog. We had a bit of luncheon with us, but no fire, and
were fain to content ourselves with cold meat, bread, and water, hoping that a
warm breakfast in San Francisco would make some amends for our present short
rations. But the night wore on, and we were still tumbling about in the rising
sea without wind enough to fill our sails, a rayless sky overhead, and with
breakers continually under our lee. Once we saw lights on shore, and heard the
sullen thud of rollers that smote against the rocks; it was aggravating, as the
fog lifted for a space, to see the cheerful windows of the Cliff House, and
almost hear the merry calls of pleasure-seekers as they muffled themselves in
their wraps and drove gayly up the hill, reckless of the poor homeless mariners
who were drifting comfortlessly about so near the shore they could not reach. We
got out the sweeps and rowed lustily for several hours, steering by the compass
and taking our bearings from the cliff.
lost our bearings in the maze of currents in which we soon found ourselves, and
the dim shore melted away in the thickening fog. To add to our difficulties,
Captain Booden put his head most frequently into the cuddy; and when it emerged,
he smelt dreadfully of gin. Lanky and I held a secret council, in which we
agreed, in case he became intoxicated, we would rise up in mutiny and work the
vessel on our own account. He shortly "lost his head," as Lanky phrased it; and
slipping down on the deck, went quietly into the sleep of the gin-drunken. At
four o'clock in the morning the gray fog grew grayer with the early dawning; and
as I gazed with weary eyes into the vague unknown that shut us in, Booden roused
him from his booze, and seizing the tiller from my hand, bawled: "'Bout ship,
you swab! we're on the Farralones!" And sure enough, there loomed right under
our starboard quarter a group of conical rocks, steeply rising from the restless
blue sea. Their wild white sides were crowded with chattering sea-fowl; and far
above, like a faint nimbus in the sky, shone the feeble rays of the lighthouse
lantern, now almost quenched by the dull gleam of day that crept up from the
water. The helm was jammed hard down. There was no time to get out sweeps; but
still drifting helplessly, we barely grazed the bare rocks of the islet, and
swung clear, slinking once more into the gloom.
stock of provisions and water was gone; but there was no danger of starvation,
for the generous product of the henneries and dairies of Bolinas filled the
vessel's hold—albeit raw eggs and butter without bread might only serve as a
barrier against famine. So we drifted and tumbled about—still no wind and no
sign of the lifting of the fog. Once in awhile it would roll upward and show a
long, flat expanse of water, tempting us to believe that the blessed sky was
coming out at last; but soon the veil fell again, and we aimlessly wondered
where we were and whither we were drifting. There is something awful and
mysterious in the shadowy nothingness that surrounds one in a fog at sea. You
fancy that out of that impenetrable mist may suddenly burst some great disaster
or danger. Strange shapes appear to be forming themselves in the obscurity out
of which they emerge, and the eye is wearied beyond expression with looking into
a vacuity which continually promises to evolve into something, but never does.
drifting, we heard, first, the creaking of a block, then a faint wash of sea;
and out of the white depths of the fog came the bulky hull of a full-rigged
ship. Her sails were set, but she made scarcely steerage way. Her rusty sides
and general look bespoke a long voyage just concluding; and we found on hailing
her that she was the British ship Marathon, from Calcutta for San Francisco. We
boarded the Marathon, though almost in sight of our own port, with something of
the feeling that shipwrecked seamen may have when they reach land. It was odd
that we, lost and wandering as we were, should be thus encountered in the vast
unknown where we were drifting by a strange ship; and though scarcely two hours'
sail from home, should be supplied with bread and water by a Britisher from the
Indies. We gave them all the information we had about the pilots, whom we wanted
so much to meet ourselves; and after following slowly for a few hours by the
huge side of our strange friend, parted company—the black hull and huge spars of
the Indiaman gradually lessening in the mist that shut her from our view. We had
touched a chord that bound us to our fellow-men but it was drawn from our hands,
and the unfathomable abyss in which we floated had swallowed up each human
trace, except what was comprised on the contracted deck of the Lively Polly,
where Captain Booden sat glumly whittling, and Lanky meditatively peered after
the disappeared Marathon, as though his soul and all his hopes had gone with
her. The deck, with its load of cord-wood; the sails and rigging; the
sliding-hutch of the little cuddy; and all the features of the Lively Polly, but
yesterday so unfamiliar, were now as odiously wearisome as though I had known
them for a century. It seemed as if I had never known any other place.
day we floated aimlessly along, moved only by the sluggish currents, which
shifted occasionally, but generally bore us westward and southward; not a breath
of wind arose, and our sails were as useless as though we had been on dry land.
Night came on again, and found us still entirely without reckoning and as
completely "at sea" as ever before. To add to our discomfort, a drizzling rain,
unusual for the season of the year, set in, and we cowered on the wet deck-load,
more than ever disgusted with each other and the world. During the night a big
ocean steamer came plunging and crashing through the darkness, her lights
gleaming redly through the dense medium as she cautiously felt her way past us,
falling off a few points as she heard our hail. We lay right in her path, but
with tin horns and a wild Indian yell from the versatile Lanky managed to make
ourselves heard, and the mysterious stranger disappeared in the fog as suddenly
as she had come, and we were once more alone in the darkness.
wore slowly away, and we made out to catch a few hours' sleep, standing "watch
and watch" with each other of our slender crew. Day dawned again, and we broke
our fast with the last of the Marathon's biscuit, having "broken cargo" to eke
out our cold repast with some of the Bolinas butter and eggs which we were
taking to a most unexpected market.
about six o'clock in the morning, we heard the sound of breakers ahead, and
above the sullen roar of the surf I distinctly heard the tinklings of a bell. We
got out our sweeps and had commenced to row wearily once more, when the fog
lifted and before us lay the blessed land. A high range of sparsely wooded
hills, crowned with rocky ledges, and with abrupt slopes covered with dry brown
grass, running to the water's edge, formed the background of the picture.
Nearer, a tongue of high land, brushy and rocky, made out from the main shore,
and curving southward, formed a shelter to what seemed a harbor within. Against
the precipitous point the sea broke with a heavy blow, and a few ugly peaks of
rock lifted their heads above the heaving green of the sea. High up above the
sky-line rose one tall, sharp, blue peak, yet veiled in the floating mist, but
its base melted away into a mass of verdure that stretched from the shore far up
the mountain-side. Our sweeps were now used to bring us around the point, and
cautiously pulling in, we opened a lovely bay bordered with orchards and
vineyards, in the midst of which was a neat village, glittering white in the
sunshine, and clustered around an old-fashioned mission church, whose quaint
gable and tower reminded us of the buildings of the early Spanish settlers of
the country. As we neared the shore (there was no landing-place) we could see an
unwonted commotion in the clean streets, and a flag was run up to the top of a
white staff that stood in the midst of a plaza. Captain Booden returned the
compliment by hoisting the Stars and Stripes at our mainmast head, but was
sorely bothered with the mingled dyes of the flag on shore. A puff of air blew
out its folds, and to our surprise disclosed the Mexican national standard.
them greasers," said the patriotic skipper, "if they ain't gone and histed a
Mexican cactus flag, then I'm blowed." He seriously thought of hauling down his
beloved national colors again, resenting the insult of hoisting a foreign flag
on American soil. He pocketed the affront, however, remarking that "they
probably knew that a Bolinas butter-boat was not much of a fightist anyway."
anchor gladly, Captain Booden being wholly at a loss as to our whereabouts. We
judged that we were somewhere south of the Golden Gate, but what town this was
that slept so tranquilly in the summer sun, and what hills were these that
walled in the peaceful scene from the rest of the world, we could not tell. The
village seemed awakening from its serene sleepiness, and one by one the windows
of the adobe cottages swung open as if the people rubbed their long-closed eyes
at some unwonted sight; and the doors gradually opened as though their dumb lips
would hail us and ask who were these strangers that vexed the quiet waters of
their bay. But two small fishing-boats lay at anchor, and these Booden said
reminded him of Christopher Columbus or Noah's Ark, they were so clumsy and
antique in build.
our boat up alongside, and all hands got in and went ashore. As we landed, a
little shudder seemed to go through the sleepy old place, as if it had been
rudely disturbed from its comfortable nap, and a sudden sob of sea air swept
through the quiet streets as though the insensate houses had actually breathed
the weary sigh of awaking. The buildings were low and white, with dark-skinned
children basking in the doors, and grass hammocks swinging beneath open
verandas. There were no stores, no sign of business, and no sound of vehicles or
labor; all was as decorous and quiet, to use the skipper's description, "as if
the people had slicked up their door-yards, whitewashed their houses, and gone
to bed." It was just like a New England Sabbath in a Mexican village.
fancy was further colored by a strange procession which now met us as we went up
from the narrow beach, having first made fast our boat. A lean Mexican priest,
with an enormous shovel hat and particularly shabby cassock, came toward us,
followed by a motley crowd of Mexicans, prominent among whom was a pompous old
man clad in a seedy Mexican uniform and wearing a trailing rapier at his side.
The rest of the procession was brought up with a crowd of shy women, dark-eyed
and tawny and all poorly clad, though otherwise comfortable enough in condition.
These hung back and wonderingly looked at the strange faces, as though they had
never seen the like before. The old padre lifted his skinny hands, and said
something in Spanish which I did not understand.
old mummy is slinging his popish blessings at us!" This was Lanky's
interpretation of the kindly priest's paternal salutation. And, sure enough, he
was welcoming us to the shore of San Ildefonso with holy fervor and religious
said Booden, a little testily, "what did you say was the name of this place, and
where away does it lay from 'Frisco?" In very choice Castilian, as Lanky
declared, the priest rejoined that he did not understand the language in which
Booden was speaking. "Then bring on somebody that does," rejoined that
irreverent mariner, when due interpretation had been made. The padre protested
that no one in the village understood the English tongue. The skipper gave a
long low whistle of suppressed astonishment, and wondered if we had drifted down
to Lower California in two days and nights, and had struck a Mexican settlement.
The colors on the flagstaff and the absence of any Americans gave some show of
reason to this startling conclusion; and Lanky, who was now the interpreter of
the party, asked the name of the place, and was again told that it was San
Ildefonso; but when he asked what country it was in and how far it was to San
Francisco, he was met with a polite "I do not understand you, Señor." Here was a
puzzle: becalmed in a strange port only two days drift from the city of San
Francisco; a town which the schoolmaster declared was not laid down on any map;
a population that spoke only Spanish and did not know English when they heard
it; a Mexican flag flying over the town, and an educated priest who did not know
what we meant when we asked how far it was to San Francisco. Were we bewitched?
a hospitable invitation from the padre, we sauntered up to the plaza, where we
were ushered into a long, low room, which might once have been a military
barrack-room. It was neatly whitewashed and had a hard clay floor, and along the
walls were a few ancient firelocks and a venerable picture of "His Excellency,
General Santa Aña, President of the Republic of Mexico," as a legend beneath it
set forth. Breakfast of chickens, vegetables, bread, and an excellent sort of
country wine (this last being served in a big earthen bottle) was served up to
us on the long unpainted table that stood in the middle of the room. During the
repast our host, the priest, sat with folded hands intently regarding us, while
the rest of the people clustered around the door and open windows, eying us with
indescribable and incomprehensible curiosity. If we had been visitors from the
moon we could not have attracted more attention. Even the stolid Indians, a few
of whom strolled lazily about, came and gazed at us until the pompous old man in
faded Mexican uniform drove them noisily away from the window, where they shut
out the light and the pleasant morning air, perfumed with heliotropes, verbenas,
and sweet herbs that grew luxuriantly about the houses.
had restrained his curiosity out of rigid politeness until we had eaten, when he
began by asking, "Did our galleon come from Manila?" We told him that we only
came from Bolinas; whereat he said once more, with a puzzled look of pain, "I do
not understand you, Señor." Then pointing through the open doorway to where the
Lively Polly peacefully floated at anchor, he asked what ensign was that which
floated at her masthead. Lanky proudly, but with some astonishment, replied:
"That's the American flag, Señor." At this the seedy old man in uniform eagerly
said: "Americanos! Americanos! why, I saw some of those people and that flag at
Monterey." Lanky asked him if Monterey was not full of Americans, and did not
have plenty of flags. The Ancient replied that he did not know; it was a long
time since he had been there. Lanky observed that perhaps he had never been
there. "I was there in 1835," said the Ancient. This curious speech being
interpreted to Captain Booden, that worthy remarked that he did not believe that
he had seen a white man since.
ineffectual effort to explain to the company where Bolinas was, we rose and went
out for a view of the town. It was beautifully situated on a gentle rise which
swelled up from the water's edge and fell rapidly off in the rear of the town
into a deep ravine, where a brawling mountain stream supplied a little
flouring-mill with motive power. Beyond the ravine were small fields of grain,
beans and lentils on the rolling slopes, and back of these rose the dark, dense
vegetation of low hills, while over all were the rough and ragged ridges of
mountains closing in all the scene. The town itself, as I have said, was white
and clean; the houses were low-browed, with windows secured by wooden shutters,
only a few glazed sashes being seen anywhere. Out of these openings in the thick
adobe walls of the humble homes of the villagers flashed the curious, the
abashed glances of many a dark-eyed señorita, who fled, laughing, as we
approached. The old church was on the plaza, and in its odd-shaped turret
tinkled the little bell whose notes had sounded the morning angelus when we were
knocking about in the fog outside. High up on its quaintly arched gable was
inscribed in antique letters "1796." In reply to a sceptical remark from Lanky,
Booden declared that "the old shell looked as though it might have been built in
the time of Ferdinand and Isabella, for that matter." The worthy skipper had a
misty idea that all old Spanish buildings were built in the days of these famous
the names of Ferdinand and Isabella, the padre gravely and reverentially asked:
"And is the health of His Excellency, General Santa Aña, whom God protect, still
continued to him?"
amazement, Lanky replied: "Santa Aña! why, the last heard of him was that he was
keeping a cockpit in Havana; some of the newspapers published an obituary of him
about six months ago, but I believe he is alive yet somewhere."
flush of indignation mantled the old man's cheek, and with a tinge of severity
in his voice he said: "I have heard that shameful scandal about our noble
President once before, but you must excuse me if I ask you not to repeat it. It
is true he took away our Pious Fund some years since, but he is still our
revered President, and I would not hear him ill-spoken of any more than our
puissant and mighty Ferdinand, of whom you just spoke—may he rest in glory!" and
here the good priest crossed himself devoutly.
the old priest jabbering about?" asked Captain Booden, impatiently; for he was
in haste to "get his bearings" and be off. When Lanky replied, he burst out:
"Tell him that Santa Aña is not President of Mexico any more than I am, and that
he hasn't amounted to a row of pins since California was part of the United
faithfully interpreted this fling at the ex-President, whereupon the padre,
motioning to the Ancient to put up his rapier, which had leaped out of its rusty
scabbard, said: "Nay, Señor, you would insult an old man. We have never been
told yet by our government that the Province of California was alienated from
the great Republic of Mexico, and we owe allegiance to none save the nation
whose flag we love so well;" and the old man turned his tear-dimmed eyes toward
the ragged standard of Mexico that drooped from the staff in the plaza.
Continuing, he said: "Our noble country has strangely forgotten us, and though
we watch the harbor-entrance year after year, no tidings ever comes. The galleon
that was to bring us stores has never been seen on the horizon yet, and we seem
lost in the fog."
schoolmaster of Jaybird Cañon managed to tell us what the priest had said, and
then asked when he had last heard of the outside world. "It was in 1837," said
he, sadly, "when we sent a courier to the Mission del Carmelo, at Monterey, for
tidings from New Spain. He never came back, and the great earthquake which shook
the country hereabout opened a huge chasm across the country just back of the
Sierra yonder, and none dared to cross over to the main land. The saints have
defended us in peace, and it is the will of Heaven that we shall stay here by
ourselves until the Holy Virgin, in answer to our prayers, shall send us
Here was a
new revelation. This was an old Spanish Catholic mission, settled in 1796,
called San Ildefonso, which had evidently been overlooked for nearly forty
years, and had quietly slept in an unknown solitude while the country had been
transferred to the United States from the flag that still idly waved over it.
Lost in the fog! Here was a whole town lost in a fog of years. Empires and
dynasties had risen and fallen; the world had repeatedly been shaken to its
centre, and this people had heeded it not; a great civil war had ravaged the
country to which they now belonged, and they knew not of it; poor Mexico herself
had been torn with dissensions and had been insulted with an empire, and these
peaceful and weary watchers for tidings from "New Spain" had recked nothing of
all these things. All around them the busy State of California was scarred with
the eager pick of gold-seekers or the shining share of the husbandman; towns and
cities had sprung up where these patriarchs had only known of vast cattle ranges
or sleepy missions of the Roman Catholic Fathers. They knew nothing of the great
city of San Francisco, with its busy marts and crowded harbor; and thought of
its broad bay—if they thought of it at all—as the lovely shore of Yerba Buena,
bounded by bleak hills and almost unvexed by any keel. The political storms of
forty years had gone hurtless over their heads, and in a certain sort of
dreamless sleep San Ildefonso had still remained true to the red, white, and
green flag that had long since disappeared from every part of the State save
here, where it was still loved and revered as the banner of the soil.
and political framework of the town had been kept up through all these years.
There had been no connection with the fountain of political power, but the town
was ruled by the legally elected Ayuntamiento, or Common Council, of which the
Ancient, Señor Apolonario Maldonado, was President or Alcade. They were daily
looking for advices from Don José Castro, Governor of the loyal province of
California; and so they had been looking daily for forty years. We asked if they
had not heard from any of the prying Yankees who crowd the country. Father
Ignacio—for that was the padre's name—replied: "Yes; five years ago, when the
winter rains had just set in, a tall, spare man, who talked some French and some
Spanish, came down over the mountains with a pack containing pocket-knives,
razors, soap, perfumery, laces, and other curious wares, and besought our people
to purchase. We have not much coin, but were disposed to treat him Christianly,
until he did declare that President General Santa Aña, whom may the saints
defend! was a thief and gambler, and had gambled away the Province of California
to the United States; whereupon we drave him hence, the Ayuntamiento sending a
trusty guard to see him two leagues from the borders of the Pueblo. But months
after, we discovered his pack and such of his poor bones as the wild beasts of
prey had not carried off, at the base of a precipice where he had fallen. His
few remains and his goods were together buried on the mountain-side, and I
lamented that we had been so hard with him. But the saints forbid that he should
go back and tell where the people of San Ildefonso were waiting to hear from
their own neglectful country, which may Heaven defend, bless, and prosper."
town took on a new interest to us cold outsiders after hearing its strange and
almost improbable story. We could have scarcely believed that San Ildefonso had
actually been overlooked in the transfer of the country from Mexico to the
United States, and had for nearly forty years been hidden away between the
Sierra and the sea; but if we were disposed to doubt the word of the good
father, here was intrinsic evidence of the truth of his narrative. There were no
Americans here: only the remnants of the old Mexican occupation and the
civilized Indians. No traces of later civilization could be found; but the
simple dresses, tools, implements of husbandry, and household utensils were such
as I have seen in the half-civilized wilds of Central America. The old mill in
the cañon behind the town was a curiosity of clumsiness, and nine-tenths of the
water-power of the arroya that supplied it were wasted. Besides, until now, who
ever heard of such a town in California as San Ildefonso? Upon what map can any
such headland and bay be traced? and where are the historic records of the
pueblo whose well-defined boundaries lay palpably before us? I have dwelt upon
this point, about which I naturally have some feeling, because of the sceptical
criticism which my narrative has since provoked. There are some people in the
world who never will believe anything that they have not seen, touched, or
tasted for themselves; California has her share of such.
Booden was disposed to reject Father Ignacio's story, until I called his
attention to the fact that this was a tolerable harbor for small craft, and yet
had never before been heard of; that he never knew of such a town, and that if
any of his numerous associates in the marine profession knew of the town or
harbor of San Ildefonso, he surely would have heard of it from them. He
restrained his impatience to be off long enough to allow Father Ignacio to
gather from us a few chapters of the world's history for forty years past. The
discovery of gold in California, the settlement of the country and the Pacific
Railroad were not so much account to him, somehow, as the condition of Europe,
the Church of Mexico, and what had become of the Pious Fund; this last I
discovered had been a worrisome subject to the good Father. I did not know what
it was myself, but I believe it was the alienation from the church of certain
moneys and incomes which were transferred to speculators by the Mexican
Congress, years and years ago.
I was glad
to find that we were more readily believed by Father Ignacio and the old Don
than our Yankee predecessor had been; perhaps we were believed more on his
corroborative evidence. The priest, however, politely declined to believe all we
said—that was evident; and the Don steadily refused to believe that California
had been transferred to the United States. It was a little touching to see
Father Ignacio's doubt and hopes struggle in his withered face as he heard in a
few brief sentences the history of his beloved land and Church for forty years
past. His eye kindled or it was bedewed with tears as he listened, and an
occasional flash of resentment flushed his cheek when he heard something that
shook his ancient faith in the established order of things. To a proposition to
take a passage with us to San Francisco, he replied warmly that he would on no
account leave his flock, nor attempt to thwart the manifest will of Heaven that
the town should remain unheard of until delivered from its long sleep by the
same agencies that had cut it off from the rest of the world. Neither would he
allow any of the people to come with us.
And so we
parted. We went out with the turn of the tide, Father Ignacio and the Ancient
accompanying us to the beach, followed by a crowd of the townsfolk, who carried
for us water and provisions for a longer voyage than ours promised to be. The
venerable priest raised his hands in parting blessing as we shoved off, and I
saw two big tears roll down the furrowed face of Señor Maldonado, who looked
after us as a stalwart old warrior might look at the departure of a band of
hopeful comrades leaving him to fret in monkish solitude while they were off to
the wars again. Wind and tide served, and in a few minutes the Lively Polly
rounded the point, and looking back, I saw the yellow haze of the afternoon sun
sifted sleepily over all the place; the knots of white-clad people standing
statuesque and motionless as they gazed; the flag of Mexico faintly waving in
the air; and with a sigh of relief slumbrous veil seemed to fall over all the
scene; and as our boat met the roll of the current outside the headland, the
gray rocks of the point shut out the fading view, and we saw the last of San
Booden had gathered enough from the people to know that we were somewhere south
of San Francisco (the Lively Polly had no chart or nautical instruments on board
of course), and so he determined to coast cautiously along northward, marking
the shore line in order to be able to guide other navigators to the harbor. But
a light mist crept down the coast, shutting out the view of the headlands, and
by midnight we had stretched out to sea again, and we were once more out of our
reckoning. At daybreak, however, the fog lifted, and we found ourselves in sight
of land, and a brisk breeze blowing, we soon made Pigeon Point, and before noon
were inside the Golden Gate, and ended our long and adventurous cruise from
Bolinas Bay by hauling into the wharf of San Francisco.
little left to tell. Of the shameful way in which our report was received, every
newspaper reader knows. At first there were some persons, men of science and
reading, who were disposed to believe what we said. I printed in one of the
daily newspapers an account of what we had discovered, giving a full history of
San Ildefonso as Father Ignacio had given it to us. Of course, as I find is
usual in such cases, the other newspapers pooh-poohed the story their
contemporary had published to their exclusion, and made themselves very merry
over what they were pleased to term "The Great San Ildefonso Sell." I prevailed
on Captain Booden to make a short voyage down the coast in search of the lost
port. But we never saw the headland, the ridge beyond the town, nor anything
that looked like these landmarks, though we went down as far as San Pedro Bay
and back twice or three times. It actually did seem that the whole locality had
been swallowed up, or had vanished into air. In vain did I bring the matter to
the notice of the merchants and scientific men of San Francisco. Nobody would
fit out an exploring expedition by land or sea; those who listened at first
finally inquired "if there was any money in it?" I could not give an affirmative
answer, and they turned away with the discouraging remark that the California
Academy of Natural Science and the Society of Pioneers were the only bodies
interested in the fate of our lost city. Even Captain Booden somehow lost all
interest in the enterprise, and returned to his Bolinas coasting with the most
stolid indifference. I combated the attacks of the newspapers with facts and
depositions of my fellow-voyagers as long as I could, until one day the editor
of the Daily Trumpeter (I suppress the real name of the sheet) coldly told me
that the public were tired of the story of San Ildefonso. It was plain that his
mind had been soured by the sarcasms of his contemporaries, and he no longer
believed in me.
newspaper controversy died away and was forgotten, but I have never relinquished
the hope of proving the verity of my statements. At one time I expected to
establish the truth, having heard that one Zedekiah Murch had known a Yankee
peddler who had gone over the mountains of Santa Cruz and never was heard of
more. But Zedekiah's memory was feeble, and he only knew that such a story
prevailed long ago; so that clue was soon lost again, and the little fire of
enthusiasm which it had kindled among a few persons died out. I have not yet
lost all hope; and when I think of the regretful conviction that will force
itself upon the mind of good Father Ignacio, that we were, after all, impostors,
I cannot bear to reflect that I may die and visit the lost town of San Ildefonso