A MORTAL ANTIPATHY
By Oliver Wendell Holmes
"A MORTAL ANTIPATHY" was a truly hazardous experiment. A very wise and
very distinguished physician who is as much at home in literature as he
is in science and the practice of medicine, wrote to me in referring to
this story: "I should have been afraid of my subject." He did not explain
himself, but I can easily understand that he felt the improbability of
the, physiological or pathological occurrence on which the story is
founded to be so great that the narrative could hardly be rendered
plausible. I felt the difficulty for myself as well as for my readers,
and it was only by recalling for our consideration a series of
extraordinary but well-authenticated facts of somewhat similar character
that I could hope to gain any serious attention to so strange a
I need not recur to these wonderful stories. There is, however, one, not
to be found on record elsewhere, to which I would especially call the
reader's attention. It is that of the middle-aged man, who assured me
that he could never pass a tall hall clock without an indefinable terror.
While an infant in arms the heavy weight of one of these tall clocks had
fallen with aloud crash and produced an impression on his nervous system
which he had never got over.
The lasting effect of a shock received by the sense of sight or that of
hearing is conceivable enough.
But there is another sense, the nerves of which are in close relation
with the higher organs of consciousness. The strength of the
associations connected with the function of the first pair of nerves, the
olfactory, is familiar to most persons in their own experience and as
related by others. Now we know that every human being, as well as every
other living organism, carries its own distinguishing atmosphere. If a
man's friend does not know it, his dog does, and can track him anywhere
by it. This personal peculiarity varies with the age and conditions of
the individual. It may be agreeable or otherwise, a source of attraction
or repulsion, but its influence is not less real, though far less obvious
and less dominant, than in the lower animals. It was an atmospheric
impression of this nature which associated itself with a terrible shock
experienced by the infant which became the subject of this story. The
impression could not be outgrown, but it might possibly be broken up by
some sudden change in the nervous system effected by a cause as potent as
the one which had produced the disordered condition.
This is the best key that I can furnish to a story which must have
puzzled some, repelled others, and failed to interest many who did not
suspect the true cause of the mysterious antipathy.
BEVERLY FARMS, MASS., August, 1891.
O. W. H.
A MORTAL ANTIPATHY.
FIRST OPENING OF THE NEW PORTFOLIO.
"And why the New Portfolio, I would ask?"
Pray, do you remember, when there was an accession to the nursery in
which you have a special interest, whether the new-comer was commonly
spoken of as a baby? Was it not, on the contrary, invariably, under all
conditions, in all companies, by the whole household, spoken of as the
baby? And was the small receptacle provided for it commonly spoken of as
a cradle; or was it not always called the cradle, as if there were no
other in existence?
Now this New Portfolio is the cradle in which I am to rock my new-born
thoughts, and from which I am to lift them carefully and show them to
callers, namely, to the whole family of readers belonging to my list of
intimates, and such other friends as may drop in by accident. And so it
shall have the definite article, and not be lost in the mob of its
fellows as a portfolio.
There are a few personal and incidental matters of which I wish to say
something before reaching the contents of the Portfolio, whatever these
may be. I have had other portfolios before this,—two, more especially,
and the first thing I beg leave to introduce relates to these.
Do not throw this volume down, or turn to another page, when I tell you
that the earliest of them, that of which I now am about to speak, was
opened more than fifty years ago. This is a very dangerous confession,
for fifty years make everything hopelessly old-fashioned, without giving
it the charm of real antiquity. If I could say a hundred years, now, my
readers would accept all I had to tell them with a curious interest; but
fifty years ago,—there are too many talkative old people who know all
about that time, and at best half a century is a half-baked bit of ware.
A coin-fancier would say that your fifty-year-old facts have just enough
of antiquity to spot them with rust, and not enough to give them—the
delicate and durable patina which is time's exquisite enamel.
When the first Portfolio was opened the coin of the realm bore for its
legend,—or might have borne if the more devout hero-worshippers could
have had their way,—Andreas Jackson, Populi Gratia, Imp. Caesar. Aug.
Div., Max., etc., etc. I never happened to see any gold or silver with
that legend, but the truth is I was not very familiarly acquainted with
the precious metals at that period of my career, and, there might have
been a good deal of such coin in circulation without my handling it, or
knowing much about it.
Permit me to indulge in a few reminiscences of that far-off time.
In those days the Athenaeum Picture Gallery was a principal centre of
attraction to young Boston people and their visitors. Many of us got our
first ideas of art, to say nothing of our first lessons in the
comparatively innocent flirtations of our city's primitive period, in
that agreeable resort of amateurs and artists.
How the pictures on those walls in Pearl Street do keep their places in
the mind's gallery! Trumbull's Sortie of Gibraltar, with red enough in
it for one of our sunset after-glows; and Neagle's full-length portrait
of the blacksmith in his shirt-sleeves; and Copley's long-waistcoated
gentlemen and satin-clad ladies,—they looked like gentlemen and ladies,
too; and Stuart's florid merchants and high-waisted matrons; and
Allston's lovely Italian scenery and dreamy, unimpassioned women,
not forgetting Florimel in full flight on her interminable
rocking-horse,—you may still see her at the Art Museum; and the rival
landscapes of Doughty and Fisher, much talked of and largely praised in
those days; and the Murillo,—not from Marshal Soup's collection; and the
portrait of Annibale Caracci by himself, which cost the Athenaeum a
hundred dollars; and Cole's allegorical pictures, and his immense and
dreary canvas, in which the prostrate shepherds and the angel in Joseph's
coat of many colors look as if they must have been thrown in for nothing;
and West's brawny Lear tearing his clothes to pieces. But why go on with
the catalogue, when most of these pictures can be seen either at the
Athenaeum building in Beacon Street or at the Art Gallery, and admired or
criticised perhaps more justly, certainly not more generously, than in
those earlier years when we looked at them through the japanned
If one happened to pass through Atkinson Street on his way to the
Athenaeum, he would notice a large, square, painted, brick house, in
which lived a leading representative of old-fashioned coleopterous
Calvinism, and from which emerged one of the liveliest of literary
butterflies. The father was editor of the "Boston Recorder," a very
respectable, but very far from amusing paper, most largely patronized by
that class of the community which spoke habitually of the first day of
the week as "the Sahbuth." The son was the editor of several different
periodicals in succession, none of them over severe or serious, and of
many pleasant books, filled with lively descriptions of society, which he
studied on the outside with a quick eye for form and color, and with a
certain amount of sentiment, not very deep, but real, though somewhat
frothed over by his worldly experiences.
Nathaniel Parker Willis was in full bloom when I opened my first
Portfolio. He had made himself known by his religious poetry, published
in his father's paper, I think, and signed "Roy." He had started the
"American Magazine," afterwards merged in the "New York Mirror." He had
then left off writing scripture pieces, and taken to lighter forms of
verse. He had just written
"I'm twenty-two, I'm twenty-two,
They idly give me joy,
As if I should be glad to know
That I was less a boy."
He was young, therefore, and already famous. He came very near being
very handsome. He was tall; his hair, of light brown color, waved in
luxuriant abundance; his cheek was as rosy as if it had been painted to
show behind the footlights; he dressed with artistic elegance. He was
something between a remembrance of Count D'Orsay and an anticipation of
Oscar Wilde. There used to be in the gallery of the Luxembourg a picture
of Hippolytus and Phxdra, in which the beautiful young man, who had
kindled a passion in the heart of his wicked step-mother, always reminded
me of Willis, in spite of the shortcomings of the living face as compared
with the ideal. The painted youth is still blooming on the canvas, but
the fresh-cheecked, jaunty young author of the year 1830 has long faded
out of human sight. I took the leaves which lie before me at this
moment, as I write, from his coffin, as it lay just outside the door of
Saint Paul's Church, on a sad, overclouded winter's day, in the year
1867. At that earlier time, Willis was by far the most prominent young
American author. Cooper, Irving, Bryant, Dana, Halleck, Drake, had all
done their best work. Longfellow was not yet conspicuous. Lowell was a
school-boy. Emerson was unheard of. Whittier was beginning to make his
way against the writers with better educational advantages whom he was
destined to outdo and to outlive. Not one of the great histories, which
have done honor to our literature, had appeared. Our school-books
depended, so far as American authors were concerned, on extracts from the
orations and speeches of Webster and Everett; on Bryant's Thanatopsis,
his lines To a Waterfowl, and the Death of the Flowers, Halleck's Marco
Bozzaris, Red Jacket, and Burns; on Drake's American Flag, and Percival's
Coral Grove, and his Genius Sleeping and Genius Waking,—and not getting
very wide awake, either. These could be depended upon. A few other
copies of verses might be found, but Dwight's "Columbia, Columbia," and
Pierpont's Airs of Palestine, were already effaced, as many of the
favorites of our own day and generation must soon be, by the great wave
which the near future will pour over the sands in which they still are
About this time, in the year 1832, came out a small volume entitled
"Truth, a Gift for Scribblers," which made some talk for a while, and is
now chiefly valuable as a kind of literary tombstone on which may be read
the names of many whose renown has been buried with their bones. The
"London Athenaeum" spoke of it as having been described as a "tomahawk
sort of satire." As the author had been a trapper in Missouri, he was
familiarly acquainted with that weapon and the warfare of its owners.
Born in Boston, in 1804, the son of an army officer, educated at West
Point, he came back to his native city about the year 1830. He wrote an
article on Bryant's Poems for the "North American Review," and another on
the famous Indian chief, Black Hawk. In this last-mentioned article he
tells this story as the great warrior told it himself. It was an
incident of a fight with the Osages.
"Standing by my father's side, I saw him kill his antagonist and tear the
scalp from his head. Fired with valor and ambition, I rushed furiously
upon another, smote him to the earth with my tomahawk, ran my lance
through his body, took off his scalp, and returned in triumph to my
father. He said nothing, but looked pleased."
This little red story describes very well Spelling's style of literary
warfare. His handling of his most conspicuous victim, Willis, was very
much like Black Hawk's way of dealing with the Osage. He tomahawked him
in heroics, ran him through in prose, and scalped him in barbarous
epigrams. Bryant and Halleck were abundantly praised; hardly any one
If the reader wishes to see the bubbles of reputation that were floating,
some of them gay with prismatic colors, half a century ago, he will find
in the pages of "Truth" a long catalogue of celebrities he never heard
of. I recognize only three names, of all which are mentioned in the
little book, as belonging to persons still living; but as I have not read
the obituaries of all the others, some of them may be still flourishing
in spite of Mr. Spelling's exterminating onslaught. Time dealt as hardly
with poor Spelling, who was not without talent and instruction, as he had
dealt with our authors. I think he found shelter at last under a roof
which held numerous inmates, some of whom had seen better and many of
whom had known worse days than those which they were passing within its
friendly and not exclusive precincts. Such, at least, was the story I
heard after he disappeared from general observation.
That was the day of Souvenirs, Tokens, Forget-me-nots, Bijous, and all
that class of showy annuals. Short stories, slender poems, steel
engravings, on a level with the common fashion-plates of advertising
establishments, gilt edges, resplendent binding,—to manifestations of
this sort our lighter literature had very largely run for some years.
The "Scarlet Letter" was an unhinted possibility. The "Voices of the
Night" had not stirred the brooding silence; the Concord seer was still
in the lonely desert; most of the contributors to those yearly volumes,
which took up such pretentious positions on the centre table, have shrunk
into entire oblivion, or, at best, hold their place in literature by a
scrap or two in some omnivorous collection.
What dreadful work Spelling made among those slight reputations, floating
in swollen tenuity on the surface of the stream, and mirroring each other
in reciprocal reflections! Violent, abusive as he was, unjust to any
against whom he happened to have a prejudice, his castigation of the
small litterateurs of that day was not harmful, but rather of use. His
attack on Willis very probably did him good; he needed a little
discipline, and though he got it too unsparingly, some cautions came with
it which were worth the stripes he had to smart under. One noble writer
Spelling treated with rudeness, probably from some accidental pique, or
equally insignificant reason. I myself, one of the three survivors
before referred to, escaped with a love-pat, as the youngest son of the
Muse. Longfellow gets a brief nod of acknowledgment. Bailey, an
American writer, "who made long since a happy snatch at fame," which must
have been snatched away from him by envious time, for I cannot identify
him; Thatcher, who died early, leaving one poem, The Last Request, not
wholly unremembered; Miss Hannah F. Gould, a very bright and agreeable
writer of light verse,—all these are commended to the keeping of that
venerable public carrier, who finds his scythe and hour-glass such a load
that he generally drops the burdens committed to his charge, after making
a show of paying every possible attention to them so long as he is kept
It was a good time to open a portfolio. But my old one had boyhood
written on every page. A single passionate outcry when the old warship I
had read about in the broadsides that were a part of our kitchen
literature, and in the "Naval Monument," was threatened with demolition;
a few verses suggested by the sight of old Major Melville in his cocked
hat and breeches, were the best scraps that came out of that first
Portfolio, which was soon closed that it should not interfere with the
duties of a profession authorized to claim all the time and thought which
would have been otherwise expended in filling it.
During a quarter of a century the first Portfolio remained closed for the
greater part of the time. Only now and then it would be taken up and
opened, and something drawn from it for a special occasion, more
particularly for the annual reunions of a certain class of which I was a
In the year 1857, towards its close, the "Atlantic Monthly," which I had
the honor of naming, was started by the enterprising firm of Phillips &
Sampson, under the editorship of Mr. James Russell Lowell. He thought
that I might bring something out of my old Portfolio which would be not
unacceptable in the new magazine. I looked at the poor old receptacle,
which, partly from use and partly from neglect, had lost its freshness,
and seemed hardly presentable to the new company expected to welcome the
new-comer in the literary world of Boston, the least provincial of
American centres of learning and letters. The gilded covering where the
emblems of hope and aspiration had looked so bright had faded; not
wholly, perhaps, but how was the gold become dim!—-how was the most fine
gold changed! Long devotion to other pursuits had left little time for
literature, and the waifs and strays gathered from the old Portfolio had
done little more than keep alive the memory that such a source of supply
was still in existence. I looked at the old Portfolio, and said to
myself, "Too late! too late. This tarnished gold will never brighten,
these battered covers will stand no more wear and tear; close them, and
leave them to the spider and the book-worm."
In the mean time the nebula of the first quarter of the century had
condensed into the constellation of the middle of the same period. When,
a little while after the establishment of the new magazine, the "Saturday
Club" gathered about the long table at "Parker's," such a representation
of all that was best in American literature had never been collected
within so small a compass. Most of the Americans whom educated
foreigners cared to see-leaving out of consideration official
dignitaries, whose temporary importance makes them objects of
curiosity—were seated at that board. But the club did not yet exist,
and the "Atlantic Monthly" was an experiment. There had already been
several monthly periodicals, more or less successful and permanent, among
which "Putnam's Magazine" was conspicuous, owing its success largely to
the contributions of that very accomplished and delightful writer, Mr.
George William Curtis. That magazine, after a somewhat prolonged and
very honorable existence, had gone where all periodicals go when they
die, into the archives of the deaf, dumb, and blind recording angel whose
name is Oblivion. It had so well deserved to live that its death was a
surprise and a source of regret. Could another monthly take its place
and keep it when that, with all its attractions and excellences, had died
out, and left a blank in our periodical literature which it would be very
hard to fill as well as that had filled it?
This was the experiment which the enterprising publishers ventured upon,
and I, who felt myself outside of the charmed circle drawn around the
scholars and poets of Cambridge and Concord, having given myself to other
studies and duties, wondered somewhat when Mr. Lowell insisted upon my
becoming a contributor. And so, yielding to a pressure which I could not
understand, and yet found myself unable to resist, I promised to take a
part in the new venture, as an occasional writer in the columns of the
That was the way in which the second Portfolio found its way to my table,
and was there opened in the autumn of the year 1857. I was already at
'Nel mezzo del cammin di mia, vita,'
when I risked myself, with many misgivings, in little-tried paths of what
looked at first like a wilderness, a selva oscura, where, if I did not
meet the lion or the wolf, I should be sure to find the critic, the most
dangerous of the carnivores, waiting to welcome me after his own fashion.
The second Portfolio is closed and laid away. Perhaps it was hardly
worth while to provide and open a new one; but here it lies before me,
and I hope I may find something between its covers which will justify me
in coming once more before my old friends. But before I open it I want
to claim a little further indulgence.
There is a subject of profound interest to almost every writer, I might
say to almost every human being. No matter what his culture or
ignorance, no matter what his pursuit, no matter what his character, the
subject I refer to is one of which he rarely ceases to think, and, if
opportunity is offered, to talk. On this he is eloquent, if on nothing
else. The slow of speech becomes fluent; the torpid listener becomes
electric with vivacity, and alive all over with interest.
The sagacious reader knows well what is coming after this prelude. He is
accustomed to the phrases with which the plausible visitor, who has a
subscription book in his pocket, prepares his victim for the depressing
disclosure of his real errand. He is not unacquainted with the
conversational amenities of the cordial and interesting stranger, who,
having had the misfortune of leaving his carpet-bag in the cars, or of
having his pocket picked at the station, finds himself without the means
of reaching that distant home where affluence waits for him with its
luxurious welcome, but to whom for the moment the loan of some five and
twenty dollars would be a convenience and a favor for which his heart
would ache with gratitude during the brief interval between the loan and
I wish to say a few words in my own person relating to some passages in
my own history, and more especially to some of the recent experiences
through which I have been passing.
What can justify one in addressing himself to the general public as if it
were his private correspondent? There are at least three sufficient
reasons: first, if he has a story to tell that everybody wants to
hear,—if he has been shipwrecked, or has been in a battle, or has
witnessed any interesting event, and can tell anything new about it;
secondly, if he can put in fitting words any common experiences not
already well told, so that readers will say, "Why, yes! I have had that
sensation, thought, emotion, a hundred times, but I never heard it spoken
of before, and I never saw any mention of it in print;" and thirdly,
anything one likes, provided he can so tell it as to make it interesting.
I have no story to tell in this Introduction which can of itself claim
any general attention. My first pages relate the effect of a certain
literary experience upon myself,—a series of partial metempsychoses of
which I have been the subject. Next follows a brief tribute to the
memory of a very dear and renowned friend from whom I have recently been
parted. The rest of the Introduction will be consecrated to the memory
of my birthplace.
I have just finished a Memoir, which will appear soon after this page is
written, and will have been the subject of criticism long before it is in
the reader's hands. The experience of thinking another man's thoughts
continuously for a long time; of living one's self into another man's
life for a month, or a year, or more, is a very curious one. No matter
how much superior to the biographer his subject may be, the man who
writes the life feels himself, in a certain sense, on the level of the
person whose life he is writing. One cannot fight over the battles of
Marengo or Austerlitz with Napoleon without feeling as if he himself had
a fractional claim to the victory, so real seems the transfer of his
personality into that of the conqueror while he reads. Still more must
this identification of "subject" and "object" take place when one is
writing of a person whose studies or occupations are not unlike his own.
Here are some of my metempsychoses: Ten years ago I wrote what I called A
Memorial Outline of a remarkable student of nature. He was a born
observer, and such are far from common. He was also a man of great
enthusiasm and unwearying industry. His quick eye detected what others
passed by without notice: the Indian relic, where another would see only
pebbles and fragments; the rare mollusk, or reptile, which his companion
would poke with his cane, never suspecting that there was a prize at the
end of it. Getting his single facts together with marvellous sagacity
and long-breathed patience, he arranged them, classified them, described
them, studied them in their relations, and before those around him were
aware of it the collector was an accomplished naturalist. When—he died
his collections remained, and they still remain, as his record in the
hieratic language of science. In writing this memoir the spirit of his
quiet pursuits, the even temper they bred in him, gained possession of my
own mind, so that I seemed to look at nature through his gold-bowed
spectacles, and to move about his beautifully ordered museum as if I had
myself prepared and arranged its specimens. I felt wise with his wisdom,
fair-minded with his calm impartiality; it seemed as if for the time his
placid, observant, inquiring, keen-sighted nature "slid into my soul,"
and if I had looked at myself in the glass I should almost have expected
to see the image of the Hersey professor whose life and character I was
A few years hater I lived over the life of another friend in writing a
Memoir of which he was the subject. I saw him, the beautiful,
bright-eyed boy, with dark, waving hair; the youthful scholar, first at
Harvard, then at Gottingen and Berlin, the friend and companion of
Bismarck; the young author, making a dash for renown as a novelist, and
showing the elements which made his failures the promise of success in a
larger field of literary labor; the delving historian, burying his fresh
young manhood in the dusty alcoves of silent libraries, to come forth in
the face of Europe and America as one of the leading historians of the
time; the diplomatist, accomplished, of captivating presence and manners,
an ardent American, and in the time of trial an impassioned and eloquent
advocate of the cause of freedom; reaching at last the summit of his
ambition as minister at the Court of Saint James. All this I seemed to
share with him as I tracked his career from his birthplace in Dorchester,
and the house in Walnut Street where he passed his boyhood, to the
palaces of Vienna and London. And then the cruel blow which struck him
from the place he adorned; the great sorrow that darkened his later
years; the invasion of illness, a threat that warned of danger, and after
a period of invalidism, during a part of which I shared his most intimate
daily life, the sudden, hardly unwelcome, final summons. Did not my own
consciousness migrate, or seem, at least, to transfer itself into this
brilliant life history, as I traced its glowing record? I, too, seemed
to feel the delight of carrying with me, as if they were my own, the
charms of a presence which made its own welcome everywhere. I shared his
heroic toils, I partook of his literary and social triumphs, I was
honored by the marks of distinction which gathered about him, I was
wronged by the indignity from which he suffered, mourned with him in his
sorrow, and thus, after I had been living for months with his memory, I
felt as if I should carry a part of his being with me so long as my
self-consciousness might remain imprisoned in the ponderable elements.
The years passed away, and the influences derived from the companionships
I have spoken of had blended intimately with my own current of being.
Then there came to me a new experience in my relations with an eminent
member of the medical profession, whom I met habitually for a long
period, and to whose memory I consecrated a few pages as a prelude to a
work of his own, written under very peculiar circumstances. He was the
subject of a slow, torturing, malignant, and almost necessarily fatal
disease. Knowing well that the mind would feed upon itself if it were
not supplied with food from without, he determined to write a treatise on
a subject which had greatly interested him, and which would oblige him to
bestow much of his time and thought upon it, if indeed he could hold out
to finish the work. During the period while he was engaged in writing
it, his wife, who had seemed in perfect health, died suddenly of
pneumonia. Physical suffering, mental distress, the prospect of death at
a near, if uncertain, time always before him, it was hard to conceive a
more terrible strain than that which he had to endure. When, in the hour
of his greatest need, his faithful companion, the wife of many years of
happy union, whose hand had smoothed his pillow, whose voice had consoled
and cheered him, was torn from him after a few days of illness, I felt
that my, friend's trial was such that the cry of the man of many
afflictions and temptations might well have escaped from his lips: "I was
at ease, but he hath broken me asunder; he hath also taken me by my neck
and shaken me to pieces, and set me up for his mark. His archers compass
me round about, he cleaveth my reins asunder, and doth not spare; he
poureth out my gall upon the ground."
I had dreaded meeting him for the first time after this crushing blow.
What a lesson he gave me of patience under sufferings which the fearful
description of the Eastern poet does not picture too vividly! We have
been taught to admire the calm philosophy of Haller, watching his
faltering pulse as he lay dying; we have heard the words of pious
resignation said to have been uttered with his last breath by Addison:
but here was a trial, not of hours, or days, or weeks, but of months,
even years, of cruel pain, and in the midst of its thick darkness the
light of love, which had burned steadily at his bedside, was suddenly
There were times in which the thought would force itself upon my
consciousness, How long is the universe to look upon this dreadful
experiment of a malarious planet, with its unmeasurable freight of
suffering, its poisonous atmosphere, so sweet to breathe, so sure to kill
in a few scores of years at farthest, and its heart-breaking woes which
make even that brief space of time an eternity? There can be but one
answer that will meet this terrible question, which must arise in every
thinking nature that would fain "justify the ways of God to men." So
must it be until that
"one far-off divine event
To which the whole creation moves"
has become a reality, and the anthem in which there is no discordant note
shall be joined by a voice from every life made "perfect through
Such was the lesson into which I lived in those sad yet placid years of
companionship with my suffering and sorrowing friend, in retracing which
I seemed to find another existence mingled with my own.
And now for many months I have been living in daily relations of intimacy
with one who seems nearer to me since he has left us than while he was
here in living form and feature. I did not know how difficult a task I
had undertaken in venturing upon a memoir of a man whom all, or almost
all, agree upon as one of the great lights of the New World, and whom
very many regard as an unpredicted Messiah. Never before was I so
forcibly reminded of Carlyle's description of the work of a newspaper
editor,—that threshing of straw already thrice beaten by the flails of
other laborers in the same field. What could be said that had not been
said of "transcendentalism" and of him who was regarded as its prophet;
of the poet whom some admired without understanding, a few understood, or
thought they did, without admiring, and many both understood and
admired,—among these there being not a small number who went far beyond
admiration, and lost themselves in devout worship? While one exalted him
as "the greatest man that ever lived," another, a friend, famous in the
world of letters, wrote expressly to caution me against the danger of
overrating a writer whom he is content to recognize as an American
Montaigne, and nothing more.
After finishing this Memoir, which has but just left my hands, I would
gladly have let my brain rest for a while. The wide range of thought
which belonged to the subject of the Memoir, the occasional mysticism and
the frequent tendency toward it, the sweep of imagination and the sparkle
of wit which kept his reader's mind on the stretch, the union of
prevailing good sense with exceptional extravagances, the modest audacity
of a nature that showed itself in its naked truthfulness and was not
ashamed, the feeling that I was in the company of a sibylline
intelligence which was discounting the promises of the remote future long
before they were due,—all this made the task a grave one. But when I
found myself amidst the vortices of uncounted, various, bewildering
judgments, Catholic and Protestant, orthodox and liberal, scholarly from
under the tree of knowledge and instinctive from over the potato-hill;
the passionate enthusiasm of young adorers and the cool, if not cynical,
estimate of hardened critics, all intersecting each other as they
whirled, each around its own centre, I felt that it was indeed very
difficult to keep the faculties clear and the judgment unbiassed.
It is a great privilege to have lived so long in the society of such a
man. "He nothing common" said, "or mean." He was always the same pure
and high-souled companion. After being with him virtue seemed as natural
to man as its opposite did according to the old theologies. But how to
let one's self down from the high level of such a character to one's own
poor standard? I trust that the influence of this long intellectual and
spiritual companionship never absolutely leaves one who has lived in it.
It may come to him in the form of self-reproach that he falls so far
short of the superior being who has been so long the object of his
contemplation. But it also carries him at times into the other's
personality, so that he finds himself thinking thoughts that are not his
own, using phrases which he has unconsciously borrowed, writing, it may
be, as nearly like his long-studied original as Julio Romano's painting
was like Raphael's; and all this with the unquestioning conviction that
he is talking from his own consciousness in his own natural way. So far
as tones and expressions and habits which belonged to the idiosyncrasy of
the original are borrowed by the student of his life, it is a misfortune
for the borrower. But to share the inmost consciousness of a noble
thinker, to scan one's self in the white light of a pure and radiant
soul,—this is indeed the highest form of teaching and discipline.
I have written these few memoirs, and I am grateful for all that they
have taught me. But let me write no more. There are but two biographers
who can tell the story of a man's or a woman's life. One is the person
himself or herself; the other is the Recording Angel. The autobiographer
cannot be trusted to tell the whole truth, though he may tell nothing but
the truth, and the Recording Angel never lets his book go out of his own
hands. As for myself, I would say to my friends, in the Oriental phrase,
"Live forever!" Yes, live forever, and I, at least, shall not have to
wrong your memories by my imperfect record and unsatisfying commentary.
In connection with these biographies, or memoirs, more properly, in which
I have written of my departed friends, I hope my readers will indulge me
in another personal reminiscence. I have just lost my dear and honored
contemporary of the last century. A hundred years ago this day, December
13, 1784, died the admirable and ever to be remembered Dr. Samuel
Johnson. The year 1709 was made ponderous and illustrious in English
biography by his birth. My own humble advent to the world of protoplasm
was in the year 1809 of the present century. Summer was just ending when
those four letters, "son b." were written under the date of my birth,
August 29th. Autumn had just begun when my great pre-contemporary
entered this un-Christian universe and was made a member of the Christian
church on the same day, for he was born and baptized on the 18th of
Thus there was established a close bond of relationship between the great
English scholar and writer and myself. Year by year, and almost month by
month, my life has kept pace in this century with his life in the last
century. I had only to open my Boswell at any time, and I knew just what
Johnson at my age, twenty or fifty or seventy, was thinking and doing;
what were his feelings about life; what changes the years had wrought in
his body, his mind, his feelings, his companionships, his reputation. It
was for me a kind of unison between two instruments, both playing that
old familiar air, "Life,"—one a bassoon, if you will, and the other an
oaten pipe, if you care to find an image for it, but still keeping pace
with each other until the players both grew old and gray. At last the
thinner thread of sound is heard by itself, and its deep accompaniment
rolls out its thunder no more.
I feel lonely now that my great companion and friend of so many years has
left me. I felt more intimately acquainted with him than I do with many
of my living friends. I can hardly remember when I did not know him. I
can see him in his bushy wig, exactly like that of the Reverend Dr.
Samuel Cooper (who died in December, 1783) as Copley painted him,—he
hangs there on my wall, over the revolving bookcase. His ample coat, too,
I see, with its broad flaps and many buttons and generous cuffs, and
beneath it the long, still more copiously buttoned waistcoat, arching in
front of the fine crescentic, almost semi-lunar Falstaffian prominence,
involving no less than a dozen of the above-mentioned buttons, and the
strong legs with their sturdy calves, fitting columns of support to the
massive body and solid, capacious brain enthroned over it. I can hear
him with his heavy tread as he comes in to the Club, and a gap is widened
to make room for his portly figure. "A fine day," says Sir Joshua.
"Sir," he answers, "it seems propitious, but the atmosphere is humid and
the skies are nebulous," at which the great painter smiles, shifts his
trumpet, and takes a pinch of snuff.
Dear old massive, deep-voiced dogmatist and hypochondriac of the
eighteenth century, how one would like to sit at some ghastly Club,
between you and the bony, "mighty-mouthed," harsh-toned termagant and
dyspeptic of the nineteenth! The growl of the English mastiff and the
snarl of the Scotch terrier would make a duet which would enliven the
shores of Lethe. I wish I could find our "spiritualist's" paper in the
Portfolio, in which the two are brought together, but I hardly know what
I shall find when it is opened.
Yes, my life is a little less precious to me since I have lost that dear
old friend; and when the funeral train moves to Westminster Abbey next
Saturday, for I feel as if this were 1784, and not 1884,—I seem to find
myself following the hearse, one of the silent mourners.
Among the events which have rendered the past year memorable to me has
been the demolition of that venerable and interesting old dwelling-house,
precious for its intimate association with the earliest stages of the war
of the Revolution, and sacred to me as my birthplace and the home of my
The "Old Gambrel-roofed House" exists no longer. I remember saying
something, in one of a series of papers published long ago, about the
experience of dying out of a house,—of leaving it forever, as the soul
dies out of the body. We may die out of many houses, but the house
itself can die but once; and so real is the life of a house to one who
has dwelt in it, more especially the life of the house which held him in
dreamy infancy, in restless boyhood, in passionate youth,—so real, I
say, is its life, that it seems as if something like a soul of it must
outlast its perishing frame.
The slaughter of the Old Gambrel-roofed House was, I am ready to admit, a
case of justifiable domicide. Not the less was it to be deplored by all
who love the memories of the past. With its destruction are obliterated
some of the footprints of the heroes and martyrs who took the first steps
in the long and bloody march which led us through the wilderness to the
promised land of independent nationality. Personally, I have a right to
mourn for it as a part of my life gone from me. My private grief for its
loss would be a matter for my solitary digestion, were it not that the
experience through which I have just passed is one so familiar to my
fellow-countrymen that, in telling my own reflections and feelings, I am
repeating those of great numbers of men and women who have had the
misfortune to outlive their birthplace.
It is a great blessing to be born surrounded by a natural horizon. The
Old Gambrel-roofed House could not boast an unbroken ring of natural
objects encircling it. Northerly it looked upon its own outbuildings and
some unpretending two-story houses which had been its neighbors for a
century and more. To the south of it the square brick dormitories and
the bellfried hall of the university helped to shut out the distant view.
But the west windows gave a broad outlook across the common, beyond which
the historical "Washington elm" and two companions in line with it,
spread their leaves in summer and their networks in winter. And far away
rose the hills that bounded the view, with the glimmer here and there of
the white walls or the illuminated casements of some embowered,
half-hidden villa. Eastwardly also, the prospect was, in my earlier
remembrance, widely open, and I have frequently seen the sunlit sails
gliding along as if through the level fields, for no water was visible.
So there were broad expanses on two sides at least, for my imagination to
I cannot help thinking that we carry our childhood's horizon with us all
our days. Among these western wooded hills my day-dreams built their
fairy palaces, and even now, as I look at them from my library window,
across the estuary of the Charles, I find myself in the familiar home of
my early visions. The "clouds of glory" which we trail with us in after
life need not be traced to a pre-natal state. There is enough to account
for them in that unconsciously remembered period of existence before we
have learned the hard limitations of real life. Those earliest months in
which we lived in sensations without words, and ideas not fettered in
sentences, have all the freshness of proofs of an engraving "before the
letter." I am very thankful that the first part of my life was not
passed shut in between high walls and treading the unimpressible and
Our university town was very much like the real country, in those days of
which I am thinking. There were plenty of huckleberries and blueberries
within half a mile of the house. Blackberries ripened in the fields,
acorns and shagbarks dropped from the trees, squirrels ran among the
branches, and not rarely the hen-hawk might be seen circling over the
barnyard. Still another rural element was not wanting, in the form of
that far-diffused, infragrant effluvium, which, diluted by a good half
mile of pure atmosphere, is no longer odious, nay is positively
agreeable, to many who have long known it, though its source and centre
has an unenviable reputation. I need not name the animal whose Parthian
warfare terrifies and puts to flight the mightiest hunter that ever
roused the tiger from his jungle or faced the lion of the desert.
Strange as it may seem, an aerial hint of his personality in the far
distance always awakens in my mind pleasant remembrances and tender
reflections. A whole neighborhood rises up before me: the barn, with its
haymow, where the hens laid their eggs to hatch, and we boys hid our
apples to ripen, both occasionally illustrating the sic vos non vobis;
the shed, where the annual Tragedy of the Pig was acted with a realism
that made Salvini's Othello seem but a pale counterfeit; the rickety old
outhouse, with the "corn-chamber" which the mice knew so well; the paved
yard, with its open gutter,—these and how much else come up at the hint
of my far-off friend, who is my very near enemy. Nothing is more
familiar than the power of smell in reviving old memories. There was that
quite different fragrance of the wood-house, the smell of fresh sawdust.
It comes back to me now, and with it the hiss of the saw; the tumble of
the divorced logs which God put together and man has just put asunder;
the coming down of the axe and the hah! that helped it,—the
straight-grained stick opening at the first appeal of the implement as if
it were a pleasure, and the stick with a knot in the middle of it that
mocked the blows and the hahs! until the beetle and wedge made it listen
to reason,—there are just such straight-grained and just such knotty men
and women. All this passes through my mind while Biddy, whose
parlor-name is Angela, contents herself with exclaiming "egh!*******!"
How different distances were in those young days of which I am thinking!
From the old house to the old yellow meeting-house, where the head of the
family preached and the limbs of the family listened, was not much more
than two or three times the width of Commonwealth Avenue. But of a hot
summer's afternoon, after having already heard one sermon, which could
not in the nature of things have the charm of novelty of presentation to
the members of the home circle, and the theology of which was not too
clear to tender apprehensions; with three hymns more or less lugubrious,
rendered by a village-choir, got into voice by many preliminary snuffles
and other expiratory efforts, and accompanied by the snort of a huge
bassviol which wallowed through the tune like a hippopotamus, with other
exercises of the customary character,—after all this in the forenoon,
the afternoon walk to the meeting-house in the hot sun counted for as
much, in my childish dead-reckoning, as from old Israel Porter's in
Cambridge to the Exchange Coffeehouse in Boston did in after years. It
takes a good while to measure the radius of the circle that is about us,
for the moon seems at first as near as the watchface. Who knows but
that, after a certain number of ages, the planet we live on may seem to
us no bigger than our neighbor Venus appeared when she passed before the
sun a few months ago, looking as if we could take her between our thumb
and finger, like a bullet or a marble? And time, too; how long was it
from the serious sunrise to the joyous "sun-down" of an old-fashioned,
puritanical, judaical first day of the week, which a pious fraud
christened "the Sabbath"? Was it a fortnight, as we now reckon duration,
or only a week? Curious entities, or non-entities, space and tithe?
When you see a metaphysician trying to wash his hands of them and get rid
of these accidents, so as to lay his dry, clean palm on the absolute,
does it not remind you of the hopeless task of changing the color of the
blackamoor by a similar proceeding? For space is the fluid in which he
is washing, and time is the soap which he is using up in the process, and
he cannot get free from them until he can wash himself in a mental
In my reference to the old house in a former paper, published years ago,
"By and by the stony foot of the great University will plant itself on
this whole territory, and the private recollections which clung so
tenaciously to the place and its habitations will have died with those
who cherished them."
What strides the great University has taken since those words were
written! During all my early years our old Harvard Alma Mater sat still
and lifeless as the colossi in the Egyptian desert. Then all at once,
like the statue in Don Giovanni, she moved from her pedestal. The fall
of that "stony foot" has effected a miracle like the harp that Orpheus
played, like the teeth which Cadmus sowed. The plain where the moose and
the bear were wandering while Shakespeare was writing Hamlet, where a few
plain dormitories and other needed buildings were scattered about in my
school-boy days, groans under the weight of the massive edifices which
have sprung up all around them, crowned by the tower of that noble
structure which stands in full view before me as I lift my eyes from the
portfolio on the back of which I am now writing.
For I must be permitted to remind you that I have not yet opened it. I
have told you that I have just finished a long memoir, and that it has
cost me no little labor to overcome some of its difficulties,—if I have
overcome them, which others must decide. And I feel exactly as honest
Dobbin feels when his harness is slipped off after a long journey with a
good deal of up-hill work. He wants to rest a little, then to feed a
little; then, if you will turn him loose in the pasture, he wants to
roll. I have left my starry and ethereal companionship,—not for a long
time, I hope, for it has lifted me above my common self, but for a while.
And now I want, so to speak, to roll in the grass and among the
dandelions with the other pachyderms. So I have kept to the outside of
the portfolio as yet, and am disporting myself in reminiscences, and
fancies, and vagaries, and parentheses.
How well I understand the feeling which led the Pisans to load their
vessels with earth from the Holy Land, and fill the area of the Campo
Santo with that sacred soil! The old house stood upon about as perverse
a little patch of the planet as ever harbored a half-starved earth-worm.
It was as sandy as Sahara and as thirsty as Tantalus. The rustic
aid-de-camps of the household used to aver that all fertilizing matters
"leached" through it. I tried to disprove their assertion by gorging it
with the best of terrestrial nourishment, until I became convinced that I
was feeding the tea-plants of China, and then I gave over the attempt.
And yet I did love, and do love, that arid patch of ground. I wonder if
a single flower could not be made to grow in a pot of earth from that
Campo Santo of my childhood! One noble product of nature did not refuse
to flourish there,—the tall, stately, beautiful, soft-haired,
many-jointed, generous maize or Indian corn, which thrives on sand and
defies the blaze of our shrivelling summer. What child but loves to
wander in its forest-like depths, amidst the rustling leaves and with the
lofty tassels tossing their heads high above him! There are two aspects
of the cornfield which always impress my imagination: the first when it
has reached its full growth, and its ordered ranks look like an army on
the march with its plumed and bannered battalions; the second when, after
the battle of the harvest, the girdled stacks stand on the field of
slaughter like so many ragged Niobes,—say rather like the crazy widows
and daughters of the dead soldiery.
Once more let us come back to the old house. It was far along in its
second century when the edict went forth that it must stand no longer.
The natural death of a house is very much like that of one of its human
tenants. The roof is the first part to show the distinct signs of age.
Slates and tiles loosen and at last slide off, and leave bald the boards
that supported them; shingles darken and decay, and soon the garret or
the attic lets in the rain and the snow; by and by the beams sag, the
floors warp, the walls crack, the paper peels away, the ceilings scale
off and fall, the windows are crusted with clinging dust, the doors drop
from their rusted hinges, the winds come in without knocking and howl
their cruel death-songs through the empty rooms and passages, and at last
there comes a crash, a great cloud of dust rises, and the home that had
been the shelter of generation after generation finds its grave in its
own cellar. Only the chimney remains as its monument. Slowly, little by
little, the patient solvents that find nothing too hard for their
chemistry pick out the mortar from between the bricks; at last a mighty
wind roars around it and rushes against it, and the monumental relic
crashes down among the wrecks it has long survived. So dies a human
habitation left to natural decay, all that was seen above the surface of
the soil sinking gradually below it,
Till naught remains the saddening tale to tell
Save home's last wrecks, the cellar and the well.
But if this sight is saddening, what is it to see a human dwelling fall
by the hand of violence! The ripping off of the shelter that has kept
out a thousand storms, the tearing off of the once ornamental woodwork,
the wrench of the inexorable crowbar, the murderous blows of the axe, the
progressive ruin, which ends by rending all the joints asunder and
flinging the tenoned and mortised timbers into heaps that will be sawed
and split to warm some new habitation as firewood,—what a brutal act of
destruction it seems!
Why should I go over the old house again, having already described it
more than ten years ago? Alas! how many remember anything they read but
once, and so long ago as that? How many would find it out if one should
say over in the same words that which he said in the last decade? But
there is really no need of telling the story a second time, for it can be
found by those who are curious enough to look it up in a volume of which
it occupies the opening chapter.
In order, however, to save any inquisitive reader that trouble, let me
remind him that the old house was General Ward's headquarters at the
breaking out of the Revolution; that the plan for fortifying Bunker's
Hill was laid, as commonly believed, in the southeast lower room, the
floor of which was covered with dents, made, it was alleged, by the butts
of the soldiers' muskets. In that house, too, General Warren probably
passed the night before the Bunker Hill battle, and over its threshold
must the stately figure of Washington have often cast its shadow.
But the house in which one drew his first breath, and where he one day
came into the consciousness that he was a personality, an ego, a little
universe with a sky over him all his own, with a persistent identity,
with the terrible responsibility of a separate, independent, inalienable
existence,—that house does not ask for any historical associations to
make it the centre of the earth for him.
If there is any person in the world to be envied, it is the one who is
born to an ancient estate, with a long line of family traditions and the
means in his hands of shaping his mansion and his domain to his own
taste, without losing sight of all the characteristic features which
surrounded his earliest years. The American is, for the most part, a
nomad, who pulls down his house as the Tartar pulls up his tent-poles.
If I had an ideal life to plan for him it would be something like this:
His grandfather should be a wise, scholarly, large-brained, large-hearted
country minister, from whom he should inherit the temperament that
predisposes to cheerfulness and enjoyment, with the finer instincts which
direct life to noble aims and make it rich with the gratification of pure
and elevated tastes and the carrying out of plans for the good of his
neighbors and his fellow-creatures. He should, if possible, have been
born, at any rate have passed some of his early years, or a large part of
them, under the roof of the good old minister. His father should be, we
will say, a business man in one of our great cities,—a generous
manipulator of millions, some of which have adhered to his private
fortunes, in spite of his liberal use of his means. His heir, our
ideally placed American, shall take possession of the old house, the home
of his earliest memories, and preserve it sacredly, not exactly like the
Santa Casa, but, as nearly as may be, just as he remembers it. He can
add as many acres as he will to the narrow house-lot. He can build a
grand mansion for himself, if he chooses, in the not distant
neighborhood. But the old house, and all immediately round it, shall be
as he recollects it when he had to stretch his little arm up to reach the
door-handles. Then, having well provided for his own household, himself
included, let him become the providence of the village or the town where
he finds himself during at least a portion of every year. Its schools,
its library, its poor,—and perhaps the new clergyman who has succeeded
his grandfather's successor may be one of them,—all its interests, he
shall make his own. And from this centre his beneficence shall radiate
so far that all who hear of his wealth shall also hear of him as a friend
to his race.
Is not this a pleasing programme? Wealth is a steep hill, which the
father climbs slowly and the son often tumbles down precipitately; but
there is a table-land on a level with it, which may be found by those who
do not lose their head in looking down from its sharply cloven
summit.—-Our dangerously rich men can make themselves hated, held as
enemies of the race, or beloved and recognized as its benefactors. The
clouds of discontent are threatening, but if the gold-pointed
lightning-rods are rightly distributed the destructive element may be
drawn off silently and harmlessly. For it cannot be repeated too often
that the safety of great wealth with us lies in obedience to the new
version of the Old World axiom, RICHESS oblige.
THE NEW PORTFOLIO: FIRST OPENING.
A MORTAL ANTIPATHY.
It is impossible to begin a story which must of necessity tax the powers
of belief of readers unacquainted with the class of facts to which its
central point of interest belongs without some words in the nature of
preparation. Readers of Charles Lamb remember that Sarah Battle insisted
on a clean-swept hearth before sitting down to her favorite game of
The narrator wishes to sweep the hearth, as it were, in these opening
pages, before sitting down to tell his story. He does not intend to
frighten the reader away by prolix explanation, but he does mean to warn
him against hasty judgments when facts are related which are not within
the range of every-day experience. Did he ever see the Siamese twins, or
any pair like them? Probably not, yet he feels sure that Chang and Eng
really existed; and if he has taken the trouble to inquire, he has
satisfied himself that similar cases have been recorded by credible
witnesses, though at long intervals and in countries far apart from each
This is the first sweep of the brush, to clear the hearth of the
skepticism and incredulity which must be got out of the way before we can
begin to tell and to listen in peace with ourselves and each other.
One more stroke of the brush is needed before the stage will be ready for
the chief characters and the leading circumstances to which the reader's
attention is invited. If the principal personages made their entrance at
once, the reader would have to create for himself the whole scenery of
their surrounding conditions. In point of fact, no matter how a story is
begun, many of its readers have already shaped its chief actors out of
any hint the author may have dropped, and provided from their own
resources a locality and a set of outward conditions to environ these
imagined personalities. These are all to be brushed away, and the actual
surroundings of the subject of the narrative represented as they were, at
the risk of detaining the reader a little while from the events most
likely to interest him. The choicest egg that ever was laid was not so
big as the nest that held it. If a story were so interesting that a
maiden would rather hear it than listen to the praise of her own beauty,
or a poet would rather read it than recite his own verses, still it would
have to be wrapped in some tissue of circumstance, or it would lose half
It may not be easy to find the exact locality referred to in this
narrative by looking into the first gazetteer that is at hand. Recent
experiences have shown that it is unsafe to be too exact in designating
places and the people who live in them. There are, it may be added, so
many advertisements disguised under the form of stories and other
literary productions that one naturally desires to avoid the suspicion of
being employed by the enterprising proprietors of this or that celebrated
resort to use his gifts for their especial benefit. There are no doubt
many persons who remember the old sign and the old tavern and its four
chief personages presently to be mentioned. It is to be hoped that they
will not furnish the public with a key to this narrative, and perhaps
bring trouble to the writer of it, as has happened to other authors. If
the real names are a little altered, it need not interfere with the
important facts relating to those who bear them. It might not be safe to
tell a damaging story about John or James Smythe; but if the slight
change is made of spelling the name Smith, the Smythes would never think
of bringing an action, as if the allusion related to any of them. The
same gulf of family distinction separates the Thompsons with a p from the
Thomsons without that letter.
There are few pleasanter places in the Northern States for a summer
residence than that known from the first period of its settlement by the
name of Arrowhead Village. The Indians had found it out, as the relics
they left behind them abundantly testified. The commonest of these were
those chipped stones which are the medals of barbarism, and from Which
the place took its name,—the heads of arrows, of various sizes,
material, and patterns: some small enough for killing fish and little
birds, some large enough for such game as the moose and the bear, to say
nothing of the hostile Indian and the white settler; some of flint, now
and then one of white quartz, and others of variously colored jasper.
The Indians must have lived here for many generations, and it must have
been a kind of factory village of the stone age,—which lasted up to near
the present time, if we may judge from the fact that many of these relics
are met with close to the surface of the ground.
No wonder they found this a pleasant residence, for it is to-day one of
the most attractive of all summer resorts; so inviting, indeed, that
those who know it do not like to say too much about it, lest the swarms
of tourists should make it unendurable to those who love it for itself,
and not as a centre of fashionable display and extramural cockneyism.
There is the lake, in the first place,—Cedar Lake,—about five miles
long, and from half a mile to a mile and a half wide, stretching from
north to south. Near the northern extremity are the buildings of
Stoughton University, a flourishing young college with an ambitious name,
but well equipped and promising, the grounds of which reach the water.
At the southern end of the lake are the edifices of the Corinna
Institute, a favorite school for young ladies, where large numbers of the
daughters of America are fitted, so far as education can do it, for all
stations in life, from camping out with a husband at the mines in Nevada
to acting the part of chief lady of the land in the White House at
Midway between the two extremities, on the eastern shore of the lake, is
a valley between two hills, which come down to the very edge of the lake,
leaving only room enough for a road between their base and the water.
This valley, half a mile in width, has been long settled, and here for a
century or more has stood the old Anchor Tavern. A famous place it was
so long as its sign swung at the side of the road: famous for its
landlord, portly, paternal, whose welcome to a guest that looked worthy
of the attention was like that of a parent to a returning prodigal, and
whose parting words were almost as good as a marriage benediction; famous
for its landlady, ample in person, motherly, seeing to the whole
household with her own eyes, mistress of all culinary secrets that
Northern kitchens are most proud of; famous also for its ancient servant,
as city people would call her,—help, as she was called in the tavern
and would have called herself,—the unchanging, seemingly immortal
Miranda, who cared for the guests as if she were their nursing mother,
and pressed the specially favorite delicacies on their attention as a
connoisseur calls the wandering eyes of an amateur to the beauties of a
picture. Who that has ever been at the old Anchor Tavern forgets
"A little of this fricassee?-it is ver-y nice;"
"Some of these cakes? You will find them ver-y good."
Nor would it be just to memory to forget that other notable and noted
member of the household,—the unsleeping, unresting, omnipresent Pushee,
ready for everybody and everything, everywhere within the limits of the
establishment at all hours of the day and night. He fed, nobody could
say accurately when or where. There were rumors of a "bunk," in which he
lay down with his clothes on, but he seemed to be always wide awake, and
at the service of as many guest, at once as if there had been half a
dozen of him.
So much for old reminiscences.
The landlord of the Anchor Tavern had taken down his sign. He had had
the house thoroughly renovated and furnished it anew, and kept it open in
summer for a few boarders. It happened more than once that the summer
boarders were so much pleased with the place that they stayed on through
the autumn, and some of them through the winter. The attractions of the
village were really remarkable. Boating in summer, and skating in
winter; ice-boats, too, which the wild ducks could hardly keep up with;
fishing, for which the lake was renowned; varied and beautiful walks
through the valley and up the hillsides; houses sheltered from the north
and northeasterly winds, and refreshed in the hot summer days by the
breeze which came over the water,—all this made the frame for a pleasing
picture of rest and happiness. But there was a great deal more than
this. There was a fine library in the little village, presented and
richly endowed by a wealthy native of the place. There was a small
permanent population of a superior character to that of an everyday
country town; there was a pretty little Episcopal church, with a
good-hearted rector, broad enough for the Bishop of the diocese to be a
little afraid of, and hospitable to all outsiders, of whom, in the summer
season, there were always some who wanted a place of worship to keep
their religion from dying out during the heathen months, while the
shepherds of the flocks to which they belonged were away from their empty
What most helped to keep the place alive all through the year was the
frequent coming together of the members of a certain literary
association. Some time before the tavern took down its sign the landlord
had built a hall, where many a ball had been held, to which the young
folks of all the country round had resorted. It was still sometimes used
for similar occasions, but it was especially notable as being the place
of meeting of the famous PANSOPHIAN SOCIETY.
This association, the name of which might be invidiously interpreted as
signifying that its members knew everything, had no such pretensions,
but, as its Constitution said very plainly and modestly, held itself open
to accept knowledge on any and all subjects from such as had knowledge to
impart. Its President was the rector of the little chapel, a man who, in
spite of the Thirty-Nine Articles, could stand fire from the
widest-mouthed heretical blunderbuss without flinching or losing his
temper. The hall of the old Anchor Tavern was a convenient place of
meeting for the students and instructors of the University and the
Institute. Sometimes in boat-loads, sometimes in carriage-loads,
sometimes in processions of skaters, they came to the meetings in
Pansophian Hall, as it was now commonly called.
These meetings had grown to be occasions of great interest. It was
customary to have papers written by members of the Society, for the most
part, but now and then by friends of the members, sometimes by the
students of the College or the Institute, and in rarer instances by
anonymous personages, whose papers, having been looked over and discussed
by the Committee appointed for that purpose, were thought worth listening
to. The variety of topics considered was very great. The young ladies of
the village and the Institute had their favorite subjects, the young
gentlemen a different set of topics, and the occasional outside
contributors their own; so that one who happened to be admitted to a
meeting never knew whether he was going to hear an account of recent
arctic discoveries, or an essay on the freedom of the will, or a
psychological experience, or a story, or even a poem.
Of late there had been a tendency to discuss the questions relating to
the true status and the legitimate social functions of woman. The most
conflicting views were held on the subject. Many of the young ladies and
some of the University students were strong in defence of all the
"woman's rights" doctrines. Some of these young people were extreme in
their views. They had read about Semiramis and Boadicea and Queen
Elizabeth, until they were ready, if they could get the chance, to vote
for a woman as President of the United States or as General of the United
States Army. They were even disposed to assert the physical equality of
woman to man, on the strength of the rather questionable history of the
Amazons, and especially of the story, believed to be authentic, of the
female body-guard of the King of Dahomey,—females frightful enough to
need no other weapon than their looks to scare off an army of Cossacks.
Miss Lurida Vincent, gold medallist of her year at the Corinna Institute,
was the leader of these advocates of virile womanhood. It was rather
singular that she should have elected to be the apostle of this extreme
doctrine, for she was herself far better equipped with brain than
muscles. In fact, she was a large-headed, large-eyed, long-eyelashed,
slender-necked, slightly developed young woman; looking almost like a
child at an age when many of the girls had reached their full stature and
proportions. In her studies she was so far in advance of her different
classes that there was always a wide gap between her and the second
scholar. So fatal to all rivalry had she proved herself that she passed
under the school name of The Terror. She learned so easily that she
undervalued her own extraordinary gifts, and felt the deepest admiration
for those of her friends endowed with faculties of an entirely different
and almost opposite nature. After sitting at her desk until her head was
hot and her feet were like ice, she would go and look at the blooming
young girls exercising in the gymnasium of the school, and feel as if she
would give all her knowledge, all her mathematics and strange tongues and
history, all those accomplishments that made her the encyclopaedia of
every class she belonged to, if she could go through the series of
difficult and graceful exercises in which she saw her schoolmates
One among them, especially, was the object of her admiration, as she was
of all who knew her exceptional powers in the line for which nature had
specially organized her. All the physical perfections which Miss Lurida
had missed had been united in Miss Euthymia Tower, whose school name was
The Wonder. Though of full womanly stature, there were several taller
girls of her age. While all her contours and all her movements betrayed
a fine muscular development, there was no lack of proportion, and her
finely shaped hands and feet showed that her organization was one of
those carefully finished masterpieces of nature which sculptors are
always in search of, and find it hard to detect among the imperfect
products of the living laboratory.
This girl of eighteen was more famous than she cared to be for her
performances in the gymnasium. She commonly contented herself with the
same exercises that her companions were accustomed to. Only her
dumb-bells, with which she exercised easily and gracefully, were too
heavy for most of the girls to do more with than lift them from the
floor. She was fond of daring feats on the trapeze, and had to be
checked in her indulgence in them. The Professor of gymnastics at the
University came over to the Institute now and then, and it was a source
of great excitement to watch some of the athletic exercises in which the
young lady showed her remarkable muscular strength and skill in managing
herself in the accomplishment of feats which looked impossible at first
sight. How often The Terror had thought to herself that she would gladly
give up all her knowledge of Greek and the differential and integral
calculus if she could only perform the least of those feats which were
mere play to The Wonder! Miss Euthymia was not behind the rest in her
attainments in classical or mathematical knowledge, and she was one of
the very best students in the out-door branches,—botany, mineralogy,
sketching from nature,—to be found among the scholars of the Institute.
There was an eight-oared boat rowed by a crew of the young ladies, of
which Miss Euthymia was the captain and pulled the bow oar. Poor little
Lurida could not pull an oar, but on great occasions, when there were
many boats out, she was wanted as coxswain, being a mere feather-weight,
and quick-witted enough to serve well in the important office where
brains are more needed than muscle.
There was also an eight-oared boat belonging to the University, and rowed
by a picked crew of stalwart young fellows. The bow oar and captain of
the University crew was a powerful young man, who, like the captain of
the girls' boat, was a noted gymnast. He had had one or two quiet trials
with Miss Euthymia, in which, according to the ultras of the woman's
rights party, he had not vindicated the superiority of his sex in the way
which might have been expected. Indeed, it was claimed that he let a
cannon-ball drop when he ought to have caught it, and it was not disputed
that he had been ingloriously knocked over by a sand-bag projected by the
strong arms of the young maiden. This was of course a story that was
widely told and laughingly listened to, and the captain of the University
crew had become a little sensitive on the subject. When there was a
talk, therefore, about a race between the champion boats of the two
institutions there was immense excitement in both of them, as well as
among the members of the Pansophian Society and all the good people of
There were many objections to be overcome. Some thought it unladylike
for the young maidens to take part in a competition which must attract
many lookers-on, and which it seemed to them very hoidenish to venture
upon. Some said it was a shame to let a crew of girls try their strength
against an equal number of powerful young men. These objections were
offset by the advocates of the race by the following arguments. They
maintained that it was no more hoidenish to row a boat than it was to
take a part in the calisthenic exercises, and that the girls had nothing
to do with the young men's boat, except to keep as much ahead of it as
possible. As to strength, the woman's righters believed that, weight for
weight, their crew was as strong as the other, and of course due
allowance would be made for the difference of weight and all other
accidental hindrances. It was time to test the boasted superiority of
masculine muscle. Here was a chance. If the girls beat, the whole
country would know it, and after that female suffrage would be only a
question of time. Such was the conclusion, from rather insufficient
premises, it must be confessed; but if nature does nothing per
saltum,—by jumps,—as the old adage has it, youth is very apt to take
long leaps from a fact to a possible sequel or consequence. So it had
come about that a contest between the two boat-crews was looked forward
to with an interest almost equal to that with which the combat between
the Horatii and Curiatii was regarded.
The terms had been at last arranged between the two crews, after cautious
protocols and many diplomatic discussions. It was so novel in its
character that it naturally took a good deal of time to adjust it in such
a way as to be fair to both parties. The course must not be too long for
the lighter and weaker crew, for the staying power of the young persons
who made it up could not be safely reckoned upon. A certain advantage
must be allowed them at the start, and this was a delicate matter to
settle. The weather was another important consideration. June would be
early enough, in all probability, and if the lake should be tolerably
smooth the grand affair might come off some time in that month. Any
roughness of the water would be unfavorable to the weaker crew. The
rowing-course was on the eastern side of the lake, the starting-point
being opposite the Anchor Tavern; from that three quarters of a mile to
the south, where the turning-stake was fixed, so that the whole course of
one mile and a half would bring the boats back to their starting-point.
The race was to be between the Algonquin, eight-oared boat with
outriggers, rowed by young men, students of Stoughton University, and the
Atalanta, also eight-oared and outrigger boat, by young ladies from the
Corinna Institute. Their boat was three inches wider than the other, for
various sufficient reasons, one of which was to make it a little less
likely to go over and throw its crew into the water, which was a sound
precaution, though all the girls could swim, and one at least, the bow
oar, was a famous swimmer, who had pulled a drowning man out of the water
after a hard struggle to keep him from carrying her down with him.
Though the coming trial had not been advertised in the papers, so as to
draw together a rabble of betting men and ill-conditioned lookers-on,
there was a considerable gathering, made up chiefly of the villagers and
the students of the two institutions. Among them were a few who were
disposed to add to their interest in the trial by small wagers. The bets
were rather in favor of the "Quins," as the University boat was commonly
called, except where the natural sympathy of the young ladies or the
gallantry of some of the young men led them to risk their gloves or
cigars, or whatever it might be, on the Atalantas. The elements of
judgment were these: average weight of the Algonquins one hundred and
sixty-five pounds; average weight of the Atalantas, one hundred and
forty-eight pounds; skill in practice about equal; advantage of the
narrow boat equal to three lengths; whole distance allowed the Atalantas
eight lengths,—a long stretch to be made up in a mile and a half.
And so both crews began practising for the grand trial.
The 10th of June was a delicious summer day, rather warm, but still and
bright. The water was smooth, and the crews were in the best possible
condition. All was expectation, and for some time nothing but
expectation. No boat-race or regatta ever began at the time appointed
for the start. Somebody breaks an oar, or somebody fails to appear in
season, or something is the matter with a seat or an outrigger; or if
there is no such excuse, the crew of one or both or all the boats to take
part in the race must paddle about to get themselves ready for work, to
the infinite weariness of all the spectators, who naturally ask why all
this getting ready is not attended to beforehand. The Algonquins wore
plain gray flannel suits and white caps. The young ladies were all in
dark blue dresses, touched up with a red ribbon here and there, and wore
light straw hats. The little coxswain of the Atalanta was the last to
step on board. As she took her place she carefully deposited at her feet
a white handkerchief wrapped about something or other, perhaps a sponge,
in case the boat should take in water.
At last the Algonquin shot out from the little nook where she lay,
—long, narrow, shining, swift as a pickerel when he darts from the reedy
shore. It was a beautiful sight to see the eight young fellows in their
close-fitting suits, their brown muscular arms bare, bending their backs
for the stroke and recovering, as if they were parts of a single machine.
"The gals can't stan' it agin them fellers," said the old blacksmith from
"You wait till the gals get a-goin'," said the carpenter, who had often
worked in the gymnasium of the Corinna Institute, and knew something of
their muscular accomplishments. "Y' ought to see 'em climb ropes, and
swing dumb-bells, and pull in them rowin'-machines. Ask Jake there
whether they can't row a mild in double-quick time,—he knows all abaout
Jake was by profession a fisherman, and a freshwater fisherman in a
country village is inspector-general of all that goes on out-of-doors,
being a lazy, wandering sort of fellow, whose study of the habits and
habitats of fishes gives him a kind of shrewdness of observation, just as
dealing in horses is an education of certain faculties, and breeds a race
of men peculiarly cunning, suspicious, wary, and wide awake, with a
rhetoric of appreciation and depreciation all its own.
Jake made his usual preliminary signal, and delivered himself to the
"Wahl, I don' know jest what to say. I've seed 'em both often enough
when they was practisin', an' I tell ye the' wa'n't no slouch abaout
neither on 'em. But them bats is all-fired long, 'n' eight on 'em
stretched in a straight line eendways makes a consid'able piece aout 'f a
mile 'n' a haaf. I'd bate on them gals if it wa'n't that them fellers is
naterally longer winded, as the gals 'll find aout by the time they git
raound the stake 'n' over agin the big ellum. I'll go ye a quarter on
the pahnts agin the petticoats."
The fresh-water fisherman had expressed the prevailing belief that the
young ladies were overmatched. Still there were not wanting those who
thought the advantage allowed the "Lantas," as they called the Corinna
boatcrew, was too great, and that it would be impossible for the "Quins"
to make it up and go by them.
The Algonquins rowed up and down a few times before the spectators. They
appeared in perfect training, neither too fat nor too fine, mettlesome as
colts, steady as draught-horses, deep-breathed as oxen, disciplined to
work together as symmetrically as a single sculler pulls his pair of
oars. The fisherman offered to make his quarter fifty cents. No takers.
Five minutes passed, and all eyes were strained to the south, looking for
the Atalanta. A clump of trees hid the edge of the lake along which the
Corinna's boat was stealing towards the starting-point. Presently the
long shell swept into view, with its blooming rowers, who, with their
ample dresses, seemed to fill it almost as full as Raphael fills his
skiff on the edge of the Lake of Galilee. But how steadily the Atalanta
came on!—-no rocking, no splashing, no apparent strain; the bow oar
turning to look ahead every now and then, and watching her course, which
seemed to be straight as an arrow, the beat of the strokes as true and
regular as the pulse of the healthiest rower among them all. And if the
sight of the other boat and its crew was beautiful, how lovely was the
look of this! Eight young girls,—young ladies, for those who prefer that
more dignified and less attractive expression,—all in the flush of
youth, all in vigorous health; every muscle taught its duty; each rower
alert, not to be a tenth of a second out of time, or let her oar dally
with the water so as to lose an ounce of its propelling virtue; every eye
kindling with the hope of victory. Each of the boats was cheered as it
came in sight, but the cheers for the Atalanta were naturally the
loudest, as the gallantry of one sex and the clear, high voices of the
other gave it life and vigor.
"Take your places!" shouted the umpire, five minutes before the half
hour. The two boats felt their way slowly and cautiously to their
positions, which had been determined by careful measurement. After a
little backing and filling they got into line, at the proper distance
from each other, and sat motionless, their bodies bent forward, their
arms outstretched, their oars in the water, waiting for the word.
"Go!" shouted the umpire.
Away sprang the Atalanta, and far behind her leaped the Algonquin, her
oars bending like so many long Indian bows as their blades flashed
through the water.
"A stern chase is a long chase," especially when one craft is a great
distance behind the other. It looked as if it would be impossible for
the rear boat to overcome the odds against it. Of course the Algonquin
kept gaining, but could it possibly gain enough? That was the question.
As the boats got farther and farther away, it became more and more
difficult to determine what change there was in the interval between
them. But when they came to rounding the stake it was easier to guess at
the amount of space which had been gained. It was clear that something
like half the distance, four lengths, as nearly as could be estimated,
had been made up in rowing the first three quarters of a mile. Could the
Algonquins do a little better than this in the second half of the
race-course, they would be sure of winning.
The boats had turned the stake, and were coming in rapidly. Every minute
the University boat was getting nearer the other.
"Go it, Quins!" shouted the students.
"Pull away, Lantas!" screamed the girls, who were crowding down to the
edge of the water.
Nearer,—nearer,—the rear boat is pressing the other more and more
closely,—a few more strokes, and they will be even, for there is but one
length between them, and thirty rods will carry them to the line. It
looks desperate for the Atalantas. The bow oar of the Algonquin turns
his head. He sees the little coxswain leaning forward at every stroke,
as if her trivial weight were of such mighty consequence,—but a few
ounces might turn the scale of victory. As he turned he got a glimpse of
the stroke oar of the Atalanta. What a flash of loveliness it was! Her
face was like the reddest of June roses, with the heat and the strain and
the passion of expected triumph. The upper button of her close-fitting
flannel suit had strangled her as her bosom heaved with exertion, and it
had given way before the fierce clutch she made at it. The bow oar was a
staunch and steady rower, but he was human. The blade of his oar
lingered in the water; a little more and he would have caught a crab, and
perhaps lost the race by his momentary bewilderment.
The boat, which seemed as if it had all the life and nervousness of a
Derby three-year-old, felt the slight check, and all her men bent more
vigorously to their oars. The Atalantas saw the movement, and made a
spurt to keep their lead and gain upon it if they could. It was of no
use. The strong arms of the young men were too much for the young
maidens; only a few lengths remained to be rowed, and they would
certainly pass the Atalanta before she could reach the line.
The little coxswain saw that it was all up with the girls' crew if she
could not save them by some strategic device.
"Dolus an virtus quis in hoste requirat?"
she whispered to herself,—for The Terror remembered her Virgil as she
did everything else she ever studied. As she stooped, she lifted the
handkerchief at her feet, and took from it a flaming bouquet. "Look!" she
cried, and flung it just forward of the track of the Algonquin. The
captain of the University boat turned his head, and there was the lovely
vision which had a moment before bewitched him. The owner of all that
loveliness must, he thought, have flung the bouquet. It was a challenge:
how could he be such a coward as to decline accepting it.
He was sure he could win the race now, and he would sweep past the line
in triumph with the great bunch of flowers at the stem of his boat, proud
as Van Tromp in the British channel with the broom at his mast-head.
He turned the boat's head a little by backing water. He came up with the
floating flowers, and near enough to reach them. He stooped and snatched
them up, with the loss perhaps of a second in all,—no more. He felt sure
of his victory.
How can one tell the story of the finish in cold-blooded preterites? Are
we not there ourselves? Are not our muscles straining with those of
these sixteen young creatures, full of hot, fresh blood, their nerves all
tingling like so many tight-strained harp-strings, all their life
concentrating itself in this passionate moment of supreme effort? No!
We are seeing, not telling about what somebody else once saw!
—The bow of the Algonquin passes the stern of the Atalanta!
—The bow of the Algonquin is on a level with the middle of the Atalanta!
—Three more lengths' rowing and the college crew will pass the girls!
—"Hurrah for the Quins!" The Algonquin ranges up alongside of the
"Through with her!" shouts the captain of the Algonquin.
"Now, girls!" shrieks the captain of the Atalanta.
They near the line, every rower straining desperately, almost madly.
—Crack goes the oar of the Atalanta's captain, and up flash its
splintered fragments, as the stem of her boat springs past the line,
eighteen inches at least ahead of the Algonquin.
Hooraw for the Lantas! Hooraw for the Girls! Hooraw for the Institoot!
shout a hundred voices.
"Hurrah for woman's rights and female suffrage!" pipes the small voice of
The Terror, and there is loud laughing and cheering all round.
She had not studied her classical dictionary and her mythology for
nothing. "I have paid off one old score," she said. "Set down my damask
roses against the golden apples of Hippomenes!"
It was that one second lost in snatching up the bouquet which gave the
race to the Atalantas.
THE WHITE CANOE.
While the two boats were racing, other boats with lookers-on in them were
rowing or sailing in the neighborhood of the race-course. The scene on
the water was a gay one, for the young people in the boats were, many of
them, acquainted with each other. There was a good deal of lively talk
until the race became too exciting. Then many fell silent, until, as the
boats neared the line, and still more as they crossed it, the shouts
burst forth which showed how a cramp of attention finds its natural
relief in a fit of convulsive exclamation.
But far away, on the other side of the lake, a birchbark canoe was to be
seen, in which sat a young man, who paddled it skillfully and swiftly.
It was evident enough that he was watching the race intently, but the
spectators could see little more than that. One of them, however, who
sat upon the stand, had a powerful spy-glass, and could distinguish his
motions very minutely and exactly. It was seen by this curious observer
that the young man had an opera-glass with him, which he used a good deal
at intervals. The spectator thought he kept it directed to the girls'
boat, chiefly, if not exclusively. He thought also that the opera-glass
was more particularly pointed towards the bow of the boat, and came to
the natural conclusion that the bow oar, Miss Euthymia Tower, captain of
the Atalantas, "The Wonder" of the Corinna Institute, was the attraction
which determined the direction of the instrument.
"Who is that in the canoe over there?" asked the owner of the spy-glass.
"That's just what we should like to know," answered the old landlord's
wife. "He and his man boarded with us when they first came, but we could
never find out anything about him only just his name and his ways of
living. His name is Kirkwood, Maurice Kirkwood, Esq., it used to come on
his letters. As for his ways of living, he was the solitariest human
being that I ever came across. His man carried his meals up to him. He
used to stay in his room pretty much all day, but at night he would be
off, walking, or riding on horseback, or paddling about in the lake,
sometimes till nigh morning. There's something very strange about that
Mr. Kirkwood. But there don't seem to be any harm in him. Only nobody
can guess what his business is. They got up a story about him at one
time. What do you think? They said he was a counterfeiter! And so they
went one night to his room, when he was out, and that man of his was away
too, and they carried keys, and opened pretty much everything; and they
found—well, they found just nothing at all except writings and
letters,—letters from places in America and in England, and some with
Italian postmarks: that was all. Since that time the sheriff and his
folks have let him alone and minded their own business. He was a
gentleman,—anybody ought to have known that; and anybody that knew about
his nice ways of living and behaving, and knew the kind of wear he had
for his underclothing, might have known it. I could have told those
officers that they had better not bother him. I know the ways of real
gentlemen and real ladies, and I know those fellows in store clothes that
look a little too fine,—outside. Wait till washing-day comes!"
The good lady had her own standards for testing humanity, and they were
not wholly unworthy of consideration; they were quite as much to be
relied on as the judgments of the travelling phrenologist, who sent his
accomplice on before him to study out the principal personages in the
village, and in the light of these revelations interpreted the bumps,
with very little regard to Gall and Spurzheim, or any other authorities.
Even with the small amount of information obtained by the search among
his papers and effects, the gossips of the village had constructed
several distinct histories for the mysterious stranger. He was an agent
of a great publishing house; a leading contributor to several important
periodicals; the author of that anonymously published novel which had
made so much talk; the poet of a large clothing establishment; a spy of
the Italian, some said the Russian, some said the British, Government; a
proscribed refugee from some country where he had been plotting; a
school-master without a school, a minister without a pulpit, an actor
without an engagement; in short, there was no end to the perfectly
senseless stories that were told about him, from that which made him out
an escaped convict to the whispered suggestion that he was the eccentric
heir to a great English title and estate.
The one unquestionable fact was that of his extraordinary seclusion.
Nobody in the village, no student in the University, knew his history.
No young lady in the Corinna Institute had ever had a word from him.
Sometimes, as the boats of the University or the Institute were returning
at dusk, their rowers would see the canoe stealing into the shadows as
they drew near it. Sometimes on a moonlight night, when a party of the
young ladies were out upon the lake, they would see the white canoe
gliding ghost-like in the distance. And it had happened more than once
that when a boat's crew had been out with singers among them, while they
were in the midst of a song, the white canoe would suddenly appear and
rest upon the water,—not very near them, but within hearing
distance,—and so remain until the singing was over, when it would steal
away and be lost sight of in some inlet or behind some jutting rock.
Naturally enough, there was intense curiosity about this young man. The
landlady had told her story, which explained nothing. There was nobody
to be questioned about him except his servant, an Italian, whose name was
Paolo, but who to the village was known as Mr. Paul.
Mr. Paul would have seemed the easiest person in the world to worm a
secret out of. He was good-natured, child-like as a Heathen Chinee,
talked freely with everybody in such English as he had at command, knew
all the little people of the village, and was followed round by them
partly from his personal attraction for them, and partly because he was
apt to have a stick of candy or a handful of peanuts or other desirable
luxury in his pocket for any of his little friends he met with. He had
that wholesome, happy look, so uncommon in our arid countrymen,—a look
hardly to be found except where figs and oranges ripen in the open air.
A kindly climate to grow up in, a religion which takes your money and
gives you a stamped ticket good at Saint Peter's box office, a roomy
chest and a good pair of lungs in it, an honest digestive apparatus, a
lively temperament, a cheerful acceptance of the place in life assigned
to one by nature and circumstance,—these are conditions under which life
may be quite comfortable to endure, and certainly is very pleasant to
contemplate. All these conditions were united in Paolo. He was the
easiest; pleasantest creature to talk with that one could ask for a
companion. His southern vivacity, his amusing English, his simplicity and
openness, made him friends everywhere.
It seemed as if it would be a very simple matter to get the history of
his master out of this guileless and unsophisticated being. He had been
tried by all the village experts. The rector had put a number of
well-studied careless questions, which failed of their purpose. The old
librarian of the town library had taken note of all the books he carried
to his master, and asked about his studies and pursuits. Paolo found it
hard to understand his English, apparently, and answered in the most
irrelevant way. The leading gossip of the village tried her skill in
pumping him for information. It was all in vain.
His master's way of life was peculiar,—in fact, eccentric. He had hired
rooms in an old-fashioned three-story house. He had two rooms in the
second and third stories of this old wooden building: his study in the
second, his sleeping-room in the one above it. Paolo lived in the
basement, where he had all the conveniences for cooking, and played the
part of chef for his master and himself. This was only a part of his
duty, for he was a man-of-all-work, purveyor, steward, chambermaid,—as
universal in his services for one man as Pushee at the Anchor Tavern used
to be for everybody.
It so happened that Paolo took a severe cold one winter's day, and had
such threatening symptoms that he asked the baker, when he called, to
send the village physician to see him. In the course of his visit the
doctor naturally inquired about the health of Paolo's master.
"Signor Kirkwood well,—molto bene," said Paolo. "Why does he keep out
of sight as he does?" asked the doctor.
"He always so," replied Paolo. "Una antipatia."
Whether Paolo was off his guard with the doctor, whether he revealed it
to him as to a father confessor, or whether he thought it time that the
reason of his master's seclusion should be known, the doctor did not feel
sure. At any rate, Paolo was not disposed to make any further
revelations. Una antipatia,—an antipathy,—that was all the doctor
learned. He thought the matter over, and the more he reflected the more
he was puzzled. What could an antipathy be that made a young man a
recluse! Was it a dread of blue sky and open air, of the smell of
flowers, or some electrical impression to which he was unnaturally
Dr. Butts carried these questions home with him. His wife was a
sensible, discreet woman, whom he could trust with many professional
secrets. He told her of Paolo's revelation, and talked it over with her
in the light of his experience and her own; for she had known some
curious cases of constitutional likes and aversions.
Mrs. Butts buried the information in the grave of her memory, where it
lay for nearly a week. At the end of that time it emerged in a
confidential whisper to her favorite sister-in-law, a perfectly safe
person. Twenty-four hours later the story was all over the village that
Maurice Kirkwood was the subject of a strange, mysterious, unheard-of
antipathy to something, nobody knew what; and the whole neighborhood
naturally resolved itself into an unorganized committee of investigation.
What is a country village without its mysterious personage? Few are now
living who can remember the advent of the handsome young man who was the
mystery of our great university town "sixty years since,"—long enough
ago for a romance to grow out of a narrative, as Waverley may remind us.
The writer of this narrative remembers him well, and is not sure that he
has not told the strange story in some form or other to the last
generation, or to the one before the last. No matter: if he has told it
they have forgotten it,—that is, if they have ever read it; and whether
they have or have not, the story is singular enough to justify running
the risk of repetition.
This young man, with a curious name of Scandinavian origin, appeared
unheralded in the town, as it was then, of Cantabridge. He wanted
employment, and soon found it in the shape of manual labor, which he
undertook and performed cheerfully. But his whole appearance showed
plainly enough that he was bred to occupations of a very different
nature, if, in deed, he had been accustomed to any kind of toil for his
living. His aspect was that of one of gentle birth. His hands were not
those of a laborer, and his features were delicate and refined, as well
as of remarkable beauty. Who he was, where he came from, why he had come
to Cantabridge, was never clearly explained. He was alone, without
friends, except among the acquaintances he had made in his new residence.
If he had any correspondents, they were not known to the neighborhood
where he was living. But if he had neither friends nor correspondents,
there was some reason for believing that he had enemies. Strange
circumstances occurred which connected themselves with him in an ominous
and unaccountable way. A threatening letter was slipped under the door
of a house where he was visiting. He had a sudden attack of illness,
which was thought to look very much like the effect of poison. At one
time he disappeared, and was found wandering, bewildered, in a town many
miles from that where he was residing. When questioned how he came
there; he told a coherent story that he had been got, under some pretext,
or in some not incredible way, into a boat, from which, at a certain
landing-place, he had escaped and fled for his life, which he believed
was in danger from his kidnappers.
Whoever his enemies may have been,—if they really existed,—he did not
fall a victim to their plots, so far as known to or remembered by this
Various interpretations were put upon his story. Conjectures were as
abundant as they were in the case of Kaspar Hauser. That he was of good
family seemed probable; that he was of distinguished birth, not
impossible; that he was the dangerous rival of a candidate for a greatly
coveted position in one of the northern states of Europe was a favorite
speculation of some of the more romantic young persons. There was no
dramatic ending to this story,—at least none is remembered by the
"He left a name," like the royal Swede, of whose lineage he may have been
for aught that the village people knew, but not a name at which anybody
"grew pale;" for he had swindled no one, and broken no woman's heart with
false vows. Possibly some withered cheeks may flush faintly as they
recall the handsome young man who came before the Cantabridge maidens
fully equipped for a hero of romance when the century was in its first
The writer has been reminded of the handsome Swede by the incidents
attending the advent of the unknown and interesting stranger who had made
his appearance at Arrowhead Village.
It was a very insufficient and unsatisfactory reason to assign for the
young man's solitary habits that he was the subject of an antipathy. For
what do we understand by that word? When a young lady screams at the
sight of a spider, we accept her explanation that she has a natural
antipathy to the creature. When a person expresses a repugnance to some
wholesome article of food, agreeable to most people, we are satisfied if
he gives the same reason. And so of various odors, which are pleasing to
some persons and repulsive to others. We do not pretend to go behind the
fact. It is an individual, and it may be a family, peculiarity. Even
between different personalities there is an instinctive elective dislike
as well as an elective affinity. We are not bound to give a reason why
Dr. Fell is odious to us any more than the prisoner who peremptorily
challenges a juryman is bound to say why he does it; it is enough that he
"does not like his looks."
There was nothing strange, then, that Maurice Kirkwood should have his
special antipathy; a great many other people have odd likes and dislikes.
But it was a very curious thing that this antipathy should be alleged as
the reason for his singular mode of life. All sorts of explanations were
suggested, not one of them in the least satisfactory, but serving to keep
the curiosity of inquirers active until they were superseded by a new
theory. One story was that Maurice had a great fear of dogs. It grew at
last to a connected narrative, in which a fright in childhood from a
rabid mongrel was said to have given him such a sensitiveness to the near
presence of dogs that he was liable to convulsions if one came close to
This hypothesis had some plausibility. No other creature would be so
likely to trouble a person who had an antipathy to it. Dogs are very apt
to make the acquaintance of strangers, in a free and easy way. They are
met with everywhere,—in one's daily walk, at the thresholds of the doors
one enters, in the gentleman's library, on the rug of my lady's
sitting-room and on the cushion of her carriage. It is true that there
are few persons who have an instinctive repugnance to this "friend of
man." But what if this so-called antipathy were only a fear, a terror,
which borrowed the less unmanly name? It was a fair question, if,
indeed, the curiosity of the public had a right to ask any questions at
all about a harmless individual who gave no offence, and seemed entitled
to the right of choosing his way of living to suit himself, without being
submitted to espionage.
There was no positive evidence bearing on the point as yet. But one of
the village people had a large Newfoundland dog, of a very sociable
disposition, with which he determined to test the question. He watched
for the time when Maurice should leave his house for the woods or the
lake, and started with his dog to meet him. The animal walked up to the
stranger in a very sociable fashion, and began making his acquaintance,
after the usual manner of well-bred dogs; that is, with the courtesies
and blandishments by which the canine Chesterfield is distinguished from
the ill-conditioned cur. Maurice patted him in a friendly way, and spoke
to him as one who was used to the fellowship of such companions. That
idle question and foolish story were disposed of, therefore, and some
other solution must be found, if possible.
A much more common antipathy is that which is entertained with regard to
cats. This has never been explained. It is not mere aversion to the
look of the creature, or to any sensible quality known to the common
observer. The cat is pleasing in aspect, graceful in movement, nice in
personal habits, and of amiable disposition. No cause of offence is
obvious, and yet there are many persons who cannot abide the presence of
the most innocent little kitten. They can tell, in some mysterious way,
that there is a cat in the room when they can neither see nor hear the
creature. Whether it is an electrical or quasi-magnetic phenomenon, or
whatever it may be, of the fact of this strange influence there are too
many well-authenticated instances to allow its being questioned. But
suppose Maurice Kirkwood to be the subject of this antipathy in its
extremest degree, it would in no manner account for the isolation to
which he had condemned himself. He might shun the firesides of the old
women whose tabbies were purring by their footstools, but these worthy
dames do not make up the whole population.
These two antipathies having been disposed of, a new suggestion was
started, and was talked over with a curious sort of half belief, very
much as ghost stories are told in a circle of moderately instructed and
inquiring persons. This was that Maurice was endowed with the unenviable
gift of the evil eye. He was in frequent communication with Italy, as
his letters showed, and had recently been residing in that country, as
was learned from Paolo. Now everybody knows that the evil eye is not
rarely met with in Italy. Everybody who has ever read Mr. Story's "Roba
di Roma" knows what a terrible power it is which the owner of the evil
eye exercises. It can blight and destroy whatever it falls upon. No
person's life or limb is safe if the jettatura, the withering glance of
the deadly organ, falls upon him. It must be observed that this malign
effect may follow a look from the holiest personages, that is, if we may
assume that a monk is such as a matter of course. Certainly we have a
right to take it for granted that the late Pope, Pius Ninth, was an
eminently holy man, and yet he had the name of dispensing the mystic and
dreaded jettatura as well as his blessing. If Maurice Kirkwood carried
that destructive influence, so that his clear blue eyes were more to be
feared than the fascinations of the deadliest serpent, it could easily be
understood why he kept his look away from all around him whom he feared
he might harm.
No sensible person in Arrowhead Village really believed in the evil eye,
but it served the purpose of a temporary hypothesis, as do many
suppositions which we take as a nucleus for our observations without
putting any real confidence in them. It was just suited to the romantic
notions of the more flighty persons in the village, who had meddled more
or less with Spiritualism, and were ready for any new fancy, if it were
only wild enough.
The riddle of the young stranger's peculiarity did not seem likely to
find any very speedy solution. Every new suggestion furnished talk for
the gossips of the village and the babble of the many tongues in the two
educational institutions. Naturally, the discussion was liveliest among
the young ladies. Here is an extract from a letter of one of these young
ladies, who, having received at her birth the ever-pleasing name of Mary,
saw fit to have herself called Mollie in the catalogue and in her
letters. The old postmaster of the town to which her letter was directed
took it up to stamp, and read on the envelope the direction to "Miss Lulu
Pinrow." He brought the stamp down with a vicious emphasis, coming very
near blotting out the nursery name, instead of cancelling the
postage-stamp. "Lulu!" he exclaimed. "I should like to know if that
great strapping girl isn't out of her cradle yet! I suppose Miss Louisa
will think that belongs to her, but I saw her christened and I heard the
name the minister gave her, and it was n't 'Lulu,' or any such baby
nonsense." And so saying, he gave it a fling to the box marked P, as if
it burned his fingers. Why a grown-up young woman allowed herself to be
cheapened in the way so many of them do by the use of names which become
them as well as the frock of a ten-year-old schoolgirl would become a
graduate of the Corinna Institute, the old postmaster could not guess.
He was a queer old man.
The letter thus scornfully treated runs over with a young girl's written
"Oh, Lulu, there is such a sensation as you never saw or heard of 'in all
your born days,' as mamma used to say. He has been at the village for
some time, but lately we have had—oh, the weirdest stories about him!
'The Mysterious Stranger is the name some give him, but we girls call him
the Sachem, because he paddles about in an Indian canoe. If I should
tell you all the things that are said about him I should use up all my
paper ten times over. He has never made a visit to the Institute, and
none of the girls have ever spoken to him, but the people at the village
say he is very, very handsome. We are dying to get a look at him, of
course—though there is a horrid story about him—that he has the evil
eye did you ever hear about the evil eye? If a person who is born with
it looks at you, you die, or something happens—awful—is n't it?
"The rector says he never goes to church, but then you know a good many
of the people that pass the summer at the village never do—they think
their religion must have vacations—that's what I've heard they
say—vacations, just like other hard work—it ought not to be hard work,
I'm sure, but I suppose they feel so about it. Should you feel afraid to
have him look at you? Some of the girls say they would n't have him for
the whole world, but I shouldn't mind it—especially if I had on my
eyeglasses. Do you suppose if there is anything in the evil eye it would
go through glass? I don't believe it. Do you think blue eye-glasses
would be better than common ones? Don't laugh at me—they tell such
weird stories! The Terror—Lurida Vincent, you know-makes fun of all
they say about it, but then she 'knows everything and doesn't believe
anything,' the girls say—Well, I should be awfully scared, I know, if
anybody that had the evil eye should look at me—but—oh, I don't
know—but if it was a young man—and if he was very—very
good-looking—I think—perhaps I would run the risk—but don't tell
anybody I said any such horrid thing—and burn this letter right
up—there 's a dear good girl."
It is to be hoped that no reader will doubt the genuineness of this
letter. There are not quite so many "awfuls" and "awfullys" as one
expects to find in young ladies' letters, but there are two "weirds,"
which may be considered a fair allowance. How it happened that "jolly"
did not show itself can hardly be accounted for; no doubt it turns up two
or three times at least in the postscript.
Here is an extract from another letter. This was from one of the
students of Stoughton University to a friend whose name as it was written
on the envelope was Mr. Frank Mayfield. The old postmaster who found
fault with Miss "Lulu's" designation would probably have quarrelled with
this address, if it had come under his eye. "Frank" is a very pretty,
pleasant-sounding name, and it is not strange that many persons use it in
common conversation all their days when speaking of a friend. Were they
really christened by that name, any of these numerous Franks? Perhaps
they were, and if so there is nothing to be said. But if not, was the
baptismal name Francis or Franklin? The mind is apt to fasten in a very
perverse and unpleasant way upon this question, which too often there is
no possible way of settling. One might hope, if he outlived the bearer
of the appellation, to get at the fact; but since even gravestones have
learned to use the names belonging to childhood and infancy in their
solemn record, the generation which docks its Christian names in such an
un-Christian way will bequeath whole churchyards full of riddles to
posterity. How it will puzzle and distress the historians and
antiquarians of a coming generation to settle what was the real name of
Dan and Bert and Billy, which last is legible on a white marble slab,
raised in memory of a grown person, in a certain burial-ground in a town
in Essex County, Massachusetts!
But in the mean time we are forgetting the letter directed to Mr. Frank
"DEAR FRANK,—Hooray! Hurrah! Rah!
"I have made the acquaintance of 'The Mysterious Stranger'! It happened
by a queer sort of accident, which came pretty near relieving you of the
duty of replying to this letter. I was out in my little boat, which
carries a sail too big for her, as I know and ought to have remembered.
One of those fitful flaws of wind to which the lake is so liable struck
the sail suddenly, and over went my boat. My feet got tangled in the
sheet somehow, and I could not get free. I had hard work to keep my head
above water, and I struggled desperately to escape from my toils; for if
the boat were to go down I should be dragged down with her. I thought of
a good many things in the course of some four or five minutes, I can tell
you, and I got a lesson about time better than anything Kant and all the
rest of them have to say of it. After I had been there about an ordinary
lifetime, I saw a white canoe making toward me, and I knew that our shy
young gentleman was coming to help me, and that we should become
acquainted without an introduction. So it was, sure enough. He saw what
the trouble was, managed to disentangle my feet without drowning me in
the process or upsetting his little flimsy craft, and, as I was somewhat
tired with my struggle, took me in tow and carried me to the landing
where he kept his canoe. I can't say that there is anything odd about
his manners or his way of talk. I judge him to be a native of one of our
Northern States,—perhaps a New Englander. He has lived abroad during
some parts of his life. He is not an artist, as it was at one time
thought he might be. He is a good-looking fellow, well developed, manly
in appearance, with nothing to excite special remark unless it be a
certain look of anxiety or apprehension which comes over him from time to
time. You remember our old friend Squire B., whose companion was killed
by lightning when he was standing close to him. You know the look he had
whenever anything like a thundercloud came up in the sky. Well, I should
say there was a look like that came over this Maurice Kirkwood's face
every now and then. I noticed that he looked round once or twice as if to
see whether some object or other was in sight. There was a little
rustling in the grass as if of footsteps, and this look came over his
features. A rabbit ran by us, and I watched to see if he showed any sign
of that antipathy we have heard so much of, but he seemed to be pleased
watching the creature.
"If you ask me what my opinion is about this Maurice Kirkwood, I think he
is eccentric in his habit of life, but not what they call a 'crank'
exactly. He talked well enough about such matters as we spoke of,—the
lake, the scenery in general, the climate. I asked him to come over and
take a look at the college. He did n't promise, but I should not be
surprised if I should get him over there some day. I asked him why he
did n't go to the Pansophian meetings. He did n't give any reason, but
he shook his head in a very peculiar way, as much as to say that it was
"On the whole, I think it is nothing more than the same feeling of dread
of human society, or dislike for it, which under the name of religion
used to drive men into caves and deserts. What a pity that Protestantism
does not make special provision for all the freaks of individual
character! If we had a little more faith and a few more caverns, or
convenient places for making them, we should have hermits in these holes
as thick as woodchucks or prairie dogs. I should like to know if you
never had the feeling,
"'Oh, that the desert were my dwelling-place!'
"I know what your answer will be, of course. You will say, 'Certainly,
"'With one fair spirit for my minister;'"
"but I mean alone,—all alone. Don't you ever feel as if you should like
to have been a pillar-saint in the days when faith was as strong as lye
(spelt with a y), instead of being as weak as dish-water? (Jerry is
looking over my shoulder, and says this pun is too bad to send, and a
disgrace to the University—but never mind.) I often feel as if I should
like to roost on a pillar a hundred feet high,—yes, and have it soaped
from top to bottom. Wouldn't it be fun to look down at the bores and the
duns? Let us get up a pillar-roosters' association. (Jerry—still
looking over says there is an absurd contradiction in the idea.)
"What a matter-of-fact idiot Jerry is!
"How do you like looking over, Mr. Inspector general?"
The reader will not get much information out of this lively young
fellow's letter, but he may get a little. It is something to know that
the mysterious resident of Arrowhead Village did not look nor talk like a
crazy person; that he was of agreeable aspect and address, helpful when
occasion offered, and had nothing about him, so far as yet appeared, to
prevent his being an acceptable member of society.
Of course the people in the village could never be contented without
learning everything there was to be learned about their visitor. All the
city papers were examined for advertisements. If a cashier had
absconded, if a broker had disappeared, if a railroad president was
missing, some of the old stories would wake up and get a fresh currency,
until some new circumstance gave rise to a new hypothesis. Unconscious of
all these inquiries and fictions, Maurice Kirkwood lived on in his
inoffensive and unexplained solitude, and seemed likely to remain an
unsolved enigma. The "Sachem" of the boating girls became the "Sphinx"
of the village ramblers, and it was agreed on all hands that Egypt did
not hold any hieroglyphics harder to make out than the meaning of this
young man's odd way of living.
THE ENIGMA STUDIED.
It was a curious, if it was not a suspicious, circumstance that a young
man, seemingly in good health, of comely aspect, looking as if made for
companionship, should keep himself apart from all the world around him in
a place where there was a general feeling of good neighborhood and a
pleasant social atmosphere. The Public Library was a central point which
brought people together. The Pansophian Society did a great deal to make
them acquainted with each other for many of the meetings were open to
outside visitors, and the subjects discussed in the meetings furnished
the material for conversation in their intervals. A card of invitation
had been sent by the Secretary to Maurice, in answer to which Paolo
carried back a polite note of regret. The paper had a narrow rim of
black, implying apparently some loss of relative or friend, but not any
very recent and crushing bereavement. This refusal to come to the
meetings of the society was only what was expected. It was proper to ask
him, but his declining the invitation showed that he did not wish for
attentions or courtesies. There was nothing further to be done to bring
him out of his shell, and seemingly nothing more to be learned about him
In this state of things it was natural that all which had been previously
gathered by the few who had seen or known anything of him should be
worked over again. When there is no new ore to be dug, the old refuse
heaps are looked over for what may still be found in them. The landlord
of the Anchor Tavern, now the head of the boarding-house, talked about
Maurice, as everybody in the village did at one time or another. He had
not much to say, but he added a fact or two.
The young gentleman was good pay,—so they all said. Sometimes he paid
in gold; sometimes in fresh bills, just out of the bank. He trusted his
man, Mr. Paul, with the money to pay his bills. He knew something about
horses; he showed that by the way he handled that colt,—the one that
threw the hostler and broke his collar-bone. "Mr. Paul come down to the
stable. 'Let me see that cult you all 'fraid of,' says he. 'My master,
he ride any hoss,' says Paul. 'You saddle him,' says be; and so they
did, and Paul, he led that colt—the kickinest and ugliest young beast
you ever see in your life—up to the place where his master, as he calls
him, and he lives. What does that Kirkwood do but clap on a couple of
long spurs and jump on to that colt's back, and off the beast goes, tail
up, heels flying, standing up on end, trying all sorts of capers, and at
last going it full run for a couple of miles, till he'd got about enough
of it. That colt went off as ferce as a wild-cat, and come back as quiet
as a cosset lamb. A man that pays his bills reg'lar, in good money, and
knows how to handle a hoss is three quarters of a gentleman, if he is n't
a whole one,—and most likely he is a whole one."
So spake the patriarch of the Anchor Tavern. His wife had already given
her favorable opinion of her former guest. She now added something to
her description as a sequel to her husband's remarks.
"I call him," she said, "about as likely a young gentleman as ever I
clapped my eyes on. He is rather slighter than I like to see a young man
of his age; if he was my sun, I should like to see him a little more
fleshy. I don't believe he weighs more than a hundred and thirty or
forty pounds. Did y' ever look at those eyes of his, M'randy? Just as
blue as succory flowers. I do like those light-complected young fellows,
with their fresh cheeks and their curly hair; somehow, curly hair doos
set off anybody's face. He is n't any foreigner, for all that he talks
Italian with that Mr. Paul that's his help. He looks just like our kind
of folks, the college kind, that's brought up among books, and is
handling 'em, and reading of 'em, and making of 'em, as like as not, all
their lives. All that you say about his riding the mad colt is just what
I should think he was up to, for he's as spry as a squirrel; you ought to
see him go over that fence, as I did once. I don't believe there's any
harm in that young gentleman,—I don't care what people say. I suppose
he likes this place just as other people like it, and cares more for
walking in the woods and paddling about in the water than he doos for
company; and if he doos, whose business is it, I should like to know?"
The third of the speakers was Miranda, who had her own way of judging
"I never see him but two or three times," Miranda said. "I should like
to have waited on him, and got a chance to look stiddy at him when he was
eatin' his vittles. That 's the time to watch folks, when their jaws get
a-goin' and their eyes are on what's afore 'em. Do you remember that chap
the sheriff come and took away when we kep' tahvern? Eleven year ago it
was, come nex' Thanksgivin' time. A mighty grand gentleman from the City
he set up for. I watched him, and I watched him. Says I, I don't
believe you're no gentleman, says I. He eat with his knife, and that
ain't the way city folks eats. Every time I handed him anything I looked
closeter and closeter. Them whiskers never grooved on them cheeks, says
I to myself. Them 's paper collars, says I. That dimun in your
shirt-front hain't got no life to it, says I. I don't believe it's
nothiri' more 'n a bit o' winderglass. So says I to Pushee, 'You jes'
step out and get the sheriff to come in and take a look at that chap.' I
knowed he was after a fellah. He come right in, an' he goes up to the
chap. 'Why, Bill,' says he, 'I'm mighty glad to see yer. We've had the
hole in the wall you got out of mended, and I want your company to come
and look at the old place,' says he, and he pulls out a couple of
handcuffs and has 'em on his wrists in less than no time, an' off they
goes together! I know one thing about that young gentleman,
anyhow,—there ain't no better judge of what's good eatin' than he is. I
cooked him some maccaroni myself one day, and he sends word to me by that
Mr. Paul, 'Tell Miss Miranda,' says he, I that the Pope o' Rome don't
have no better cooked maccaroni than what she sent up to me yesterday,'
says he. I don' know much about the Pope o' Rome except that he's a
Roman Catholic, and I don' know who cooks for him, whether it's a man or
a woman; but when it comes to a dish o' maccaroni, I ain't afeard of
their shefs, as they call 'em,—them he-cooks that can't serve up a cold
potater without callin' it by some name nobody can say after 'em. But
this gentleman knows good cookin', and that's as good a sign of a
gentleman as I want to tell 'em by."
STILL AT FAULT.
The house in which Maurice Kirkwood had taken up his abode was not a very
inviting one. It was old, and had been left in a somewhat dilapidated
and disorderly condition by the tenants who had lived in the part which
Maurice now occupied. They had piled their packing-boxes in the cellar,
with broken chairs, broken china, and other household wrecks. A cracked
mirror lay on an old straw mattress, the contents of which were airing
themselves through wide rips and rents. A lame clothes-horse was saddled
with an old rug fringed with a ragged border, out of which all the colors
had been completely trodden. No woman would have gone into a house in
such a condition. But the young man did not trouble himself much about
such matters, and was satisfied when the rooms which were to be occupied
by himself and his servant were made decent and tolerably comfortable.
During the fine season all this was not of much consequence, and if
Maurice made up his mind to stay through the winter he would have his
choice among many more eligible places.
The summer vacation of the Corinna Institute had now arrived, and the
young ladies had scattered to their homes. Among the graduates of the
year were Miss Euthymia Tower and Miss Lurida Vincent, who had now
returned to their homes in Arrowhead Village. They were both glad to
rest after the long final examinations and the exercises of the closing
day, in which each of them had borne a conspicuous part. It was a
pleasant life they led in the village, which was lively enough at this
season. Walking, riding, driving, boating, visits to the Library,
meetings of the Pansophian Society, hops, and picnics made the time pass
very cheerfully, and soon showed their restoring influences. The
Terror's large eyes did not wear the dull, glazed look by which they had
too often betrayed the after effects of over-excitement of the strong and
active brain behind them. The Wonder gained a fresher bloom, and looked
full enough of life to radiate vitality into a statue of ice. They had a
boat of their own, in which they passed many delightful hours on the
lake, rowing, drifting, reading, telling of what had been, dreaming of
what might be.
The Library was one of the chief centres of the fixed population, and
visited often by strangers. The old Librarian was a peculiar character,
as these officials are apt to be. They have a curious kind of knowledge,
sometimes immense in its way. They know the backs of books, their
title-pages, their popularity or want of it, the class of readers who
call for particular works, the value of different editions, and a good
deal besides. Their minds catch up hints from all manner of works on all
kinds of subjects. They will give a visitor a fact and a reference which
they are surprised to find they remember and which the visitor might have
hunted for a year. Every good librarian, every private book-owner, who
has grown into his library, finds he has a bunch of nerves going to every
bookcase, a branch to every shelf, and a twig to every book. These
nerves get very sensitive in old librarians, sometimes, and they do not
like to have a volume meddled with any more than they would like to have
their naked eyes handled. They come to feel at last that the books of a
great collection are a part, not merely of their own property, though
they are only the agents for their distribution, but that they are, as it
were, outlying portions of their own organization. The old Librarian was
getting a miserly feeling about his books, as he called them.
Fortunately, he had a young lady for his assistant, who was never so
happy as when she could find the work any visitor wanted and put it in
his hands,—or her hands, for there were more readers among the wives
and—daughters, and especially among the aunts, than there were among
their male relatives. The old Librarian knew the books, but the books
seemed to know the young assistant; so it looked, at least, to the
impatient young people who wanted their services.
Maurice had a good many volumes of his own,—a great many, according to
Paolo's account; but Paolo's ideas were limited, and a few well-filled
shelves seemed a very large collection to him. His master frequently
sent him to the Public Library for books, which somewhat enlarged his
notions; still, the Signor was a very learned man, he was certain, and
some of his white books (bound in vellum and richly gilt) were more
splendid, according to Paolo, than anything in the Library.
There was no little curiosity to know what were the books that Maurice
was in the habit of taking out, and the Librarian's record was carefully
searched by some of the more inquisitive investigators. The list proved
to be a long and varied one. It would imply a considerable knowledge of
modern languages and of the classics; a liking for mathematics and
physics, especially all that related to electricity and magnetism; a
fancy for the occult sciences, if there is any propriety in coupling
these words; and a whim for odd and obsolete literature, like the
Parthenologia of Fortunius Licetus, the quaint treatise 'De
Sternutatione,' books about alchemy, and witchcraft, apparitions, and
modern works relating to Spiritualism. With these were the titles of
novels and now and then of books of poems; but it may be taken for
granted that his own shelves held the works he was most frequently in the
habit of reading or consulting. Not much was to be made out of this
beyond the fact of wide scholarship,—more or less deep it might be, but
at any rate implying no small mental activity; for he appeared to read
very rapidly, at any rate exchanged the books he had taken out for new
ones very frequently. To judge by his reading, he was a man of letters.
But so wide-reading a man of letters must have an object, a literary
purpose in all probability. Why should not he be writing a novel? Not a
novel of society, assuredly, for a hermit is not the person to report the
talk and manners of a world which he has nothing to do with. Novelists
and lawyers understand the art of "cramming" better than any other
persons in the world. Why should not this young man be working up the
picturesque in this romantic region to serve as a background for some
story with magic, perhaps, and mysticism, and hints borrowed from
science, and all sorts of out-of-the-way knowledge which his odd and
miscellaneous selection of books furnished him? That might be, or
possibly he was only reading for amusement. Who could say?
The funds of the Public Library of Arrowhead Village allowed the managers
to purchase many books out of the common range of reading. The two
learned people of the village were the rector and the doctor. These two
worthies kept up the old controversy between the professions, which grows
out of the fact that one studies nature from below upwards, and the other
from above downwards. The rector maintained that physicians contracted a
squint which turns their eyes inwardly, while the muscles which roll
their eyes upward become palsied. The doctor retorted that theological
students developed a third eyelid,—the nictitating membrane, which is so
well known in birds, and which serves to shut out, not all light, but all
the light they do not want. Their little skirmishes did not prevent
their being very good friends, who had a common interest in many things
and many persons. Both were on the committee which had the care of the
Library and attended to the purchase of books. Each was scholar enough
to know the wants of scholars, and disposed to trust the judgment of the
other as to what books should be purchased. Consequently, the clergyman
secured the addition to the Library of a good many old theological works
which the physician would have called brimstone divinity, and held to be
just the thing to kindle fires with,—good books still for those who know
how to use them, oftentimes as awful examples of the extreme of
disorganization the whole moral system may undergo when a barbarous
belief has strangled the natural human instincts. The physician, in the
mean time, acquired for the collection some of those medical works where
one may find recorded various rare and almost incredible cases, which may
not have their like for a whole century, and then repeat themselves, so
as to give a new lease of credibility to stories which had come to be
looked upon as fables.
Both the clergyman and the physician took a very natural interest in the
young man who had come to reside in their neighborhood for the present,
perhaps for a long period. The rector would have been glad to see him at
church. He would have liked more especially to have had him hear his
sermon on the Duties of Young Men to Society. The doctor, meanwhile, was
meditating on the duties of society to young men, and wishing that he
could gain the young man's confidence, so as to help him out of any false
habit of mind or any delusion to which he might be subject, if he had the
power of being useful to him.
Dr. Butts was the leading medical practitioner, not only of Arrowhead
Village, but of all the surrounding region. He was an excellent specimen
of the country doctor, self-reliant, self-sacrificing, working a great
deal harder for his living than most of those who call themselves the
laboring classes,—as if none but those whose hands were hardened by the
use of farming or mechanical implements had any work to do. He had that
sagacity without which learning is a mere incumbrance, and he had also a
fair share of that learning without which sagacity is like a traveller
with a good horse, but who cannot read the directions on the guideboards.
He was not a man to be taken in by names. He well knew that oftentimes
very innocent-sounding words mean very grave disorders; that all, degrees
of disease and disorder are frequently confounded under the same term;
that "run down" may stand for a fatigue of mind or body from which a week
or a month of rest will completely restore the over-worked patient, or an
advanced stage of a mortal illness; that "seedy" may signify the
morning's state of feeling, after an evening's over-indulgence, which
calls for a glass of soda-water and a cup of coffee, or a dangerous
malady which will pack off the subject of it, at the shortest notice, to
the south of France. He knew too well that what is spoken lightly of as
a "nervous disturbance" may imply that the whole machinery of life is in
a deranged condition, and that every individual organ would groan aloud
if it had any other language than the terrible inarticulate one of pain
by which to communicate with the consciousness.
When, therefore, Dr. Butts heard the word antipatia he did not smile, and
say to himself that this was an idle whim, a foolish fancy, which the
young man had got into his head. Neither was he satisfied to set down
everything to the account of insanity, plausible as that supposition
might seem. He was prepared to believe in some exceptional, perhaps
anomalous, form of exaggerated sensibility, relating to what class of
objects he could not at present conjecture, but which was as vital to the
subject of it as the insulating arrangement to a piece of electrical
machinery. With this feeling he began to look into the history of
antipathies as recorded in all the books and journals on which he could
lay his hands.
The holder of the Portfolio asks leave to close it for a brief interval.
He wishes to say a few words to his readers, before offering them some
verses which have no connection with the narrative now in progress.
If one could have before him a set of photographs taken annually,
representing the same person as he or she appeared for thirty or forty or
fifty years, it would be interesting to watch the gradual changes of
aspect from the age of twenty, or even of thirty or forty, to that of
threescore and ten. The face might be an uninteresting one; still, as
sharing the inevitable changes wrought by time, it would be worth looking
at as it passed through the curve of life,—the vital parabola, which
betrays itself in the symbolic changes of the features. An inscription
is the same thing, whether we read it on slate-stone, or granite, or
marble. To watch the lights and shades, the reliefs and hollows, of a
countenance through a lifetime, or a large part of it, by the aid of a
continuous series of photographs would not only be curious; it would
teach us much more about the laws of physiognomy than we could get from
casual and unconnected observations.
The same kind of interest, without any assumption of merit to be found in
them, I would claim for a series of annual poems, beginning in middle
life and continued to what many of my correspondents are pleased to
remind me—as if I required to have the fact brought to my knowledge—is
no longer youth. Here is the latest of a series of annual poems read
during the last thirty-four years. There seems to have been one
interruption, but there may have been other poems not recorded or
remembered. This, the latest poem of the series, was listened to by the
scanty remnant of what was a large and brilliant circle of classmates and
friends when the first of the long series was read before them, then in
the flush of ardent manhood:—
THE OLD SONG.
The minstrel of the classic lay
Of love and wine who sings
Still found the fingers run astray
That touched the rebel strings.
Of Cadmus he would fair have sung,
Of Atreus and his line;
But all the jocund echoes rung
With songs of love and wine.
Ah, brothers! I would fair have caught
Some fresher fancy's gleam;
My truant accents find, unsought,
The old familiar theme.
Love, Love! but not the sportive child
With shaft and twanging bow,
Whose random arrows drove us wild
Some threescore years ago;
Not Eros, with his joyous laugh,
The urchin blind and bare,
But Love, with spectacles and staff,
And scanty, silvered hair.
Our heads with frosted locks are white,
Our roofs are thatched with snow,
But red, in chilling winter's spite,
Our hearts and hearthstones glow.
Our old acquaintance, Time, drops in,
And while the running sands
Their golden thread unheeded spin,
He warms his frozen hands.
Stay, winged hours, too swift, too sweet,
And waft this message o'er
To all we miss, from all we meet
On life's fast-crumbling shore:
Say that to old affection true
We hug the narrowing chain
That binds our hearts,—alas, how few
The links that yet remain!
The fatal touch awaits them all
That turns the rocks to dust;
From year to year they break and fall,
They break, but never rust.
Say if one note of happier strain
This worn-out harp afford,
—One throb that trembles, not in vain,
Their memory lent its chord.
Say that when Fancy closed her wings
And Passion quenched his fire,
Love, Love, still echoed from the strings
As from Anacreon's lyre!
January 8, 1885.
A RECORD OF ANTIPATHIES
In thinking the whole matter over, Dr. Butts felt convinced that, with
care and patience and watching his opportunity, he should get at the
secret, which so far bad yielded nothing but a single word. It might be
asked why he was so anxious to learn what, from all appearances, the
young stranger was unwilling to explain. He may have been to some extent
infected by the general curiosity of the persons around him, in which
good Mrs. Butts shared, and which she had helped to intensify by
revealing the word dropped by Paolo. But this was not really his chief
motive. He could not look upon this young man, living a life of
unwholesome solitude, without a natural desire to do all that his science
and his knowledge of human nature could help him to do towards bringing
him into healthy relations with the world about him. Still, he would not
intrude upon him in any way. He would only make certain general
investigations, which might prove serviceable in case circumstances
should give him the right to counsel the young man as to his course of
life. The first thing to be done was to study systematically the whole
subject of antipathies. Then, if any further occasion offered itself, he
would be ready to take advantage of it. The resources of the Public
Library of the place and his own private collection were put in
requisition to furnish him the singular and widely scattered facts of
which he was in search.
It is not every reader who will care to follow Dr. Butts in his study of
the natural history of antipathies. The stories told about them are,
however, very curious; and if some of them may be questioned, there is no
doubt that many of the strangest are true, and consequently take away
from the improbability of others which we are disposed to doubt.
But in the first place, what do we mean by an antipathy? It is an
aversion to some object, which may vary in degree from mere dislike to
mortal horror. What the cause of this aversion is we cannot say. It acts
sometimes through the senses, sometimes through the imagination,
sometimes through an unknown channel. The relations which exist between
the human being and all that surrounds him vary in consequence of some
adjustment peculiar to each individual. The brute fact is expressed in
the phrase "One man's meat is another man's poison."
In studying the history of antipathies the doctor began with those
referable to the sense of taste, which are among the most common. In any
collection of a hundred persons there will be found those who cannot make
use of certain articles of food generally acceptable. This may be from
the disgust they occasion or the effects they have been found to produce.
Every one knows individuals who cannot venture on honey, or cheese, or
veal, with impunity. Carlyle, for example, complains of having veal set
before him,—a meat he could not endure. There is a whole family
connection in New England, and that a very famous one, to many of whose
members, in different generations, all the products of the dairy are the
subjects of a congenital antipathy. Montaigne says there are persons who
dread the smell of apples more than they would dread being exposed to a
fire of musketry. The readers of the charming story "A Week in a French
Country-House" will remember poor Monsieur Jacque's piteous cry in the
night: "Ursula, art thou asleep? Oh, Ursula, thou sleepest, but I cannot
close my eyes. Dearest Ursula, there is such a dreadful smell! Oh,
Ursula, it is such a smell! I do so wish thou couldst smell it!
Good-night, my angel!——Dearest! I have found them! They are apples!"
The smell of roses, of peonies, of lilies, has been known to cause
faintness. The sight of various objects has had singular effects on some
persons. A boar's head was a favorite dish at the table of great people
in Marshal d'Albret's time; yet he used to faint at the sight of one. It
is not uncommon to meet with persons who faint at the sight of blood.
One of the most inveterately pugnacious of Dr. Butts's college-mates
confessed that he had this infirmity. Stranger and far more awkward than
this is the case mentioned in an ancient collection, where the subject of
the antipathy fainted at the sight of any object of a red color. There
are sounds, also, which have strange effects on some individuals. Among
the obnoxious noises are the crumpling of silk stuffs, the sound of
sweeping, the croaking of frogs. The effects in different cases have
been spasms, a sense of strangling, profuse sweating,—all showing a
profound disturbance of the nervous system.
All these effects were produced by impressions on the organs of sense,
seemingly by direct agency on certain nerve centres. But there is
another series of cases in which the imagination plays a larger part in
the phenomena. Two notable examples are afforded in the lives of two
very distinguished personages.
Peter the Great was frightened, when an infant, by falling from a bridge
into the water. Long afterward, when he had reached manhood, this hardy
and resolute man was so affected by the sound of wheels rattling over a
bridge that he had to discipline himself by listening to the sound, in
spite of his dread of it, in order to overcome his antipathy. The story
told by Abbe Boileau of Pascal is very similar to that related of Peter.
As he was driving in his coach and four over the bridge at Neuilly, his
horses took fright and ran away, and the leaders broke from their harness
and sprang into the river, leaving the wheel-horses and the carriage on
the bridge. Ever after this fright it is said that Pascal had the
terrifying sense that he was just on the edge of an abyss, ready to fall
What strange early impression was it which led a certain lady always to
shriek aloud if she ventured to enter a church, as it is recorded? The
old and simple way of accounting for it would be the scriptural one, that
it was an unclean spirit who dwelt in her, and who, when she entered the
holy place and brought her spiritual tenant into the presence of the
sacred symbols, "cried with a loud voice, and came out of" her. A very
singular case, the doctor himself had recorded, and which the reader may
accept as authentic, is the following: At the head of the doctor's front
stairs stood, and still stands, a tall clock, of early date and stately
presence. A middle-aged visitor, noticing it as he entered the front
door, remarked that he should feel a great unwillingness to pass that
clock. He could not go near one of those tall timepieces without a
profound agitation, which he dreaded to undergo. This very singular
idiosyncrasy he attributed to a fright when he was an infant in the arms
of his nurse.
She was standing near one of those tall clocks, when the cord which
supported one of its heavy leaden weights broke, and the weight came
crashing down to the bottom of the case. Some effect must have been
produced upon the pulpy nerve centres from which they never recovered.
Why should not this happen, when we know that a sudden mental shock may
be the cause of insanity? The doctor remembered the verse of "The
"I moved my lips; the pilot shrieked
And fell down in a fit;
The holy hermit raised his eyes
And prayed where he did sit.
I took the oars; the pilot's boy,
Who now doth crazy go,
Laughed loud and long, and all the while
His eyes went to and fro."
This is only poetry, it is true, but the poet borrowed the description
from nature, and the records of our asylums could furnish many cases
where insanity was caused by a sudden fright.
More than this, hardly a year passes that we do not read of some person,
a child commonly, killed outright by terror,—scared to death, literally.
Sad cases they often are, in which, nothing but a surprise being
intended, the shock has instantly arrested the movements on which life
depends. If a mere instantaneous impression can produce effects like
these, such an impression might of course be followed by consequences
less fatal or formidable, but yet serious in their nature. If here and
there a person is killed, as if by lightning, by a sudden startling sight
or sound, there must be more numerous cases in which a terrible shock is
produced by similar apparently insignificant causes,—a shock which falls
short of overthrowing the reason and does not destroy life, yet leaves a
lasting effect upon the subject of it.
This point, then, was settled in the mind of Dr. Butts, namely, that, as
a violent emotion caused by a sudden shock can kill or craze a human
being, there is no perversion of the faculties, no prejudice, no change
of taste or temper, no eccentricity, no antipathy, which such a cause may
not rationally account for. He would not be surprised, he said to
himself, to find that some early alarm, like that which was experienced
by Peter the Great or that which happened to Pascal, had broken some
spring in this young man's nature, or so changed its mode of action as to
account for the exceptional remoteness of his way of life. But how could
any conceivable antipathy be so comprehensive as to keep a young man
aloof from all the world, and make a hermit of him? He did not hate the
human race; that was clear enough. He treated Paolo with great kindness,
and the Italian was evidently much attached to him. He had talked
naturally and pleasantly with the young man he had helped out of his
dangerous situation when his boat was upset. Dr. Butts heard that he had
once made a short visit to this young man, at his rooms in the
University. It was not misanthropy, therefore, which kept him solitary.
What could be broad enough to cover the facts of the case? Nothing that
the doctor could think of, unless it were some color, the sight of which
acted on him as it did on the individual before mentioned, who could not
look at anything red without fainting. Suppose this were a case of the
same antipathy. How very careful it would make the subject of it as to
where he went and with whom he consorted! Time and patience would be
pretty sure to bring out new developments, and physicians, of all men in
the world, know how to wait as well as how to labor.
Such were some of the crude facts as Dr. Butts found them in books or
gathered them from his own experience. He soon discovered that the story
had got about the village that Maurice Kirkwood was the victim of an
"antipathy," whatever that word might mean in the vocabulary of the
people of the place. If he suspected the channel through which it had
reached the little community, and, spreading from that centre, the
country round, he did not see fit to make out of his suspicions a
domestic casus belli. Paolo might have mentioned it to others as well as
to himself. Maurice might have told some friend, who had divulged it.
But to accuse Mrs. Butts, good Mrs. Butts, of petit treason in telling
one of her husband's professional secrets was too serious a matter to be
thought of. He would be a little more careful, he promised himself, the
next time, at any rate; for he had to concede, in spite of every wish to
be charitable in his judgment, that it was among the possibilities that
the worthy lady had forgotten the rule that a doctor's patients must put
their tongues out, and a doctor's wife must keep her tongue in.
THE PANSOPHIAN SOCIETY.
The Secretary of this association was getting somewhat tired of the
office, and the office was getting somewhat tired of him. It occurred to
the members of the Society that a little fresh blood infused into it
might stir up the general vitality of the organization. The woman
suffragists saw no reason why the place of Secretary need as a matter of
course be filled by a person of the male sex. They agitated, they made
domiciliary visits, they wrote notes to influential citizens, and finally
announced as their candidate the young lady who had won and worn the
school name of "The Terror," who was elected. She was just the person
for the place: wide awake, with all her wits about her, full of every
kind of knowledge, and, above all, strong on points of order and details
of management, so that she could prompt the presiding officer, to do
which is often the most essential duty of a Secretary. The President,
the worthy rector, was good at plain sailing in the track of the common
moralities and proprieties, but was liable to get muddled if anything
came up requiring swift decision and off-hand speech. The Terror had
schooled herself in the debating societies of the Institute, and would
set up the President, when he was floored by an awkward question, as
easily as if he were a ninepin which had been bowled over.
It has been already mentioned that the Pansophian Society received
communications from time to time from writers outside of its own
organization. Of late these had been becoming more frequent. Many of
them were sent in anonymously, and as there were numerous visitors to the
village, and two institutions not far removed from it, both full of
ambitious and intelligent young persons, it was often impossible to trace
the papers to their authors. The new Secretary was alive with curiosity,
and as sagacious a little body as one might find if in want of a
detective. She could make a pretty shrewd guess whether a paper was
written by a young or old person, by one of her own sex or the other, by
an experienced hand or a novice.
Among the anonymous papers she received was one which exercised her
curiosity to an extraordinary degree. She felt a strong suspicion that
"the Sachem," as the boat-crews used to call him, "the Recluse," "the
Night-Hawk," "the Sphinx," as others named him, must be the author of it.
It appeared to her the production of a young person of a reflective,
poetical turn of mind. It was not a woman's way of writing; at least, so
thought the Secretary. The writer had travelled much; had resided in
Italy, among other places. But so had many of the summer visitors and
residents of Arrowhead Village. The handwriting was not decisive; it had
some points of resemblance with the pencilled orders for books which
Maurice sent to the Library, but there were certain differences,
intentional or accidental, which weakened this evidence. There was an
undertone in the essay which was in keeping with the mode of life of the
solitary stranger. It might be disappointment, melancholy, or only the
dreamy sadness of a young person who sees the future he is to climb, not
as a smooth ascent, but as overhanging him like a cliff, ready to crush
him, with all his hopes and prospects. This interpretation may have been
too imaginative, but here is the paper, and the reader can form his own
MY THREE COMPANIONS.
"I have been from my youth upwards a wanderer. I do not mean constantly
flitting from one place to another, for my residence has often been fixed
for considerable periods. From time to time I have put down in a
notebook the impressions made upon me by the scenes through which I have
passed. I have long hesitated whether to let any of my notes appear
before the public. My fear has been that they were too subjective, to
use the metaphysician's term,—that I have seen myself reflected in
Nature, and not the true aspects of Nature as she was meant to be
understood. One who should visit the Harz Mountains would see—might
see, rather his own colossal image shape itself on the morning mist. But
if in every mist that rises from the meadows, in every cloud that hangs
upon the mountain, he always finds his own reflection, we cannot accept
him as an interpreter of the landscape.
"There must be many persons present at the meetings of the Society to
which this paper is offered who have had experiences like that of its
author. They have visited the same localities, they have had many of the
same thoughts and feelings. Many, I have no doubt. Not all,—no, not
all. Others have sought the companionship of Nature; I have been driven
to it. Much of my life has been passed in that communion. These pages
record some of the intimacies I have formed with her under some of her
"I have lived on the shore of the great ocean, where its waves broke
wildest and its voice rose loudest.
"I have passed whole seasons on the banks of mighty and famous rivers.
"I have dwelt on the margin of a tranquil lake, and floated through many
a long, long summer day on its clear waters.
"I have learned the 'various language' of Nature, of which poetry has
spoken,—at least, I have learned some words and phrases of it. I will
translate some of these as I best may into common speech.
"The OCEAN says to the dweller on its shores:—
"You are neither welcome nor unwelcome. I do not trouble myself with the
living tribes that come down to my waters. I have my own people, of an
older race than yours, that grow to mightier dimensions than your
mastodons and elephants; more numerous than all the swarms that fill the
air or move over the thin crust of the earth. Who are you that build
your palaces on my margin? I see your white faces as I saw the dark
faces of the tribes that came before you, as I shall look upon the
unknown family of mankind that will come after you. And what is your
whole human family but a parenthesis in a single page of my history? The
raindrops stereotyped themselves on my beaches before a living creature
left his footprints there. This horseshoe-crab I fling at your feet is
of older lineage than your Adam,—perhaps, indeed, you count your Adam as
one of his descendants. What feeling have I for you? Not scorn, not
hatred,—not love,—not loathing. No!—-indifference,—blank
indifference to you and your affairs that is my feeling, say rather
absence of feeling, as regards you.—-Oh yes, I will lap your feet, I
will cool you in the hot summer days, I will bear you up in my strong
arms, I will rock you on my rolling undulations, like a babe in his
cradle. Am I not gentle? Am I not kind? Am I not harmless? But hark!
The wind is rising, and the wind and I are rough playmates! What do you
say to my voice now? Do you see my foaming lips? Do you feel the rocks
tremble as my huge billows crash against them? Is not my anger terrible
as I dash your argosy, your thunder-bearing frigate, into fragments, as
you would crack an eggshell?—No, not anger; deaf, blind, unheeding
indifference,—that is all. Out of me all things arose; sooner or later,
into me all things subside. All changes around me; I change not. I look
not at you, vain man, and your frail transitory concerns, save in
momentary glimpses: I look on the white face of my dead mistress, whom I
follow as the bridegroom follows the bier of her who has changed her
nuptial raiment for the shroud.
"Ye whose thoughts are of eternity, come dwell at my side. Continents and
islands grow old, and waste and disappear. The hardest rock crumbles;
vegetable and animal kingdoms come into being, wax great, decline, and
perish, to give way to others, even as human dynasties and nations and
races come and go. Look on me! "Time writes no wrinkle" on my forehead.
Listen to me! All tongues are spoken on my shores, but I have only one
language: the winds taught me their vowels the crags and the sands
schooled me in my rough or smooth consonants. Few words are mine but I
have whispered them and sung them and shouted them to men of all tribes
from the time when the first wild wanderer strayed into my awful
presence. Have you a grief that gnaws at your heart-strings? Come with
it to my shore, as of old the priest of far-darting Apollo carried his
rage and anguish to the margin of the loud-roaring sea. There, if
anywhere you will forget your private and short-lived woe, for my voice
speaks to the infinite and the eternal in your consciousness.
"To him who loves the pages of human history, who listens to the voices
of the world about him, who frequents the market and the thoroughfare,
who lives in the study of time and its accidents rather than in the
deeper emotions, in abstract speculation and spiritual contemplation, the
RIVER addresses itself as his natural companion.
"Come live with me. I am active, cheerful, communicative, a natural
talker and story-teller. I am not noisy, like the ocean, except
occasionally when I am rudely interrupted, or when I stumble and get a
fall. When I am silent you can still have pleasure in watching my
changing features. My idlest babble, when I am toying with the trifles
that fall in my way, if not very full of meaning, is at least musical. I
am not a dangerous friend, like the ocean; no highway is absolutely safe,
but my nature is harmless, and the storms that strew the beaches with
wrecks cast no ruins upon my flowery borders. Abide with me, and you
shall not die of thirst, like the forlorn wretches left to the mercies of
the pitiless salt waves. Trust yourself to me, and I will carry you far
on your journey, if we are travelling to the same point of the compass.
If I sometimes run riot and overflow your meadows, I leave fertility
behind me when I withdraw to my natural channel. Walk by my side toward
the place of my destination. I will keep pace with you, and you shall
feel my presence with you as that of a self-conscious being like
yourself. You will find it hard to be miserable in my company; I drain
you of ill-conditioned thoughts as I carry away the refuse of your
dwelling and its grounds."
But to him whom the ocean chills and crushes with its sullen
indifference, and the river disturbs with its never-pausing and
never-ending story, the silent LAKE shall be a refuge and a place of rest
for his soul.
"'Vex not yourself with thoughts too vast for your limited faculties,' it
says; 'yield not yourself to the babble of the running stream. Leave the
ocean, which cares nothing for you or any living thing that walks the
solid earth; leave the river, too busy with its own errand, too talkative
about its own affairs, and find peace with me, whose smile will cheer
you, whose whisper will soothe you. Come to me when the morning sun
blazes across my bosom like a golden baldric; come to me in the still
midnight, when I hold the inverted firmament like a cup brimming with
jewels, nor spill one star of all the constellations that float in my
ebon goblet. Do you know the charm of melancholy? Where will you find a
sympathy like mine in your hours of sadness? Does the ocean share your
grief? Does the river listen to your sighs? The salt wave, that called
to you from under last month's full moon, to-day is dashing on the rocks
of Labrador; the stream, that ran by you pure and sparkling, has
swallowed the poisonous refuse of a great city, and is creeping to its
grave in the wide cemetery that buries all things in its tomb of liquid
crystal. It is true that my waters exhale and are renewed from one
season to another; but are your features the same, absolutely the same,
from year to year? We both change, but we know each other through all
changes. Am I not mirrored in those eyes of yours? And does not Nature
plant me as an eye to behold her beauties while she is dressed in the
glories of leaf and flower, and draw the icy lid over my shining surface
when she stands naked and ashamed in the poverty of winter?'
"I have had strange experiences and sad thoughts in the course of a life
not very long, but with a record which much longer lives could not match
in incident. Oftentimes the temptation has come over me with dangerous
urgency to try a change of existence, if such change is a part of human
destiny,—to seek rest, if that is what we gain by laying down the burden
of life. I have asked who would be the friend to whom I should appeal
for the last service I should have need of. Ocean was there, all ready,
asking no questions, answering none. What strange voyages, downward
through its glaucous depths, upwards to its boiling and frothing surface,
wafted by tides, driven by tempests, disparted by rude agencies; one
remnant whitening on the sands of a northern beach, one perhaps built
into the circle of a coral reef in the Pacific, one settling to the floor
of the vast laboratory where continents are built, to emerge in far-off
ages! What strange companions for my pall-bearers! Unwieldy
sea-monsters, the stories of which are counted fables by the spectacled
collectors who think their catalogues have exhausted nature; naked-eyed
creatures, staring, glaring, nightmare-like spectres of the ghastly-green
abysses; pulpy islands, with life in gelatinous immensity,—what a
company of hungry heirs at every ocean funeral! No! No! Ocean claims
great multitudes, but does not invite the solitary who would fain be rid
"Shall I seek a deeper slumber at the bottom of the lake I love than I
have ever found when drifting idly over its surface? No, again. I do
not want the sweet, clear waters to know me in the disgrace of nature,
when life, the faithful body-servant, has ceased caring for me. That
must not be. The mirror which has pictured me so often shall never know
me as an unwelcome object.
"If I must ask the all-subduing element to be my last friend, and lead me
out of my prison, it shall be the busy, whispering, not unfriendly,
pleasantly companionable river.
"But Ocean and River and Lake have certain relations to the periods of
human life which they who are choosing their places of abode should
consider. Let the child play upon the seashore. The wide horizon gives
his imagination room to grow in, untrammelled. That background of
mystery, without which life is a poor mechanical arrangement, is shaped
and colored, so far as it can have outline, or any hue but shadow, on a
vast canvas, the contemplation of which enlarges and enriches the sphere
of consciousness. The mighty ocean is not too huge to symbolize the
aspirations and ambitions of the yet untried soul of the adolescent.
"The time will come when his indefinite mental horizon has found a solid
limit, which shuts his prospect in narrower bounds than he would have
thought could content him in the years of undefined possibilities. Then
he will find the river a more natural intimate than the ocean. It is
individual, which the ocean, with all its gulfs and inlets and
multitudinous shores, hardly seems to be. It does not love you very
dearly, and will not miss you much when you disappear from its margin;
but it means well to you, bids you good-morning with its coming waves,
and good-evening with those which are leaving. It will lead your
thoughts pleasantly away, upwards to its source, downwards to the stream
to which it is tributary, or the wide waters in which it is to lose
itself. A river, by choice, to live by in middle age.
"In hours of melancholy reflection, in those last years of life which
have little left but tender memories, the still companionship of the
lake, embosomed in woods, sheltered, fed by sweet mountain brooks and
hidden springs, commends itself to the wearied and saddened spirit. I am
not thinking of those great inland seas, which have many of the features
and much of the danger that belong to the ocean, but of those 'ponds,' as
our countrymen used to call them until they were rechristened by summer
visitors; beautiful sheets of water from a hundred to a few thousand
acres in extent, scattered like raindrops over the map of our Northern
sovereignties. The loneliness of contemplative old age finds its natural
home in the near neighborhood of one of these tranquil basins."
Nature does not always plant her poets where they belong, but if we look
carefully their affinities betray themselves. The youth will carry his
Byron to the rock which overlooks the ocean the poet loved so well. The
man of maturer years will remember that the sonorous couplets of Pope
which ring in his ears were written on the banks of the Thames. The old
man, as he nods over the solemn verse of Wordsworth, will recognize the
affinity between the singer and the calm sheet that lay before him as he
wrote,—the stainless and sleepy Windermere.
"The dwellers by Cedar Lake may find it an amusement to compare their own
feelings with those of one who has lived by the Atlantic and the
Mediterranean, by the Nile and the Tiber, by Lake Leman and by one of the
fairest sheets of water that our own North America embosoms in its
Miss Lurida Vincent, Secretary of the Pansophian Society, read this
paper, and pondered long upon it. She was thinking very seriously of
studying medicine, and had been for some time in frequent communication
with Dr. Butts, under whose direction she had begun reading certain
treatises, which added to such knowledge of the laws of life in health
and in disease as she had brought with her from the Corinna Institute.
Naturally enough, she carried the anonymous paper to the doctor, to get
his opinion about it, and compare it with her own. They both agreed that
it was probably, they would not say certainly, the work of the solitary
visitor. There was room for doubt, for there were visitors who might
well have travelled to all the places mentioned, and resided long enough
on the shores of the waters the writer spoke of to have had all the
experiences mentioned in the paper. The Terror remembered a young lady,
a former schoolmate, who belonged to one of those nomadic families common
in this generation, the heads of which, especially the female heads, can
never be easy where they are, but keep going between America and Europe,
like so many pith-balls in the electrical experiment, alternately
attracted and repelled, never in contented equilibrium. Every few years
they pull their families up by the roots, and by the time they have begun
to take hold a little with their radicles in the spots to which they have
been successively transplanted up they come again, so that they never get
a tap-root anywhere. The Terror suspected the daughter of one of these
families of sending certain anonymous articles of not dissimilar
character to the one she had just received. But she knew the style of
composition common among the young girls, and she could hardly believe
that it was one of them who had sent this paper. Could a brother of this
young lady have written it? Possibly; she knew nothing more than that
the young lady had a brother, then a student at the University. All the
chances were that Mr. Maurice Kirkwood was the author. So thought
Lurida, and so thought Dr. Butts.
Whatever faults there were in this essay, it interested them both. There
was nothing which gave the least reason to suspect insanity on the part
of the writer, whoever he or she might be. There were references to
suicide, it is true, but they were of a purely speculative nature, and
did not look to any practical purpose in that direction. Besides, if the
stranger were the author of the paper, he certainly would not choose a
sheet of water like Cedar Lake to perform the last offices for him, in
case he seriously meditated taking unceremonious leave of life and its
accidents. He could find a river easily enough, to say nothing of other
methods of effecting his purpose; but he had committed himself as to the
impropriety of selecting a lake, so they need not be anxious about the
white canoe and its occupant, as they watched it skimming the surface of
the deep waters.
The holder of the Portfolio would never have ventured to come before the
public if he had not counted among his resources certain papers belonging
to the records of the Pansophian Society, which he can make free use of,
either for the illustration of the narrative, or for a diversion during
those intervals in which the flow of events is languid, or even ceases
for the time to manifest any progress. The reader can hardly have failed
to notice that the old Anchor Tavern had become the focal point where a
good deal of mental activity converged. There were the village people,
including a number of cultivated families; there were the visitors, among
them many accomplished and widely travelled persons; there was the
University, with its learned teachers and aspiring young men; there was
the Corinna Institute, with its eager, ambitious, hungry-souled young
women, crowding on, class after class coming forward on the broad stream
of liberal culture, and rounding the point which, once passed, the
boundless possibilities of womanhood opened before them. All this
furnished material enough and to spare for the records and the archives
of the society.
The new Secretary infused fresh life into the meetings. It may be
remembered that the girls had said of her, when she was The Terror, that
"she knew everything and didn't believe anything." That was just the
kind of person for a secretary of such an association. Properly
interpreted, the saying meant that she knew a great deal, and wanted to
know a great deal more, and was consequently always on the lookout for
information; that she believed nothing without sufficient proof that it
was true, and therefore was perpetually asking for evidence where, others
took assertions on trust.
It was astonishing to see what one little creature like The Terror could
accomplish in the course of a single season. She found out what each
member could do and wanted to do. She wrote to the outside visitors whom
she suspected of capacity, and urged them to speak at the meetings, or
send written papers to be read. As an official, with the printed title
at the head of her notes, PANSOPHIAN SOCIETY, she was a privileged
personage. She begged the young persons who had travelled to tell
something of their experiences. She had contemplated getting up a
discussion on the woman's rights question, but being a wary little body,
and knowing that the debate would become a dispute and divide the members
into two hostile camps, she deferred this project indefinitely. It would
be time enough after she had her team well in hand, she said to
herself,—had felt their mouths and tried their paces. This expression,
as she used it in her thoughts, seems rather foreign to her habits, but
there was room in her large brain for a wide range of illustrations and
an ample vocabulary. She could not do much with her own muscles, but she
had known the passionate delight of being whirled furiously over the road
behind four scampering horses, in a rocking stage-coach, and thought of
herself in the Secretary's chair as not unlike the driver on his box. A
few weeks of rest had allowed her nervous energy to store itself up, and
the same powers which had distanced competition in the classes of her
school had of necessity to expend themselves in vigorous action in her
Her appeals had their effect. A number of papers were very soon sent in;
some with names, some anonymously. She looked these papers over, and
marked those which she thought would be worth reading and listening to at
the meetings. One of them has just been presented to the reader. As to
the authorship of the following one there were many conjectures. A
well-known writer, who had spent some weeks at Arrowhead Village, was
generally suspected of being its author. Some, however, questioned
whether it was not the work of a new hand, who wrote, not from
experience, but from his or her ideas of the condition to which a
story-teller, a novelist, must in all probability be sooner or later
reduced. The reader must judge for himself whether this first paper is
the work of an old hand or a novice.
SOME EXPERIENCES OF A NOVELIST.
"I have written a frightful number of stories, forty or more, I think.
Let me see. For twelve years two novels a year regularly: that makes
twenty-four. In three different years I have written three
stories annually: that makes thirty-three. In five years one a
year,—thirty-eight. That is all, is n't it? Yes. Thirty-eight, not
forty. I wish I could make them all into one composite story, as Mr.
Galton does his faces.
"Hero—heroine—mamma—papa—uncle—sister, and so on. Love
—obstacles—misery—tears—despair—glimmer of hope—unexpected solution
of difficulties—happy finale.
"Landscape for background according to season. Plants of each month got
up from botanical calendars.
"I should like much to see the composite novel. Why not apply Mr.
Galton's process, and get thirty-eight stories all in one? All the
Yankees would resolve into one Yankee, all the P——West Britons into one
Patrick, etc., what a saving of time it would be!
"I got along pretty well with my first few stories. I had some
characters around me which, a little disguised, answered well enough.
There was the minister of the parish, and there was an old schoolmaster
either of them served very satisfactorily for grandfathers and old
uncles. All I had to do was to shift some of their leading
peculiarities, keeping the rest. The old minister wore knee-breeches. I
clapped them on to the schoolmaster. The schoolmaster carried a tall
gold-headed cane. I put this in the minister's hands. So with other
things,—I shifted them round, and got a set of characters who, taken
together, reproduced the chief persons of the village where I lived, but
did not copy any individual exactly. Thus it went on for a while; but by
and by my stock company began to be rather too familiarly known, in spite
of their change of costume, and at last some altogether too sagacious
person published what he called a 'key' to several of my earlier stories,
in which I found the names of a number of neighbors attached to aliases
of my own invention. All the 'types,' as he called them, represented by
these personages of my story had come to be recognized, each as standing
for one and the same individual of my acquaintance. It had been of no
use to change the costume. Even changing the sex did no good. I had a
famous old gossip in one of my tales,—a much-babbling Widow Sertingly.
'Sho!' they all said, that 's old Deacon Spinner, the same he told about
in that other story of his,—only the deacon's got on a petticoat and a
mob-cap,—but it's the same old sixpence.' So I said to myself, I must
have some new characters. I had no trouble with young characters; they
are all pretty much alike,—dark-haired or light-haired, with the outfits
belonging to their complexion, respectively. I had an old great-aunt,
who was a tip-top eccentric. I had never seen anything just like her in
books. So I said, I will have you, old lady, in one of my stories; and,
sure enough, I fitted her out with a first-rate odd-sounding name, which
I got from the directory, and sent her forth to the world, disguised, as
I supposed, beyond the possibility of recognition. The book sold well,
and the eccentric personage was voted a novelty. A few weeks after it
was published a lawyer called upon me, as the agent of the person in the
directory, whose family name I had used, as he maintained, to his and all
his relatives' great damage, wrong, loss, grief, shame, and irreparable
injury, for which the sum of blank thousand dollars would be a modest
compensation. The story made the book sell, but not enough to pay blank
thousand dollars. In the mean time a cousin of mine had sniffed out the
resemblance between the character in my book and our great-aunt. We were
rivals in her good graces. 'Cousin Pansie' spoke to her of my book and
the trouble it was bringing on me,—she was so sorry about it! She liked
my story,—only those personalities, you know. 'What personalities?'
says old granny-aunt. 'Why, auntie, dear, they do say that he has
brought in everybody we know,—did n't anybody tell you about—well,—I
suppose you ought to know it,—did n't anybody tell you you were made fun
of in that novel?' Somebody—no matter who—happened to hear all this,
and told me. She said granny-aunt's withered old face had two red spots
come to it, as if she had been painting her cheeks from a pink saucer.
No, she said, not a pink saucer, but as if they were two coals of fire.
She sent out and got the book, and made her (the somebody that I was
speaking of) read it to her. When she had heard as much as she could
stand,—for 'Cousin Pansie' explained passages to her,—explained, you
know,—she sent for her lawyer, and that same somebody had to be a
witness to a new will she had drawn up. It was not to my advantage.
'Cousin Pansie' got the corner lot where the grocery is, and pretty much
everything else. The old woman left me a legacy. What do you think it
was? An old set of my own books, that looked as if it had been bought
out of a bankrupt circulating library.
"After that I grew more careful. I studied my disguises much more
diligently. But after all, what could I do? Here I was, writing stories
for my living and my reputation. I made a pretty sum enough, and worked
hard enough to earn it. No tale, no money. Then every story that went
from my workshop had to come up to the standard of my reputation, and
there was a set of critics,—there is a set of critics now and
everywhere,—that watch as narrowly for the decline of a man's reputation
as ever a village half drowned out by an inundation watched for the
falling of the waters. The fame I had won, such as it was, seemed to
attend me,—not going before me in the shape of a woman with a trumpet,
but rather following me like one of Actaeon's hounds, his throat open,
ready to pull me down and tear me. What a fierce enemy is that which bays
behind us in the voice of our proudest bygone achievement!
"But, as I said above, what could I do? I must write novels, and I must
have characters. 'Then why not invent them?' asks some novice. Oh, yes!
Invent them! You can invent a human being that in certain aspects of
humanity will answer every purpose for which your invention was intended.
A basket of straw, an old coat and pair of breeches, a hat which has been
soaked, sat upon, stuffed a broken window, and had a brood of chickens
raised in it,—these elements, duly adjusted to each other, will
represent humanity so truthfully that the crows will avoid the cornfield
when your scarecrow displays his personality. Do you think you can make
your heroes and heroines,—nay, even your scrappy supernumeraries,—out
of refuse material, as you made your scarecrow? You can't do it. You
must study living people and reproduce them. And whom do you know so
well as your friends? You will show up your friends, then, one after
another. When your friends give out, who is left for you? Why, nobody
but your own family, of course. When you have used up your family, there
is nothing left for you but to write your autobiography.
"After my experience with my grand-aunt, I be came more cautious, very
naturally. I kept traits of character, but I mixed ages as well as
sexes. In this way I continued to use up a large amount of material,
which looked as if it were as dangerous as dynamite to meddle with. Who
would have expected to meet my maternal uncle in the guise of a
schoolboy? Yet I managed to decant his characteristics as nicely as the
old gentleman would have decanted a bottle of Juno Madeira through that
long siphon which he always used when the most sacred vintages were
summoned from their crypts to render an account of themselves on his
hospitable board. It was a nice business, I confess, but I did it, and I
drink cheerfully to that good uncle's memory in a glass of wine from his
own cellar, which, with many other more important tokens of his good
will, I call my own since his lamented demise.
"I succeeded so well with my uncle that I thought I would try a course of
cousins. I had enough of them to furnish out a whole gallery of
portraits. There was cousin 'Creeshy,' as we called her; Lucretia, more
correctly. She was a cripple. Her left lower limb had had something
happen to it, and she walked with a crutch. Her patience under her trial
was very pathetic and picturesque, so to speak,—I mean adapted to the
tender parts of a story; nothing could work up better in a melting
paragraph. But I could not, of course, describe her particular
infirmity; that would point her out at once. I thought of shifting the
lameness to the right lower limb, but even that would be seen through.
So I gave the young woman that stood for her in my story a lame elbow,
and put her arm in a sling, and made her such a model of uncomplaining
endurance that my grandmother cried over her as if her poor old heart
would break. She cried very easily, my grandmother; in fact, she had
such a gift for tears that I availed myself of it, and if you remember
old Judy, in my novel "Honi Soit" (Honey Sweet, the booksellers called
it),—old Judy, the black-nurse,—that was my grandmother. She had
various other peculiarities, which I brought out one by one, and saddled
on to different characters. You see she was a perfect mine of
singularities and idiosyncrasies. After I had used her up pretty well, I
came dawn upon my poor relations. They were perfectly fair game; what
better use could I put them to? I studied them up very carefully, and as
there were a good many of them I helped myself freely. They lasted me,
with occasional intermissions, I should say, three or four years. I had
to be very careful with my poor relations,—they were as touchy as they
could be; and as I felt bound to send a copy of my novel, whatever it
might be, to each one of them,—there were as many as a dozen,—I took
care to mix their characteristic features, so that, though each might
suspect I meant the other, no one should think I meant him or her. I got
through all my relations at last except my father and mother. I had
treated my brothers and sisters pretty fairly, all except Elisha and
Joanna. The truth is they both had lots of odd ways,—family traits, I
suppose, but were just different enough from each other to figure
separately in two different stories. These two novels made me some
little trouble; for Elisha said he felt sure that I meant Joanna in one
of them, and quarrelled with me about it; and Joanna vowed and declared
that Elnathan, in the other, stood for brother 'Lisha, and that it was a
real mean thing to make fun of folks' own flesh and blood, and treated me
to one of her cries. She was n't handsome when she cried, poor, dear
Joanna; in fact, that was one of the personal traits I had made use of in
the story that Elisha found fault with.
"So as there was nobody left but my father and mother, you see for
yourself I had no choice. There was one great advantage in dealing with
them,—I knew them so thoroughly. One naturally feels a certain delicacy
it handling from a purely artistic point of view persons who have been so
near to him. One's mother, for instance: suppose some of her little ways
were so peculiar that the accurate delineation of them would furnish
amusement to great numbers of readers; it would not be without hesitation
that a writer of delicate sensibility would draw her portrait, with all
its whimsicalities, so plainly that it should be generally recognized.
One's father is commonly of tougher fibre than one's mother, and one
would not feel the same scruples, perhaps, in using him professionally as
material in a novel; still, while you are employing him as bait,—you see
I am honest and plain-spoken, for your characters are baits to catch
readers with,—I would follow kind Izaak Walton's humane counsel about
the frog you are fastening to your fish-hook: fix him artistically, as he
directs, but in so doing I use him as though you loved him.'
"I have at length shown up, in one form and another, all my townsmen who
have anything effective in their bodily or mental make-up, all my
friends, all my relatives; that is, all my blood relatives. It has
occurred to me that I might open a new field in the family connection of
my father-in-law and mother-in-law. We have been thinking of paying them
a visit, and I shall have an admirable opportunity of studying them and
their relatives and visitors. I have long wanted a good chance for
getting acquainted with the social sphere several grades below that to
which I am accustomed, and I have no doubt that I shall find matter for
half a dozen new stories among those connections of mine. Besides, they
live in a Western city, and one doesn't mind much how he cuts up the
people of places he does n't himself live in. I suppose there is not
really so much difference in people's feelings, whether they live in
Bangor or Omaha, but one's nerves can't be expected to stretch across the
continent. It is all a matter of greater or less distance. I read this
morning that a Chinese fleet was sunk, but I did n't think half so much
about it as I did about losing my sleeve button, confound it! People
have accused me of want of feeling; they misunderstand the artist-nature,
—that is all. I obey that implicitly; I am sorry if people don't like
my descriptions, but I have done my best. I have pulled to pieces all
the persons I am acquainted with, and put them together again in my
characters. The quills I write with come from live geese, I would have
you know. I expect to get some first-rate pluckings from those people I
was speaking of, and I mean to begin my thirty-ninth novel as soon as I
have got through my visit."
THE SOCIETY AND ITS NEW SECRETARY.
There is no use in trying to hurry the natural course of events, in a
narrative like this. June passed away, and July, and August had come,
and as yet the enigma which had completely puzzled Arrowhead Village and
its visitors remained unsolved. The white canoe still wandered over the
lake, alone, ghostly, always avoiding the near approach of the boats
which seemed to be coming in its direction. Now and then a circumstance
would happen which helped to keep inquiry alive. Good horsemanship was
not so common among the young men of the place and its neighborhood that
Maurice's accomplishment in that way could be overlooked. If there was a
wicked horse or a wild colt whose owner was afraid of him, he would be
commended to Maurice's attention. Paolo would lead him to his master
with all due precaution,—for he had no idea of risking his neck on the
back of any ill-conditioned beast,—and Maurice would fasten on his long
spurs, spring into the saddle, and very speedily teach the creature good
behavior. There soon got about a story that he was what the fresh-water
fisherman called "one o' them whisperers." It is a common legend enough,
coming from the Old World, but known in American horse-talking circles,
that some persons will whisper certain words in a horse's ear which will
tame him if he is as wild and furious as ever Cruiser was. All this
added to the mystery which surrounded the young man. A single improbable
or absurd story amounts to very little, but when half a dozen such
stories are told about the same individual or the same event, they begin
to produce the effect of credible evidence. If the year had been 1692
and the place had been Salem Village, Maurice Kirkwood would have run the
risk of being treated like the Reverend George Burroughs.
Miss Lurida Vincent's curiosity had been intensely excited with reference
to the young man of whom so many stories were told. She had pretty
nearly convinced herself that he was the author of the paper on Ocean,
Lake, and River, which had been read at one of the meetings of the
Pansophian Society. She was very desirous of meeting him, if it were
possible. It seemed as if she might, as Secretary of the Society,
request the cooperation of any of the visitors, without impropriety. So,
after much deliberation, she wrote a careful note, of which the following
is an exact copy. Her hand was bold, almost masculine, a curious
contrast to that of Euthymia, which was delicately feminine.
ARROWHEAD VILLAGE, August 3, 18-.
MAURICE KIRKWOOD, ESQ.
DEAR SIR,—You have received, I trust, a card of invitation to the
meetings of our Society, but I think we have not yet had the pleasure of
seeing you at any of them. We have supposed that we might be indebted to
you for a paper read at the last meeting, and listened to with much
interest. As it was anonymous, we do not wish to be inquisitive
respecting its authorship; but we desire to say that any papers kindly
sent us by the temporary residents of our village will be welcome, and if
adapted to the wants of our Association will be read at one of its
meetings or printed in its records, or perhaps both read and printed.
May we not hope for your presence at the meeting, which is to take place
next Wednesday evening? Respectfully yours,
LURIDA VINCENT, Secretary of the Pansophian Society.
To this note the Secretary received the following reply:
MISS LURIDA VINCENT,
ARROWHEAD VILLAGE, August 4, 18-.
Secretary of the Pansophian Society:
DEAR MISS VINCENT,—I have received the ticket you refer to, and desire
to express my acknowledgments for the polite attention. I regret that I
have not been and I fear shall not be able to attend the meetings of the
Society; but if any subject occurs to me on which I feel an inclination
to write, it will give me pleasure to send a paper, to be disposed of as
the Society may see fit.
Very respectfully yours,
"He says nothing about the authorship of the paper that was read the
other evening," the Secretary said to herself. "No matter,—he wrote
it,—there is no mistaking his handwriting. We know something about him,
now, at any rate. But why doesn't he come to our meetings? What has his
antipathy to do with his staying away? I must find out what his secret
is, and I will. I don't believe it's harder than it was to solve that
prize problem which puzzled so many teachers, or than beating Crakowitz,
the great chess-player."
To this enigma, then, The Terror determined to bend all the faculties
which had excited the admiration and sometimes the amazement of those who
knew her in her school-days. It was a very delicate piece of business;
for though Lurida was an intrepid woman's rights advocate, and believed
she was entitled to do almost everything that men dared to, she knew very
well there were certain limits which a young woman like herself must not
In the mean time Maurice had received a visit from the young student at
the University,—the same whom he had rescued from his dangerous
predicament in the lake. With him had called one of the teachers,—an
instructor in modern languages, a native of Italy. Maurice and the
instructor exchanged a few words in Italian. The young man spoke it with
the ease which implied long familiarity with its use.
After they left, the instructor asked many curious questions about
him,—who he was, how long he had been in the village, whether anything
was known of his history,—all these inquiries with an eagerness which
implied some special and peculiar reason for the interest they evinced.
"I feel satisfied," the instructor said, "that I have met that young man
in my own country. It was a number of years ago, and of course he has
altered in appearance a good deal; but there is a look about him of—what
shall I call it?—-apprehension,—as if he were fearing the approach of
something or somebody. I think it is the way a man would look that was
haunted; you know what I mean,—followed by a spirit or ghost. He does
not suggest the idea of a murderer,—very far from it; but if he did, I
should think he was every minute in fear of seeing the murdered man's
The student was curious, in his turn, to know all the instructor could
recall. He had seen him in Rome, he thought, at the Fountain of Trevi,
where so many strangers go before leaving the city. The youth was in the
company of a man who looked like a priest. He could not mistake the
peculiar expression of his countenance, but that was all he now
remembered about his appearance. His attention had been called to this
young man by seeing that some of the bystanders were pointing at him, and
noticing that they were whispering with each other as if with reference
to him. He should say that the youth was at that time fifteen or sixteen
years old, and the time was about ten years ago.
After all, this evidence was of little or no value. Suppose the youth
were Maurice; what then? We know that he had been in Italy, and had been
there a good while,—or at least we infer so much from his familiarity
with the language, and are confirmed in the belief by his having an
Italian servant, whom he probably brought from Italy when he returned.
If he wrote the paper which was read the other evening, that settles it,
for the writer says he had lived by the Tiber. We must put this scrap of
evidence furnished by the Professor with the other scraps; it may turn
out of some consequence, sooner or later. It is like a piece of a
dissected map; it means almost nothing by itself, but when we find the
pieces it joins with we may discover a very important meaning in it.
In a small, concentrated community like that which centred in and
immediately around Arrowhead Village, every day must have its local
gossip as well as its general news. The newspaper tells the small
community what is going on in the great world, and the busy tongues of
male and female, especially the latter, fill in with the occurrences and
comments of the ever-stirring microcosm. The fact that the Italian
teacher had, or thought he had, seen Maurice ten years before was
circulated and made the most of,—turned over and over like a cake, until
it was thoroughly done on both sides and all through. It was a very
small cake, but better than nothing. Miss Vincent heard this story, as
others did, and talked about it with her friend, Miss Tower. Here was
one more fact to help along.
The two young ladies who had recently graduated at the Corinna Institute
remained, as they had always been, intimate friends. They were the
natural complements of each other. Euthymia represented a complete,
symmetrical womanhood. Her outward presence was only an index of a
large, wholesome, affluent life. She could not help being courageous,
with such a firm organization. She could not help being generous,
cheerful, active. She had been told often enough that she was fair to
look upon. She knew that she was called The Wonder by the schoolmates
who were dazzled by her singular accomplishments, but she did not
overvalue them. She rather tended to depreciate her own gifts, in
comparison with those of her friend, Miss Lurida Vincent. The two agreed
all the better for differing as they did. The octave makes a perfect
chord, when shorter intervals jar more or less on the ear. Each admired
the other with a heartiness which if they had been less unlike, would
have been impossible.
It was a pleasant thing to observe their dependence on each other. The
Terror of the schoolroom was the oracle in her relations with her friend.
All the freedom of movement which The Wonder showed in her bodily
exercises The Terror manifested in the world of thought. She would fling
open a book, and decide in a swift glance whether it had any message for
her. Her teachers had compared her way of reading to the taking of an
instantaneous photograph. When she took up the first book on Physiology
which Dr. Butts handed her, it seemed to him that if she only opened at
any place, and gave one look, her mind drank its meaning up, as a moist
sponge absorbs water. "What can I do with such a creature as this?" he
said to himself. "There is only one way to deal with her, treat her as
one treats a silkworm: give it its mulberry leaf, and it will spin its
own cocoon. Give her the books, and she will spin her own web of
"Do you really think of studying medicine?" said Dr. Butts to her.
"I have n't made up my mind about that," she answered, "but I want to
know a little more about this terrible machinery of life and death we are
all tangled in. I know something about it, but not enough. I find some
very strange beliefs among the women I meet with, and I want to be able
to silence them when they attempt to proselyte me to their whims and
fancies. Besides, I want to know everything."
"They tell me you do, already," said Dr. Butts.
"I am the most ignorant little wretch that draws the breath of life!"
exclaimed The Terror.
The doctor smiled. He knew what it meant. She had reached that stage of
education in which the vast domain of the unknown opens its illimitable
expanse before the eyes of the student. We never know the extent of
darkness until it is partially illuminated.
"You did not leave the Institute with the reputation of being the most
ignorant young lady that ever graduated there," said the doctor. "They
tell me you got the highest marks of any pupil on their record since the
school was founded."
"What a grand thing it was to be the biggest fish in our small aquarium,
to be sure!" answered The Terror. "He was six inches long, the
monster,—a little too big for bait to catch a pickerel with! What did
you hand me that schoolbook for? Did you think I did n't know anything
about the human body?"
"You said you were such an ignorant creature I thought I would try you
with an easy book, by way of introduction."
The Terror was not confused by her apparent self-contradiction.
"I meant what I said, and I mean what I say. When I talk about my
ignorance, I don't measure myself with schoolgirls, doctor. I don't
measure myself with my teachers, either. You must talk to me as if I
were a man, a grown man, if you mean to teach me anything. Where is your
hat, doctor? Let me try it on."
The doctor handed her his wide-awake. The Terror's hair was not
naturally abundant, like Euthymia's, and she kept it cut rather short.
Her head used to get very hot when she studied hard. She tried to put
the hat on.
"Do you see that?" she said. "I could n't wear it—it would squeeze my
eyes out of my head. The books told me that women's brains were smaller
than men's: perhaps they are,—most of them,—I never measured a great
many. But when they try to settle what women are good for, by
phrenology, I like to have them put their tape round my head. I don't
believe in their nonsense, for all that. You might as well tell me that
if one horse weighs more than another horse he is worth more,—a
cart-horse that weighs twelve or fourteen hundred pounds better than
Eclipse, that may have weighed a thousand. Give me a list of the best
books you can think of, and turn me loose in your library. I can find
what I want, if you have it; and what I don't find there I will get at
the Public Library. I shall want to ask you a question now and then."
The doctor looked at her with a kind of admiration, but thoughtfully, as
if he feared she was thinking of a task too formidable for her slight
She returned, instinctively, to the apparent contradiction in her
statements about herself.
"I am not a fool, if I am ignorant. Yes, doctor, I sail on a wide sea of
ignorance, but I have taken soundings of some of its shallows and some of
its depths. Your profession deals with the facts of life that interest
me most just now, and I want to know something of it. Perhaps I may find
it a calling such as would suit me."
"Do you seriously think of becoming a practitioner of medicine?" said the
"Certainly, I seriously think of it as a possibility, but I want to know
something more about it first. Perhaps I sha'n't believe in medicine
enough to practise it. Perhaps I sha'n't like it well enough. No matter
about that. I wish to study some of your best books on some of the
subjects that most interest me. I know about bones and muscles and all
that, and about digestion and respiration and such things. I want to
study up the nervous system, and learn all about it. I am of the nervous
temperament myself, and perhaps that is the reason. I want to read about
insanity and all that relates to it."
A curious expression flitted across the doctor's features as The Terror
"Nervous system. Insanity. She has headaches, I know,—all those
large-headed, hard-thinking girls do, as a matter of course; but what has
set her off about insanity and the nervous system? I wonder if any of
her more remote relatives are subject to mental disorder. Bright people
very often have crazy relations. Perhaps some of her friends are in that
way. I wonder whether"—the doctor did not speak any of these thoughts,
and in fact hardly shaped his "whether," for The Terror interrupted his
train of reflection, or rather struck into it in a way which startled
"Where is the first volume of this Medical Cyclopaedia?" she asked,
looking at its empty place on the shelf.
"On my table," the doctor answered. "I have been consulting it."
Lurida flung it open, in her eager way, and turned the pages rapidly
until she came to the one she wanted. The doctor cast his eye on the
beading of the page, and saw the large letters A N T.
"I thought so," he said to himself. "We shall know everything there is
in the books about antipathies now, if we never did before. She has a
special object in studying the nervous system, just as I suspected. I
think she does not care to mention it at this time; but if she finds out
anything of interest she will tell me, if she does anybody. Perhaps she
does not mean to tell anybody. It is a rather delicate business,—a
young girl studying the natural history of a young man. Not quite so
safe as botany or palaeontology!"
Lurida, lately The Terror, now Miss Vincent, had her own plans, and chose
to keep them to herself, for the present, at least. Her hands were full
enough, it might seem, without undertaking the solution of the great
Arrowhead Village enigma. But she was in the most perfect training, so
far as her intelligence was concerned; and the summer rest had restored
her bodily vigor, so that her brain was like an overcharged battery which
will find conductors somewhere to carry off its crowded energy.
At this time Arrowhead Village was enjoying the most successful season it
had ever known. The Pansophian Society flourished to an extraordinary
degree under the fostering care of the new Secretary. The rector was a
good figure-head as President, but the Secretary was the life of the
Society. Communications came in abundantly: some from the village and
its neighborhood, some from the University and the Institute, some from
distant and unknown sources. The new Secretary was very busy with the
work of examining these papers. After a forenoon so employed, the carpet
of her room looked like a barn floor after a husking-match. A glance at
the manuscripts strewed about, or lying in heaps, would have frightened
any young writer away from the thought of authorship as a business. If
the candidate for that fearful calling had seen the process of selection
and elimination, he would have felt still more desperately. A paper of
twenty pages would come in, with an underscored request to please read
through, carefully. That request alone is commonly sufficient to condemn
any paper, and prevent its having any chance of a hearing; but the
Secretary was not hardened enough yet for that kind of martial law in
dealing with manuscripts. The looker-on might have seen her take up the
paper, cast one flashing glance at its title, read the first sentence and
the last, dip at a venture into two or three pages, and decide as swiftly
as the lightning calculator would add up a column of figures what was to
be its destination. If rejected, it went into the heap on the left; if
approved, it was laid apart, to be submitted to the Committee for their
judgment. The foolish writers who insist on one's reading through their
manuscript poems and stories ought to know how fatal the request is to
their prospects. It provokes the reader, to begin with. The reading of
manuscript is frightful work, at the best; the reading of worthless
manuscript—and most of that which one is requested to read through is
worthless—would add to the terrors of Tartarus, if any infernal deity
were ingenious enough to suggest it as a punishment.
If a paper was rejected by the Secretary, it did not come before the
Committee, but was returned to the author, if he sent for it, which he
commonly did. Its natural course was to try for admission into some one
of the popular magazines: into "The Sifter," the most fastidious of them
all; if that declined it, into "The Second Best;" and if that returned
it, into "The Omnivorous." If it was refused admittance at the doors of
all the magazines, it might at length find shelter in the corner of a
newspaper, where a good deal of very readable verse is to be met with
nowadays, some of which has been, no doubt, presented to the Pansophian
Society, but was not considered up to its standard.
A NEW ARRIVAL.
There was a recent accession to the transient population of the village
which gave rise to some speculation. The new-comer was a young fellow,
rather careless in his exterior, but apparently as much at home as if he
owned Arrowhead Village and everything in it. He commonly had a cigar in
his mouth, carried a pocket pistol, of the non-explosive sort, and a
stick with a bulldog's bead for its knob; wore a soft bat, a coarse check
suit, a little baggy, and gaiterboots which had been half-soled,—a
Bohemian-looking personage, altogether.
This individual began making explorations in every direction. He was
very curious about the place and all the people in it. He was especially
interested in the Pansophian Society, concerning which he made all sorts
of inquiries. This led him to form a summer acquaintance with the
Secretary, who was pleased to give him whatever information he asked for;
being proud of the Society, as she had a right to be, and knowing more
about it than anybody else.
The visitor could not have been long in the village without hearing
something of Maurice Kirkwood, and the stories, true and false, connected
with his name. He questioned everybody who could tell him anything about
Maurice, and set down the answers in a little note-book he always had
All this naturally excited the curiosity of the village about this new
visitor. Among the rest, Miss Vincent, not wanting in an attribute
thought to belong more especially to her sex, became somewhat interested
to know more exactly who this inquiring, note-taking personage, who
seemed to be everywhere and to know everybody, might himself be. Meeting
him at the Public Library at a fortunate moment, when there was nobody
but the old Librarian, who was hard of hearing, to interfere with their
conversation, the little Secretary had a chance to try to find out
something about him.
"This is a very remarkable library for a small village to possess," he
remarked to Miss Lurida.
"It is, indeed," she said. "Have you found it well furnished with the
books you most want?"
"Oh, yes,—books enough. I don't care so much for the books as I do for
the Newspapers. I like a Review well enough,—it tells you all there is
in a book; but a good abstract of the Review in a Newspaper saves a
fellow the trouble of reading it."
"You find the papers you want, here, I hope," said the young lady.
"Oh, I get along pretty well. It's my off-time, and I don't do much
reading or writing. Who is the city correspondent of this place?"
"I don't think we have any one who writes regularly. Now and then, there
is a letter, with the gossip of the place in it, or an account of some of
the doings at our Society. The city papers are always glad to get the
reports of our meetings, and to know what is going on in the village."
"I suppose you write about the Society to the papers, as you are the
This was a point-blank shot. She meant to question the young man about
his business, and here she was on the witness-stand. She ducked her
head, and let the question go over her.
"Oh, there are plenty of members who are willing enough to write,
—especially to give an account of their own papers. I think they like
to have me put in the applause, when they get any. I do that sometimes."
(How much more, she did not say.)
"I have seen some very well written articles, which, from what they tell
me of the Secretary, I should have thought she might have written
He looked her straight in the eyes.
"I have transmitted some good papers," she said, without winking, or
swallowing, or changing color, precious little color she had to change;
her brain wanted all the blood it could borrow or steal, and more too.
"You spoke of Newspapers," she said, without any change of tone or
manner: "do you not frequently write for them yourself?"
"I should think I did," answered the young man. "I am a regular
correspondent of 'The People's Perennial and Household Inquisitor.'"
"The regular correspondent from where?"
"Where! Oh, anywhere,—the place does not make much difference. I have
been writing chiefly from Naples and St. Petersburg, and now and then
"How long since your return to this country, may I ask?"
"My return? I have never been out of this country. I travel with a
gazetteer and some guide-books. It is the cheapest way, and you can get
the facts much better from them than by trusting your own observation. I
have made the tour of Europe by the help of them and the newspapers. But
of late I have taken to interviewing. I find that a very pleasant
specialty. It is about as good sport as trout-tickling, and much the
same kind of business. I should like to send the Society an account of
one of my interviews. Don't you think they would like to hear it?"
"I have no doubt they would. Send it to me, and I will look it over; and
if the Committee approve it, we will have it at the next meeting. You
know everything has to be examined and voted on by the Committee," said
the cautious Secretary.
"Very well,—I will risk it. After it is read, if it is read, please
send it back to me, as I want to sell it to 'The Sifter,' or 'The Second
Best,' or some of the paying magazines."
This is the paper, which was read at the next meeting of the Pansophian
"I was ordered by the editor of the newspaper to which I am attached,
'The People's Perennial and Household Inquisitor,' to make a visit to a
certain well-known writer, and obtain all the particulars I could
concerning him and all that related to him. I have interviewed a good
many politicians, who I thought rather liked the process; but I had never
tried any of these literary people, and I was not quite sure how this one
would feel about it. I said as much to the chief, but he pooh-poohed my
scruples. 'It is n't our business whether they like it or not,' said he;
'the public wants it, and what the public wants it's bound to have, and
we are bound to furnish it. Don't be afraid of your man; he 's used to
it,—he's been pumped often enough to take it easy, and what you've got
to do is to pump him dry. You need n't be modest,—ask him what you
like; he is n't bound to answer, you know.'
"As he lived in a rather nice quarter of the town, I smarted myself up a
little, put on a fresh collar and cuffs, and got a five-cent shine on my
best high-lows. I said to myself, as I was walking towards the house
where he lived, that I would keep very shady for a while and pass for a
visitor from a distance; one of those 'admiring strangers' who call in to
pay their respects, to get an autograph, and go home and say that they
have met the distinguished So and So, which gives them a certain
distinction in the village circle to which they belong.
"My man, the celebrated writer, received me in what was evidently his
reception-room. I observed that he managed to get the light full on my
face, while his own was in the shade. I had meant to have his face in
the light, but he knew the localities, and had arranged things so as to
give him that advantage. It was like two frigates manoeuvring,—each
trying to get to windward of the other. I never take out my note-book
until I and my man have got engaged in artless and earnest
conversation,—always about himself and his works, of course, if he is an
"I began by saying that he must receive a good many callers. Those who
had read his books were naturally curious to see the writer of them.
"He assented, emphatically, to this statement. He had, he said, a great
"I remarked that there was a quality in his books which made his readers
feel as if they knew him personally, and caused them to cherish a certain
attachment to him.
"He smiled, as if pleased. He was himself disposed to think so, he said.
In fact, a great many persons, strangers writing to him, had told him so.
"My dear sir, I said, there is nothing wonderful in the fact you mention.
You reach a responsive chord in many human breasts.
'One touch of Nature makes the whole world kin.'
"Everybody feels as if he, and especially she (his eyes sparkled), were
your blood relation. Do they not name their children after you very
"He blushed perceptibly. 'Sometimes,' he answered. 'I hope they will
all turn out well.'
"I am afraid I am taking up too much of your time, I said.
"No, not at all,' he replied. 'Come up into my library; it is warmer and
"I felt confident that I had him by the right handle then; for an
author's library, which is commonly his working-room, is, like a lady's
boudoir, a sacred apartment.
"So we went upstairs, and again he got me with the daylight on my face,
when I wanted it on has.
"You have a fine library, I remarked. There were books all round the
room, and one of those whirligig square book-cases. I saw in front a
Bible and a Concordance, Shakespeare and Mrs. Cowden Clarke's book, and
other classical works and books of grave aspect. I contrived to give it
a turn, and on the side next the wall I got a glimpse of Barnum's Rhyming
Dictionary, and several Dictionaries of Quotations and cheap compends of
knowledge. Always twirl one of those revolving book-cases when you visit
a scholar's library. That is the way to find out what books he does n't
want you to see, which of course are the ones you particularly wish to
"Some may call all this impertinent and inquisitive. What do you suppose
is an interviewer's business? Did you ever see an oyster opened? Yes?
Well, an interviewer's business is the same thing. His man is his oyster,
which he, not with sword, but with pencil and note-book, must open. Mark
how the oysterman's thin blade insinuates itself,—how gently at first,
how strenuously when once fairly between the shells!
"And here, I said, you write your books,—those books which have carried
your name to all parts of the world, and will convey it down to
posterity! Is this the desk at which you write? And is this the pen you
"'It is the desk and the very pen,' he replied.
"He was pleased with my questions and my way of putting them. I took up
the pen as reverentially as if it had been made of the feather which the
angel I used to read about in Young's "Night Thoughts" ought to have
dropped, and did n't.
"Would you kindly write your autograph in my note-book, with that pen? I
asked him. Yes, he would, with great pleasure.
"So I got out my note-book.
"It was a spick and span new one, bought on purpose for this interview.
I admire your bookcases, said I. Can you tell me just how high they are?
"'They are about eight feet, with the cornice.'
"I should like to have some like those, if I ever get rich enough, said
I. Eight feet,—eight feet, with the cornice. I must put that down.
"So I got out my pencil.
"I sat there with my pencil and note-book in my hand, all ready, but not
using them as yet.
"I have heard it said, I observed, that you began writing poems at a very
early age. Is it taking too great a liberty to ask how early you began
to write in verse?
"He was getting interested, as people are apt to be when they are
themselves the subjects of conversation.
"'Very early,—I hardly know how early. I can say truly, as Louise Colet
"'Je fis mes premiers vers sans savoir les ecrire.'"
"I am not a very good French scholar, said I; perhaps you will be kind
enough to translate that line for me.
"'Certainly. With pleasure. I made my first verses without knowing how
to write them.'
"How interesting! But I never heard of Louise Colet. Who was she?
"My man was pleased to gi-ve me a piece of literary information.
"'Louise the lioness! Never heard of her? You have heard of Alphonse
"Why,—yes,—more or less. To tell the truth, I am not very well up in
French literature. What had he to do with your lioness?
"'A good deal. He satirized her, and she waited at his door with a
case-knife in her hand, intending to stick him with it. By and by he
came down, smoking a cigarette, and was met by this woman flourishing her
case-knife. He took it from her, after getting a cut in his
dressing-gown, put it in his pocket, and went on with his cigarette. He
keeps it with an inscription:
"Donne a Alphonse Karr
Par Madame Louise Colet….
Dans le dos.
"Lively little female!'
"I could n't help thinking that I should n't have cared to interview the
lively little female. He was evidently tickled with the interest I
appeared to take in the story he told me. That made him feel amiably
disposed toward me.
"I began with very general questions, but by degrees I got at everything
about his family history and the small events of his boyhood. Some of
the points touched upon were delicate, but I put a good bold face on my
most audacious questions, and so I wormed out a great deal that was new
concerning my subject. He had been written about considerably, and the
public wouldn't have been satisfied without some new facts; and these I
meant to have, and I got. No matter about many of them now, but here are
some questions and answers that may be thought worth reading or listening
"How do you enjoy being what they call 'a celebrity,' or a celebrated
"'So far as one's vanity is concerned it is well enough. But self-love
is a cup without any bottom, and you might pour the Great Lakes all
through it, and never fill it up. It breeds an appetite for more of the
same kind. It tends to make the celebrity a mere lump of egotism. It
generates a craving for high-seasoned personalities which is in danger of
becoming slavery, like that following the abuse of alcohol, or opium, or
tobacco. Think of a man's having every day, by every post, letters that
tell him he is this and that and the other, with epithets and
endearments, one tenth part of which would have made him blush red hot
before he began to be what you call a celebrity!'
"Are there not some special inconveniences connected with what is called
"'I should think so! Suppose you were obliged every day of your life to
stand and shake hands, as the President of the United States has to after
his inauguration: how do you think your hand would feel after a few
months' practice of that exercise? Suppose you had given you thirty-five
millions of money a year, in hundred-dollar coupons, on condition that
you cut them all off yourself in the usual manner: how do you think you
should like the look of a pair of scissors at the end of a year, in which
you had worked ten hours a day every day but Sunday, cutting off a
hundred coupons an hour, and found you had not finished your task, after
all? You have addressed me as what you are pleased to call "a literary
celebrity." I won't dispute with you as to whether or not I deserve that
title. I will take it for granted I am what you call me, and give you
some few hints on my experience.
"'You know there was formed a while ago an Association of Authors for
Self-Protection. It meant well, and it was hoped that something would
come of it in the way of relieving that oppressed class, but I am sorry
to say that it has not effected its purpose.'
"I suspected he had a hand in drawing up the Constitution and Laws of
that Association. Yes, I said, an admirable Association it was, and as
much needed as the one for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. I am
sorry to hear that it has not proved effectual in putting a stop to the
abuse of a deserving class of men. It ought to have done it; it was well
conceived, and its public manifesto was a masterpiece. (I saw by his
expression that he was its author.)
"'I see I can trust you,' he said. 'I will unbosom myself freely of some
of the grievances attaching to the position of the individual to whom you
have applied the term "Literary Celebrity."
"'He is supposed to be a millionaire, in virtue of the immense sales of
his books, all the money from which, it is taken for granted, goes into
his pocket. Consequently, all subscription papers are handed to him for
his signature, and every needy stranger who has heard his name comes to
him for assistance.
"'He is expected to subscribe for all periodicals, and is goaded by
receiving blank formulae, which, with their promises to pay, he is
expected to fill up.
"'He receives two or three books daily, with requests to read and give
his opinion about each of them, which opinion, if it has a word which can
be used as an advertisement, he will find quoted in all the newspapers.
"'He receives thick masses of manuscript, prose and verse, which he is
called upon to examine and pronounce on their merits; these manuscripts
having almost invariably been rejected by the editors to whom they have
been sent, and having as a rule no literary value whatever.
"'He is expected to sign petitions, to contribute to journals, to write
for fairs, to attend celebrations, to make after-dinner speeches, to send
money for objects he does not believe in to places he never heard of.
"'He is called on to keep up correspondences with unknown admirers, who
begin by saying they have no claim upon his time, and then appropriate it
by writing page after page, if of the male sex; and sheet after sheet, if
of the other.
"'If a poet, it is taken for granted that he can sit down at any moment
and spin off any number of verses on any subject which may be suggested
to him; such as congratulations to the writer's great-grandmother on her
reaching her hundredth year, an elegy on an infant aged six weeks, an ode
for the Fourth of July in a Western township not to be found in
Lippincott's last edition, perhaps a valentine for some bucolic lover who
believes that wooing in rhyme is the way to win the object of his
"Is n't it so? I asked the Celebrity.
"'I would bet on the prose lover. She will show the verses to him, and
they will both have a good laugh over them.'
"I have only reported a small part of the conversation I had with the
Literary Celebrity. He was so much taken up with his pleasing
self-contemplation, while I made him air his opinions and feelings and
spread his characteristics as his laundress spreads and airs his linen on
the clothes-line, that I don't believe it ever occurred to him that he
had been in the hands of an interviewer until he found himself exposed to
the wind and sunshine in full dimensions in the columns of The People's
Perennial and Household Inquisitor.'"
After the reading of this paper, much curiosity was shown as to who the
person spoken of as the "Literary Celebrity" might be. Among the various
suppositions the startling idea was suggested that he was neither more
nor less than the unexplained personage known in the village as Maurice
Kirkwood. Why should that be his real name? Why should not he be the
Celebrity, who had taken this name and fled to this retreat to escape
from the persecutions of kind friends, who were pricking him and stabbing
him nigh to death with their daggers of sugar candy?
The Secretary of the Pansophian Society determined to question the
Interviewer the next time she met him at the Library, which happened soon
after the meeting when his paper was read.
"I do not know," she said, in the course of a conversation in which she
had spoken warmly of his contribution to the literary entertainment of
the Society, "that you mentioned the name of the Literary Celebrity whom
you interviewed so successfully."
"I did not mention him, Miss Vincent," he answered, "nor do I think it
worth while to name him. He might not care to have the whole story told
of how he was handled so as to make him communicative. Besides, if I did,
it would bring him a new batch of sympathetic letters, regretting that he
was bothered by those horrid correspondents, full of indignation at the
bores who presumed to intrude upon him with their pages of trash, all the
writers of which would expect answers to their letters of condolence."
The Secretary asked the Interviewer if he knew the young gentleman who
called himself Maurice Kirkwood.
"What," he answered, "the man that paddles a birch canoe, and rides all
the wild horses of the neighborhood? No, I don't know him, but I have
met him once or twice, out walking. A mighty shy fellow, they tell me.
Do you know anything particular about him?"
"Not much. None of us do, but we should like to. The story is that he
has a queer antipathy to something or to somebody, nobody knows what or
"To newspaper correspondents, perhaps," said the interviewer. "What made
you ask me about him? You did n't think he was my 'Literary Celebrity,'
"I did not know. I thought he might be. Why don't you interview this
mysterious personage? He would make a good sensation for your paper, I
"Why, what is there to be interviewed in him? Is there any story of
crime, or anything else to spice a column or so, or even a few
paragraphs, with? If there is, I am willing to handle him
"I told you he has what they call an antipathy. I don't know how much
wiser you are for that piece of information."
"An antipathy! Why, so have I an antipathy. I hate a spider, and as for
a naked caterpillar,—I believe I should go into a fit if I had to touch
one. I know I turn pale at the sight of some of those great green
caterpillars that come down from the elm-trees in August and early
"Afraid of them?" asked the young lady.
"Afraid? What should I be afraid of? They can't bite or sting. I can't
give any reason. All I know is that when I come across one of these
creatures in my path I jump to one side, and cry out,—sometimes using
very improper words. The fact is, they make me crazy for the moment."
"I understand what you mean," said Miss Vincent. "I used to have the
same feeling about spiders, but I was ashamed of it, and kept a little
menagerie of spiders until I had got over the feeling; that is, pretty
much got over it, for I don't love the creatures very dearly, though I
don't scream when I see one."
"What did you tell me, Miss Vincent, was this fellow's particular
That is just the question. I told you that we don't know and we can't
guess what it is. The people here are tired out with trying to discover
some good reason for the young man's keeping out of the way of everybody,
as he does. They say he is odd or crazy, and they don't seem to be able
to tell which. It would make the old ladies of the village sleep a great
deal sounder,—yes, and some of the young ladies, too,—if they could
find out what this Mr. Kirkwood has got into his head, that he never
comes near any of the people here."
"I think I can find out," said the Interviewer, whose professional
ambition was beginning to be excited. "I never came across anybody yet
that I could n't get something out of. I am going to stay here a week or
two, and before I go I will find out the secret, if there is any, of this
Mr. Maurice Kirkwood."
We must leave the Interviewer to his contrivances until they present us
with some kind of result, either in the shape of success or failure.
THE INTERVIEWER ATTACKS THE SPHINX.
When Miss Euthymia Tower sent her oar off in flashing splinters, as she
pulled her last stroke in the boat-race, she did not know what a strain
she was putting upon it. She did know that she was doing her best, but
how great the force of her best was she was not aware until she saw its
effects. Unconsciousness belonged to her robust nature, in all its
manifestations. She did not pride herself on her knowledge, nor reproach
herself for her ignorance. In every way she formed a striking contrast
to her friend, Miss Vincent. Every word they spoke betrayed the
difference between them: the sharp tones of Lurida's head-voice,
penetrative, aggressive, sometimes irritating, revealed the corresponding
traits of mental and moral character; the quiet, conversational contralto
of Euthymia was the index of a nature restful and sympathetic.
The friendships of young girls prefigure the closer relations which will
one day come in and dissolve their earlier intimacies. The dependence of
two young friends may be mutual, but one will always lean more heavily
than the other; the masculine and feminine elements will be as sure to
assert themselves as if the friends were of different sexes.
On all common occasions Euthymia looked up to her friend as her superior.
She fully appreciated all her varied gifts and knowledge, and deferred to
her opinion in every-day matters, not exactly as an oracle, but as wiser
than herself or any of her other companions. It was a different thing,
however, when the graver questions of life came up. Lurida was full of
suggestions, plans, projects, which were too liable to run into whims
before she knew where they were tending. She would lay out her ideas
before Euthymia so fluently and eloquently that she could not help
believing them herself, and feeling as if her friend must accept them
with an enthusiasm like her own. Then Euthymia would take them up with
her sweet, deliberate accents, and bring her calmer judgment to bear on
Lurida was in an excited condition, in the midst of all her new interests
and occupations. She was constantly on the lookout for papers to be read
at the meetings of her Society,—for she made it her own in great
measure, by her zeal and enthusiasm,—and in the mean time she was
reading in various books which Dr. Butts selected for her, all bearing on
the profession to which, at least as a possibility, she was looking
forward. Privately and in a very still way, she was occupying herself
with the problem of the young stranger, the subject of some delusion, or
disease, or obliquity of unknown nature, to which the vague name of
antipathy had been attached. Euthymia kept an eye upon her, partly in
the fear that over-excitement would produce some mental injury, and
partly from anxiety lest she should compromise her womanly dignity in her
desire to get at the truth of a very puzzling question.
"How do you like the books I see you reading?" said Euthymia to Lurida,
one day, as they met at the Library.
"Better than all the novels I ever read," she answered. "I have been
reading about the nervous system, and it seems to me I have come nearer
the springs of life than ever before in all my studies. I feel just as
if I were a telegraph operator. I was sure that I had a battery in my
head, for I know my brain works like one; but I did not know how many
centres of energy there are, and how they are played upon by all sorts of
influences, external and internal. Do you know, I believe I could solve
the riddle of the 'Arrowhead Village Sphinx,' as the paper called him, if
he would only stay here long enough?"
"What paper has had anything about it, Lurida? I have not seen or heard
of its being mentioned in any of the papers."
"You know that rather queer-looking young man who has been about here for
some time,—the same one who gave the account of his interview with a
celebrated author? Well, he has handed me a copy of a paper in which he
writes, 'The People's Perennial and Household Inquisitor.' He talks about
this village in a very free and easy way. He says there is a Sphinx here,
who has mystified us all."
"And you have been chatting with that fellow! Don't you know that he'll
have you and all of us in his paper? Don't you know that nothing is safe
where one of those fellows gets in with his note-book and pencil? Oh,
Lurida, Lurida, do be careful!" What with this mysterious young man and
this very questionable newspaper-paragraph writer, you will be talked
about, if you don't mind, before you know it. You had better let the
riddle of the Sphinx alone. If you must deal with such dangerous people,
the safest way is to set one of them to find out the other.—I wonder if
we can't get this new man to interview the visitor you have so much
curiosity about. That might be managed easily enough without your having
anything to do with it. Let me alone, and I will arrange it. But mind,
now, you must not meddle; if you do, you will spoil everything, and get
your name in the 'Household Inquisitor' in a way you won't like."
"Don't be frightened about me, Euthymia. I don't mean to give him a
chance to work me into his paper, if I can help it. But if you can get
him to try his skill upon this interesting personage and his antipathy,
so much the better. I am very curious about it, and therefore about him.
I want to know what has produced this strange state of feeling in a young
man who ought to have all the common instincts of a social being. I
believe there are unexplained facts in the region of sympathies and
antipathies which will repay study with a deeper insight into the
mysteries of life than we have dreamed of hitherto. I often wonder
whether there are not heart-waves and soul-waves as well as
'brain-waves,' which some have already recognized."
Euthymia wondered, as well she might, to hear this young woman talking
the language of science like an adept. The truth is, Lurida was one of
those persons who never are young, and who, by way of compensation, will
never be old. They are found in both sexes. Two well-known graduates of
one of our great universities are living examples of this precocious but
enduring intellectual development. If the readers of this narrative
cannot pick them out, they need not expect the writer of it to help them.
If they guess rightly who they are, they will recognize the fact that
just such exceptional individuals as the young woman we are dealing with
are met with from time to time in families where intelligence has been
cumulative for two or three generations.
Euthymia was very willing that the questioning and questionable visitor
should learn all that was known in the village about the nebulous
individual whose misty environment all the eyes in the village were
trying to penetrate, but that he should learn it from some other
informant than Lurida.
The next morning, as the Interviewer took his seat on a bench outside his
door, to smoke his after-breakfast cigar, a bright-looking and handsome
youth, whose features recalled those of Euthymia so strikingly that one
might feel pretty sure he was her brother, took a seat by his side.
Presently the two were engaged in conversation. The Interviewer asked all
sorts of questions about everybody in the village. When he came to
inquire about Maurice, the youth showed a remarkable interest regarding
him. The greatest curiosity, he said, existed with reference to this
personage. Everybody was trying to find out what his story was,—for a
story, and a strange one, he must surely have,—and nobody had succeeded.
The Interviewer began to be unusually attentive. The young man told him
the various antipathy stories, about the evil-eye hypothesis, about his
horse-taming exploits, his rescuing the student whose boat was
overturned, and every occurrence he could recall which would help out the
effect of his narrative.
The Interviewer was becoming excited. "Can't find out anything about
him, you said, did n-'t you? How do you know there's anything to find?
Do you want to know what I think he is? I'll tell you. I think he is an
actor,—a fellow from one of the city theatres. Those fellows go off in
their summer vacation, and like to puzzle the country folks. They are
the very same chaps, like as not, the visitors have seen in plays at the
city theatres; but of course they don't know 'em in plain clothes. Kings
and Emperors look pretty shabby off the stage sometimes, I can tell you."
The young man followed the Interviewer's lead. "I shouldn't wonder if
you were right," he said. "I remember seeing a young fellow in Romeo
that looked a good deal like this one. But I never met the Sphinx, as
they call him, face to face. He is as shy as a woodchuck. I believe
there are people here that would give a hundred dollars to find out who
he is, and where he came from, and what he is here for, and why he does
n't act like other folks. I wonder why some of those newspaper men don't
come up here and get hold of this story. It would be just the thing for
a sensational writer."
To all this the Interviewer listened with true professional interest.
Always on the lookout for something to make up a paragraph or a column
about; driven oftentimes to the stalest of repetitions,—to the biggest
pumpkin story, the tall cornstalk, the fat ox, the live frog from the
human stomach story, the third set of teeth and reading without
spectacles at ninety story, and the rest of the marvellous commonplaces
which are kept in type with e o y or e 6 m (every other year or every
six months) at the foot; always in want of a fresh incident, a new story,
an undescribed character, an unexplained mystery, it is no wonder that
the Interviewer fastened eagerly upon this most tempting subject for an
inventive and emotional correspondent.
He had seen Paolo several times, and knew that he was Maurice's
confidential servant, but had never spoken to him. So he said to himself
that he must make Paolo's acquaintance, to begin with. In the summer
season many kinds of small traffic were always carried on in Arrowhead
Village. Among the rest, the sellers of fruits—oranges, bananas, and
others, according to the seasons—did an active business. The
Interviewer watched one of these fruit-sellers, and saw that his
hand-cart stopped opposite the house where, as he knew, Maurice Kirkwood
was living. Presently Paolo came out of the door, and began examining
the contents of the hand-cart. The Interviewer saw his opportunity.
Here was an introduction to the man, and the man must introduce him to
He knew very well how to ingratiate himself with the man,—there was no
difficulty about that. He had learned his name, and that he was an
Italian whom Maurice had brought to this country with him.
"Good morning, Mr. Paul," he said. "How do you like the look of these
"They pretty fair," said Paolo: "no so good as them las' week; no sweet
as them was."
"Why, how do you know without tasting them?" said the Interviewer.
"I know by his look,—I know by his smell,—he no good yaller,—he no
smell ripe,—I know orange ever since my head no bigger than he is," and
Paolo laughed at his own comparison.
The Interviewer laughed louder than Paolo.
"Good!" said he,—"first-rate! Of course you know all about 'em. Why
can't you pick me out a couple of what you think are the best of 'em? I
shall be greatly obliged to you. I have a sick friend, and I want to get
two nice sweet ones for him."
Paolo was pleased. His skill and judgment were recognized. He felt
grateful to the stranger, who had given him, an opportunity of conferring
a favor. He selected two, after careful examination and grave
deliberation. The Interviewer had sense and tact enough not to offer him
an orange, and so shift the balance of obligation.
"How is Mr. Kirkwood, to-day?" he asked.
"Signor? He very well. He always well. Why you ask? Anybody tell you
"No, nobody said he was sick. I have n't seen him going about for a day
or two, and I thought he might have something the matter with him. Is he
in the house now?"
"No: he off riding. He take long, long rides, sometime gone all day.
Sometime he go on lake, paddle, paddle in the morning, very, very
early,—in night when the moon shine; sometime stay in house, and read,
and study, and write,—he great scholar, Misser Kirkwood."
"A good many books, has n't he?"
"He got whole shelfs full of books. Great books, little books, old
books, new books, all sorts of books. He great scholar, I tell you."
"Has n't he some curiosities,—old figures, old jewelry, old coins, or
things of that sort?"
Paolo looked at the young man cautiously, almost suspiciously. "He don't
keep no jewels nor no money in his chamber. He got some old things,—old
jugs, old brass figgers, old money, such as they used to have in old
times: she don't pass now." Paolo's genders were apt to be somewhat
A lucky thought struck the Interviewer. "I wonder if he would examine
some old coins of mine?" said he, in a modestly tentative manner.
"I think he like to see anything curious. When he come home I ask him.
Who will I tell him wants to ask him about old coin?"
"Tell him a gentleman visiting Arrowhead Village would like to call and
show him some old pieces of money, said to be Roman ones."
The Interviewer had just remembered that he had two or three old battered
bits of copper which he had picked up at a tollman's, where they had been
passed off for cents. He had bought them as curiosities. One had the
name of Gallienus upon it, tolerably distinct,—a common little Roman
penny; but it would serve his purpose of asking a question, as would two
or three others with less legible legends. Paolo told him that if he
came the next morning he would stand a fair chance of seeing Mr.
Kirkwood. At any rate, he would speak to his master.
The Interviewer presented himself the next morning, after finishing his
breakfast and his cigar, feeling reasonably sure of finding Mr. Kirkwood
at home, as he proved to be. He had told Paolo to show the stranger up
to his library,—or study, as he modestly called it.
It was a pleasant room enough, with a lookout on the lake in one
direction, and the wooded hill in another. The tenant had fitted it up
in scholarly fashion. The books Paolo spoke of were conspicuous, many of
them, by their white vellum binding and tasteful gilding, showing that
probably they had been bound in Rome, or some other Italian city. With
these were older volumes in their dark original leather, and recent ones
in cloth or paper. As the Interviewer ran his eye over them, he found
that he could make very little out of what their backs taught him. Some
of the paper-covered books, some of the cloth-covered ones, had names
which he knew; but those on the backs of many of the others were strange
to his eyes. The classics of Greek and Latin and Italian literature were
there; and he saw enough to feel convinced that he had better not attempt
to display his erudition in the company of this young scholar.
The first thing the Interviewer had to do was to account for his visiting
a person who had not asked to make his acquaintance, and who was living
as a recluse. He took out his battered coppers, and showed them to
"I understood that you were very skilful in antiquities, and had a good
many yourself. So I took the liberty of calling upon you, hoping that
you could tell me something about some ancient coins I have had for a
good while." So saying, he pointed to the copper with the name of
"Is this very rare and valuable? I have heard that great prices have
been paid for some of these ancient coins,—ever so many guineas,
sometimes. I suppose this is as much as a thousand years old."
"More than a thousand years old," said Maurice.
"And worth a great deal of money?" asked the Interviewer.
"No, not a great deal of money," answered Maurice.
"How much, should you say?" said the Interviewer.
Maurice smiled. "A little more than the value of its weight in
copper,—I am afraid not much more. There are a good many of these coins
of Gallienus knocking about. The peddlers and the shopkeepers take such
pieces occasionally, and sell them, sometimes for five or ten cents, to
young collectors. No, it is not very precious in money value, but as a
relic any piece of money that was passed from hand to hand a thousand or
fifteen hundred years ago is interesting. The value of such relics is a
good deal a matter of imagination."
"And what do you say to these others?" asked the Interviewer. Poor old
worn-out things they were, with a letter or two only, and some faint
trace of a figure on one or two of them.
"Very interesting, always, if they carry your imagination back to the
times when you may suppose they were current. Perhaps Horace tossed one
of them to a beggar. Perhaps one of these was the coin that was brought
when One said to those about Him, 'Bring me a penny, that I may see it.'
But the market price is a different matter. That depends on the beauty
and preservation, and above all the rarity, of the specimen. Here is a
coin, now,"—he opened a small cabinet, and took one from it. "Here is a
Syracusan decadrachm with the head of Persephone, which is at once rare,
well preserved, and beautiful. I am afraid to tell what I paid for it."
The Interviewer was not an expert in numismatics. He cared very little
more for an old coin than he did for an old button, but he had thought
his purchase at the tollman's might prove a good speculation. No matter
about the battered old pieces: he had found out, at any rate, that
Maurice must have money and could be extravagant, or what he himself
considered so; also that he was familiar with ancient coins. That would
do for a beginning.
"May I ask where you picked up the coin you are showing me?" he said
"That is a question which provokes a negative answer. One does not 'pick
up' first-class coins or paintings, very often, in these times. I bought
this of a great dealer in Rome."
"Lived in Rome once?" said the Interviewer.
"For some years. Perhaps you have been there yourself?"
The Interviewer said he had never been there yet, but he hoped he should
go there, one of these years, "suppose you studied art and antiquities
while you were there?" he continued.
"Everybody who goes to Rome must learn something of art and antiquities.
Before you go there I advise you to review Roman history and the classic
authors. You had better make a study of ancient and modern art, and not
have everything to learn while you are going about among ruins, and
churches, and galleries. You know your Horace and Virgil well, I take it
The Interviewer hesitated. The names sounded as if he had heard them.
"Not so well as I mean to before going to Rome," he answered. "May I ask
how long you lived in Rome?"
"Long enough to know something of what is to be seen in it. No one
should go there without careful preparation beforehand. You are familiar
with Vasari, of course?"
The Interviewer felt a slight moisture on his forehead. He took out his
handkerchief. "It is a warm day," he said. "I have not had time to read
all—the works I mean to. I have had too much writing to do, myself, to
find all the time for reading and study I could have wished."
"In what literary occupation have you been engaged, if you will pardon my
inquiry? said Maurice.
"I am connected with the press. I understood that you were a man of
letters, and I hoped I might have the privilege of hearing from your own
lips some account of your literary experiences."
"Perhaps that might be interesting, but I think I shall reserve it for my
autobiography. You said you were connected with the press. Do I
understand that you are an author?"
By this time the Interviewer had come to the conclusion that it was a
very warm day. He did not seem to be getting hold of his pitcher by the
right handle, somehow. But he could not help answering Maurice's very
"If writing for a newspaper gives one a right to be called an author, I
may call myself one. I write for the "People's Perennial and Household
"Are you the literary critic of that well-known journal, or do you manage
the political column?"
"I am a correspondent from different places and on various matters of
"Places you have been to, and people you have known?"
"Well, yes,-generally, that is. Sometimes I have to compile my
"Did you write the letter from Rome, published a few weeks ago?"
The Interviewer was in what he would call a tight place. However, he had
found that his man was too much for him, and saw that the best thing he
could do was to submit to be interviewed himself. He thought that he
should be able to pick up something or other which he could work into his
report of his visit.
"Well, I—prepared that article for our columns. You know one does not
have to see everything he describes. You found it accurate, I hope, in
"Yes, Murray is generally accurate. Sometimes he makes mistakes, but I
can't say how far you have copied them. You got the Ponte Molle—the
old Milvian bridge—a good deal too far down the stream, if I remember.
I happened to notice that, but I did not read the article carefully. May
I ask whether you propose to do me the honor of reporting this visit and
the conversation we have had, for the columns of the newspaper with which
you are connected?"
The Interviewer thought he saw an opening. "If you have no objections,"
he said, "I should like very much to ask a few questions." He was
recovering his professional audacity.
"You can ask as many questions as you consider proper and discreet,
—after you have answered one or two of mine: Who commissioned you to
submit me to examination?"
"The curiosity of the public wishes to be gratified, and I am the humble
agent of its investigations."
"What has the public to do with my private affairs?"
"I suppose it is a question of majority and minority. That settles
everything in this country. You are a minority of one opposed to a large
number of curious people that form a majority against you. That is the
way I've heard the chief put it."
Maurice could not help smiling at the quiet assumption of the American
citizen. The Interviewer smiled, too, and thought he had his man, sure,
at last. Maurice calmly answered, "There is nothing left for minorities,
then, but the right of rebellion. I don't care about being made the
subject of an article for your paper. I am here for my pleasure, minding
my own business, and content with that occupation. I rebel against your
system of forced publicity. Whenever I am ready I shall tell the public
all it has any right to know about me. In the mean time I shall request
to be spared reading my biography while I am living. I wish you a
The Interviewer had not taken out his note-book and pencil. In his next
communication from Arrowhead Village he contented himself with a brief
mention of the distinguished and accomplished gentleman now visiting the
place, whose library and cabinet of coins he had had the privilege of
examining, and whose courtesy was equalled only by the modesty that
shunned the public notoriety which the organs of popular intelligence
would otherwise confer upon him.
The Interviewer had attempted the riddle of the Sphinx, and had failed to
get the first hint of its solution.
The many tongues of the village and its visitors could not remain idle.
The whole subject of antipathies had been talked over, and the various
cases recorded had become more or less familiar to the conversational
circles which met every evening in the different centres of social life.
The prevalent hypothesis for the moment was that Maurice had a congenital
aversion to some color, the effects of which upon him were so painful or
disagreeable that he habitually avoided exposure to it. It was known,
and it has already been mentioned, that such cases were on record. There
had been a great deal of discussion, of late, with reference to a fact
long known to a few individuals, but only recently made a matter of
careful scientific observation and brought to the notice of the public.
This was the now well-known phenomenon of color-blindness. It did not
seem very strange that if one person in every score or two could not tell
red from green there might be other curious individual peculiarities
relating to color. A case has already been referred to where the subject
of observation fainted at the sight of any red object. What if this were
the trouble with Maurice Kirkwood? It will be seen at once how such a
congenital antipathy would tend to isolate the person who was its
unfortunate victim. It was an hypothesis not difficult to test, but it
was a rather delicate business to be experimenting on an inoffensive
stranger. Miss Vincent was thinking it over, but said nothing, even to
Euthymia, of any projects she might entertain.
MISS VINCENT AS A MEDICAL STUDENT.
The young lady whom we have known as The Terror, as Lurida, as Miss
Vincent, Secretary of the Pansophian Society, had been reading various
works selected for her by Dr. Butts,—works chiefly relating to the
nervous system and its different affections. She thought it was about
time to talk over the general subject of the medical profession with her
new teacher,—if such a self-directing person as Lurida could be said to
recognize anybody as teacher.
She began at the beginning. "What is the first book you would put in a
student's hands, doctor?" she said to him one day. They were in his
study, and Lurida had just brought back a thick volume on Insanity, one
of Bucknill and Puke's, which she had devoured as if it had been a
"Not that book, certainly," he said. "I am afraid it will put all sorts
of notions into your head. Who or what set you to reading that, I should
like to know?"
"I found it on one of your shelves, and as I thought I might perhaps be
crazy some time or other, I felt as if I should like to know what kind of
a condition insanity is. I don't believe they were ever very bright,
those insane people, most of them. I hope I am not stupid enough ever to
lose my wits."
"There is no telling, my dear, what may happen if you overwork that busy
brain of yours. But did n't it make you nervous, reading about so many
people possessed with such strange notions?"
"Nervous? Not a bit. I could n't help thinking, though, how many people
I had known that had a little touch of craziness about them. Take that
poor woman that says she is Her Majesty's Person,—not Her Majesty, but
Her Majesty's Person,—a very important distinction, according to her:
how she does remind me of more than one girl I have known! She would let
her skirts down so as to make a kind of train, and pile things on her
head like a sort of crown, fold her arms and throw her head back, and
feel as grand as a queen. I have seen more than one girl act very much
in that way. Are not most of us a little crazy, doctor,—just a little?
I think so. It seems to me I never saw but one girl who was free from
every hint of craziness."
"And who was that, pray?"
"Why, Euthymia,—nobody else, of course. She never loses her head,—I
don't believe she would in an earthquake. Whenever we were at work with
our microscopes at the Institute I always told her that her mind was the
only achromatic one I ever looked into,—I did n't say looked
through.—-But I did n't come to talk about that. I read in one of your
books that when Sydenham was asked by a student what books he should
read, the great physician said, 'Read "Don Quixote."' I want you to
explain that to me; and then I want you to tell me what is the first
book, according to your idea, that a student ought to read."
"What do you say to my taking your question as the subject of a paper to
be read before the Society? I think there may be other young ladies at
the meeting, besides yourself, who are thinking of pursuing the study of
medicine. At any rate, there are a good many who are interested in the
subject; in fact, most people listen readily to anything doctors tell
them about their calling."
"I wish you would, doctor. I want Euthymia to hear it, and I don't doubt
there will be others who will be glad to hear everything you have to say
about it. But oh, doctor, if you could only persuade Eutbymia to become
a physician! What a doctor she would make! So strong, so calm, so full
of wisdom! I believe she could take the wheel of a steamboat in a storm,
or the hose of a fire-engine in a conflagration, and handle it as well as
the captain of the boat or of the fire-company."
"Have you ever talked with her about studying medicine?"
"Indeed I have. Oh, if she would only begin with me! What good times we
would have studying together!"
"I don't doubt it. Medicine is a very pleasant study. But how do you
think practice would be? How would you like being called up to ride ten
miles in a midnight snow-storm, just when one of your raging headaches
was racking you?"
"Oh, but we could go into partnership, and Euthymia is n't afraid of
storms or anything else. If she would only study medicine with me!"
"Well, what does she say to it?"
"She does n't like the thought of it. She does n't believe in women
doctors. She thinks that now and then a woman may be fitted for it by
nature, but she does n't think there are many who are. She gives me a
good many reasons against their practising medicine, you know what most
of them are, doctor,—and ends by saying that the same woman who would be
a poor sort of doctor would make a first-rate nurse; and that, she
thinks, is a woman's business, if her instinct carries her to the
hospital or sick-chamber. I can't argue her ideas out of her."
"Neither can I argue you out of your feeling about the matter; but I am
disposed to agree with your friend, that you will often spoil a good
nurse to make a poor doctor. Doctors and side-saddles don't seem to me
to go together. Riding habits would be awkward things for practitioners.
But come, we won't have a controversy just now. I am for giving women
every chance for a good education, and if they think medicine is one of
their proper callings let them try it. I think they will find that they
had better at least limit themselves to certain specialties, and always
have an expert of the other sex to fall back upon. The trouble is that
they are so impressible and imaginative that they are at the mercy of all
sorts of fancy systems. You have only to see what kinds of instruction
they very commonly flock to in order to guess whether they would be
likely to prove sensible practitioners. Charlatanism always hobbles on
two crutches, the tattle of women, and the certificates of clergymen, and
I am afraid that half the women doctors will be too much under both those
Lurida believed in Dr. Butts, who, to use the common language of the
village, had "carried her through" a fever, brought on by over-excitement
and exhausting study. She took no offence at his reference to nursery
gossip, which she had learned to hold cheap. Nobody so despises the
weaknesses of women as the champion of woman's rights. She accepted the
doctor's concession of a fair field and open trial of the fitness of her
sex for medical practice, and did not trouble herself about his suggested
limitations. As to the imaginative tendencies of women, she knew too
well the truth of the doctor's remark relating to them to wish to
"Be sure you let me have your paper in season for the next meeting,
doctor," she said; and in due season it came, and was of course approved
DR. BUTTS READS A PAPER.
"Next to the interest we take in all that relates to our immortal souls
is that which we feel for our mortal bodies. I am afraid my very first
statement may be open to criticism. The care of the body is the first
thought with a great many,—in fact, with the larger part of the world.
They send for the physician first, and not until he gives them up do they
commonly call in the clergyman. Even the minister himself is not so very
different from other people. We must not blame him if he is not always
impatient to exchange a world of multiplied interests and ever-changing
sources of excitement for that which tradition has delivered to us as one
eminently deficient in the stimulus of variety. Besides, these bodily
frames, even when worn and disfigured by long years of service, hang
about our consciousness like old garments. They are used to us, and we
are used to them. And all the accidents of our lives,—the house we dwell
in, the living people round us, the landscape we look over, all, up to
the sky that covers us like a bell glass,—all these are but looser
outside garments which we have worn until they seem a part of us, and we
do not like the thought of changing them for a new suit which we have
never yet tried on. How well I remember that dear ancient lady, who
lived well into the last decade of her century, as she repeated the verse
which, if I had but one to choose, I would select from that string of
pearls, Gray's 'Elegy'!
"'For who to dumb forgetfulness a prey
This pleasing, anxious being e'er resigned,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing, lingering look behind?'
"Plotinus was ashamed of his body, we are told. Better so, it may be,
than to live solely for it, as so many do. But it may be well doubted if
there is any disciple of Plotinus in this Society. On the contrary,
there are many who think a great deal of their bodies, many who have come
here to regain the health they have lost in the wear and tear of city
life, and very few who have not at some time or other of their lives had
occasion to call in the services of a physician.
"There is, therefore, no impropriety in my offering to the members some
remarks upon the peculiar difficulties which beset the medical
practitioner in the discharge of his laborious and important duties.
"A young friend of mine, who has taken an interest in medical studies,
happened to meet with a very familiar story about one of the greatest and
most celebrated of all English physicians, Thomas Sydenham. The story is
that, when a student asked him what books he should read, the great
doctor told him to read 'Don Quixote.'
"This piece of advice has been used to throw contempt upon the study of
books, and furnishes a convenient shield for ignorant pretenders. But
Sydenham left many writings in which he has recorded his medical
experience, and he surely would not have published them if he had not
thought they would be better reading for the medical student than the
story of Cervantes. His own works are esteemed to this day, and he
certainly could not have supposed that they contained all the wisdom of
all the past. No remedy is good, it was said of old, unless applied at
the right time in the right way. So we may say of all anecdotes, like
this which I have told you about Sydenham and the young man. It is very
likely that he carried him to the bedside of some patients, and talked to
him about the cases he showed him, instead of putting a Latin volume in
his hand. I would as soon begin in that way as any other, with a student
who had already mastered the preliminary branches,—who knew enough about
the structure and functions of the body in health.
"But if you ask me what reading I would commend to the medical student of
a philosophical habit of mind, you may be surprised to hear me say it
would be certain passages in 'Rasselas.' They are the ones where the
astronomer gives an account to Imlac of his management of the elements,
the control of which, as he had persuaded himself, had been committed to
him. Let me read you a few sentences from this story, which is commonly
bound up with the 'Vicar of Wakefield,' like a woollen lining to a silken
mantle, but is full of stately wisdom in processions of paragraphs which
sound as if they ought to have a grammatical drum-major to march before
their tramping platoons.
"The astronomer has taken Imlac into his confidence, and reveals to him
the secret of his wonderful powers:—
"'Hear, Imlac, what thou wilt not without difficulty credit. I have
possessed for five years the regulation of the weather and the
distribution of the seasons the sun has listened to my dictates, and
passed from tropic to tropic by my direction; the clouds, at my call,
have poured their waters, and the Nile has overflowed at my command; I
have restrained the rage of the dog-star, and mitigated the fervors of
the crab. The winds alone, of all the elemental powers, have hitherto
eluded my authority, and multitudes have perished by equinoctial
tempests, which I found myself unable to prohibit or restrain.'
"The reader naturally wishes to know how the astronomer, a sincere,
devoted, and most benevolent man, for forty years a student of the
heavens, came to the strange belief that he possessed these miraculous
powers. This is his account:
"'One day, as I was looking on the fields withering with heat, I felt in
my mind a sudden wish that I could send rain on the southern mountains,
and raise the Nile to an inundation. In the hurry of my imagination I
commanded rain to fall, and by comparing the time of my command with that
of the inundation I found that the clouds had listened to my lips.'
"'Might not some other cause,' said I, 'produce this concurrence? The
Nile does not always rise on the same day.'
"'Do not believe,' said he, with impatience, I that such objections could
escape me: I reasoned long against my own conviction, and labored against
truth with the utmost obstinacy. I sometimes suspected myself of
madness, and should not have dared to impart this secret but to a man
like you, capable of distinguishing the wonderful from the impossible and
the incredible from the false.'
"The good old astronomer gives his parting directions to Imlac, whom he
has adopted as his successor in the government of the elements and the
seasons, in these impressive words:
"Do not, in the administration of the year, indulge thy pride by
innovation; do not please thyself with thinking that thou canst make
thyself renowned to all future ages by disordering the seasons. The
memory of mischief is no desirable fame. Much less will it become thee
to let kindness or interest prevail. Never rob other countries of rain
to pour it on thine own. For us the Nile is sufficient.'
"Do you wonder, my friends, why I have chosen these passages, in which
the delusions of an insane astronomer are related with all the pomp of
the Johnsonian vocabulary, as the first lesson for the young person about
to enter on the study of the science and art of healing? Listen to me
while I show you the parallel of the story of the astronomer in the
history of medicine.
"This history is luminous with intelligence, radiant with benevolence,
but all its wisdom and all its virtue have had to struggle with the
ever-rising mists of delusion. The agencies which waste and destroy the
race of mankind are vast and resistless as the elemental forces of
nature; nay, they are themselves elemental forces. They may be to some
extent avoided, to some extent diverted from their aim, to some extent
resisted. So may the changes of the seasons, from cold that freezes to
heats that strike with sudden death, be guarded against. So may the
tides be in some small measure restrained in their inroads. So may the
storms be breasted by walls they cannot shake from their foundations.
But the seasons and the tides and the tempests work their will on the
great scale upon whatever stands in their way; they feed or starve the
tillers of the soil; they spare or drown the dwellers by the shore; they
waft the seaman to his harbor or bury him in the angry billows.
"The art of the physician can do much to remove its subjects from deadly
and dangerous influences, and something to control or arrest the effects
of these influences. But look at the records of the life-insurance
offices, and see how uniform is the action of nature's destroying
agencies. Look at the annual reports of the deaths in any of our great
cities, and see how their regularity approaches the uniformity of the
tides, and their variations keep pace with those of the seasons. The
inundations of the Nile are not more certainly to be predicted than the
vast wave of infantile disease which flows in upon all our great cities
with the growing heats of July,—than the fevers and dysenteries which
visit our rural districts in the months of the falling leaf.
"The physician watches these changes as the astronomer watched the rise
of the great river. He longs to rescue individuals, to protect
communities from the inroads of these destroying agencies. He uses all
the means which experience has approved, tries every rational method
which ingenuity can suggest. Some fortunate recovery leads him to
believe he has hit upon a preventive or a cure for a malady which had
resisted all known remedies. His rescued patient sounds his praises, and
a wide circle of his patient's friends joins in a chorus of eulogies.
Self-love applauds him for his sagacity. Self-interest congratulates him
on his having found the road to fortune; the sense of having proved a
benefactor of his race smooths the pillow on which he lays his head to
dream of the brilliant future opening before him. If a single
coincidence may lead a person of sanguine disposition to believe that he
has mastered a disease which had baffled all who were before his time,
and on which his contemporaries looked in hopeless impotence, what must
be the effect of a series of such coincidences even on a mind of calmer
temper! Such series of coincidences will happen, and they may well
deceive the very elect. Think of Dr. Rush,—you know what a famous man
he was, the very head and front of American medical science in his day,
—and remember how he spoke about yellow fever, which he thought he had
"Thus the physician is entangled in the meshes of a wide conspiracy, in
which he and his patient and their friends, and-Nature herself, are
involved. What wonder that the history of Medicine should be to so great
an extent a record of self-delusion!
"If this seems a dangerous concession to the enemies of the true science
and art of healing, I will remind you that it is all implied in the first
aphorism of Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine. Do not draw a wrong
inference from the frank statement of the difficulties which beset the
medical practitioner. Think rather, if truth is so hard of attainment,
how precious are the results which the consent of the wisest and most
experienced among the healers of men agrees in accepting. Think what
folly it is to cast them aside in favor of palpable impositions stolen
from the records of forgotten charlatanism, or of fantastic speculations
spun from the squinting brains of theorists as wild as the Egyptian
"Begin your medical studies, then, by reading the fortieth and the
following four chapters of 'Rasselas.' Your first lesson will teach you
modesty and caution in the pursuit of the most deceptive of all practical
branches of knowledge. Faith will come later, when you learn how much
medical science and art have actually achieved for the relief of mankind,
and how great are the promises it holds out of still larger triumphs over
the enemies of human health and happiness."
After the reading of this paper there was a lively discussion, which we
have no room to report here, and the Society adjourned.
MISS VINCENT'S STARTLING DISCOVERY.
The sober-minded, sensible, well-instructed Dr. Butts was not a little
exercised in mind by the demands made upon his knowledge by his young
friend, and for the time being his pupil, Miss Lurida Vincent.
"I don't wonder they called her The Terror," he said to himself. "She is
enough to frighten anybody. She has taken down old books from my shelves
that I had almost forgotten the backs of, and as to the medical journals,
I believe the girl could index them from memory. She is in pursuit of
some special point of knowledge, I feel sure, and I cannot doubt what
direction she is working in, but her wonderful way of dealing with books
What marvels those "first scholars" in the classes of our great
universities and colleges are, to be sure! They are not, as a rule, the
most distinguished of their class in the long struggle of life. The
chances are that "the field" will beat "the favorite" over the long
race-course. Others will develop a longer stride and more staying power.
But what fine gifts those "first scholars" have received from nature!
How dull we writers, famous or obscure, are in the acquisition of
knowledge as compared with them! To lead their classmates they must have
quick apprehension, fine memories, thorough control of their mental
faculties, strong will, power of concentration, facility of
expression,—a wonderful equipment of mental faculties. I always want to
take my hat off to the first scholar of his year.
Dr. Butts felt somewhat in the same way as he contemplated The Terror.
She surprised him so often with her knowledge that he was ready to
receive her without astonishment when she burst in upon him one allay
with a cry of triumph, "Eureka! Eureka!"
"And what have you found, my dear?" said the doctor.
Lurida was flushed and panting with the excitement of her new discovery.
"I do believe that I have found the secret of our strange visitor's dread
of all human intercourse!"
The seasoned practitioner was not easily thrown off his balance.
"Wait a minute and get your breath," said the doctor. "Are you not a
little overstating his peculiarity? It is not quite so bad as that. He
keeps a man to serve him, he was civil with the people at the Old Tavern,
he was affable enough, I understand, with the young fellow he pulled out
of the water, or rescued somehow,—I don't believe be avoids the whole
human race. He does not look as if he hated them, so far as I have
remarked his expression. I passed a few words with him when his man was
ailing, and found him polite enough. No, I don't believe it is much more
than an extreme case of shyness, connected, perhaps, with some congenital
or other personal repugnance to which has been given the name of an
Lurida could hardly keep still while the doctor was speaking. When he
finished, she began the account of her discovery:
"I do certainly believe I have found an account of his case in an Italian
medical journal of about fourteen years ago. I met with a reference
which led me to look over a file of the Giornale degli Ospitali lying
among the old pamphlets in the medical section of the Library. I have
made a translation of it, which you must read and then tell me if you do
not agree with me in my conclusion."
"Tell me what your conclusion is, and I will read your paper and see for
myself whether I think the evidence justifies the conviction you seem to
Lurida's large eyes showed their whole rounds like the two halves of a
map of the world, as she said,
"I believe that Maurice Kirkwood is suffering from the effects of the
bite of a TARANTULA!"
The doctor drew a long breath. He remembered in a vague sort of way the
stories which used to be told of the terrible Apulian spider, but he had
consigned them to the limbo of medical fable where so many fictions have
clothed themselves with a local habitation and a name. He looked into the
round eyes and wide pupils a little anxiously, as if he feared that she
was in a state of undue excitement, but, true to his professional
training, he waited for another symptom, if indeed her mind was in any
measure off its balance.
"I know what you are thinking," Lurida said, "but it is not so. 'I am
not mad, most noble Festus.' You shall see the evidence and judge for
yourself. Read the whole case,—you can read my hand almost as if it
were print, and tell me if you do not agree with me that this young man
is in all probability the same person as the boy described in the Italian
"One thing you might say is against the supposition. The young patient
is spoken of as Signorino M . . . Ch. . . . But you must remember
that ch is pronounced hard in Italian, like k, which letter is wanting in
the Italian alphabet; and it is natural enough that the initial of the
second name should have got changed in the record to its Italian
Before inviting the reader to follow the details of this extraordinary
case as found in a medical journal, the narrator wishes to be indulged in
a few words of explanation, in order that he may not have to apologize
for allowing the introduction of a subject which may be thought to belong
to the professional student rather than to the readers of this record.
There is a great deal in medical books which it is very unbecoming to
bring before the general public,—a great deal to repel, to disgust, to
alarm, to excite unwholesome curiosity. It is not the men whose duties
have made them familiar with this class of subjects who are most likely
to offend by scenes and descriptions which belong to the physician's
private library, and not to the shelves devoted to polite literature.
Goldsmith and even Smollett, both having studied and practised medicine,
could not by any possibility have outraged all the natural feelings of
delicacy and decency as Swift and Zola have outraged them. But without
handling doubtful subjects, there are many curious medical experiences
which have interest for every one as extreme illustrations of ordinary
conditions with which all are acquainted. No one can study the now
familiar history of clairvoyance profitably who has not learned something
of the vagaries of hysteria. No one can read understandingly the life of
Cowper and that of Carlyle without having some idea of the influence of
hypochondriasis and of dyspepsia upon the disposition and intellect of
the subjects of these maladies. I need not apologize, therefore, for
giving publicity to that part of this narrative which deals with one of
the most singular maladies to be found in the records of bodily and
The following is the account of the case as translated by Miss Vincent.
For obvious reasons the whole name was not given in the original paper,
and for similar reasons the date of the event and the birthplace of the
patient are not precisely indicated here.
[Giornale degli Ospitali, Luglio 21, 18-.]
REMARKABLE CASE OF TARANTISM.
"The great interest attaching to the very singular and exceptional
instance of this rare affection induces us to give a full account of the
extraordinary example of its occurrence in a patient who was the subject
of a recent medical consultation in this city.
"Signorino M . . . Ch . . . is the only son of a gentleman
travelling in Italy at this time. He is eleven years of age, of
sanguine-nervous temperament, light hair, blue eyes, intelligent
countenance, well grown, but rather slight in form, to all appearance in
good health, but subject to certain peculiar and anomalous nervous
symptoms, of which his father gives this history.
"Nine years ago, the father informs us, he was travelling in Italy with
his wife, this child, and a nurse. They were passing a few days in a
country village near the city of Bari, capital of the province of the
same name in the division (compartamento) of Apulia. The child was in
perfect health and had never been affected by any serious illness. On
the 10th of July he was playing out in the field near the house where the
family was staying when he was heard to scream suddenly and violently.
The nurse rushing to him found him in great pain, saying that something
had bitten him in one of his feet. A laborer, one Tommaso, ran up at the
moment and perceived in the grass, near where the boy was standing, an
enormous spider, which he at once recognized as a tarantula. He managed
to catch the creature in a large leaf, from which he was afterwards
transferred to a wide-mouthed bottle, where he lived without any food for
a month or more. The creature was covered with short hairs, and had a
pair of nipper-like jaws, with which he could inflict an ugly wound. His
body measured about an inch in length, and from the extremity of one of
the longest limbs to the other was between two and three inches. Such was
the account given by the physician to whom the peasant carried the great
"The boy who had been bitten continued screaming violently while his
stocking was being removed and the foot examined. The place of the bite
was easily found and the two marks of the claw-like jaws already showed
the effects of the poison, a small livid circle extending around them,
with some puffy swelling. The distinguished Dr. Amadei was immediately
sent for, and applied cups over the wounds in the hope of drawing forth
the poison. In vain all his skill and efforts! Soon, ataxic (irregular)
nervous symptoms declared themselves, and it became plain that the system
had been infected by the poison.
"The symptoms were very much like those of malignant fever, such as
distress about the region of the heart, difficulty of breathing, collapse
of all the vital powers, threatening immediate death. From these first
symptoms the child rallied, but his entire organism had been profoundly
affected by the venom circulating through it. His constitution has never
thrown off the malady resulting from this toxic (poisonous) agent. The
phenomena which have been observed in this young patient correspond so
nearly with those enumerated in the elaborate essay of the celebrated
Baglivi that one might think they had been transcribed from his pages.
"He is very fond of solitude,—of wandering about in churchyards and
other lonely places. He was once found hiding in an empty tomb, which
had been left open. His aversion to certain colors is remarkable.
Generally speaking, he prefers bright tints to darker ones, but his likes
and dislikes are capricious, and with regard to some colors his antipathy
amounts to positive horror. Some shades have such an effect upon him
that he cannot remain in the room with them, and if he meets any one
whose dress has any of that particular color he will turn away or retreat
so as to avoid passing that person. Among these, purple and dark green
are the least endurable. He cannot explain the sensations which these
obnoxious colors produce except by saying that it is like the deadly
feeling from a blow on the epigastrium (pit of the stomach).
"About the same season of the year at which the tarantular poisoning took
place he is liable to certain nervous seizures, not exactly like fainting
or epilepsy, but reminding the physician of those affections. All the
other symptoms are aggravated at this time.
"In other respects than those mentioned the boy is in good health. He is
fond of riding, and has a pony on which he takes a great deal of
exercise, which seems to do him more good than any other remedy.
"The influence of music, to which so much has been attributed by popular
belief and even by the distinguished Professor to whom we shall again
refer, has not as yet furnished any satisfactory results. If the graver
symptoms recur while the patient is under our observation, we propose to
make use of an agency discredited by modern skepticism, but deserving of
a fair trial as an exceptional remedy for an exceptional disease.
"The following extracts from the work of the celebrated Italian physician
of the last century are given by the writer of the paper in the Giornale
in the original Latin, with a translation into Italian, subjoined. Here
are the extracts, or rather here is a selection from them, with a
translation of them into English.
"After mentioning the singular aversion to certain colors shown by the
subject of Tarantism, Baglivi writes as follows: "'Et si astantes
incedant vestibus eo colore difusis, qui Tarantatis ingrates est, necesse
est ut ab illorum aspectu recedant; nam ad intuitum molesti coloris
angore cordis, et symptomatum recrudescantia stating corripiuntur.' (G.
Baglivi, Op. Omnia, page 614. Lugduni, 1745.)
"That is, 'if the persons about the patient wear dresses of the color
which is offensive to him, he must get away from the sight of them, for
on seeing the obnoxious color he is at once seized with distress in the
region of the heart, and a renewal of his symptoms.'
"As to the recurrence of the malady, Baglivi says: "'Dam calor solis
ardentius exurere incip at, quod contingit circa initia Julii et Augusti,
Tarantati lente venientem recrudescentiam veneni percipiunt.' (Ibid.,
"Which I render, 'When the heat of the sun begins to burn more fiercely,
which happens about the beginning of July and August, the subjects of
Tarantism perceive the gradually approaching recrudescence (returning
symptoms) of the poisoning. Among the remedies most valued by this
illustrious physician is that mentioned in the following sentence:
"'Laudo magnopere equitationes in aere rusticano factas singulis diebus,
hord potissimum matutina, quibus equitationibus morbos chronicos pene
incurabiles protanus eliminavi.'
"Or in translation, 'I commend especially riding on horseback in country
air, every day, by preference in the morning hours, by the aid of which
horseback riding I have driven off chronic diseases which were almost
Miss Vincent read this paper aloud to Dr. Butts, and handed it to him to
examine and consider. He listened with a grave countenance and devout
As she finished reading her account, she exclaimed in the passionate
tones of the deepest conviction,
"There, doctor! Have n't I found the true story of this strange visitor?
Have n't I solved the riddle of the Sphinx? Who can this man be but the
boy of that story? Look at the date of the journal when he was eleven
years old, it would make him twenty-five now, and that is just about the
age the people here think he must be of. What could account so entirely
for his ways and actions as that strange poisoning which produces the
state they call Tarantism? I am just as sure it must be that as I am
that I am alive. Oh, doctor, doctor, I must be right,—this Signprino M
. . . Ch . . . was the boy Maurice Kirkwood, and the story accounts
for everything,—his solitary habits, his dread of people,—it must be
because they wear the colors he can't bear. His morning rides on
horseback, his coming here just as the season was approaching which would
aggravate all his symptoms, does n't all this prove that I must be right
in my conjecture,—no, my conviction?"
The doctor knew too much to interrupt the young enthusiast, and so he let
her run on until she ran down. He was more used to the rules of evidence
than she was, and could not accept her positive conclusion so readily as
she would have liked to have him. He knew that beginners are very apt to
make what they think are discoveries. But he had been an angler and knew
the meaning of a yielding rod and an easy-running reel. He said quietly,
"You are a most sagacious young lady, and a very pretty prima facie case
it is that you make out. I can see no proof that Mr. Kirkwood is not the
same person as the M . . . Ch . . . of the medical journal,—that
is, if I accept your explanation of the difference in the initials of
these two names. Even if there were a difference, that would not
disprove their identity, for the initials of patients whose cases are
reported by their physicians are often altered for the purpose of
concealment. I do not know, however, that Mr. Kirkwood has shown any
special aversion to any particular color. It might be interesting to
inquire whether it is so, but it is a delicate matter. I don't exactly
see whose business it is to investigate Mr. Maurice Kirkwood's
idiosyncrasies and constitutional history. If he should have occasion to
send for me at any time, he might tell me all about himself, in
confidence, you know. These old accounts from Baglivi are curious and
interesting, but I am cautious about receiving any stories a hundred
years old, if they involve an improbability, as his stories about the
cure of the tarantula bite by music certainly do. I am disposed to wait
for future developments, bearing in mind, of course, the very singular
case you have unearthed. It wouldn't be very strange if our young
gentleman had to send for me before the season is over. He is out a good
deal before the dew is off the grass, which is rather risky in this
neighborhood as autumn comes on. I am somewhat curious, I confess, about
the young man, but I do not meddle where I am not asked for or wanted,
and I have found that eggs hatch just as well if you let them alone in
the nest as if you take them out and shake them every day. This is a
wonderfully interesting supposition of yours, and may prove to be
strictly in accordance with the facts. But I do not think we have all
the facts in this young man's case. If it were proved that he had an
aversion to any color, it would greatly strengthen your case. His
'antipatia,' as his man called it, must be one which covers a wide
ground, to account for his self-isolation,—and the color hypothesis
seems as plausible as any. But, my dear Miss Vincent, I think you had
better leave your singular and striking hypothesis in my keeping for a
while, rather than let it get abroad in a community like this, where so
many tongues are in active exercise. I will carefully study this paper,
if you will leave it with me, and we will talk the whole matter over. It
is a fair subject for speculation, only we must keep quiet about it."
This long speech gave Lurida's perfervid brain time to cool off a little.
She left the paper with the doctor, telling him she would come for it the
next day, and went off to tell the result of this visit to her bosom
friend, Miss Euthymia Tower.
DR. BUTTS CALLS ON EUTHYMIA.
The doctor was troubled in thinking over his interview with the young
lady. She was fully possessed with the idea that she had discovered the
secret which had defied the most sagacious heads of the village. It was
of no use to oppose her while her mind was in an excited state. But he
felt it his duty to guard her against any possible results of
indiscretion into which her eagerness and her theory of the equality,
almost the identity, of the sexes might betray her. Too much of the woman
in a daughter of our race leads her to forget danger. Too little of the
woman prompts her to defy it. Fortunately for this last class of women,
they are not quite so likely to be perilously seductive as their more
emphatically feminine sisters.
Dr. Butts had known Lurida and her friend from the days of their infancy.
He had watched the development of Lurida's intelligence from its
precocious nursery-life to the full vigor of its trained faculties. He
had looked with admiration on the childish beauty of Euthymia, and had
seen her grow up to womanhood, every year making her more attractive. He
knew that if anything was to be done with his self-willed young scholar
and friend, it would be more easily effected through the medium of
Euthymia than by direct advice to the young lady herself. So the
thoughtful doctor made up his mind to have a good talk with Euthymia, and
put her on her guard, if Lurida showed any tendency to forget the
conventionalities in her eager pursuit of knowledge.
For the doctor's horse and chaise to stop at the door of Miss Euthymia
Tower's parental home was an event strange enough to set all the tongues
in the village going. This was one of those families where illness was
hardly looked for among the possibilities of life. There were other
families where a call from the doctor was hardly more thought of than a
call from the baker. But here he was a stranger, at least on his
professional rounds, and when he asked for Miss Euthymia the servant, who
knew his face well, stared as if he had held in his hand a warrant for
Euthymia did not keep the doctor waiting very long while she made ready
to meet him. One look at her glass to make sure that a lock had not run
astray, or a ribbon got out of place, and her toilet for a morning call
was finished. Perhaps if Mr. Maurice Kirkwood had been announced, she
might have taken a second look, but with the good middle-aged, married
doctor one was enough for a young lady who had the gift of making all the
dresses she wore look well, and had no occasion to treat her chamber like
the laboratory where an actress compounds herself.
Euthymia welcomed the doctor very heartily. She could not help
suspecting his errand, and she was very glad to have a chance to talk
over her friend's schemes and fancies with him.
The doctor began without any roundabout prelude.
"I want to confer with you about our friend Lurida. Does she tell you
all her plans and projects?"
"Why, as to that, doctor, I can hardly say, positively, but I do not
believe she keeps back anything of importance from me. I know what she
has been busy with lately, and the queer idea she has got into her head.
What do you think of the Tarantula business? She has shown you the
paper, she has written, I suppose."
"Indeed she has. It is a very curious case she has got hold of, and I do
not wonder at all that she should have felt convinced that she had come
at the true solution of the village riddle. It may be that this young
man is the same person as the boy mentioned in the Italian medical
journal. But it is very far from clear that he is so. You know all her
reasons, of course, as you have read the story. The times seem to agree
well enough. It is easy to conceive that Ch might be substituted for K
in the report. The singular solitary habits of this young man entirely
coincide with the story. If we could only find out whether he has any of
those feelings with reference to certain colors, we might guess with more
chance of guessing right than we have at present. But I don't see
exactly how we are going to submit him to examination on this point. If
he were only a chemical compound, we could analyze him. If he were only
a bird or a quadruped, we could find out his likes and dislikes. But
being, as he is, a young man, with ways of his own, and a will of his
own, which he may not choose to have interfered with, the problem becomes
more complicated. I hear that a newspaper correspondent has visited him
so as to make a report to his paper,—do you know what he found out?"
"Certainly I do, very well. My brother has heard his own story, which
was this: He found out he had got hold of the wrong person to interview.
The young gentleman, he says, interviewed him, so that he did not learn
much about the Sphinx. But the newspaper man told Willy about the
Sphinx's library and a cabinet of coins he had; and said he should make
an article out of him, anyhow. I wish the man would take himself off. I
am afraid Lurida's love of knowledge will get her into trouble!"
"Which of the men do you wish would take himself off?"
"I was thinking of the newspaper man."
She blushed a little as she said, "I can't help feeling a strange sort of
interest about the other, Mr. Kirkwood. Do you know that I met him this
morning, and had a good look at him, full in the face?"
"Well, to be sure! That was an interesting experience. And how did you
like his looks?"
"I thought his face a very remarkable one. But he looked very pale as he
passed me, and I noticed that he put his hand to his left side as if he
had a twinge of pain, or something of that sort,—spasm or neuralgia,—I
don't know what. I wondered whether he had what you call angina
pectoris. It was the same kind of look and movement, I remember, as you
trust, too, in my uncle who died with that complaint."
The doctor was silent for a moment. Then he asked, "Were you dressed as
you are now?"
"Yes, I was, except that I had a thin mantle over my shoulders. I was
out early, and I have always remembered your caution."
"What color was your mantle?"
"It was black. I have been over all this with Lucinda. A black mantle
on a white dress. A straw hat with an old faded ribbon. There can't be
much in those colors to trouble him, I should think, for his man wears a
black coat and white linen,—more or less white, as you must have
noticed, and he must have seen ribbons of all colors often enough. But
Lurida believes it was the ribbon, or something in the combination of
colors. Her head is full of Tarantulas and Tarantism. I fear that she
will never be easy until the question is settled by actual trial. And
will you believe it? the girl is determined in some way to test her
"Believe it, Euthymia? I can believe almost anything of Lurida. She is
the most irrepressible creature I ever knew. You know as well as I do
what a complete possession any ruling idea takes of her whole nature. I
have had some fears lest her zeal might run away with her discretion. It
is a great deal easier to get into a false position than to get out of
"I know it well enough. I want you to tell me what you think about the
whole business. I don't like the look of it at all, and yet I can do
nothing with the girl except let her follow her fancy, until I can show
her plainly that she will get herself into trouble in some way or other.
But she is ingenious,—full of all sorts of devices, innocent enough in
themselves, but liable to be misconstrued. You remember how she won us
"To be sure I do. It was rather sharp practice, but she felt she was
paying off an old score. The classical story of Atalanta, told, like
that of Eve, as illustrating the weakness of woman, provoked her to make
trial of the powers of resistance in the other sex. But it was
audacious. I hope her audacity will not go too far. You must watch her.
Keep an eye on her correspondence."
The doctor had great confidence in the good sense of Lurida's friend. He
felt sure that she would not let Lurida commit herself by writing foolish
letters to the subject of her speculations, or similar indiscreet
performances. The boldness of young girls, who think no evil, in opening
correspondence with idealized personages is something quite astonishing
to those who have had an opportunity of knowing the facts. Lurida had
passed the most dangerous age, but her theory of the equality of the
sexes made her indifferent to the by-laws of social usage. She required
watching, and her two guardians were ready to check her, in case of need.
MISS VINCENT WRITES A LETTER.
Euthymia noticed that her friend had been very much preoccupied for two
or three days. She found her more than once busy at her desk, with a
manuscript before her, which she turned over and placed inside the desk,
as Euthymia entered.
This desire of concealment was not what either of the friends expected to
see in the other. It showed that some project was under way, which, at
least in its present stage, the Machiavellian young lady did not wish to
disclose. It had cost her a good deal of thought and care, apparently,
for her waste-basket was full of scraps of paper, which looked as if they
were the remains of a manuscript like that at which she was at work.
"Copying and recopying, probably," thought Euthymia, but she was willing
to wait to learn what Lurida was busy about, though she had a suspicion
that it was something in which she might feel called upon to interest
"Do you know what I think?" said Euthymia to the doctor, meeting him as
he left his door. "I believe Lurida is writing to this man, and I don't
like the thought of her doing such a thing. Of course she is not like
other girls in many respects, but other people will judge her by the
common rules of life."
"I am glad that you spoke of it," answered the doctor; "she would write
to him just as quickly as to any woman of his age. Besides, under the
cover of her office, she has got into the way of writing to anybody. I
think she has already written to Mr. Kirkwood, asking him to contribute a
paper for the Society. She can find a pretext easily enough if she has
made up her mind to write. In fact, I doubt if she would trouble herself
for any pretext at all if she decided to write. Watch her well. Don't
let any letter go without seeing it, if you can help it."
Young women are much given to writing letters to persons whom they only
know indirectly, for the most part through their books, and especially to
romancers and poets. Nothing can be more innocent and simple-hearted
than most of these letters. They are the spontaneous outflow of young
hearts easily excited to gratitude for the pleasure which some story or
poem has given them, and recognizing their own thoughts, their own
feelings, in those expressed by the author, as if on purpose for them to
read. Undoubtedly they give great relief to solitary young persons, who
must have some ideal reflection of themselves, and know not where to look
since Protestantism has taken away the crucifix and the Madonna. The
recipient of these letters sometimes wonders, after reading through one
of them, how it is that his young correspondent has managed to fill so
much space with her simple message of admiration or of sympathy.
Lurida did not belong to this particular class of correspondents, but she
could not resist the law of her sex, whose thoughts naturally surround
themselves with superabundant drapery of language, as their persons float
in a wide superfluity of woven tissues. Was she indeed writing to this
unknown gentleman? Euthymia questioned her point-blank.
"Are you going to open a correspondence with Mr. Maurice Kirkwood,
Lurida? You seem to be so busy writing, I can think of nothing else. Or
are you going to write a novel, or a paper for the Society,—do tell me
what you are so much taken up with."
"I will tell you, Euthymia, if you will promise not to find fault with me
for carrying out my plan as I have made up my mind to do. You may read
this letter before I seal it, and if you find anything in it you don't
like you can suggest any change that you think will improve it. I hope
you will see that it explains itself. I don't believe that you will find
anything to frighten you in it."
This is the letter, as submitted to Miss Tower by her friend. The bold
handwriting made it look like a man's letter, and gave it consequently a
less dangerous expression than that which belongs to the tinted and often
fragrant sheet with its delicate thready characters, which slant across
the page like an April shower with a south wind chasing it.
ARROWHEAD VILLAGE, August—, 18—.
MY DEAR SIR,—You will doubtless be surprised at the sight of a letter
like this from one whom you only know as the Secretary of the Pansophian
Society. There is a very common feeling that it is unbecoming in one of
my sex to address one of your own with whom she is unacquainted, unless
she has some special claim upon his attention. I am by no means disposed
to concede to the vulgar prejudice on this point. If one human being has
anything to communicate to another,—anything which deserves being
communicated,—I see no occasion for bringing in the question of sex. I
do not think the homo sum of Terence can be claimed for the male sex as
its private property on general any more than on grammatical grounds,
I have sometimes thought of devoting myself to the noble art of healing.
If I did so, it would be with the fixed purpose of giving my whole powers
to the service of humanity. And if I should carry out that idea, should
I refuse my care and skill to a suffering fellow-mortal because that
mortal happened to be a brother, and not a sister? My whole nature
protests against such one-sided humanity! No! I am blind to all
distinctions when my eyes are opened to any form of suffering, to any
spectacle of want.
You may ask me why I address you, whom I know little or nothing of, and
to whom such an advance may seem presumptuous and intrusive. It is
because I was deeply impressed by the paper which I attributed to
you,—that on Ocean, River, and Lake, which was read at one of our
meetings. I say that I was deeply impressed, but I do not mean this as a
compliment to that paper. I am not bandying compliments now, but
thinking of better things than praises or phrases. I was interested in
the paper, partly because I recognized some of the feelings expressed in
it as my own,—partly because there was an undertone of sadness in all
the voices of nature as you echoed them which made me sad to hear, and
which I could not help longing to cheer and enliven. I said to myself, I
should like to hold communion with the writer of that paper. I have had
my lonely hours and days, as he has had. I have had some of his
experiences in my intercourse with nature. And oh! if I could draw him
into those better human relations which await us all, if we come with the
right dispositions, I should blush if I stopped to inquire whether I
violated any conventional rule or not.
You will understand me, I feel sure. You believe, do you not? in the
insignificance of the barrier which divides the sisterhood from the
brotherhood of mankind. You believe, do you not? that they should be
educated side by side, that they should share the same pursuits, due
regard being had to the fitness of the particular individual for hard or
light work, as it must always be, whether we are dealing with the
"stronger" or the "weaker" sex. I mark these words because,
notwithstanding their common use, they involve so much that is not true.
Stronger! Yes, to lift a barrel of flour, or a barrel of cider,—though
there have been women who could do that, and though when John Wesley was
mobbed in Staffordshire a woman knocked down three or four men, one after
another, until she was at last overpowered and nearly murdered. Talk
about the weaker sex! Go and see Miss Euthymia Tower at the gymnasium!
But no matter about which sex has the strongest muscles. Which has most
to suffer, and which has most endurance and vitality? We go through many
ordeals which you are spared, but we outlast you in mind and body. I
have been led away into one of my accustomed trains of thought, but not
so far away from it as you might at first suppose.
My brother! Are you not ready to recognize in me a friend, an equal, a
sister, who can speak to you as if she had been reared under the same
roof? And is not the sky that covers us one roof, which makes us all one
family? You are lonely, you must be longing for some human fellowship.
Take me into your confidence. What is there that you can tell me to
which I cannot respond with sympathy? What saddest note in your
spiritual dirges which will not find its chord in mine?
I long to know what influence has cast its shadow over your existence. I
myself have known what it is to carry a brain that never rests in a body
that is always tired. I have defied its infirmities, and forced it to do
my bidding. You have no such hindrance, if we may judge by your aspect
and habits. You deal with horses like a Homeric hero. No wild Indian
could handle his bark canoe more dexterously or more vigorously than we
have seen you handling yours. There must be some reason for your
seclusion which curiosity has not reached, and into which it is not the
province of curiosity to inquire. But in the irresistible desire which I
have to bring you into kindly relations with those around you, I must run
the risk of giving offence that I may know in what direction to look for
those restorative influences which the sympathy of a friend and sister
can offer to a brother in need of some kindly impulse to change the
course of a life which is not, which cannot be, in accordance with his
I have thought that there may be something in the conditions with which
you are here surrounded which is repugnant to your feelings,—something
which can be avoided only by keeping yourself apart from the people whose
acquaintance you would naturally have formed. There can hardly be
anything in the place itself, or you would not have voluntarily sought it
as a residence, even for a single season there might be individuals here
whom you would not care to meet, there must be such, but you cannot have
a personal aversion to everybody. I have heard of cases in which certain
sights and sounds, which have no particular significance for most
persons, produced feelings of distress or aversion that made, them
unbearable to the subjects of the constitutional dislike. It has
occurred to me that possibly you might have some such natural aversion to
the sounds of the street, or such as are heard in most houses, especially
where a piano is kept, as it is in fact in almost all of those in the
village. Or it might be, I imagined, that some color in the dresses of
women or the furniture of our rooms affected you unpleasantly. I know
that instances of such antipathy have been recorded, and they would
account for the seclusion of those who are subject to it.
If there is any removable condition which interferes with your free
entrance into and enjoyment of the social life around you, tell me, I beg
of you, tell me what it is, and it shall be eliminated. Think it not
strange, O my brother, that I thus venture to introduce myself into the
hidden chambers of your life. I will never suffer myself to be
frightened from the carrying out of any thought which promises to be of
use to a fellow-mortal by a fear lest it should be considered
"unfeminine." I can bear to be considered unfeminine, but I cannot
endure to think of myself as inhuman. Can I help you, my brother'?
Believe me your most sincere well-wisher,
Euthymia had carried off this letter and read it by herself. As she
finished it, her feelings found expression in an old phrase of her
grandmother's, which came up of itself, as such survivals of early days
are apt to do, on great occasions.
"Well, I never!"
Then she loosened some button or string that was too tight, and went to
the window for a breath of outdoor air. Then she began at the beginning
and read the whole letter all over again.
What should she do about it? She could not let this young girl send a
letter like that to a stranger of whose character little was known except
by inference,—to a young man, who would consider it a most extraordinary
advance on the part of the sender. She would have liked to tear it into
a thousand pieces, but she had no right to treat it in that way. Lurida
meant to send it the next morning, and in the mean time Euthymia had the
night to think over what she should do about it.
There is nothing like the pillow for an oracle. There is no voice like
that which breaks the silence—of the stagnant hours of the night with
its sudden suggestions and luminous counsels. When Euthymia awoke in the
morning, her course of action was as clear before her as if it bad been
dictated by her guardian angel. She went straight over to the home of
Lurida, who was just dressed for breakfast.
She was naturally a little surprised at this early visit. She was struck
with the excited look of Euthymia, being herself quite calm, and
contemplating her project with entire complacency.
Euthymia began, in tones that expressed deep anxiety.
"I have read your letter, my dear, and admired its spirit and force. It
is a fine letter, and does you great credit as an expression of the
truest human feeling. But it must not be sent to Mr. Kirkwood. If you
were sixty years old, perhaps if you were fifty, it might be admissible
to send it. But if you were forty, I should question its propriety; if
you were thirty, I should veto it, and you are but a little more than
twenty. How do you know that this stranger will not show your letter to
anybody or everybody? How do you know that he will not send it to one of
the gossiping journals like the 'Household Inquisitor'? But supposing he
keeps it to himself, which is more than you have a right to expect, what
opinion is he likely to form of a young lady who invades his privacy with
such freedom? Ten to one he will think curiosity is at the bottom of
it,—and,—come, don't be angry at me for suggesting it,—may there not
be a little of that same motive mingled with the others? No, don't
interrupt me quite yet; you do want to know whether your hypothesis is
correct. You are full of the best and kindest feelings in the world, but
your desire for knowledge is the ferment under them just now, perhaps
more than you know."
Lurida's pale cheeks flushed and whitened more than once while her friend
was speaking. She loved her too sincerely and respected her intelligence
too much to take offence at her advice, but she could not give up her
humane and sisterly intentions merely from the fear of some awkward
consequences to herself. She had persuaded herself that she was playing
the part of a Protestant sister of charity, and that the fact of her not
wearing the costume of these ministering angels made no difference in her
relations to those who needed her aid.
"I cannot see your objections in the light in which they appear to you,"
she said gravely. "It seems to me that I give up everything when I
hesitate to help a fellow-creature because I am a woman. I am not afraid
to send this letter and take all the consequences."
"Will you go with me to the doctor's, and let him read it in our
presence? And will you agree to abide by his opinion, if it coincides
Lurida winced a little at this proposal. "I don't quite like," she said,
"showing this letter to—to" she hesitated, but it had to come out—"to a
man, that is, to another man than the one for whom it was intended."
The neuter gender business had got a pretty damaging side-hit.
"Well, never mind about letting him read the letter. Will you go over to
his house with me at noon, when he comes back after his morning visits,
and have a talk over the whole matter with him? You know I have
sometimes had to say must to you, Lurida, and now I say you must go to
the doctor's with me and carry that letter."
There was no resisting the potent monosyllable as the sweet but firm
voice delivered it. At noon the two maidens rang at the doctor's door.
The servant said he had been at the house after his morning visits, but
found a hasty summons to Mr. Kirkwood, who had been taken suddenly ill
and wished to see him at once. Was the illness dangerous? The
servant-maid did n't know, but thought it was pretty bad, for Mr. Paul
came in as white as a sheet, and talked all sorts of languages which she
couldn't understand, and took on as if he thought Mr. Kirkwood was going
to die right off.
And so the hazardous question about sending the letter was disposed of,
at least for the present.
Dr. BUTTS'S PATIENT.
The physician found Maurice just regaining his heat after a chill of a
somewhat severe character. He knew too well what this meant, and the
probable series of symptoms of which it was the prelude. His patient was
not the only one in the neighborhood who was attacked in this way. The
autumnal fevers to which our country towns are subject, in the place of
those "agues," or intermittents, so largely prevalent in the South and
West, were already beginning, and Maurice, who had exposed himself in the
early and late hours of the dangerous season, must be expected to go
through the regular stages of this always serious and not rarely fatal
Paolo, his faithful servant, would fain have taken the sole charge of his
master during his illness. But the doctor insisted that he must have a
nurse to help him in his task, which was likely to be long and
At the mention of the word "nurse" Paolo turned white, and exclaimed in
an agitated and thoroughly frightened way,
"No! no nuss! no woman! She kill him! I stay by him day and night, but
don' let no woman come near him,—if you do, he die!"
The doctor explained that he intended to send a man who was used to
taking care of sick people, and with no little effort at last succeeded
in convincing Paolo that, as he could not be awake day and night for a
fortnight or three weeks, it was absolutely necessary to call in some
assistance from without. And so Mr. Maurice Kirkwood was to play the
leading part in that drama of nature's composing called a typhoid fever,
with its regular bedchamber scenery, its properties of phials and
pill-boxes, its little company of stock actors, its gradual evolution of
a very simple plot, its familiar incidents, its emotional alternations,
and its denouement, sometimes tragic, oftener happy.
It is needless to say that the sympathies of all the good people of the
village, residents and strangers, were actively awakened for the young
man about whom they knew so little and conjectured so much. Tokens of
their kindness came to him daily: flowers from the woods and from the
gardens; choice fruit grown in the open air or under glass, for there
were some fine houses surrounded by well-kept grounds, and greenhouses
and graperies were not unknown in the small but favored settlement.
On all these luxuries Maurice looked with dull and languid eyes. A faint
smile of gratitude sometimes struggled through the stillness of his
features, or a murmured word of thanks found its way through his parched
lips, and he would relapse into the partial stupor or the fitful sleep in
which, with intervals of slight wandering, the slow hours dragged along
the sluggish days one after another. With no violent symptoms, but with
steady persistency, the disease moved on in its accustomed course. It
was at no time immediately threatening, but the experienced physician
knew its uncertainties only too well. He had known fever patients
suddenly seized with violent internal inflammation, and carried off with
frightful rapidity. He remembered the case of a convalescent, a young
woman who had been attacked while in apparently vigorous general health,
who, on being lifted too suddenly to a sitting position, while still
confined to her bed, fainted, and in a few moments ceased to breathe. It
may well be supposed that he took every possible precaution to avert the
accidents which tend to throw from its track a disease the regular course
of which is arranged by nature as carefully as the route of a railroad
from one city to another. The most natural interpretation which the
common observer would put upon the manifestations of one of these
autumnal maladies would be that some noxious combustible element had
found its way into the system which must be burned to ashes before the
heat which pervades the whole body can subside. Sometimes the fire may
smoulder and seem as if it were going out, or were quite extinguished,
and again it will find some new material to seize upon, and flame up as
fiercely as ever. Its coming on most frequently at the season when the
brush fires which are consuming the dead branches, and withered leaves,
and all the refuse of vegetation are sending up their smoke is
suggestive. Sometimes it seems as if the body, relieved of its effete
materials, renewed its youth after one of these quiet, expurgating,
internal fractional cremations. Lean, pallid students have found
themselves plump and blooming, and it has happened that one whose hair
was straight as gnat of an Indian has been startled to behold himself in
his mirror with a fringe of hyacinthine curls about his rejuvenated
There was nothing of what medical men call malignity in the case of
Maurice Kirkwood. The most alarming symptom was a profound prostration,
which at last reached such a point that he lay utterly helpless, as
unable to move without aid as the feeblest of paralytics. In this state
he lay for many days, not suffering pain, but with the sense of great
weariness, and the feeling that he should never rise from his bed again.
For the most part his intellect was unclouded when his attention was
aroused. He spoke only in whispers, a few words at a time. The doctor
felt sure, by the expression which passed over his features from time to
time, that something was worrying and oppressing him; something which he
wished to communicate, and had not the force, or the tenacity of purpose,
to make perfectly clear. His eyes often wandered to a certain desk, and
once he had found strength to lift his emaciated arm and point to it. The
doctor went towards it as if to fetch it to him, but he slowly shook his
head. He had not the power to say at that time what he wished. The next
day he felt a little less prostrated; and succeeded in explaining to the
doctor what he wanted. His words, so far as the physician could make
them out, were these which follow. Dr. Butts looked upon them as
possibly expressing wishes which would be his last, and noted them down
carefully immediately after leaving his chamber.
"I commit the secret of my life to your charge. My whole story is told
in a paper locked in that desk. The key is—put your hand under my
pillow. If I die, let the story be known. It will show that I
was—human—and save my memory from reproach."
He was silent for a little time. A single tear stole down his hollow
cheek. The doctor turned his head away, for his own eyes were full. But
he said to himself, "It is a good sign; I begin to feel strong hopes that
he will recover."
Maurice spoke once more. "Doctor, I put full trust in you. You are wise
and kind. Do what you will with this paper, but open it at once and
read. I want you to know the story of my life before it is finished—if
the end is at hand. Take it with you and read it before you sleep." He
was exhausted and presently his eyes closed, but the doctor saw a
tranquil look on his features which added encouragement to his hopes.
MAURICE KIRKWOOD'S STORY OF HIS LIFE.
I am an American by birth, but a large part of my life has been passed in
foreign lands. My father was a man of education, possessed of an ample
fortune; my mother was considered, a very accomplished and amiable woman.
I was their first and only child. She died while I was yet an infant.
If I remember her at all it is as a vision, more like a glimpse of a
pre-natal existence than as a part of my earthly life. At the death of
my mother I was left in the charge of the old nurse who had enjoyed her
perfect confidence. She was devoted to me, and I became absolutely
dependent on her, who had for me all the love and all the care of a
mother. I was naturally the object of the attentions and caresses of the
family relatives. I have been told that I was a pleasant, smiling
infant, with nothing to indicate any peculiar nervous susceptibility; not
afraid of strangers, but on the contrary ready to make their
acquaintance. My father was devoted to me and did all in his power to
promote my health and comfort.
I was still a babe, often carried in arms, when the event happened which
changed my whole future and destined me to a strange and lonely
existence. I cannot relate it even now without a sense of terror. I
must force myself to recall the circumstances as told me and vaguely
remembered, for I am not willing that my doomed and wholly exceptional
life should pass away unrecorded, unexplained, unvindicated. My nature
is, I feel sure, a kind and social one, but I have lived apart, as if my
heart were filled with hatred of my fellow-creatures. If there are any
readers who look without pity, without sympathy, upon those who shun the
fellowship of their fellow men and women, who show by their downcast or
averted eyes that they dread companionship and long for solitude, I pray
them, if this paper ever reaches them, to stop at this point. Follow me
no further, for you will not believe my story, nor enter into the
feelings which I am about to reveal. But if there are any to whom all
that is human is of interest, who have felt in their own consciousness
some stirrings of invincible attraction to one individual and equally
invincible repugnance to another, who know by their own experience that
elective affinities have as their necessary counterpart, and, as it were,
their polar opposites, currents not less strong of elective repulsions,
let them read with unquestioning faith the story of a blighted life I am
about to relate, much of it, of course, received from the lips of others.
My cousin Laura, a girl of seventeen, lately returned from Europe, was
considered eminently beautiful. It was in my second summer that she
visited my father's house, where he was living with his servants and my
old nurse, my mother having but recently left him a widower. Laura was
full of vivacity, impulsive, quick in her movements, thoughtless
occasionally, as it is not strange that a young girl of her age should
be. It was a beautiful summer day when she saw me for the first time.
My nurse had me in her arms, walking back and forward on a balcony with a
low railing, upon which opened the windows of the second story of my
father's house. While the nurse was thus carrying me, Laura came
suddenly upon the balcony. She no sooner saw me than with all the
delighted eagerness of her youthful nature she rushed toward me, and,
catching me from the nurse's arms, began tossing me after the fashion of
young girls who have been so lately playing with dolls that they feel as
if babies were very much of the same nature. The abrupt seizure
frightened me; I sprang from her arms in my terror, and fell over the
railing of the balcony. I should probably enough have been killed on the
spot but for the fact that a low thorn-bush grew just beneath the
balcony, into which I fell and thus had the violence of the shock broken.
But the thorns tore my tender flesh, and I bear to this day marks of the
deep wounds they inflicted.
That dreadful experience is burned deep into my memory. The sudden
apparition of the girl; the sense of being torn away from the protecting
arms around me; the frantic effort to escape; the shriek that accompanied
my fall through what must have seemed unmeasurable space; the cruel
lacerations of the piercing and rending thorns,—all these fearful
impressions blended in one paralyzing terror.
When I was taken up I was thought to be dead. I was perfectly white, and
the physician who first saw me said that no pulse was perceptible. But
after a time consciousness returned; the wounds, though painful, were
none of them dangerous, and the most alarming effects of the accident
passed away. My old nurse cared for me tenderly day and night, and my
father, who had been almost distracted in the first hours which followed
the injury, hoped and believed that no permanent evil results would be
found to result from it. My cousin Laura was of course deeply distressed
to feel that her thoughtlessness had been the cause of so grave an
accident. As soon as I had somewhat recovered she came to see me, very
penitent, very anxious to make me forget the alarm she had caused me,
with all its consequences. I was in the nursery sitting up in my bed,
bandaged, but not in any pain, as it seemed, for I was quiet and to all
appearance in a perfectly natural state of feeling. As Laura came near
me I shrieked and instantly changed color. I put my hand upon my heart
as if I had been stabbed, and fell over, unconscious. It was very much
the same state as that in which I was found immediately after my fall.
The cause of this violent and appalling seizure was but too obvious. The
approach of the young girl and the dread that she was about to lay her
hand upon me had called up the same train of effects which the moment of
terror and pain had already occasioned. The old nurse saw this in a
moment. "Go! go!" she cried to Laura, "go, or the child will die!" Her
command did not have to be repeated. After Laura had gone I lay
senseless, white and cold as marble, for some time. The doctor soon
came, and by the use of smart rubbing and stimulants the color came back
slowly to my cheeks and the arrested circulation was again set in motion.
It was hard to believe that this was anything more than a temporary
effect of the accident. There could be little doubt, it was thought by
the doctor and by my father, that after a few days I should recover from
this morbid sensibility and receive my cousin as other infants receive
pleasant-looking young persons. The old nurse shook her head. "The girl
will be the death of the child," she said, "if she touches him or comes
near him. His heart stopped beating just as when the girl snatched him
out of my arms, and he fell over the balcony railing." Once more the
experiment was tried, cautiously, almost insidiously. The same alarming
consequences followed. It was too evident that a chain of nervous
disturbances had been set up in my system which repeated itself whenever
the original impression gave the first impulse. I never saw my cousin
Laura after this last trial. Its result had so distressed her that she
never ventured again to show herself to me.
If the effect of the nervous shock had stopped there, it would have been
a misfortune for my cousin and myself, but hardly a calamity. The world
is wide, and a cousin or two more or less can hardly be considered an
essential of existence. I often heard Laura's name mentioned, but never
by any one who was acquainted with all the circumstances, for it was
noticed that I changed color and caught at my breast as if I wanted to
grasp my heart in my hand whenever that fatal name was mentioned.
Alas! this was not all. While I was suffering from the effects of my
fall among the thorns I was attended by my old nurse, assisted by another
old woman, by a physician, and my father, who would take his share in
caring for me. It was thought best to keep—me perfectly quiet, and
strangers and friends were alike excluded from my nursery, with one
exception, that my old grandmother came in now and then. With her it
seems that I was somewhat timid and shy, following her with rather
anxious eyes, as if not quite certain whether or not she was dangerous.
But one day, when I was far advanced towards recovery, my father brought
in a young lady, a relative of his, who had expressed a great desire to
see me. She was, as I have been told, a very handsome girl, of about the
same age as my cousin Laura, but bearing no personal resemblance to her
in form, features, or complexion. She had no sooner entered the room
than the same sudden changes which had followed my cousin's visit began
to show themselves, and before she had reached my bedside I was in a
state of deadly collapse, as on the occasions already mentioned.
Some time passed before any recurrence of these terrifying seizures. A
little girl of five or six years old was allowed to come into the nursery
one day and bring me some flowers. I took them from her hand, but turned
away and shut my eyes. There was no seizure, but there was a certain
dread and aversion, nothing more than a feeling which it might be hoped
that time would overcome. Those around me were gradually finding out the
circumstances which brought on the deadly attack to which I was subject.
The daughter of one of our near neighbors was considered the prettiest
girl of the village where we were passing the summer. She was very
anxious to see me, and as I was now nearly well it was determined that
she should be permitted to pay me a short visit. I had always delighted
in seeing her and being caressed by her. I was sleeping when she entered
the nursery and came and took a seat at my side in perfect silence.
Presently I became restless, and a moment later I opened my eyes and saw
her stooping over me. My hand went to my left breast,—the color faded
from my cheeks,—I was again the cold marble image so like death that it
had well-nigh been mistaken for it.
Could it be possible that the fright which had chilled my blood had left
me with an unconquerable fear of woman at the period when she is most
attractive not only to adolescents, but to children of tender age, who
feel the fascination of her flowing locks, her bright eyes, her blooming
cheeks, and that mysterious magnetism of sex which draws all life into
its warm and potently vitalized atmosphere? So it did indeed seem. The
dangerous experiment could not be repeated indefinitely. It was not
intentionally tried again, but accident brought about more than one
renewal of it during the following years, until it became fully
recognized that I was the unhappy subject of a mortal dread of
woman,—not absolutely of the human female, for I had no fear of my old
nurse or of my grandmother, or of any old wrinkled face, and I had become
accustomed to the occasional meeting of a little girl or two, whom I
nevertheless regarded with a certain ill-defined feeling that there was
danger in their presence. I was sent to a boys' school very early, and
during the first ten or twelve years of my life I had rarely any occasion
to be reminded of my strange idiosyncrasy.
As I grew out of boyhood into youth, a change came over the feelings
which had so long held complete possession of me. This was what my
father and his advisers had always anticipated, and was the ground of
their confident hope in my return to natural conditions before I should
have grown to mature manhood.
How shall I describe the conflicts of those dreamy, bewildering, dreadful
years? Visions of loveliness haunted me sleeping and waking. Sometimes
a graceful girlish figure would so draw my eyes towards it that I lost
sight of all else, and was ready to forget all my fears and find myself
at her side, like other youths by the side of young maidens,—happy in
their cheerful companionship, while I,—I, under the curse of one
blighting moment, looked on, hopeless. Sometimes the glimpse of a fair
face or the tone of a sweet voice stirred within me all the instincts
that make the morning of life beautiful to adolescence. I reasoned with
Why should I not have outgrown that idle apprehension which had been the
nightmare of my earlier years? Why should not the rising tide of life
have drowned out the feeble growths that infested the shallows of
childhood? How many children there are who tremble at being left alone
in the dark, but who, a few years later, will smile at their foolish
terrors and brave all the ghosts of a haunted chamber! Why should I any
longer be the slave of a foolish fancy that has grown into a half insane
habit of mind? I was familiarly acquainted with all the stories of the
strange antipathies and invincible repugnances to which others, some of
them famous men, had been subject. I said to myself, Why should not I
overcome this dread of woman as Peter the Great fought down his dread of
wheels rolling over a bridge? Was I, alone of all mankind, to be doomed
to perpetual exclusion from the society which, as it seemed to me, was
all that rendered existence worth the trouble and fatigue of slavery to
the vulgar need of supplying the waste of the system and working at the
task of respiration like the daughters of Danaus,—toiling day and night
as the worn-out sailor labors at the pump of his sinking vessel?
Why did I not brave the risk of meeting squarely, and without regard to
any possible danger, some one of those fair maidens whose far-off smile,
whose graceful movements, at once attracted and agitated me? I can only
answer this question to the satisfaction of any really inquiring reader
by giving him the true interpretation of the singular phenomenon of which
I was the subject. For this I shall have to refer to a paper of which I
have made a copy, and which will be found included with this manuscript.
It is enough to say here, without entering into the explanation of the
fact, which will be found simple enough as seen by the light of modern
physiological science, that the "nervous disturbance" which the presence
of a woman in the flower of her age produced in my system was a sense of
impending death, sudden, overwhelming, unconquerable, appalling. It was
a reversed action of the nervous centres,—the opposite of that which
flushes the young lover's cheek and hurries his bounding pulses as he
comes into the presence of the object of his passion. No one who has
ever felt the sensation can have failed to recognize it as an imperative
summons, which commands instant and terrified submission.
It was at this period of my life that my father determined to try the
effect of travel and residence in different localities upon my bodily and
mental condition. I say bodily as well as mental, for I was too slender
for my height and subject to some nervous symptoms which were a cause of
anxiety. That the mind was largely concerned in these there was no
doubt, but the mutual interactions of mind and body are often too complex
to admit of satisfactory analysis. Each is in part cause and each also
in part effect.
We passed some years in Italy, chiefly in Rome, where I was placed in a
school conducted by priests, and where of course I met only those of my
own sex. There I had the opportunity of seeing the influences under
which certain young Catholics, destined for the priesthood, are led to
separate themselves from all communion with the sex associated in their
minds with the most subtle dangers to which the human soul can be
exposed. I became in some degree reconciled to the thought of exclusion
from the society of women by seeing around me so many who were
self-devoted to celibacy. The thought sometimes occurred to me whether I
should not find the best and the only natural solution of the problem of
existence, as submitted to myself, in taking upon me the vows which
settle the whole question and raise an impassable barrier between the
devotee and the object of his dangerous attraction.
How often I talked this whole matter over with the young priest who was
at once my special instructor and my favorite companion! But accustomed
as I had become to the forms of the Roman Church, and impressed as I was
with the purity and excellence of many of its young members with whom I
was acquainted, my early training rendered it impossible for me to accept
the credentials which it offered me as authoritative. My friend and
instructor had to set me down as a case of "invincible ignorance." This
was the loop-hole through which he crept out of the prison-house of his
creed, and was enabled to look upon me without the feeling of absolute
despair with which his sterner brethren would, I fear, have regarded me.
I have said that accident exposed me at times to the influence which I
had such reasons for dreading. Here is one example of such an
occurrence, which I relate as simply as possible, vividly as it is
impressed upon my memory. A young friend whose acquaintance I had made
in Rome asked me one day to come to his rooms and look at a cabinet of
gems and medals which he had collected. I had been but a short time in
his library when a vague sense of uneasiness came over me. My heart
became restless,—I could feel it stirring irregularly, as if it were
some frightened creature caged in my breast. There was nothing that I
could see to account for it. A door was partly open, but not so that I
could see into the next room. The feeling grew upon me of some influence
which was paralyzing my circulation. I begged my friend to open a
window. As he did so, the door swung in the draught, and I saw a
blooming young woman,—it was my friend's sister, who had been sitting
with a book in her hand, and who rose at the opening of the door.
Something had warned me of the presence of a woman, that occult and
potent aura of individuality, call it personal magnetism, spiritual
effluence, or reduce it to a simpler expression if you will; whatever it
was, it had warned me of the nearness of the dread attraction which
allured at a distance and revealed itself with all the terrors of the
Lorelei if approached too recklessly. A sign from her brother caused her
to withdraw at once, but not before I had felt the impression which
betrayed itself in my change of color, anxiety about the region of the
heart, and sudden failure as if about to fall in a deadly fainting-fit.
Does all this seem strange and incredible to the reader of my manuscript?
Nothing in the history of life is so strange or exceptional as it seems
to those who have not made a long study of its mysteries. I have never
known just such a case as my own, and yet there must have been such, and
if the whole history of mankind were unfolded I cannot doubt that there
have been many like it. Let my reader suspend his judgment until he has
read the paper I have referred to, which was drawn up by a Committee of
the Royal Academy of the Biological Sciences. In this paper the
mechanism of the series of nervous derangements to which I have been
subject since the fatal shock experienced in my infancy is explained in
language not hard to understand. It will be seen that such a change of
polarity in the nervous centres is only a permanent form and an extreme
degree of an emotional disturbance, which as a temporary and
comparatively unimportant personal accident is far from being
uncommon,—is so frequent, in fact, that every one must have known
instances of it, and not a few must have had more or less serious
experiences of it in their own private history.
It must not be supposed that my imagination dealt with me as I am now
dealing with the reader. I was full of strange fancies and wild
superstitions. One of my Catholic friends gave me a silver medal which
had been blessed by the Pope, and which I was to wear next my body. I
was told that this would turn black after a time, in virtue of a power
which it possessed of drawing out original sin, or certain portions of
it, together with the evil and morbid tendencies which had been engrafted
on the corrupt nature. I wore the medal faithfully, as directed, and
watched it carefully. It became tarnished and after a time darkened, but
it wrought no change in my unnatural condition.
There was an old gypsy who had the reputation of knowing more of futurity
than she had any right to know. The story was that she had foretold the
assassination of Count Rossi and the death of Cavour.
However that may have been, I was persuaded to let her try her black art
upon my future. I shall never forget the strange, wild look of the
wrinkled hag as she took my hand and studied its lines and fixed her
wicked old eyes on my young countenance. After this examination she
shook her head and muttered some words, which as nearly as I could get
them would be in English like these:
Fair lady cast a spell on thee,
Fair lady's hand shall set thee free.
Strange as it may seem, these words of a withered old creature, whose
palm had to be crossed with silver to bring forth her oracular response,
have always clung to my memory as if they were destined to fulfilment.
The extraordinary nature of the affliction to which I was subject
disposed me to believe the incredible with reference to all that relates
to it. I have never ceased to have the feeling that, sooner or later, I
should find myself freed from the blight laid upon me in my infancy. It
seems as if it would naturally come through the influence of some young
and fair woman, to whom that merciful errand should be assigned by the
Providence that governs our destiny. With strange hopes, with trembling
fears, with mingled belief and doubt, wherever I have found myself I have
sought with longing yet half-averted eyes for the "elect lady," as I have
learned to call her, who was to lift the curse from my ruined life.
Three times I have been led to the hope, if not the belief, that I had
found the object of my superstitious belief.—Singularly enough it was
always on the water that the phantom of my hope appeared before my
bewildered vision. Once it was an English girl who was a fellow
passenger with me in one of my ocean voyages. I need not say that she
was beautiful, for she was my dream realized. I heard her singing, I saw
her walking the deck on some of the fair days when sea-sickness was
forgotten. The passengers were a social company enough, but I had kept
myself apart, as was my wont. At last the attraction became too strong
to resist any longer. "I will venture into the charmed circle if it
kills me," I said to my father. I did venture, and it did not kill me,
or I should not be telling this story. But there was a repetition of the
old experiences. I need not relate the series of alarming consequences
of my venture. The English girl was very lovely, and I have no doubt has
made some one supremely happy before this, but she was not the "elect
lady" of the prophecy and of my dreams.
A second time I thought myself for a moment in the presence of the
destined deliverer who was to restore me to my natural place among my
fellow men and women. It was on the Tiber that I met the young maiden
who drew me once more into that inner circle which surrounded young
womanhood with deadly peril for me, if I dared to pass its limits. I was
floating with the stream in the little boat in which I passed many long
hours of reverie when I saw another small boat with a boy and a young
girl in it. The boy had been rowing, and one of his oars had slipped
from his grasp. He did not know how to paddle with a single oar, and was
hopelessly rowing round and round, his oar all the time floating farther
away from him. I could not refuse my assistance. I picked up the oar
and brought my skiff alongside of the boat. When I handed the oar to the
boy the young girl lifted her veil and thanked me in the exquisite music
of the language which
'Sounds as if it should be writ on satin.'
She was a type of Italian beauty,—a nocturne in flesh and blood, if I
may borrow a term certain artists are fond of; but it was her voice which
captivated me and for a moment made me believe that I was no longer shut
off from all relations with the social life of my race. An hour later I
was found lying insensible on the floor of my boat, white, cold, almost
pulseless. It cost much patient labor to bring me back to consciousness.
Had not such extreme efforts been made, it seems probable that I should
never have waked from a slumber which was hardly distinguishable from
that of death.
Why should I provoke a catastrophe which appears inevitable if I invite
it by exposing myself to its too well ascertained cause? The habit of
these deadly seizures has become a second nature. The strongest and the
ablest men have found it impossible to resist the impression produced by
the most insignificant object, by the most harmless sight or sound to
which they had a congenital or acquired antipathy. What prospect have I
of ever being rid of this long and deep-seated infirmity? I may well ask
myself these questions, but my answer is that I will never give up the
hope that time will yet bring its remedy. It may be that the wild
prediction which so haunts me shall find itself fulfilled. I have had of
late strange premonitions, to which if I were superstitious I could not
help giving heed. But I have seen too much of the faith that deals in
miracles to accept the supernatural in any shape,—assuredly when it
comes from an old witch-like creature who takes pay for her revelations
of the future. Be it so: though I am not superstitious, I have a right
to be imaginative, and my imagination will hold to those words of the old
zingara with an irresistible feeling that, sooner or later, they will
Can it be possible that her prediction is not far from its realization?
I have had both waking and sleeping visions within these last months and
weeks which have taken possession of me and filled my life with new
thoughts, new hopes, new resolves.
Sometimes on the bosom of the lake by which I am dreaming away this
season of bloom and fragrance, sometimes in the fields or woods in a
distant glimpse, once in a nearer glance, which left me pale and
tremulous, yet was followed by a swift reaction, so that my cheeks
flushed and my pulse bounded, I have seen her who—how do I dare to tell
it so that my own eyes can read it?—-I cannot help believing is to be my
deliverer, my saviour.
I have been warned in the most solemn and impressive language by the
experts most deeply read in the laws of life and the history of its
disturbing and destroying influences, that it would be at the imminent
risk of my existence if I should expose myself to the repetition of my
former experiences. I was reminded that unexplained sudden deaths were
of constant, of daily occurrence; that any emotion is liable to arrest
the movements of life: terror, joy, good news or bad news,—anything that
reaches the deeper nervous centres. I had already died once, as Sir
Charles Napier said of himself; yes, more than once, died and been
resuscitated. The next time, I might very probably fail to get my return
ticket after my visit to Hades. It was a rather grim stroke of humor,
but I understood its meaning full well, and felt the force of its menace.
After all, what had I to live for if the great primal instinct which
strives to make whole the half life of lonely manhood is defeated,
suppressed, crushed out of existence? Why not as well die in the attempt
to break up a wretched servitude to a perverted nervous movement as in
any other way? I am alone in the world,—alone save for my faithful
servant, through whom I seem to hold to the human race as it were by a
single filament. My father, who was my instructor, my companion, my
dearest and best friend through all my later youth and my earlier
manhood, died three years ago and left me my own master, with the means
of living as might best please my fancy. This season shall decide my
fate. One more experiment, and I shall find myself restored to my place
among my fellow-beings, or, as I devoutly hope, in a sphere where all our
mortal infirmities are past and forgotten.
I have told the story of a blighted life without reserve, so that there
shall not remain any mystery or any dark suspicion connected with my
memory if I should be taken away unexpectedly. It has cost me an effort
to do it, but now that my life is on record I feel more reconciled to my
lot, with all its possibilities, and among these possibilities is a gleam
of a better future. I have been told by my advisers, some of them wise,
deeply instructed, and kind-hearted men, that such a life-destiny should
be related by the subject of it for the instruction of others, and
especially for the light it throws on certain peculiarities of human
character often wrongly interpreted as due to moral perversion, when they
are in reality the results of misdirected or reversed actions in some of
the closely connected nervous centres.
For myself I can truly say that I have very little morbid sensibility
left with reference to the destiny which has been allotted to me. I have
passed through different stages of feeling with reference to it, as I
have developed from infancy to manhood. At first it was mere blind
instinct about which I had no thought, living like other infants the life
of impressions without language to connect them in series. In my boyhood
I began to be deeply conscious of the infirmity which separated me from
those around me. In youth began that conflict of emotions and impulses
with the antagonistic influence of which I have already spoken, a
conflict which has never ceased, but to which I have necessarily become
to a certain degree accustomed; and against the dangers of which I have
learned to guard myself habitually. That is the meaning of my isolation.
You, young man,—if at any time your eyes shall look upon my melancholy
record,—you at least will understand me. Does not your heart throb, in
the presence of budding or blooming womanhood, sometimes as if it "were
ready to crack" with its own excess of strain? What if instead of
throbbing it should falter, flutter, and stop as if never to beat again?
You, young woman, who with ready belief and tender sympathy will look
upon these pages, if they are ever spread before you, know what it is
when your breast heaves with uncontrollable emotion and the grip of the
bodice seems unendurable as the embrace of the iron virgin of the
Inquisition. Think what it would be if the grasp were tightened so that
no breath of air could enter your panting chest!
Does your heart beat in the same way, young man, when your honored
friend, a venerable matron of seventy years, greets you with her kindly
smile as it does in the presence of youthful loveliness? When a pretty
child brings you her doll and looks into your eyes with artless grace and
trustful simplicity, does your pulse quicken, do you tremble, does life
palpitate through your whole being, as when the maiden of seventeen meets
your enamored sight in the glow of her rosebud beauty? Wonder not, then,
if the period of mystic attraction for you should be that of agitation,
terror, danger, to one in whom the natural current of the instincts has
had its course changed as that of a stream is changed by a convulsion of
nature, so that the impression which is new life to you is death to him.
I am now twenty-five years old. I have reached the time of life which I
have dreamed, nay even ventured to hope, might be the limit of the
sentence which was pronounced upon me in my infancy. I can assign no
good reason for this anticipation. But in writing this paper I feel as
if I were preparing to begin a renewed existence. There is nothing for me
to be ashamed of in the story I have told. There is no man living who
would not have yielded to the sense of instantly impending death which
seized upon me under the conditions I have mentioned. Martyrs have gone
singing to their flaming shrouds, but never a man could hold his breath
long enough to kill himself; he must have rope or water, or some
mechanical help, or nature will make him draw in a breath of air, and
would make him do so though he knew the salvation of the human race would
be forfeited by that one gasp.
This paper may never reach the eye of any one afflicted in the same way
that I have been. It probably never will; but for all that, there are
many shy natures which will recognize tendencies in themselves in the
direction of my unhappy susceptibility. Others, to whom such weakness
seems inconceivable, will find their scepticism shaken, if not removed,
by the calm, judicial statement of the Report drawn up for the Royal
Academy. It will make little difference to me whether my story is
accepted unhesitatingly or looked upon as largely a product of the
imagination. I am but a bird of passage that lights on the boughs of
different nationalities. I belong to no flock; my home may be among the
palms of Syria, the olives of Italy, the oaks of England, the elms that
shadow the Hudson or the Connecticut; I build no nest; to-day I am here,
to-morrow on the wing.
If I quit my native land before the trees have dropped their leaves I
shall place this manuscript in the safe hands of one whom I feel sure
that I can trust; to do with it as he shall see fit. If it is only
curious and has no bearing on human welfare, he may think it well to let
it remain unread until I shall have passed away. If in his judgment it
throws any light on one of the deeper mysteries of our nature,—the
repulsions which play such a formidable part in social life, and which
must be recognized as the correlatives of the affinities that distribute
the individuals governed by them in the face of impediments which seem to
be impossibilities,—then it may be freely given to the world.
But if I am here when the leaves are all fallen, the programme of my life
will have changed, and this story of the dead past will be illuminated by
the light of a living present which will irradiate all its saddening
features. Who would not pray that my last gleam of light and hope may be
that of dawn and not of departing day?
The reader who finds it hard to accept the reality of a story so far from
the common range of experience is once more requested to suspend his
judgment until he has read the paper which will next be offered for his
THE REPORT OF THE BIOLOGICAL COMMITTEE.
Perhaps it is too much to expect a reader who wishes to be entertained,
excited, amused, and does not want to work his passage through pages
which he cannot understand without some effort of his own, to read the
paper which follows and Dr. Butts's reflections upon it. If he has no
curiosity in the direction of these chapters, he can afford to leave them
to such as relish a slight flavor of science. But if he does so leave
them he will very probably remain sceptical as to the truth of the story
to which they are meant to furnish him with a key.
Of course the case of Maurice Kirkwood is a remarkable and exceptional
one, and it is hardly probable that any reader's experience will furnish
him with its parallel. But let him look back over all his acquaintances,
if he has reached middle life, and see if he cannot recall more than one
who, for some reason or other, shunned the society of young women, as if
they had a deadly fear of their company. If he remembers any such, he
can understand the simple statements and natural reflections which are
laid before him.
One of the most singular facts connected with the history of Maurice
Kirkwood was the philosophical equanimity with which he submitted to the
fate which had fallen upon him. He did not choose to be pumped by the
Interviewer, who would show him up in the sensational columns of his
prying newspaper. He lived chiefly by himself, as the easiest mode of
avoiding those meetings to which he would be exposed in almost every
society into which he might venture. But he had learned to look upon
himself very much as he would upon an intimate not himself,—upon a
different personality. A young man will naturally enough be ashamed of
his shyness. It is something which others believe, and perhaps he
himself thinks, he might overcome. But in the case of Maurice Kirkwood
there was no room for doubt as to the reality and gravity of the long
enduring effects of his first convulsive terror. He had accepted the
fact as he would have accepted the calamity of losing his sight or his
hearing. When he was questioned by the experts to whom his case was
submitted, he told them all that he knew about it almost without a sign
of emotion. Nature was so peremptory with him,—saying in language that
had no double meaning: "If you violate the condition on which you hold my
gift of existence I slay you on the spot,"—that he became as decisive in
his obedience as she was in her command, and accepted his fate without
Yet it must not be thought for a moment,—it cannot be supposed,—that
he was insensible because he looked upon himself with the coolness of an
enforced philosophy. He bore his burden manfully, hard as it was to live
under it, for he lived, as we have seen, in hope. The thought of
throwing it off with his life, as too grievous to be borne, was familiar
to his lonely hours, but he rejected it as unworthy of his manhood. How
he had speculated and dreamed about it is plain enough from the paper the
reader may remember on Ocean, River, and Lake.
With these preliminary hints the paper promised is submitted to such as
may find any interest in them.
ACCOUNT OF A CASE OF GYNOPHOBIA.
Being the Substance of a Report to the Royal Academy of the Biological
Sciences by a Committee of that Institution.
"The singular nature of the case we are about to narrate and comment upon
will, we feel confident, arrest the attention of those who have learned
the great fact that Nature often throws the strongest light upon her laws
by the apparent exceptions and anomalies which from time to time are
observed. We have done with the lusus naturae of earlier generations.
We pay little attention to the stories of 'miracles,' except so far as we
receive them ready-made at the hands of the churches which still hold to
them. Not the less do we meet with strange and surprising facts, which a
century or two ago would have been handled by the clergy and the courts,
but today are calmly recorded and judged by the best light our knowledge
of the laws of life can throw upon them. It must be owned that there are
stories which we can hardly dispute, so clear and full is the evidence in
their support, which do, notwithstanding, tax our faith and sometimes
leave us sceptical in spite of all the testimony which supports them.
"In this category many will be disposed to place the case we commend to
the candid attention of the Academy. If one were told that a young man,
a gentleman by birth and training, well formed, in apparently perfect
health, of agreeable physiognomy and manners, could not endure the
presence of the most attractive young woman, but was seized with deadly
terror and sudden collapse of all the powers of life, if he came into her
immediate presence; if it were added that this same young man did not
shrink from the presence of an old withered crone; that he had a certain
timid liking for little maidens who had not yet outgrown the company of
their dolls, the listener would be apt to smile, if he did not laugh, at
the absurdity of the fable. Surely, he would say, this must be the
fiction of some fanciful brain, the whim of some romancer, the trick of
some playwright. It would make a capital farce, this idea, carried out.
A young man slighting the lovely heroine of the little comedy and making
love to her grandmother! This would, of course, be overstating the truth
of the story, but to such a misinterpretation the plain facts lend
themselves too easily. We will relate the leading circumstances of the
case, as they were told us with perfect simplicity and frankness by the
subject of an affection which, if classified, would come under the
general head of Antipathy, but to which, if we give it a name, we shall
have to apply the term Gynophobia, or Fear of Woman."
Here follows the account furnished to the writer of the paper, which is
in all essentials identical with that already laid before the reader.
"Such is the case offered to our consideration. Assuming its
truthfulness in all its particulars, it remains to see in the first place
whether or not it is as entirely exceptional and anomalous as it seems at
first sight, or whether it is only the last term of a series of cases
which in their less formidable aspect are well known to us in literature,
in the records of science, and even in our common experience.
"To most of those among us the explanations we are now about to give are
entirely superfluous. But there are some whose chief studies have been
in different directions, and who will not complain if certain facts are
mentioned which to the expert will seem rudimentary, and which hardly
require recapitulation to those who are familiarly acquainted with the
"The heart is the centre of every living movement in the higher animals,
and in man, furnishing in varying amount, or withholding to a greater or
less extent, the needful supplies to all parts of the system. If its
action is diminished to a certain degree, faintness is the immediate
consequence; if it is arrested, loss of consciousness; if its action is
not soon restored, death, of which fainting plants the white flag,
remains in possession of the system.
"How closely the heart is under the influence of the emotions we need not
go to science to learn, for all human experience and all literature are
overflowing with evidence that shows the extent of this relation.
Scripture is full of it; the heart in Hebrew poetry represents the entire
life, we might almost say. Not less forcible is the language of
Shakespeare, as for instance, in 'Measure for Measure:'
"'Why does my blood thus muster to my heart,
Making it both unable for itself
And dispossessing all my other parts
Of necessary fitness?'
"More especially is the heart associated in every literature with the
passion of love. A famous old story is that of Galen, who was called to
the case of a young lady long ailing, and wasting away from some cause
the physicians who had already seen her were unable to make out. The
shrewd old practitioner suspected that love was at the bottom of the
young lady's malady. Many relatives and friends of both sexes, all of
them ready with their sympathy, came to see her. The physician sat by her
bedside during one of these visits, and in an easy, natural way took her
hand and placed a finger on her pulse. It beat quietly enough until a
certain comely young gentleman entered the apartment, when it suddenly
rose infrequency, and at the same moment her hurried breathing, her
changing color, pale and flushed by turns, betrayed the profound
agitation his presence excited. This was enough for the sagacious Greek;
love was the disease, the cure of which by its like may be claimed as an
anticipation of homoeopathy. In the frontispiece to the fine old 'Junta'
edition of the works of Galen, you may find among the wood-cuts a
representation of the interesting scene, with the title Amantas
Dignotio,—the diagnosis, or recognition, of the lover.
"Love has many languages, but the heart talks through all of them. The
pallid or burning cheek tells of the failing or leaping fountain which
gives it color. The lovers at the 'Brookside' could hear each other's
hearts beating. When Genevieve, in Coleridge's poem, forgot herself, and
was beforehand with her suitor in her sudden embrace,
"'T was partly love and partly fear,
And partly 't was a bashful art,
That I might rather feel than see
The swelling of her heart'
"Always the heart, whether its hurried action is seen, or heard, or felt.
But it is not always in this way that the 'deceitful' organ treats the
"'Faint heart never won fair lady.'
"This saying was not meant, perhaps, to be taken literally, but it has
its literal truth. Many a lover has found his heart sink within
him,—lose all its force, and leave him weak as a child in his emotion at
the sight of the object of his affections. When Porphyro looked upon
Madeline at her prayers in the chapel, it was too much for him:
"'She seemed a splendid angel, newly drest,
Save wings, for heaven:—Porphyro grew faint,
She knelt, so pure a thing, so free from earthly taint.'
"And in Balzac's novel, 'Cesar Birotteau,' the hero of the story 'fainted
away for-joy at the moment when, under a linden-tree, at Sceaux,
Constance-Barbe-Josephine accepted him as her future husband.'
"One who faints is dead if he does not I come to,' and nothing is more
likely than that too susceptible lovers have actually gone off in this
way. Everything depends on how the heart behaves itself in these and
similar trying moments. The mechanism of its actions becomes an
interesting subject, therefore, to lovers of both sexes, and to all who
are capable of intense emotions.
"The heart is a great reservoir, which distributes food, drink, air, and
heat to every part of the system, in exchange for its waste material. It
knocks at the gate of every organ seventy or eighty times in a minute,
calling upon it to receive its supplies and unload its refuse. Between
it and the brain there is the closest relation. The emotions, which act
upon it as we have seen, govern it by a mechanism only of late years
thoroughly understood. This mechanism can be made plain enough to the
reader who is not afraid to believe that he can understand it.
"The brain, as all know, is the seat of ideas, emotions, volition. It is
the great central telegraphic station with which many lesser centres are
in close relation, from which they receive, and to which they transmit,
their messages. The heart has its own little brains, so to speak,—small
collections of nervous substance which govern its rhythmical motions
under ordinary conditions. But these lesser nervous centres are to a
large extent dominated by influences transmitted from certain groups of
nerve-cells in the brain and its immediate dependencies.
"There are two among the special groups of nerve-cells which produce
directly opposite effects. One of these has the power of accelerating
the action of the heart, while the other has the power of retarding or
arresting this action. One acts as the spur, the other as the bridle.
According as one or the other predominates, the action of the heart will
be stimulated or restrained. Among the great modern discoveries in
physiology is that of the existence of a distinct centre of inhibition,
as the restraining influence over the heart is called.
"The centre of inhibition plays a terrible part in the history of
cowardice and of unsuccessful love. No man can be brave without blood to
sustain his courage, any more than he can think, as the German
materialist says, not absurdly, without phosphorus. The fainting lover
must recover his circulation, or his lady will lend him her
smelling-salts and take a gallant with blood in his cheeks. Porphyro got
over his faintness before he ran away with Madeline, and Cesar Birotteau
was an accepted lover when he swooned with happiness: but many an officer
has been cashiered, and many a suitor has been rejected, because the
centre of inhibition has got the upper hand of the centre of stimulation.
"In the well-known cases of deadly antipathy which have been recorded,
the most frequent cause has been the disturbed and depressing influence
of the centre of inhibition. Fainting at the sight of blood is one of
the commonest examples of this influence. A single impression, in a very
early period of atmospheric existence,—perhaps, indirectly, before that
period, as was said to have happened in the case of James the First of
England,—may establish a communication between this centre and the heart
which will remain open ever afterwards. How does a footpath across a
field establish itself? Its curves are arbitrary, and what we call
accidental, but one after another follows it as if he were guided by a
chart on which it was laid down. So it is with this dangerous transit
between the centre of inhibition and the great organ of life. If once
the path is opened by the track of some profound impression, that same
impression, if repeated, or a similar one, is likely to find the old
footmarks and follow them. Habit only makes the path easier to traverse,
and thus the unreasoning terror of a child, of an infant, may perpetuate
itself in a timidity which shames the manhood of its subject.
"The case before us is an exceptional and most remarkable example of the
effect of inhibition on the heart.
"We will not say that we believe it to be unique in the history of the
human race; on the contrary, we do not doubt that there have been similar
cases, and that in some rare instances sudden death has been the
consequence of seizures like that of the subject of this Report. The case
most like it is that of Colone Townsend, which is too well known to
require any lengthened description in this paper. It is enough to recall
the main facts. He could by a voluntary effort suspend the action of his
heart for a considerable period, during which he lay like one dead,
pulseless, and without motion. After a time the circulation returned,
and he does not seem to have been the worse for his dangerous, or
seemingly dangerous, experiment. But in his case it was by an act of the
will that the heart's action was suspended. In the case before us it is
an involuntary impulse transmitted from the brain to the inhibiting
centre, which arrests the cardiac movements.
"What is like to be the further history of the case?
"The subject of this anomalous affliction is now more than twenty years
old. The chain of nervous actions has become firmly established. It
might have been hoped that the changes of adolescence would have effected
a transformation of the perverted instinct. On the contrary, the whole
force of this instinct throws itself on the centre of inhibition, instead
of quickening the heart-beats, and sending the rush of youthful blood
with fresh life through the entire system to the throbbing finger-tips.
"Is it probable that time and circumstances will alter a habit of nervous
interactions so long established? We are disposed to think that there is
a chance of its being broken up. And we are not afraid to say that we
suspect the old gypsy woman, whose prophecy took such hold of the
patient's imagination, has hit upon the way in which the 'spell,' as she
called it, is to be dissolved. She must, in all probability, have had a
hint of the 'antipatia' to which the youth before her was a victim, and
its cause, and if so, her guess as to the probable mode in which the
young man would obtain relief from his unfortunate condition was the one
which would naturally suggest itself.
"If once the nervous impression which falls on the centre of inhibition
can be made to change its course, so as to follow its natural channel, it
will probably keep to that channel ever afterwards. And this will, it is
most likely, be effected by some sudden, unexpected impression. If he
were drowning, and a young woman should rescue him, it is by no means
impossible that the change in the nervous current we have referred to
might be brought about as rapidly, as easily, as the reversal of the
poles in a magnet, which is effected in an instant. But he cannot be
expected to throw himself into the water just at the right moment when
the 'fair lady' of the gitana's prophecy is passing on the shore.
Accident may effect the cure which art seems incompetent to perform. It
would not be strange if in some future seizure he should never come back
to consciousness. But it is quite conceivable, on the other hand, that a
happier event may occur, that in a single moment the nervous polarity may
be reversed, the whole course of his life changed, and his past terrible
experiences be to him like a scarce-remembered dream.
"This is one, of those cases in which it is very hard to determine the
wisest course to be pursued. The question is not unlike that which
arises in certain cases of dislocation of the bones of the neck. Shall
the unfortunate sufferer go all his days with his face turned far round
to the right or the left, or shall an attempt be made to replace the
dislocated bones? an attempt which may succeed, or may cause instant
death. The patient must be consulted as to whether he will take the
chance. The practitioner may be unwilling to risk it, if the patient
consents. Each case must be judged on its own special grounds. We
cannot think that this young man is doomed to perpetual separation from
the society of womanhood during the period of its bloom and attraction.
But to provoke another seizure after his past experiences would be too
much like committing suicide. We fear that we must trust to the chapter
of accidents. The strange malady—for such it is—has become a second
nature, and may require as energetic a shock to displace it as it did to
bring it into existence. Time alone can solve this question, on which
depends the well-being and, it may be, the existence of a young man every
way fitted to be happy, and to give happiness, if restored to his true
DR. BUTTS REFLECTS.
Dr. Butts sat up late at night reading these papers and reflecting upon
them. He was profoundly impressed and tenderly affected by the entire
frankness, the absence of all attempt at concealment, which Maurice
showed in placing these papers at his disposal. He believed that his
patient would recover from this illness for which he had been taking care
of him. He thought deeply and earnestly of what he could do for him
after he should have regained his health and strength.
There were references, in Maurice's own account of himself, which the
doctor called to mind with great interest after reading his brief
autobiography. Some one person—some young woman, it must be—had
produced a singular impression upon him since those earlier perilous
experiences through which he had passed. The doctor could not help
thinking of that meeting with Euthymia of which she had spoken to him.
Maurice, as she said, turned pale,—he clapped his hand to his breast.
He might have done so if he had met her chambermaid, or any straggling
damsel of the village. But Euthymia was not a young woman to be looked
upon with indifference. She held herself like a queen, and walked like
one, not a stage queen, but one born and bred to self-reliance, and
command of herself as well as others. One could not pass her without
being struck with her noble bearing and spirited features. If she had
known how Maurice trembled as he looked upon her, in that conflict of
attraction and uncontrollable dread,—if she had known it! But what,
even then, could she have done? Nothing but get away from him as fast as
she could. As it was, it was a long time before his agitation subsided,
and his heart beat with its common force and frequency.
Dr. Butts was not a male gossip nor a matchmaking go-between. But he
could not help thinking what a pity it was that these two young persons
could not come together as other young people do in the pairing season,
and find out whether they cared for and were fitted for each other. He
did not pretend to settle this question in his own mind, but the thought
was a natural one. And here was a gulf between them as deep and wide as
that between Lazarus and Dives. Would it ever be bridged over? This
thought took possession of the doctor's mind, and he imagined all sorts
of ways of effecting some experimental approximation between Maurice and
Euthymia. From this delicate subject he glanced off to certain general
considerations suggested by the extraordinary history he had been
reading. He began by speculating as to the possibility of the personal
presence of an individual making itself perceived by some channel other
than any of the five senses. The study of the natural sciences teaches
those who are devoted to them that the most insignificant facts may lead
the way to the discovery of the most important, all-pervading laws of the
universe. From the kick of a frog's hind leg to the amazing triumphs
which began with that seemingly trivial incident is a long, a very long
stride if Madam Galvani had not been in delicate health, which was the
occasion of her having some frog-broth prepared for her, the world of
to-day might not be in possession of the electric telegraph and the light
which blazes like the sun at high noon. A common-looking occurrence, one
seemingly unimportant, which had hitherto passed unnoticed with the
ordinary course of things, was the means of introducing us to a new and
vast realm of closely related phenomena. It was like a key that we might
have picked up, looking so simple that it could hardly fit any lock but
one of like simplicity, but which should all at once throw back the bolts
of the one lock which had defied the most ingenious of our complex
implements and open our way into a hitherto unexplored territory.
It certainly was not through the eye alone that Maurice felt the
paralyzing influence. He could contemplate Euthymia from a distance, as
he did on the day of the boat-race, without any nervous disturbance. A
certain proximity was necessary for the influence to be felt, as in the
case of magnetism and electricity. An atmosphere of danger surrounded
every woman he approached during the period when her sex exercises its
most powerful attractions. How far did that atmosphere extend, and
through what channel did it act?
The key to the phenomena of this case, he believed, was to be found in a
fact as humble as that which gave birth to the science of galvanism and
its practical applications. The circumstances connected with the very
common antipathy to cats were as remarkable in many points of view as the
similar circumstances in the case of Maurice Kirkwood. The subjects of
that antipathy could not tell what it was which disturbed their nervous
system. All they knew was that a sense of uneasiness, restlessness,
oppression, came over them in the presence of one of these animals. He
remembered the fact already mentioned, that persons sensitive to this
impression can tell by their feelings if a cat is concealed in the
apartment in which they may happen to be. It may be through some
emanation. It may be through the medium of some electrical disturbance.
What if the nerve-thrills passing through the whole system of the animal
propagate themselves to a certain distance without any more regard to
intervening solids than is shown by magnetism? A sieve lets sand pass
through it; a filter arrests sand, but lets fluids pass, glass holds
fluids, but lets light through; wood shuts out light, but magnetic
attraction goes through it as sand went through the sieve. No good
reasons can be given why the presence of a cat should not betray itself
to certain organizations, at a distance, through the walls of a box in
which the animal is shut up. We need not disbelieve the stories which
allege such an occurrence as a fact and a not very infrequent one.
If the presence of a cat can produce its effects under these
circumstances, why should not that of a human being under similar
conditions, acting on certain constitutions, exercise its specific
influence? The doctor recalled a story told him by one of his friends, a
story which the friend himself heard from the lips of the distinguished
actor, the late Mr. Fechter. The actor maintained that Rachel had no
genius as an actress. It was all Samson's training and study, according
to him, which explained the secret of her wonderful effectiveness on the
stage. But magnetism, he said,—magnetism, she was full of. He declared
that he was made aware of her presence on the stage, when he could not
see her or know of her presence otherwise, by this magnetic emanation.
The doctor took the story for what it was worth. There might very
probably be exaggeration, perhaps high imaginative coloring about it, but
it was not a whit more unlikely than the cat-stories, accepted as
authentic. He continued this train of thought into further developments.
Into this series of reflections we will try to follow him.
What is the meaning of the halo with which artists have surrounded the
heads of their pictured saints, of the aureoles which wraps them like a
luminous cloud? Is it not a recognition of the fact that these holy
personages diffuse their personality in the form of a visible emanation,
which reminds us of Milton's definition of light:
"Bright effluence of bright essence increate"?
The common use of the term influence would seem to imply the existence of
its correlative, effluence. There is no good reason that I can see, the
doctor said to himself, why among the forces which work upon the nervous
centres there should not be one which acts at various distances from its
source. It may not be visible like the "glory" of the painters, it may
not be appreciable by any one of the five senses, and yet it may be felt
by the person reached by it as much as if it were a palpable
presence,—more powerfully, perhaps, from the mystery which belongs to
its mode of action.
Why should not Maurice have been rendered restless and anxious by the
unseen nearness of a young woman who was in the next room to him, just as
the persons who have the dread of cats are made conscious of their
presence through some unknown channel? Is it anything strange that the
larger and more powerful organism should diffuse a consciousness of its
presence to some distance as well as the slighter and feebler one? Is it
strange that this mysterious influence or effluence should belong
especially or exclusively to the period of complete womanhood in
distinction from that of immaturity or decadence? On the contrary, it
seems to be in accordance with all the analogies of nature,—analogies
too often cruel in the sentence they pass upon the human female.
Among the many curious thoughts which came up in the doctor's mind was
this, which made him smile as if it were a jest, but which he felt very
strongly had its serious side, and was involved with the happiness or
suffering of multitudes of youthful persons who die without telling their
How many young men have a mortal fear of woman, as woman, which they
never overcome, and in consequence of which the attraction which draws
man towards her, as strong in them as in others,—oftentimes, in virtue
of their peculiarly sensitive organizations, more potent in them than in
others of like age and conditions,—in consequence of which fear, this
attraction is completely neutralized, and all the possibilities of
doubled and indefinitely extended life depending upon it are left
unrealized! Think what numbers of young men in Catholic countries devote
themselves to lives of celibacy. Think how many young men lose all their
confidence in the presence of the young woman to whom they are most
attracted, and at last steal away from a companionship which it is
rapture to dream of and torture to endure, so does the presence of the
beloved object paralyze all the powers of expression. Sorcerers have in
all time and countries played on the hopes and terrors of lovers. Once
let loose a strong impulse on the centre of inhibition, and the warrior
who had faced bayonets and batteries becomes a coward whom the
well-dressed hero of the ball-room and leader of the German will put to
ignominious flight in five minutes of easy, audacious familiarity with
Yes, the doctor went on with his reflections, I do not know that I have
seen the term Gynophobia before I opened this manuscript, but I have seen
the malady many times. Only one word has stood between many a pair of
young people and their lifelong happiness, and that word has got as far
as the lips, but the lips trembled and would not, could not, shape that
little word. All young women are not like Coleridge's Genevieve, who
knew how to help her lover out of his difficulty, and said yes before he
had asked for an answer. So the wave which was to have wafted them on to
the shore of Elysium has just failed of landing them, and back they have
been drawn into the desolate ocean to meet no more on earth.
Love is the master-key, he went on thinking, love is the master-key that
opens the gates of happiness, of hatred, of jealousy, and, most easily of
all, the gate of fear. How terrible is the one fact of beauty!—not only
the historic wonder of beauty, that "burnt the topless towers of Ilium"
for the smile of Helen, and fired the palaces of Babylon by the hand of
Thais, but the beauty which springs up in all times and places, and
carries a torch and wears a serpent for a wreath as truly as any of the
Eumenides. Paint Beauty with her foot upon a skull and a dragon coiled
The doctor smiled at his own imposing classical allusions and pictorial
imagery. Drifting along from thought to thought, he reflected on the
probable consequences of the general knowledge of Maurice Kirkwood's
story, if it came before the public.
What a piece of work it would make among the lively youths of the
village, to be sure! What scoffing, what ridicule, what embellishments,
what fables, would follow in the trail of the story! If the Interviewer
got hold of it, how "The People's Perennial and Household Inquisitor"
would blaze with capitals in its next issue! The young fellows' of the
place would be disposed to make fun of the whole matter. The young
girls-the doctor hardly dared to think what would happen when the story
got about among them. "The Sachem" of the solitary canoe, the bold
horseman, the handsome hermit,—handsome so far as the glimpses they had
got of him went,—must needs be an object of tender interest among them,
now that he was ailing, suffering, in danger of his life, away from
friends,—poor fellow! Little tokens of their regard had reached his
sick-chamber; bunches of flowers with dainty little notes, some of them
pinkish, some three-cornered, some of them with brief messages, others
"criss-crossed," were growing more frequent as it was understood that the
patient was likely to be convalescent before many days had passed. If it
should come to be understood that there was a deadly obstacle to their
coming into any personal relations with him, the doctor had his doubts
whether there were not those who would subject him to the risk; for there
were coquettes in the village,—strangers, visitors, let us hope,—who
would sacrifice anything or anybody to their vanity and love of conquest.
AN INTIMATE CONVERSATION.
The illness from which Maurice had suffered left him in a state of
profound prostration. The doctor, who remembered the extreme danger of
any overexertion in such cases, hardly allowed him to lift his head from
the pillow. But his mind was gradually recovering its balance, and he
was able to hold some conversation with those about him. His faithful
Paolo had grown so thin in waiting upon him and watching with him that
the village children had to take a second look at his face when they
passed him to make sure that it was indeed their old friend and no other.
But as his master advanced towards convalescence and the doctor assured
him that he was going in all probability to get well, Paolo's face began
to recover something of its old look and expression, and once more his
pockets filled themselves with comfits for his little circle of
worshipping three and four year old followers.
"How is Mr. Kirkwood?" was the question with which he was always greeted.
In the worst periods of the fever be rarely left his master. When he
did, and the question was put to him, he would shake his head sadly,
sometimes without a word, sometimes with tears and sobs and faltering
words,—more like a brokenhearted child than a stalwart man as he was,
such a man as soldiers are made of in the great Continental armies.
"He very bad,—he no eat nothing,—he—no say nothing,—he never be no
better," and all his Southern nature betrayed itself in a passionate
burst of lamentation. But now that he began to feel easy about his
master, his ready optimism declared itself no less transparently.
"He better every day now. He get well in few weeks, sure. You see him
on hoss in little while." The kind-hearted creature's life was bound up
in that of his "master," as he loved to call him, in sovereign disregard
of the comments of the natives, who held themselves too high for any such
recognition of another as their better. They could not understand how
he, so much their superior in bodily presence, in air and manner, could
speak of the man who employed him in any other way than as "Kirkwood,"
without even demeaning himself so far as to prefix a "Mr." to it. But
"my master" Maurice remained for Paolo in spite of the fact that all men
are born free and equal. And never was a servant more devoted to a
master than was Paolo to Maurice during the days of doubt and danger.
Since his improvement Maurice insisted upon his leaving his chamber and
getting out of the house, so as to breathe the fresh air of which he was
in so much need. It worried him to see his servant returning after too
short an absence. The attendant who had helped him in the care of the
patient was within call, and Paolo was almost driven out of the house by
the urgency of his master's command that he should take plenty of
exercise in the open air.
Notwithstanding the fact of Maurice's improved condition, although the
force of the disease had spent itself, the state of weakness to which he
had been reduced was a cause of some anxiety, and required great
precautions to be taken. He lay in bed, wasted, enfeebled to such a
degree that he had to be cared for very much as a child is tended.
Gradually his voice was coming back to him, so that he could hold some
conversation, as was before mentioned, with those about him. The doctor
waited for the right moment to make mention of the manuscript which
Maurice had submitted to him. Up to this time, although it had been
alluded to and the doctor had told him of the intense interest with which
he had read it, he had never ventured to make it the subject of any long
talk, such as would be liable to fatigue his patient. But now he thought
the time had come.
"I have been thinking," the doctor said, "of the singular seizures to
which you are liable, and as it is my business not merely to think about
such cases, but to do what I can to help any who may be capable of
receiving aid from my art, I wish to have some additional facts about
your history. And in the first place, will you allow me to ask what led
you to this particular place? It is so much less known to the public at
large than many other resorts that we naturally ask, What brings this or
that new visitor among us? We have no ill-tasting, natural spring of bad
water to be analyzed by the state chemist and proclaimed as a specific.
We have no great gambling-houses, no racecourse (except that fox boats on
the lake); we have no coaching-club, no great balls, few lions of any
kind, so we ask, What brings this or that stranger here? And I think I
may venture to ask you whether any, special motive brought you among us,
or whether it was accident that determined your coming to this place."
"Certainly, doctor," Maurice answered, "I will tell you with great
pleasure. Last year I passed on the border of a great river. The year
before I lived in a lonely cottage at the side of the ocean. I wanted
this year to be by a lake. You heard the paper read at the meeting of
your society, or at least you heard of it,—for such matters are always
talked over in a village like this. You can judge by that paper, or
could, if it were before you, of the frame of mind in which I came here.
I was tired of the sullen indifference of the ocean and the babbling
egotism of the river, always hurrying along on its own private business.
I wanted the dreamy stillness of a large, tranquil sheet of water that
had nothing in particular to do, and would leave me to myself and my
thoughts. I had read somewhere about the place, and the old Anchor
Tavern, with its paternal landlord and motherly landlady and
old-fashioned household, and that, though it was no longer open as a
tavern, I could find a resting-place there early in the season, at least
for a few days, while I looked about me for a quiet place in which I
might pass my summer. I have found this a pleasant residence. By being
up early and out late I have kept myself mainly in the solitude which has
become my enforced habit of life. The season has gone by too swiftly for
me since my dream has become a vision."
The doctor was sitting with his hand round Maurice's wrist, three fingers
on his pulse. As he spoke these last words he noticed that the pulse
fluttered a little,—beat irregularly a few times; intermitted; became
feeble and thready; while his cheek grew whiter than the pallid
bloodlessness of his long illness had left it.
"No more talk, now," he said. "You are too tired to be using your voice.
I will hear all the rest another time."
The doctor had interrupted Maurice at an interesting point. What did he
mean by saying that his dream had become a vision? This is what the
doctor was naturally curious, and professionally anxious, to know. But
his hand was still on his patient's pulse, which told him unmistakably
that the heart had taken the alarm and was losing its energy under the
depressing nervous influence. Presently, however, it recovered its
natural force and rhythm, and a faint flush came back to the pale cheek.
The doctor remembered the story of Galen, and the young maiden whose
complaint had puzzled the physicians.
The next day his patient was well enough to enter once more into
"You said something about a dream of yours which had become a vision,"
said the doctor, with his fingers on his patient's wrist, as before. He
felt the artery leap, under his pressure, falter a little, stop, then
begin again, growing fuller in its beat. The heart had felt the pull of
the bridle, but the spur had roused it to swift reaction.
"You know the story of my past life, doctor," Maurice answered; "and, I
will tell you what is the vision which has taken the place of my dreams.
You remember the boat-race? I watched it from a distance, but I held a
powerful opera-glass in my hand, which brought the whole crew of the
young ladies' boat so close to me that I could see the features, the
figures, the movements, of every one of the rowers. I saw the little
coxswain fling her bouquet in the track of the other boat,—you remember
how the race was lost and won,—but I saw one face among those young
girls which drew me away from all the rest. It was that of the young lady
who pulled the bow oar, the captain of the boat's crew. I have since
learned her name, you know it well,—I need not name her. Since that day
I have had many distant glimpses of her; and once I met her so squarely
that the deadly sensation came over me, and I felt that in another moment
I should fall senseless at her feet. But she passed on her way and I on
mine, and the spasm which had clutched my heart gradually left it, and I
was as well as before. You know that young lady, doctor?"
"I do; and she is a very noble creature. You are not the first young man
who has been fascinated, almost at a glance, by Miss Euthymia Tower. And
she is well worth knowing more intimately."
The doctor gave him a full account of the young lady, of her early days,
her character, her accomplishments. To all this he listened devoutly,
and when the doctor left him he said to himself, "I will see her and
speak with her, if it costs me my life."
"The Wonder" of the Corinna Institute had never willingly made a show of
her gymnastic accomplishments. Her feats, which were so much admired,
were only her natural exercise. Gradually the dumb-bells others used
became too light for her, the ropes she climbed too short, the clubs she
exercised with seemed as if they were made of cork instead of being heavy
wood, and all the tests and meters of strength and agility had been
strained beyond the standards which the records of the school had marked
as their historic maxima. It was not her fault that she broke a
dynamometer one day; she apologized for it, but the teacher said he
wished he could have a dozen broken every year in the same way. The
consciousness of her bodily strength had made her very careful in her
movements. The pressure of her hand was never too hard for the tenderest
little maiden whose palm was against her own. So far from priding
herself on her special gifts, she was disposed to be ashamed of them.
There were times and places in which she could give full play to her
muscles without fear or reproach. She had her special costume for the
boat and for the woods. She would climb the rugged old hemlocks now and
then for the sake of a wide outlook, or to peep into the large nest where
a hawk, or it may be an eagle, was raising her little brood of
There were those who spoke of her wanderings in lonely places as an
unsafe exposure. One sometimes met doubtful characters about the
neighborhood, and stories were—told of occurrences which might well
frighten a young girl, and make her cautious of trusting herself alone in
the wild solitudes which surrounded the little village.. Those who knew
Euthymia thought her quite equal to taking care of herself. Her very
look was enough to ensure the respect of any vagabond who might cross her
path, and if matters came to the worst she would prove as dangerous as a
But it was a pity to associate this class of thoughts with a noble
specimen of true womanhood. Health, beauty, strength, were fine
qualities, and in all these she was rich. She enjoyed all her natural
gifts, and thought little about them. Unwillingly, but over-persuaded by
some of her friends, she had allowed her arm and hand to be modelled.
The artists who saw the cast wondered if it would be possible to get the
bust of the maiden from whom it was taken. Nobody would have dared to
suggest such an idea to her except Lurida. For Lurida sex was a trifling
accident, to be disregarded not only in the interests of humanity, but
for the sake of art.
"It is a shame," she said to Euthymia, "that you will not let your
exquisitely moulded form be perpetuated in marble. You have no right to
withhold such a model from the contemplation of your fellow-creatures.
Think how rare it is to see a woman who truly represents the divine idea!
You belong to your race, and not to yourself,—at least, your beauty is a
gift not to be considered as a piece of private property. Look at the
so-called Venus of Milo. Do you suppose the noble woman who was the
original of that divinely chaste statue felt any scruple about allowing
the sculptor to reproduce her pure, unblemished perfections?"
Euthymia was always patient with her imaginative friend. She listened to
her eloquent discourse, but she could not help blushing, used as she was
to Lurida's audacities. "The Terror's" brain had run away with a large
share of the blood which ought to have gone to the nourishment of her
general system. She could not help admiring, almost worshipping, a
companion whose being was rich in the womanly developments with which
nature had so economically endowed herself. An impoverished organization
carries with it certain neutral qualities which make its subject appear,
in the presence of complete manhood and womanhood, like a deaf-mute among
speaking persons. The deep blush which crimsoned Euthymia's cheek at
Lurida's suggestion was in a strange contrast to her own undisturbed
expression. There was a range of sensibilities of which Lurida knew far
less than she did of those many and difficult studies which had absorbed
her vital forces. She was startled to see what an effect her proposal
had produced, for Euthymia was not only blushing, but there was a flame
in her eyes which she had hardly ever seen before.
"Is this only your own suggestion?" Euthymia said, "or has some one been
putting the idea into your head?" The truth was that she had happened to
meet the Interviewer at the Library, one day, and she was offended by the
long, searching stare with which that individual had honored her. It
occurred to her that he, or some such visitor to the place, might have
spoken of her to Lurida, or to some other person who had repeated what
was said to Lurida, as a good subject for the art of the sculptor, and
she felt all her maiden sensibilities offended by the proposition.
Lurida could not understand her excitement, but she was startled by it.
Natures which are complementary of each other are liable to these
accidental collisions of feeling. They get along very well together,
none the worse for their differences, until all at once the tender spot
of one or the other is carelessly handled in utter unconsciousness on the
part of the aggressor, and the exclamation, the outcry, or the explosion
explains the situation altogether too emphatically. Such scenes did not
frequently occur between the two friends, and this little flurry was soon
over; but it served to warn Lurida that Miss Euthymia Tower was not of
that class of self-conscious beauties who would be ready to dispute the
empire of the Venus of Milo on her own ground, in defences as scanty and
insufficient as those of the marble divinity.
Euthymia had had admirers enough, at a distance, while at school, and in
the long vacations, near enough to find out that she was anything but
easy to make love to. She fairly frightened more than one rash youth who
was disposed to be too sentimental in her company. They overdid
flattery, which she was used to and tolerated, but which cheapened the
admirer in her estimation, and now and then betrayed her into an
expression which made him aware of the fact, and was a discouragement to
aggressive amiability. The real difficulty was that not one of her
adorers had ever greatly interested her. It could not be that nature had
made her insensible. It must have been because the man who was made for
her had never yet shown himself. She was not easy to please, that was
certain; and she was one of those young women who will not accept as a
lover one who but half pleases them. She could not pick up the first
stick that fell in her way and take it to shape her ideal out of. Many
of the good people of the village doubted whether Euthymia would ever be
"There 's nothing good enough for her in this village," said the old
landlord of what had been the Anchor Tavern.
"She must wait till a prince comes along," the old landlady said in
reply. "She'd make as pretty a queen as any of them that's born to it.
Wouldn't she be splendid with a gold crown on her head, and di'monds a
glitterin' all over her! D' you remember how handsome she looked in the
tableau, when the fair was held for the Dorcas Society? She had on an old
dress of her grandma's,—they don't make anything half so handsome
nowadays,—and she was just as pretty as a pictur'. But what's the use of
good looks if they scare away folks? The young fellows think that such a
handsome girl as that would cost ten times as much to keep as a plain
one. She must be dressed up like an empress,—so they seem to think. It
ain't so with Euthymy: she'd look like a great lady dressed anyhow, and
she has n't got any more notions than the homeliest girl that ever stood
before a glass to look at herself."
In the humbler walks of Arrowhead Village society, similar opinions were
entertained of Miss Euthymia. The fresh-water fisherman represented
pretty well the average estimate of the class to which he belonged. "I
tell ye," said he to another gentleman of leisure, whose chief occupation
was to watch the coming and going of the visitors to Arrowhead
Village,—"I tell ye that girl ain't a gon to put up with any o' them
slab-sided fellahs that you see hangin' raound to look at her every
Sunday when she comes aout o' meetin'. It's one o' them big gents from
Boston or New York that'll step up an' kerry her off."
In the mean time nothing could be further from the thoughts of Euthymia
than the prospect of an ambitious worldly alliance. The ideals of young
women cost them many and great disappointments, but they save them very
often from those lifelong companionships which accident is constantly
trying to force upon them, in spite of their obvious unfitness. The
higher the ideal, the less likely is the commonplace neighbor who has the
great advantage of easy access, or the boarding-house acquaintance who
can profit by those vacant hours when the least interesting of visitors
is better than absolute loneliness,—the less likely are these
undesirable personages to be endured, pitied, and, if not embraced,
accepted, for want of something better. Euthymia found so much pleasure
in the intellectual companionship of Lurida, and felt her own prudence
and reserve so necessary to that independent young lady, that she had
been contented, so far, with friendship, and thought of love only in an
abstract sort of way. Beneath her abstractions there was a capacity of
loving which might have been inferred from the expression of her
features, the light that shone in her eyes, the tones of her voice, all
of which were full of the language which belongs to susceptible natures.
How many women never say to themselves that they were born to love, until
all at once the discovery opens upon them, as the sense that he was born
a painter is said to have dawned suddenly upon Correggio!
Like all the rest of the village and its visitors, she could not help
thinking a good deal about the young man lying ill amongst strangers. She
was not one of those who had sent him the three-cornered notes or even a
bunch of flowers. She knew that he was receiving abounding tokens of
kindness and sympathy from different quarters, and a certain inward
feeling restrained her from joining in these demonstrations. If he had
been suffering from some deadly and contagious malady she would have
risked her life to help him, without a thought that there was any
wonderful heroism in such self-devotion. Her friend Lurida might have
been capable of the same sacrifice, but it would be after reasoning with
herself as to the obligations which her sense of human rights and duties
laid upon her, and fortifying her courage with the memory of noble deeds
recorded of women in ancient and modern history. With Euthymia the
primary human instincts took precedence of all reasoning or reflection
about them. All her sympathies were excited by the thought of this
forlorn stranger in his solitude, but she felt the impossibility of
giving any complete expression to them. She thought of Mungo Park in the
African desert, and she envied the poor negress who not only pitied him,
but had the blessed opportunity of helping and consoling him. How near
were these two human creatures, each needing the other! How near in
bodily presence, how far apart in their lives, with a barrier seemingly
impassable between them!
THE MEETING OF MAURICE AND EUTHYMIA.
These autumnal fevers, which carry off a large number of our young people
every year, are treacherous and deceptive diseases. Not only are they
liable, as has been mentioned, to various accidental complications which
may prove suddenly fatal, but too often, after convalescence seems to be
established, relapses occur which are more serious than the disease had
appeared to be in its previous course. One morning Dr. Butts found
Maurice worse instead of better, as he had hoped and expected to find
him. Weak as he was, there was every reason to fear the issue of this
return of his threatening symptoms. There was not much to do besides
keeping up the little strength which still remained. It was all needed.
Does the reader of these pages ever think of the work a sick man as much
as a well one has to perform while he is lying on his back and taking
what we call his "rest"? More than a thousand times an hour, between a
hundred and fifty and two hundred thousand times a week, he has to lift
the bars of the cage in which his breathing organs are confined, to save
himself from asphyxia. Rest! There is no rest until the last long sigh
tells those who look upon the dying that the ceaseless daily task, to
rest from which is death, is at last finished. We are all galley-slaves,
pulling at the levers of respiration,—which, rising and falling like so
many oars, drive us across an unfathomable ocean from one unknown shore
to another. No! Never was a galley-slave so chained as we are to these
four and twenty oars, at which we must tug day and night all our life
The doctor could not find any accidental cause to account for this
relapse. It presently occurred to him that there might be some local
source of infection which had brought on the complaint, and was still
keeping up the symptoms which were the ground of alarm. He determined to
remove Maurice to his own house, where he could be sure of pure air, and
where he himself could give more constant attention to his patient during
this critical period of his disease. It was a risk to take, but he could
be carried on a litter by careful men, and remain wholly passive during
the removal. Maurice signified his assent, as he could hardly help
doing,—for the doctor's suggestion took pretty nearly the form of a
command. He thought it a matter of life and death, and was gently urgent
for his patient's immediate change of residence. The doctor insisted on
having Maurice's books and other movable articles carried to his own
house, so that he should be surrounded by familiar sights, and not worry
himself about what might happen to objects which he valued, if they were
left behind him.
All these dispositions were quickly and quietly made, and everything was
ready for the transfer of the patient to the house of the hospitable
physician. Paolo was at the doctor's, superintending the arrangement of
Maurice's effects and making all ready for his master. The nurse in
attendance, a trustworthy man enough in the main, finding his patient in
a tranquil sleep, left his bedside for a little fresh air. While he was
at the door he heard a shouting which excited his curiosity, and he
followed the sound until he found himself at the border of the lake. It
was nothing very wonderful which had caused the shouting. A Newfoundland
dog had been showing off his accomplishments, and some of the idlers were
betting as to the time it would take him to bring back to his master the
various floating objects which had been thrown as far from the shore as
possible. He watched the dog a few minutes, when his attention was drawn
to a light wherry, pulled by one young lady and steered by another. It
was making for the shore, which it would soon reach. The attendant
remembered all at once, that he had left his charge, and just before the
boat came to land he turned and hurried back to the patient. Exactly how
long he had been absent he could not have said,—perhaps a quarter of an
hour, perhaps longer; the time appeared short to him, wearied with long
sitting and watching.
It had seemed, when he stole away from Maurice's bedside, that he was not
in the least needed. The patient was lying perfectly quiet, and to all
appearance wanted nothing more than letting alone. It was such a comfort
to look at something besides the worn features of a sick man, to hear
something besides his labored breathing and faint, half-whispered words,
that the temptation to indulge in these luxuries for a few minutes had
Unfortunately, Maurice's slumbers did not remain tranquil during the
absence of the nurse. He very soon fell into a dream, which began
quietly enough, but in the course of the sudden transitions which dreams
are in the habit of undergoing became successively anxious, distressing,
terrifying. His earlier and later experiences came up before him,
fragmentary, incoherent, chaotic even, but vivid as reality. He was at
the bottom of a coal-mine in one of those long, narrow galleries, or
rather worm-holes, in which human beings pass a large part of their
lives, like so many larvae boring their way into the beams and rafters of
some old building. How close the air was in the stifling passage through
which he was crawling! The scene changed, and he was climbing a slippery
sheet of ice with desperate effort, his foot on the floor of a shallow
niche, his hold an icicle ready to snap in an instant, an abyss below him
waiting for his foot to slip or the icicle to break. How thin the air
seemed, how desperately hard to breathe! He was thinking of Mont Blanc,
it may be, and the fearfully rarefied atmosphere which he remembered well
as one of the great trials in his mountain ascents. No, it was not Mont
Blanc,—it was not any one of the frozen Alpine summits; it was Hecla
that he was climbing.
The smoke of the burning mountain was wrapping itself around him; he was
choking with its dense fumes; he heard the flames roaring around him, he
felt the hot lava beneath his feet, he uttered a faint cry, and awoke.
The room was full of smoke. He was gasping for breath, strangling in the
smothering oven which his chamber had become.
The house was on fire!
He tried to call for help, but his voice failed him, and died away in a
whisper. He made a desperate effort, and rose so as to sit up in the bed
for an instant, but the effort was too much for him, and he sank back
upon his pillow, helpless. He felt that his hour had come, for he could
not live in this dreadful atmosphere, and he was left alone. He could
hear the crackle of fire as the flame crept along from one partition to
another. It was a cruel fate to be left to perish in that way,—the fate
that many a martyr had had to face,—to be first strangled and then
burned. Death had not the terror for him that it has for most young
persons. He was accustomed to thinking of it calmly, sometimes
wistfully, even to such a degree that the thought of self-destruction had
come upon him as a temptation. But here was death in an unexpected and
appalling shape. He did not know before how much he cared to live. All
his old recollections came before him as it were in one long, vivid
flash. The closed vista of memory opened to its far horizon-line, and
past and present were pictured in a single instant of clear vision. The
dread moment which had blighted his life returned in all its terror. He
felt the convulsive spring in the form of a faint, impotent spasm,—the
rush of air,—the thorns of the stinging and lacerating cradle into which
he was precipitated. One after another those paralyzing seizures which
had been like deadening blows on the naked heart seemed to repeat
themselves, as real as at the moment of their occurrence. The pictures
passed in succession with such rapidity that they appeared almost as if
simultaneous. The vision of the "inward eye" was so intensified in this
moment of peril that an instant was like an hour of common existence.
Those who have been very near drowning know well what this description
means. The development of a photograph may not explain it, but it
illustrates the curious and familiar fact of the revived recollections of
the drowning man's experience. The sensitive plate has taken one look at
a scene, and remembers it all,
Every little circumstance is there,—the hoof in air, the wing in flight,
the leaf as it falls, the wave as it breaks. All there, but invisible;
potentially present, but impalpable, inappreciable, as if not existing at
all. A wash is poured over it, and the whole scene comes out in all its
perfection of detail. In those supreme moments when death stares a man
suddenly in the face the rush of unwonted emotion floods the undeveloped
pictures of vanished years, stored away in the memory, the vast panorama
of a lifetime, and in one swift instant the past comes out as vividly as
if it were again the present. So it was at this moment with the sick
man, as he lay helpless and felt that he was left to die. For he saw no
hope of relief: the smoke was drifting in clouds into the room; the
flames were very near; if he was not reached and rescued immediately it
was all over with him.
His past life had flashed before him. Then all at once rose the thought
of his future,—of all its possibilities, of the vague hopes which he had
cherished of late that his mysterious doom would be lifted from him.
There was something, then, to be lived for, something! There was a new
life, it might be, in store for him, and such a new life! He thought of
all he was losing. Oh, could he but have lived to know the meaning of
love! And the passionate desire of life came over him,—not the dread of
death, but the longing for what the future might yet have of happiness
All this took place in the course of a very few moments. Dreams and
visions have little to do with measured time, and ten minutes, possibly
fifteen or twenty, were all that had passed since the beginning of those
nightmare terrors which were evidently suggested by the suffocating air
he was breathing.
What had happened? In the confusion of moving books and other articles
to the doctor's house, doors and windows had been forgotten. Among the
rest a window opening into the cellar, where some old furniture had been
left by a former occupant, had been left unclosed. One of the lazy
natives, who had lounged by the house smoking a bad cigar, had thrown the
burning stump in at this open window. He had no particular intention of
doing mischief, but he had that indifference to consequences which is the
next step above the inclination to crime. The burning stump happened to
fall among the straw of an old mattress which had been ripped open. The
smoker went his way without looking behind him, and it so chanced that no
other person passed the house for some time. Presently the straw was in
a blaze, and from this the fire extended to the furniture, to the
stairway leading up from the cellar, and was working its way along the
entry under the stairs leading up to the apartment where Maurice was
The blaze was fierce and swift, as it could not help being with such a
mass of combustibles,—loose straw from the mattress, dry old furniture,
and old warped floors which had been parching and shrinking for a score
or two of years. The whole house was, in the common language of the
newspaper reports, "a perfect tinder-box," and would probably be a heap
of ashes in half an hour. And there was this unfortunate deserted sick
man lying between life and death, beyond all help unless some unexpected
assistance should come to his rescue.
As the attendant drew near the house where Maurice was lying, he was
horror-struck to see dense volumes of smoke pouring out of the lower
windows. It was beginning to make its way through the upper windows,
also, and presently a tongue of fire shot out and streamed upward along
the side of the house. The man shrieked Fire! Fire! with all his might,
and rushed to the door of the building to make his way to Maurice's room
and save him. He penetrated but a short distance when, blinded and
choking with the smoke, he rushed headlong down the stairs with a cry of
despair that roused every man, woman, and child within reach of a human
voice. Out they came from their houses in every quarter of the village.
The shout of Fire! Fire! was the chief aid lent by many of the young and
old. Some caught up pails and buckets: the more thoughtful ones filling
them; the hastier snatching them up empty, trusting to find water nearer
the burning building.
Is the sick man moved?
This was the awful question first asked,—for in the little village all
knew that Maurice was about being transferred to the doctor's house. The
attendant, white as death, pointed to the chamber where he had left him,
and gasped out,
"He is there!"
A ladder! A ladder! was the general cry, and men and boys rushed off in
search of one. But a single minute was an age now, and there was no
ladder to be had without a delay of many minutes. The sick man was going
to be swallowed up in the flames before it could possibly arrive. Some
were going for a blanket or a coverlet, in the hope that the young man
might have strength enough to leap from the window and be safely caught
in it. The attendant shook his head, and said faintly,
"He cannot move from his bed."
One of the visitors at the village,—a millionaire, it was said,—a
kind-hearted man, spoke in hoarse, broken tones:
"A thousand dollars to the man that will bring him from his chamber!"
The fresh-water fisherman muttered, "I should like to save the man and to
see the money, but it ain't a thaousan' dollars, nor ten thaousan'
dollars, that'll pay a fellah for burnin' to death,—or even chokin' to
The carpenter, who knew the framework of every house in the village,
recent or old, shook his head.
"The stairs have been shored up," he said, "and when the fists that holds
'em up goes, down they'll come. It ain't safe for no man to go over them
stairs. Hurry along your ladder,—that's your only chance."
All was wild confusion around the burning house. The ladder they had
gone for was missing from its case,—a neighbor had carried it off for
the workmen who were shingling his roof. It would never get there in
time. There was a fire-engine, but it was nearly half a mile from the
lakeside settlement. Some were throwing on water in an aimless, useless
way; one was sending a thin stream through a garden syringe: it seemed
like doing something, at least. But all hope of saving Maurice was fast
giving way, so rapid was the progress of the flames, so thick the cloud
of smoke that filled the house and poured from the windows. Nothing was
heard but confused cries, shrieks of women, all sorts of orders to do
this and that, no one knowing what was to be done. The ladder! The
ladder! Five minutes more and it will be too late!
In the mean time the alarm of fire had reached Paolo, and he had stopped
his work of arranging Maurice's books in the same way as that in which
they had stood in his apartment, and followed in the direction of the
sound, little thinking that his master was lying helpless in the burning
house. "Some chimney afire," he said to himself; but he would go and
take a look, at any rate.
Before Paolo had reached the scene of destruction and impending death,
two young women, in boating dresses of decidedly Bloomerish aspect, had
suddenly joined the throng. "The Wonder" and "The Terror" of their
school-days—Miss Euthymia rower and Miss Lurida Vincent had just come
from the shore, where they had left their wherry. A few hurried words
told them the fearful story. Maurice Kirkwood was lying in the chamber
to which every eye was turned, unable to move, doomed to a dreadful
death. All that could be hoped was that he would perish by suffocation
rather than by the flames, which would soon be upon him. The man who had
attended him had just tried to reach his chamber, but had reeled back out
of the door, almost strangled by the smoke. A thousand dollars had been
offered to any one who would rescue the sick man, but no one had dared to
make the attempt; for the stairs might fall at any moment, if the smoke
did not blind and smother the man who passed them before they fell.
The two young women looked each other in the face for one swift moment.
"How can he be reached?" asked Lurida. "Is there nobody that will
venture his life to save a brother like that?"
"I will venture mine," said Euthymia.
"No! no!" shrieked Lurida,—"not you! not you! It is a man's work, not
yours! You shall not go!" Poor Lurida had forgotten all her theories in
this supreme moment. But Euthymia was not to be held back. Taking a
handkerchief from her neck, she dipped it in a pail of water and bound it
about her head. Then she took several deep breaths of air, and filled
her lungs as full as they would hold. She knew she must not take a
single breath in the choking atmosphere if she could possibly help it,
and Euthymia was noted for her power of staying under water so long that
more than once those who saw her dive thought she would never come up
again. So rapid were her movements that they paralyzed the bystanders,
who would forcibly have prevented her from carrying out her purpose. Her
imperious determination was not to be resisted. And so Euthymia, a
willing martyr, if martyr she was to be, and not saviour, passed within
the veil that hid the sufferer.
Lurida turned deadly pale, and sank fainting to the ground. She was the
first, but not the only one, of her sex that fainted as Euthymia
disappeared in the smoke of the burning building. Even the rector grew
very white in the face,—so white that one of his vestry-men begged him
to sit down at once, and sprinkled a few drops of water on his forehead,
to his great disgust and manifest advantage. The old landlady was crying
and moaning, and her husband was wiping his eyes and shaking his head
"She will nevar come out alive," he said solemnly.
"Nor dead, neither," added the carpenter. "Ther' won't be nothing left
of neither of 'em but ashes." And the carpenter hid his face in his
The fresh-water fisherman had pulled out a rag which he called a
"hangkercher,"—it had served to carry bait that morning,—and was making
use of its best corner to dry the tears which were running down his
cheeks. The whole village was proud of Euthymia, and with these more
quiet signs of grief were mingled loud lamentations, coming alike from
old and young.
All this was not so much like a succession of events as it was like a
tableau. The lookers-on were stunned with its suddenness, and before
they had time to recover their bewildered senses all was lost, or seemed
lost. They felt that they should never look again on either of those
The rector, not unfeeling by nature, but inveterately professional by
habit, had already recovered enough to be thinking of a text for the
funeral sermon. The first that occurred to him was this,—vaguely, of
course, in the background of consciousness:
"Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego came forth of the midst of the
The village undertaker was of naturally sober aspect and reflective
disposition. He had always been opposed to cremation, and here was a
funeral pile blazing before his eyes. He, too, had his human sympathies,
but in the distance his imagination pictured the final ceremony, and how
he himself should figure in a spectacle where the usual centre piece of
attraction would be wanting,—perhaps his own services uncalled for.
Blame him not, you whose garden-patch is not watered with the tears of
mourners. The string of self-interest answers with its chord to every
sound; it vibrates with the funeral-bell, it finds itself trembling to
the wail of the De Profundis. Not always,—not always; let us not be
cynical in our judgments, but common human nature, we may safely say, is
subject to those secondary vibrations under the most solemn and
It seems as if we were doing great wrong to the scene we are
contemplating in delaying it by the description of little circumstances
and individual thoughts and feelings. But linger as we may, we cannot
compress into a chapter—we could not crowd into a volume—all that
passed through the minds and stirred the emotions of the awe-struck
company which was gathered about the scene of danger and of terror. We
are dealing with an impossibility: consciousness is a surface; narrative
is a line.
Maurice had given himself up for lost. His breathing was becoming every
moment more difficult, and he felt that his strength could hold out but a
few minutes longer.
"Robert!" he called in faint accents. But the attendant was not there to
"Paolo! Paolo!" But the faithful servant, who would have given his life
for his master, had not yet reached the place where the crowd was
"Oh, for a breath of air! Oh, for an arm to lift me from this bed! Too
late! Too late!" he gasped, with what might have seemed his dying
"Not too late!" The soft voice reached his obscured consciousness as if
it had come down to him from heaven.
In a single instant he found himself rolled in a blanket and in the arms
Out of the stifling chamber,—over the burning stairs,—close by the
tongues of fire that were lapping up all they could reach,—out into the
open air, he was borne swiftly and safely,—carried as easily as if he
had been a babe, in the strong arms of "The Wonder" of the gymnasium, the
captain of the Atalanta, who had little dreamed of the use she was to
make of her natural gifts and her school-girl accomplishments.
Such a cry as arose from the crowd of on-lookers! It was a sound that
none of them had ever heard before or could expect ever to hear again,
unless he should be one of the last boat-load rescued from a sinking
vessel. Then, those who had resisted the overflow of their emotion, who
had stood in white despair as they thought of these two young lives soon
to be wrapped in their burning shroud,—those stern men—the old
sea-captain, the hard-faced, moneymaking, cast-iron tradesmen of the city
counting-room—sobbed like hysteric women; it was like a convulsion that
overcame natures unused to those deeper emotions which many who are
capable of experiencing die without ever knowing.
This was the scene upon which the doctor and Paolo suddenly appeared at
the same moment.
As the fresh breeze passed over the face of the rescued patient, his eyes
opened wide, and his consciousness returned in almost supernatural
lucidity. Euthymia had sat down upon a bank, and was still supporting
him. His head was resting on her bosom. Through his awakening senses
stole the murmurs of the living cradle which rocked him with the wavelike
movements of respiration, the soft susurrus of the air that entered with
every breath, the double beat of the heart which throbbed close to his
ear. And every sense, and every instinct, and every reviving pulse told
him in language like a revelation from another world that a woman's arms
were around him, and that it was life, and not death, which her embrace
had brought him.
She would have disengaged him from her protecting hold, but the doctor
made her a peremptory sign, which he followed by a sharp command:—
"Do not move him a hair's breadth," he said. "Wait until the litter
comes. Any sudden movement might be dangerous. Has anybody a brandy
flask about him?"
One or two members of the local temperance society looked rather awkward,
but did not come forward.
The fresh-water fisherman was the first who spoke.
"I han't got no brandy," he said, "but there's a drop or two of old
Medford rum in this here that you're welcome to, if it'll be of any help.
I alliz kerry a little on 't in case o' gettin' wet 'n' chilled."
So saying he held forth a flat bottle with the word Sarsaparilla stamped
on the green glass, but which contained half a pint or more of the
specific on which he relied in those very frequent exposures which happen
to persons of his calling.
The doctor motioned back Paolo, who would have rushed at once to the aid
of Maurice, and who was not wanted at that moment. So poor Paolo, in an
agony of fear for his master, was kept as quiet as possible, and had to
content himself with asking all sorts of questions and repeating all the
prayers he could think of to Our Lady and to his holy namesake the
The doctor wiped the mouth of the fisherman's bottle very carefully.
"Take a few drops of this cordial," he said, as he held it to his
patient's lips. "Hold him just so, Euthymia, without stirring. I will
watch him, and say when he is ready to be moved. The litter is near by,
waiting." Dr. Butts watched Maurice's pulse and color. The "Old
Medford" knew its business. It had knocked over its tens of thousands;
it had its redeeming virtue, and helped to set up a poor fellow now and
then. It did this for Maurice very effectively. When he seemed somewhat
restored, the doctor had the litter brought to his side, and Euthymia
softly resigned her helpless burden, which Paolo and the attendant Robert
lifted with the aid of the doctor, who walked by the patient as he was
borne to the home where Mrs. Butts had made all ready for his reception.
As for poor Lurida, who had thought herself equal to the sanguinary
duties of the surgeon, she was left lying on the grass with an old woman
over her, working hard with fan and smelling-salts to bring her back from
her long fainting fit.
Why should not human nature be the same in Arrowhead Village as
elsewhere? It could not seem strange to the good people of that place
and their visitors that these two young persons, brought together under
circumstances that stirred up the deepest emotions of which the human
soul is capable, should become attached to each other. But the bond
between them was stronger than any knew, except the good doctor, who had
learned the great secret of Maurice's life. For the first time since his
infancy he had fully felt the charm which the immediate presence of
youthful womanhood carries with it. He could hardly believe the fact when
he found himself no longer the subject of the terrifying seizures of
which he had had many and threatening experiences.
It was the doctor's business to save his patient's life, if he could
possibly do it. Maurice had been reduced to the most perilous state of
debility by the relapse which had interrupted his convalescence. Only by
what seemed almost a miracle had he survived the exposure to suffocation
and the mental anguish through which he had passed. It was perfectly
clear to Dr. Butts that if Maurice could see the young woman to whom he
owed his life, and, as the doctor felt assured, the revolution in his
nervous system which would be the beginning of a new existence, it would
be of far more value as a restorative agency than any or all of the drugs
in the pharmacopoeia. He told this to Euthymia, and explained the matter
to her parents and friends. She must go with him on some of his visits.
Her mother should go with her, or her sister; but this was a case of life
and death, and no maidenly scruples must keep her from doing her duty.
The first of her visits to the sick, perhaps dying, man presented a scene
not unlike the picture before spoken of on the title-page of the old
edition of Galen. The doctor was perhaps the most agitated of the little
group. He went before the others, took his seat by the bedside, and held
the patient's wrist with his finger on the pulse. As Euthymia entered it
gave a single bound, fluttered for an instant as if with a faint memory
of its old habit, then throbbed full and strong, comparatively, as if
under the spur of some powerful stimulus. Euthymia's task was a delicate
one, but she knew how to disguise its difficulty.
"Here is a flower I have brought you, Mr. Kirkwood," she said, and handed
him a white chrysanthemum. He took it from her hand, and before she knew
it he took her hand into his own, and held it with a gentle constraint.
What could she do? Here was the young man whose life she had saved, at
least for the moment, and who was yet in danger from the disease which
had almost worn out his powers of resistance.
"Sit down by Mr. Kirkwood's side," said the doctor. "He wants to thank
you, if he has strength to do it, for saving him from the death which
Not many words could Maurice command. He was weak enough for womanly
tears, but their fountains no longer flowed; it was with him as with the
dying, whose eyes may light up, but rarely shed a tear.
The river which has found a new channel widens and deepens—it; it lets
the old water-course fill up, and never returns to its forsaken bed. The
tyrannous habit was broken. The prophecy of the gitana had verified
itself, and the ill a fair woman had wrought a fairer woman bad conquered
The history of Maurice Kirkwood loses its exceptional character from the
time of his restoration to his natural conditions. His convalescence was
very slow and gradual, but no further accident interrupted its even
progress. The season was over, the summer visitors had left Arrowhead
Village; the chrysanthemums were going out of flower, the frosts had
come, and Maurice was still beneath the roof of the kind physician. The
relation between him and his preserver was so entirely apart from all
common acquaintances and friendships that no ordinary rules could apply
to it. Euthymia visited him often during the period of his extreme
"You must come every day," the doctor said. "He gains with every visit
you make him; he pines if you miss him for a single day." So she came
and sat by him, the doctor or good Mrs. Butts keeping her company in his
presence. He grew stronger,—began to sit up in bed; and at last
Euthymia found him dressed as in health, and beginning to walk about the
room. She was startled. She had thought of herself as a kind of nurse,
but the young gentleman could hardly be said to need a nurse any longer.
She had scruples about making any further visits. She asked Lurida what
she thought about it.
"Think about it?" said Lurida. "Why should n't you go to see a brother
as well as a sister, I should like to know? If you are afraid to go to
see Maurice Kirkwood, I am not afraid, at any rate. If you would rather
have me go than go yourself, I will do it, and let people talk just as
much as they want to. Shall I go instead of you?"
Euthymia was not quite sure that this would be the best thing for the
patient. The doctor had told her he thought there were special reasons
for her own course in coming daily to see him. "I am afraid," she said,
"you are too bright to be safe for him in his weak state. Your mind is
such a stimulating one, you know. A dull sort of person like myself is
better for him just now. I will continue visiting him as long as the
doctor says it is important that I should; but you must defend me,
Lurida,—I know you can explain it all so that people will not blame me."
Euthymia knew full well what the effect of Lurida's penetrating
head-voice would be in a convalescent's chamber. She knew how that
active mind of hers would set the young man's thoughts at work, when what
he wanted was rest of every faculty. Were not these good and sufficient
reasons for her decision? What others could there be?
So Euthymia kept on with her visits, until she blushed to see that she
was continuing her charitable office for one who was beginning to look
too well to be called an invalid. It was a dangerous condition of
affairs, and the busy tongues of the village gossips were free in their
comments. Free, but kindly, for the story of the rescue had melted every
heart; and what could be more natural than that these two young people
whom God had brought together in the dread moment of peril should find it
hard to tear themselves asunder after the hour of danger was past? When
gratitude is a bankrupt, love only can pay his debts; and if Maurice gave
his heart to Euthymia, would not she receive it as payment in full?
The change which had taken place in the vital currents of Maurice
Kirkwood's system was as simple and solid a fact as the change in a
magnetic needle when the boreal becomes the austral pole, and the austral
the boreal. It was well, perhaps, that this change took place while he
was enfeebled by the wasting effects of long illness. For all the
long-defeated, disturbed, perverted instincts had found their natural
channel from the centre of consciousness to the organ which throbs in
response to every profound emotion. As his health gradually returned,
Euthymia could not help perceiving a flush in his cheek, a glitter in his
eyes, a something in the tone of his voice, which altogether were a
warning to the young maiden that the highway of friendly intercourse was
fast narrowing to a lane, at the head of which her woman's eye could read
plainly enough, "Dangerous passing."
"You look so much better to-day, Mr. Kirkwood," she said, "that I think I
had better not play Sister of Charity any longer. The next time we meet
I hope you will be strong enough to call on me."
She was frightened to see how pale he turned,—he was weaker than she
thought. There was a silence so profound and so long that Mrs. Butts
looked up from the stocking she was knitting. They had forgotten the
good woman's presence.
Presently Maurice spoke,—very faintly, but Mrs. Butts dropped a stitch
at the first word, and her knitting fell into her lap as she listened to
"No! you must not leave me. You must never leave me. You saved my life.
But you have done more than that,—more than you know or can ever know.
To you I owe it that I am living; with you I live henceforth, if I am to
live at all. All I am, all I hope,—will you take this poor offering
from one who owes you everything, whose lips never touched those of woman
or breathed a word of love before you?"
What could Euthymia reply to this question, uttered with all the depth of
a passion which had never before found expression.
Not one syllable of answer did listening Mrs. Butts overhear. But she
told her husband afterwards that there was nothing in the tableaux they
had had in September to compare with what she then saw. It was indeed a
pleasing picture which those two young heads presented as Euthymia gave
her inarticulate but infinitely expressive answer to the question of
Maurice Kirkwood. The good-hearted woman thought it time to leave the
young people. Down went the stocking with the needles in it; out of her
lap tumbled the ball of worsted, rolling along the floor with its yarn
trailing after it, like some village matron who goes about circulating
from hearth to hearth, leaving all along her track the story of the new
engagement or of the arrival of the last "little stranger."
Not many suns had set before it was told all through Arrowhead Village
that Maurice Kirkwood was the accepted lover of Euthymia Tower.
MISS LURIDA VINCENT TO MRS. EUTHYMIA KIRKWOOD. ARROWHEAD VILLAGE, May 18.
MY DEAREST EUTHYMIA,—Who would have thought, when you broke your oar as
the Atalanta flashed by the Algonquin, last June, that before the roses
came again you would find yourself the wife of a fine scholar and grand
gentleman, and the head of a household such as that of which you are the
mistress? You must not forget your old Arrowhead Village friends. What
am I saying?—-you forget them! No, dearest, I know your heart too well
for that! You are not one of those who lay aside their old friendships
as they do last years bonnet when they get a new one. You have told me
all about yourself and your happiness, and now you want me to tell you
about myself and what is going on in our little place.
And first about myself. I have given up the idea of becoming a doctor.
I have studied mathematics so much that I have grown fond of certainties,
of demonstrations, and medicine deals chiefly in probabilities. The
practice of the art is so mixed up with the deepest human interests that
it is hard to pursue it with that even poise of the intellect which is
demanded by science. I want knowledge pure and simple,—I do not fancy
having it mixed. Neither do I like the thought of passing my life in
going from one scene of suffering to another; I am not saintly enough for
such a daily martyrdom, nor callous enough to make it an easy occupation.
I fainted at the first operation I saw, and I have never wanted to see
another. I don't say that I wouldn't marry a physician, if the right one
asked me, but the young doctor is not forthcoming at present. Yes, I
think I might make a pretty good doctor's wife. I could teach him a good
deal about headaches and backaches and all sorts of nervous revolutions,
as the doctor says the French women call their tantrums. I don't know
but I should be willing to let him try his new medicines on me. If he
were a homeopath, I know I should; for if a billionth of a grain of sugar
won't begin to sweeten my tea or coffee, I don't feel afraid that a
billionth of a grain of anything would poison me,—no, not if it were
snake-venom; and if it were not disgusting, I would swallow a handful of
his lachesis globules, to please my husband. But if I ever become a
doctor's wife, my husband will not be one of that kind of practitioners,
you may be sure of that, nor an "eclectic," nor a "faith-cure man." On
the whole, I don't think I want to be married at all. I don't like the
male animal very well (except such noble specimens as your husband).
They are all tyrants,—almost all,—so far as our sex is concerned, and I
often think we could get on better without them.
However, the creatures are useful in the Society. They send us papers,
some of them well worth reading. You have told me so often that you
would like to know how the Society is getting on, and to read some of the
papers sent to it if they happened to be interesting, that I have laid
aside one or two manuscripts expressly for your perusal. You will get
them by and by.
I am delighted to know that you keep Paolo with you. Arrowhead Village
misses him dreadfully, I can tell you. That is the reason people become
so attached to these servants with Southern sunlight in their natures? I
suppose life is not long enough to cool their blood down to our Northern
standard. Then they are so child-like, whereas the native of these
latitudes is never young after he is ten or twelve years old. Mother
says,—you know mother's old-fashioned notions, and how shrewd and
sensible she is in spite of them,—mother says that when she was a girl
families used to import young men and young women from the country towns,
who called themselves "helps," not servants,—no, that was Scriptural;
"but they did n't know everything down in Judee," and it is not good
American language. She says that these people would live in the same
household until they were married, and the women often remain in the same
service until they died or were old and worn out, and then, what with the
money they had saved and the care and assistance they got from their
former employers, would pass a decent and comfortable old age, and be
buried in the family lot. Mother has made up her mind to the change, but
grandmother is bitter about it. She says there never was a country yet
where the population was made up of "ladies" and "gentlemen," and she
does n't believe there can be; nor that putting a spread eagle on a
copper makes a gold dollar of it. She is a pessimist after her own
fashion. She thinks all sentiment is dying out of our people. No
loyalty for the sovereign, the king-post of the political edifice, she
says; no deep attachment between employer and employed; no reverence of
the humbler members of a household for its heads; and to make sure of
continued corruption and misery, what she calls "universal suffrage"
emptying all the sewers into the great aqueduct we all must drink from.
"Universal suffrage!" I suppose we women don't belong to the universe!
Wait until we get a chance at the ballot-box, I tell grandma, and see if
we don't wash out the sewers before they reach the aqueduct! But my pen
has run away with men I was thinking of Paolo, and what a pleasant thing
it is to have one of those child-like, warm-hearted, attachable,
cheerful, contented, humble, faithful, companionable, but never presuming
grownup children of the South waiting on one, as if everything he could
do for one was a pleasure, and carrying a look of content in his face
which makes every one who meets him happier for a glimpse of his
It does seem a shame that the charming relation of master and servant,
intelligent authority and cheerful obedience, mutual interest in each
other's welfare, thankful recognition of all the advantages which belong
to domestic service in the better class of families, should be almost
wholly confined to aliens and their immediate descendants. Why should
Hannah think herself so much better than Bridget? When they meet at the
polls together, as they will before long, they will begin to feel more of
an equality than is recognized at present. The native female turns her
nose up at the idea of "living out;" does she think herself so much
superior to the women of other nationalities? Our women will have to
come to it,—so grandmother says,—in another generation or two, and in a
hundred years, according to her prophecy, there will be a new set of old
"Miss Pollys" and "Miss Betseys" who have lived half a century in the
same families, respectful and respected, cherished, cared for in time of
need (citizens as well as servants, holding a ballot as well as a broom,
I tell her), and bringing back to us the lowly, underfoot virtues of
contentment and humility, which we do so need to carpet the barren and
hungry thoroughfare of our unstratified existence.
There, I have got a-going, and am forgetting all the news I have to tell
you. There is an engagement you will want to know all about. It came to
pass through our famous boat-race, which you and I remember, and shall
never forget as long as we live. It seems that the young fellow who
pulled the bow oar of that men's college boat which we had the pleasure
of beating got some glimpses of Georgina, our handsome stroke oar. I
believe he took it into his head that it was she who threw the bouquet
that won the race for us. He was, as you know, greatly mistaken, and
ought to have made love to me, only he did n't. Well, it seems he came
posting down to the Institute just before the vacation was over, and
there got a sight of Georgina. I wonder whether she told him she didn't
fling the bouquet! Anyhow, the acquaintance began in that way, and now
it seems that this young fellow, good-looking and a bright scholar, but
with a good many months more to pass in college, is her captive. It was
too bad. Just think of my bouquet's going to another girl's credit! No
matter, the old Atalanta story was paid off, at any rate.
You want to know all about dear Dr. Butts. They say he has just been
offered a Professorship in one of the great medical colleges. I asked
him about it, and he did not say that he had or had not. "But," said be,
"suppose that I had been offered such a place; do you think I ought to
accept it and leave Arrowhead Village? Let us talk it over," said he,
"just as if I had had such an offer." I told him he ought to stay.
There are plenty of men that can get into a Professor's chair, I said,
and talk like Solomons to a class of wondering pupils: but once get a
really good doctor in a place, a man who knows all about everybody,
whether they have this or that tendency, whether when they are sick they
have a way of dying or a way of getting well, what medicines agree with
them and what drugs they cannot take, whether they are of the sort that
think nothing is the matter with them until they are dead as smoked
herring, or of the sort that send for the minister if they get a
stomach-ache from eating too many cucumbers,—who knows all about all the
people within half a dozen miles (all the sensible ones, that is, who
employ a regular practitioner),—such a man as that, I say, is not to be
replaced like a missing piece out of a Springfield musket or a Waltham
watch. Don't go! said I. Stay here and save our precious lives, if you
can, or at least put us through in the proper way, so that we needn't be
ashamed of ourselves for dying, if we must die. Well, Dr. Butts is not
going to leave us. I hope you will have no unwelcome occasion for his
services,—you are never ill, you know,—but, anyhow, he is going to be
here, and no matter what happens he will be on hand.
The village news is not of a very exciting character. Item 1. A new
house is put up over the ashes of the one in which your husband lived
while he was here. It was planned by one of the autochthonous
inhabitants with the most ingenious combination of inconveniences that
the natural man could educe from his original perversity of intellect.
To get at any one room you must pass through every other. It is blind, or
nearly so, on the only side which has a good prospect, and commands a
fine view of the barn and pigsty through numerous windows. Item 2. We
have a small fire-engine near the new house which can be worked by a man
or two, and would be equal to the emergency of putting out a bunch of
fire-crackers. Item 3. We have a new ladder, in a bog, close to the new
fire-engine, so if the new house catches fire, like its predecessor, and
there should happen to, be a sick man on an upper floor, he can be got
out without running the risk of going up and down a burning staircase.
What a blessed thing it was that there was no fire-engine near by and no
ladder at hand on the day of the great rescue! If there had been, what a
change in your programme of life! You remember that "cup of tea spilt on
Mrs. Masham's apron," which we used to read of in one of Everett's
Orations, and all its wide-reaching consequences in the affairs of
Europe. I hunted up that cup of tea as diligently as ever a Boston
matron sought for the last leaves in her old caddy after the tea-chests
had been flung overboard at Griffin's wharf,—but no matter about that,
now. That is the way things come about in this world. I must write a
lecture on lucky mishaps, or, more elegantly, fortunate calamities. It
will be just the converse of that odd essay of Swift's we read together,
the awkward and stupid things done with the best intentions. Perhaps I
shall deliver the lecture in your city: you will come and hear it, and
bring him, won't you, dearest? Always, your loving
MISS LURIDA VINCENT TO MRS. EUTHYMIA KIRKWOOD.
It seems forever since you left us, dearest Euthymia! And are you, and
is your husband, and Paolo,—good Paolo,—are you all as well and happy
as you have been and as you ought to be? I suppose our small village
seems a very quiet sort of place to pass the winter in, now that you have
become accustomed to the noise and gayety of a great city. For all that,
it is a pretty busy place this winter, I can tell you. We have sleighing
parties,—I never go to them, myself, because I can't keep warm, and my
mind freezes up when my blood cools down below 95 or 96 deg. Fahrenheit.
I had a great deal rather sit by a good fire and read about Arctic
discoveries. But I like very well to hear the bells' jingling and to see
the young people trying to have a good time as hard as they do at a
picnic. It may be that they do, but to me a picnic is purgatory and a
sleigh-ride that other place, where, as my favorite Milton says, "frost
performs the effect of fire." I believe I have quoted him correctly; I
ought to, for I could repeat half his poems from memory once, if I cannot
You must have plenty of excitement in your city life. I suppose you
recognized yourself in one of the society columns of the "Household
Inquisitor:" "Mrs. E. K., very beautiful, in an elegant," etc., etc,
"with pearls," etc., etc.,—as if you were not the ornament of all that
you wear, no matter what it is!
I am so glad that you have married a scholar! Why should not
Maurice—you both tell me to call him so—take the diplomatic office
which has been offered him? It seems to me that he would find himself in
exactly the right place. He can talk in two or three languages, has good
manners, and a wife who—well, what shall I say of Mrs. Kirkwood but that
"she would be good company for a queen," as our old friend the quondam
landlady of the Anchor Tavern used to say? I should so like to see you
presented at Court! It seems to me that I should be willing to hold your
train for the sake of seeing you in your court feathers and things.
As for myself, I have been thinking of late that I would become either a
professional lecturer or head mistress of a great school or college for
girls. I have tried the first business a little. Last month I delivered
a lecture on Quaternions. I got three for my audience; two came over
from the Institute, and one from that men's college which they try to
make out to be a university, and where no female is admitted unless she
belongs among the quadrupeds. I enjoyed lecturing, but the subject is a
difficult one, and I don't think any one of them had any very clear
notion of what I was talking about, except Rhodora,—and I know she did
n't. To tell the truth, I was lecturing to instruct myself. I mean to
try something easier next time. I have thought of the Basque language
and literature. What do you say to that?
The Society goes on famously. We have had a paper presented and read
lately which has greatly amused some of us and provoked a few of the
weaker sort. The writer is that crabbed old Professor of Belles-Lettres
at that men's college over there. He is dreadfully hard on the poor
"poets," as they call themselves. It seems that a great many young
persons, and more especially a great many young girls, of whom the
Institute has furnished a considerable proportion, have taken to sending
him their rhymed productions to be criticised,—expecting to be praised,
no doubt, every one of them. I must give you one of the sauciest
extracts from his paper in his own words:
"It takes half my time to read the 'poems' sent me by young people of
both sexes. They would be more shy of doing it if they knew that I
recognize a tendency to rhyming as a common form of mental weakness, and
the publication of a thin volume of verse as prima facie evidence of
ambitious mediocrity, if not inferiority. Of course there are exceptions
to this rule of judgment, but I maintain that the presumption is always
against the rhymester as compared with the less pretentious persons about
him or her, busy with some useful calling,—too busy to be tagging
rhymed commonplaces together. Just now there seems to be an epidemic of
rhyming as bad as the dancing mania, or the sweating sickness. After
reading a certain amount of manuscript verse one is disposed to
anathematize the inventor of homophonous syllabification. [This phrase
made a great laugh when it was read.] This, that is rhyming, must have
been found out very early,
"'Where are you, Adam?'
"'Here am I, Madam;'
"but it can never have been habitually practised until after the Fall.
The intrusion of tintinnabulating terminations into the conversational
intercourse of men and angels would have spoiled Paradise itself. Milton
would not have them even in Paradise Lost, you remember. For my own
part, I wish certain rhymes could be declared contraband of written or
printed language. Nothing should be allowed to be hurled at the world or
whirled with it, or furled upon it or curled over it; all eyes should be
kept away from the skies, in spite of os homini sublime dedit; youth
should be coupled with all the virtues except truth; earth should never
be reminded of her birth; death should never be allowed to stop a
mortal's breath, nor the bell to sound his knell, nor flowers from
blossoming bowers to wave over his grave or show their bloom upon his
tomb. We have rhyming dictionaries,—let us have one from which all
rhymes are rigorously excluded. The sight of a poor creature grubbing
for rhymes to fill up his sonnet, or to cram one of those voracious,
rhyme-swallowing rigmaroles which some of our drudging poetical
operatives have been exhausting themselves of late to satiate with
jingles, makes my head ache and my stomach rebel. Work, work of some
kind, is the business of men and women, not the making of jingles!
No,—no,—no! I want to see the young people in our schools and
academies and colleges, and the graduates of these institutions, lifted
up out of the little Dismal Swamp of self-contemplating and
self-indulging and self-commiserating emotionalism which is surfeiting
the land with those literary sandwiches,—thin slices of tinkling
sentimentality between two covers looking like hard-baked gilt
gingerbread. But what faces these young folks make up at my good advice!
They get tipsy on their rhymes. Nothing intoxicates one like his—or
her—own verses, and they hold on to their metre-ballad-mongering as the
fellows that inhale nitrous oxide hold on to the gas-bag."
We laughed over this essay of the old Professor; though it hit us pretty
hard. The best part of the joke is that the old man himself published a
thin volume of poems when he was young, which there is good reason to
think he is not very proud of, as they say he buys up all the copies he
can find in the shops. No matter what they say, I can't help agreeing
with him about this great flood of "poetry," as it calls itself, and
looking at the rhyming mania much as he does.
How I do love real poetry! That is the reason hate rhymes which have not
a particle of it in them. The foolish scribblers that deal in them are
like bad workmen in a carpenter's shop. They not only turn out bad jobs
of work, but they spoil the tools for better workmen. There is hardly a
pair of rhymes in the English language that is not so dulled and hacked
and gapped by these 'prentice hands that a master of the craft hates to
touch them, and yet he cannot very well do without them. I have not been
besieged as the old Professor has been with such multitudes of
would-be-poetical aspirants that he could not even read their
manuscripts, but I have had a good many letters containing verses, and I
have warned the writers of the delusion under which they were laboring.
You may like to know that I have just been translating some extracts from
the Greek Anthology. I send you a few specimens of my work, with a
Dedication to the Shade of Sappho. I hope you will find something of the
Greek rhythm in my versions, and that I have caught a spark of
inspiration from the impassioned Lesbian. I have found great delight in
this work, at any rate, and am never so happy as when I read from my
manuscript or repeat from memory the lines into which I have transferred
the thought of the men and women of two thousand years ago, or given
rhythmical expression to my own rapturous feelings with regard to them.
I must read you my Dedication to the Shade of Sappho. I cannot help
thinking that you will like it better than either of my last two, The
Song of the Roses, or The Wail of the Weeds.
How I do miss you, dearest! I want you: I want you to listen to what I
have written; I want you to hear all about my plans for the future; I
want to look at you, and think how grand it must be to feel one's self to
be such a noble and beautiful-creature; I want to wander in the woods
with you, to float on the lake, to share your life and talk over every
day's doings with you. Alas! I feel that we have parted as two friends
part at a port of embarkation: they embrace, they kiss each other's
cheeks, they cover their faces and weep, they try to speak good-by to
each other, they watch from the pier and from the deck; the two forms
grow less and less, fainter and fainter in the distance, two white
handkerchiefs flutter once and again, and yet once more, and the last
visible link of the chain which binds them has parted. Dear, dear,
dearest Euthymia, my eyes are running over with tears when I think that
we may never, never meet again.
Don't you want some more items of village news? We are threatened with
an influx of stylish people: "Buttons" to answer the door-bell, in place
of the chamber-maid; "butler," in place of the "hired man;" footman in
top-boots and breeches, cockade on hat, arms folded a la Napoleon;
tandems, "drags," dogcarts, and go-carts of all sorts. It is rather
amusing to look at their ambitious displays, but it takes away the good
old country flavor of the place.
I don't believe you mean to try to astonish us when you come back to
spend your summers here. I suppose you must have a large house, and I am
sure you will have a beautiful one. I suppose you will have some fine
horses, and who would n't be glad to? But I do not believe you will try
to make your old Arrowhead Village friends stare their eyes out of their
heads with a display meant to outshine everybody else that comes here.
You can have a yacht on the lake, if you like, but I hope you will pull a
pair of oars in our old boat once in a while, with me to steer you. I
know you will be just the same dear-Euthymia you always were and always
must be. How happy you must make such a man as Maurice Kirkwood! And
how happy you ought to be with him!—a man who knows what is in books,
and who has seen for himself, what is in men. If he has not seen so much
of women, where could he study all that is best in womanhood as he can in
his own wife? Only one thing that dear Euthymia lacks. She is not quite
pronounced enough in her views as to the rights and the wrongs of the
sex. When I visit you, as you say I shall, I mean to indoctrinate
Maurice with sound views on that subject. I have written an essay for
the Society, which I hope will go a good way towards answering all the
objections to female suffrage. I mean to read it to your husband, if you
will let me, as I know you will, and perhaps you would like to hear
it,—only you know my thoughts on the subject pretty well already.
With all sorts of kind messages to your dear husband, and love to your
precious self, I am ever your
DR. BUTTS TO MRS. EUTHYMIA KIRKWOOD.
MY DEAR EUTHYMIA,—My pen refuses to call you by any other name.
Sweet-souled you are, and your Latinized Greek name is—the one which
truly designates you. I cannot tell you how we have followed you, with
what interest and delight through your travels, as you have told their
story in your letters to your mother. She has let us have the privilege
of reading them, and we have been with you in steamer, yacht, felucca,
gondola, Nile-boat; in all sorts of places, from crowded capitals to
"deserts where no men abide,"—everywhere keeping company with you in
your natural and pleasant descriptions of your experiences. And now that
you have returned to your home in the great city I must write you a few
lines of welcome, if nothing more.
You will find Arrowhead Village a good deal changed since you left it.
We are discovered by some of those over-rich people who make the little
place upon which they swarm a kind of rural city. When this happens the
consequences are striking,—some of them desirable and some far
otherwise. The effect of well-built, well-furnished, well-kept houses
and of handsome grounds always maintained in good order about them shows
itself in a large circuit around the fashionable centre. Houses get on a
new coat of paint, fences are kept in better order, little plots of
flowers show themselves where only ragged weeds had rioted, the
inhabitants present themselves in more comely attire and drive in
handsomer vehicles with more carefully groomed horses. On the other
hand, there is a natural jealousy on the part of the natives of the
region suddenly become fashionable. They have seen the land they sold at
farm prices by the acre coming to be valued by the foot, like the corner
lots in a city. Their simple and humble modes of life look almost
poverty-stricken in the glare of wealth and luxury which so outshines
their plain way of living. It is true that many of them have found them
selves richer than in former days, when the neighborhood lived on its own
resources. They know how to avail themselves of their altered position,
and soon learn to charge city prices for country products; but nothing
can make people feel rich who see themselves surrounded by men whose
yearly income is many times their own whole capital. I think it would be
better if our rich men scattered themselves more than they do,—buying
large country estates, building houses and stables which will make it
easy to entertain their friends, and depending for society on chosen
guests rather than on the mob of millionaires who come together for
social rivalry. But I do not fret myself about it. Society will stratify
itself according to the laws of social gravitation. It will take a
generation or two more, perhaps, to arrange the strata by precipitation
and settlement, but we can always depend on one principle to govern the
arrangement of the layers. People interested in the same things will
naturally come together. The youthful heirs of fortunes who keep splendid
yachts have little to talk about with the oarsman who pulls about on the
lake or the river. What does young Dives, who drives his four-in-hand
and keeps a stable full of horses, care about Lazarus, who feels rich in
the possession of a horse-railroad ticket? You know how we live at our
house, plainly, but with a certain degree of cultivated propriety. We
make no pretensions to what is called "style." We are still in that
social stratum where the article called "a napkin-ring" is recognized as
admissible at the dinner-table. That fact sufficiently defines our
modest pretensions. The napkin-ring is the boundary mark between certain
classes. But one evening Mrs. Butts and I went out to a party given by
the lady of a worthy family, where the napkin itself was a newly
introduced luxury. The conversation of the hostess and her guests turned
upon details of the kitchen and the laundry; upon the best mode of
raising bread, whether with "emptins" (emptyings, yeast) or baking
powder; about "bluing" and starching and crimping, and similar matters.
Poor Mrs. Butts! She knew nothing more about such things than her
hostess did about Shakespeare and the musical glasses. What was the use
of trying to enforce social intercourse under such conditions?
Incompatibility of temper has been considered ground for a divorce;
incompatibility of interests is a sufficient warrant for social
separation. The multimillionaires have so much that is common among
themselves, and so little that they share with us of moderate means, that
they will naturally form a specialized class, and in virtue of their
palaces, their picture-galleries, their equipages, their yachts, their
large hospitality, constitute a kind of exclusive aristocracy. Religion,
which ought to be the great leveller, cannot reduce these elements to the
same grade. You may read in the parable, "Friend, how camest thou in
hither not having a wedding garment?" The modern version would be, "How
came you at Mrs. Billion's ball not having a dress on your back which
came from Paris?"
The little church has got a new stained window, a saint who reminds me of
Hamlet's uncle,—a thing "of shreds and patches," but rather pretty to
look at, with an inscription under it which is supposed to be the name of
the person in whose honor the window was placed in the church. Smith was
a worthy man and a faithful churchwarden, and I hope posterity will be
able to spell out his name on his monumental window; but that old English
lettering would puzzle Mephistopheles himself, if he found himself before
this memorial tribute, on the inside,—you know he goes to church
sometimes, if you remember your Faust.
The rector has come out, in a quiet way, as an evolutionist. He has
always been rather "broad" in his views, but cautious in their
expression. You can tell the three branches of the mother-island church
by the way they carry their heads. The low-church clergy look down, as
if they felt themselves to be worms of the dust; the high-church priest
drops his head on one side, after the pattern of the mediaeval saints;
the broad-church preacher looks forward and round about him, as if he
felt himself the heir of creation. Our rector carries his head in the
broad-church aspect, which I suppose is the least open to the charge of
affectation,—in fact, is the natural and manly way of carrying it.
The Society has justified its name of Pansophian of late as never before.
Lurida has stirred up our little community and its neighbors, so that we
get essays on all sorts of subjects, poems and stories in large numbers.
I know all about it, for she often consults me as to the merits of a
What is to be the fate of Lurida? I often think, with no little interest
and some degree of anxiety, about her future. Her body is so frail and
her mind so excessively and constantly active that I am afraid one or the
other will give way. I do not suppose she thinks seriously of ever being
married. She grows more and more zealous in behalf of her own sex, and
sterner in her judgment of the other. She declares that she never would
marry any man who was not an advocate of female suffrage, and as these
gentlemen are not very common hereabouts the chance is against her
capturing any one of the hostile sex.
What do you think? I happened, just as I was writing the last sentence,
to look out of my window, and whom should I see but Lurida, with a young
man in tow, listening very eagerly to her conversation, according to all
appearance! I think he must be a friend of the rector, as I have seen a
young man like this one in his company. Who knows?
Affectionately yours, etc.
DR. BUTTS TO MRS. BUTTS.
MY BELOVED WIFE,—This letter will tell you more news than you would have
thought could have been got together in this little village during the
short time you have been staying away from it.
Lurida Vincent is engaged! He is a clergyman with a mathematical turn.
The story is that he put a difficult problem into one of the mathematical
journals, and that Lurida presented such a neat solution that the young
man fell in love with her on the strength of it. I don't think the story
is literally true, nor do I believe that other report that he offered
himself to her in the form of an equation chalked on the blackboard; but
that it was an intellectual rather than a sentimental courtship I do not
doubt. Lurida has given up the idea of becoming a professional
lecturer,—so she tells me,—thinking that her future husband's parish
will find her work enough to do. A certain amount of daily domestic
drudgery and unexciting intercourse with simple-minded people will be the
best thing in the world for that brain of hers, always simmering with
some new project in its least fervid condition.
All our summer visitors have arrived. Euthymia Mrs. Maurice Kirkwood and
her husband and little Maurice are here in their beautiful house looking
out on the lake. They gave a grand party the other evening. You ought
to have been there, but I suppose you could not very well have left your
sister in the middle of your visit: All the grand folks were there, of
course. Lurida and her young man—Gabriel is what she calls him—were
naturally the objects of special attention. Paolo acted as major-domo,
and looked as if he ought to be a major-general. Nothing could be
pleasanter than the way in which Mr. and Mrs. Kirkwood received their
plain country neighbors; that is, just as they did the others of more
pretensions, as if they were really glad to see them, as I am sure they
were. The old landlord and his wife had two arm-chairs to themselves,
and I saw Miranda with the servants of the household looking in at the
dancers and out at the little groups in the garden, and evidently
enjoying it as much as her old employers. It was a most charming and
successful party. We had two sensations in the course of the evening.
One was pleasant and somewhat exciting, the other was thrilling and of
strange and startling interest.
You remember how emaciated poor Maurice Kirkwood was left after his
fever, in that first season when he was among us. He was out in a boat
one day, when a ring slipped off his thin finger and sunk in a place
where the water was rather shallow. "Jake"—you know Jake,—everybody
knows Jake—was rowing him. He promised to come to the spot and fish up
the ring if he could possibly find it. He was seen poking about with
fish-hooks at the end of a pole, but nothing was ever heard from him
about the ring. It was an antique intaglio stone in an Etruscan
setting,—a wild goose flying over the Campagna. Mr. Kirkwood valued it
highly, and regretted its loss very much.
While we were in the garden, who should appear at the gate but Jake, with
a great basket, inquiring for Mr. Kirkwood. "Come," said Maurice to me,
"let us see what our old friend the fisherman has brought us. What have
you got there, Jake?"
"What I 've got? Wall, I 'll tell y' what I've got: I 've got the
biggest pickerel that's been ketched in this pond for these ten year. An'
I 've got somethin' else besides the pickerel. When I come to cut him
open, what do you think I faound in his insides but this here ring o'
yourn,"—and he showed the one Maurice had lost so long before. There it
was, as good as new, after having tried Jonah's style of housekeeping for
all that time. There are those who discredit Jake's story about finding
the ring in the fish; anyhow, there was the ring and there was the
pickerel. I need not say that Jake went off well paid for his pickerel
and the precious contents of its stomach. Now comes the chief event of
the evening. I went early by special invitation. Maurice took me into
his library, and we sat down together.
"I have something of great importance," he said, "to say to you. I
learned within a few days that my cousin Laura is staying with a friend
in the next town to this. You know, doctor, that we have never met since
the last, almost fatal, experience of my early years. I have determined
to defy the strength of that deadly chain of associations connected with
her presence, and I have begged her to come this evening with the friends
with whom she is staying. Several letters passed between us, for it was
hard to persuade her that there was no longer any risk in my meeting her.
Her imagination was almost as deeply impressed as mine had been at those
alarming interviews, and I had to explain to her fully that I had become
quite indifferent to the disturbing impressions of former years. So, as
the result of our correspondence, Laura is coming this evening, and I
wish you to be present at our meeting. There is another reason why I
wish you to be here. My little boy is not far from the—age at which I
received my terrifying, almost disorganizing shock. I mean to have
little Maurice brought into the presence of Laura, who is said to be
still a very handsome woman, and see if he betrays any hint of that
peculiar sensitiveness which showed itself in my threatening seizure. It
seemed to me not impossible that he might inherit some tendency of that
nature, and I wanted you to be at hand if any sign of danger should
declare itself. For myself I have no fear. Some radical change has
taken place in my nervous system. I have been born again, as it were, in
my susceptibilities, and am in certain respects a new man. But I must
know how it is with my little Maurice."
Imagine with what interest I looked forward to this experiment; for
experiment it was, and not without its sources of anxiety, as it seemed
to me. The evening wore along; friends and neighbors came in, but no
Laura as yet. At last I heard the sound of wheels, and a carriage
stopped at the door. Two ladies and a gentleman got out, and soon
entered the drawing room.
"My cousin Laura!" whispered Maurice to me, and went forward to meet her.
A very handsome woman, who might well have been in the thirties,—one of
those women so thoroughly constituted that they cannot help being
handsome at every period of life. I watched them both as they approached
each other. Both looked pale at first, but Maurice soon recovered his
usual color, and Laura's natural, rich bloom came back by degrees. Their
emotion at meeting was not to be wondered at, but there was no trace in
it of the paralyzing influence on the great centres of life which had
once acted upon its fated victim like the fabled head which turned the
looker-on into a stone.
"Is the boy still awake?" said Maurice to Paolo, who, as they used to say
of Pushee at the old Anchor Tavern, was everywhere at once on that gay
and busy evening.
"What! Mahser Maurice asleep an' all this racket going on? I hear him
crowing like young cockerel when he fus' smell daylight."
"Tell the nurse to bring him down quietly to the little room that leads
out of the library."
The child was brought down in his night-clothes, wide awake, wondering
apparently at the noise he heard, which he seemed to think was for his
"See if he will go to that lady," said his father. Both of us held our
breath as Laura stretched her arms towards little Maurice.
The child looked for an instant searchingly, but fearlessly, at her
glowing cheeks, her bright eyes, her welcoming smile, and met her embrace
as she clasped him to her bosom as if he had known her all his days.
The mortal antipathy had died out of the soul and the blood of Maurice
Kirkwood at that supreme moment when he found himself snatched from the
grasp of death and cradled in the arms of Euthymia.
In closing the New Portfolio I remember that it began with a prefix which
the reader may by this time have forgotten, namely, the First Opening.
It was perhaps presumptuous to thus imply the probability of a second
I am reminded from time to time by the correspondents who ask a certain
small favor of me that, as I can only expect to be with my surviving
contemporaries a very little while longer, they would be much obliged if
I would hurry up my answer before it is too late. They are right, these
delicious unknown friends of mine, in reminding me of a fact which I
cannot gainsay and might suffer to pass from my recollection. I thank
them for recalling my attention to a truth which I shall be wiser, if not
more hilarious, for remembering.
No, I had no right to say the First Opening. How do I know that I shall
have a chance to open it again? How do I know that anybody will want it
to be opened a second time? How do I know that I shall feel like opening
it? It is safest neither to promise to open the New Portfolio once more,
nor yet to pledge myself to keep it closed hereafter. There are many
papers potentially existent in it, some of which might interest a reader
here and there. The Records of the Pansophian Society contain a
considerable number of essays, poems, stories, and hints capable of being
expanded into presentable dimensions. In the mean time I will say with
Prospero, addressing my old readers, and my new ones, if such I have,
"If you be pleased, retire into my cell
And there repose: a turn or two I'll walk,
To still my beating mind."
When it has got quiet I may take up the New Portfolio again, and consider
whether it is worth while to open it consider whether it is worth while
to open it.