THE LITERARY WORLD
JOHN CALVIN METCALF
PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH LITERATURE IN THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
PRINCIPAL ELEMENTARY GRADES AND CRITIC TEACHER
WINTHROP NORMAL AND INDUSTRIAL COLLEGE
ROCK HILL. S.C.
HETTY S. BROWNE
EXTENSION WORKER IN RURAL SCHOOL PRACTICE
WINTHROP NORMAL AND INDUSTRIAL COLLEGE
JOHNSON PUBLISHING COMPANY
B. F. JOHNSON PUBLISHING COMPANY
All Rights Reserved
For permission to use copyrighted material the authors and publishers express their indebtedness to the Macmillan Company for “A Deal in Bears” from McTodd, by W. Cutcliffe Hyne, and for “Sea Fever,” by John Masefield; to Duffield & Company and Mr. H. G. Wells for “In Labrador” from Marriage; to the John Lane Company for “The Making of a Man” from The Rough Road, by W. J. Locke; to Dodd, Mead & Company and Mr. Arthur Dobson for “A Ballad of Heroes,” and to Dodd, Mead & Company for “Under Seas,” by Count Alexis Tolstoi; to G. P. Putnam’s Sons for “Old Ephraim” from The Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, by Theodore Roosevelt; to Houghton Mifflin Company for “A Greyport Legend,” by Bret Harte, “Midwinter,” by John Townsend Trowbridge, “The First Snowfall,” by James Russell Lowell, “Among the Cliffs” from The Young Mountaineers, by Charles Egbert Craddock (Mary N. Murfree), and for “The Friendship of Nantaquas” from To Have and to Hold, by Mary Johnston; to Harper & Brothers for “The Great Stone of Sardis” from The Great Stone of Sardis, by Frank R. Stockton, and to Harper & Brothers and Mr. Booth Tarkington for “Ariel’s Triumph” from The Conquest of Canaan.
|LEGENDS OF OUR LAND|
|Rip Van Winkle||Washington Irving||9|
|The Great Stone Face||Nathaniel Hawthorne||33|
|The Courtship of Miles Standish||Henry W. Longfellow||59|
|The Friendship of Nantaquas||Mary Johnston||79|
|Harry Esmond’s Boyhood||Wm. Makepeace Thackeray||112|
|The Family Holds Its Head Up||Oliver Goldsmith||126|
|The Little Boy in the Balcony||Henry W. Grady||138|
|Ariel’s Triumph||Booth Tarkington||141|
|NATURE AND ANIMALS|
|The Cloud||Percy Bysshe Shelley||160|
|New England Weather||Mark Twain||162|
|The First Snowfall||James Russell Lowell||166|
|Old Ephraim||Theodore Roosevelt||168|
|Midwinter||John Townsend Trowbridge||175|
|A Georgia Fox Hunt||Joel Chandler Harris||177|
|Rain and Wind||Madison Julius Cawein||192|
|The Southern Sky||Matthew Fontaine Maury||193|
|Among the Cliffs||Charles Egbert Craddock||201|
|A Deal in Bears||W. Cutcliffe Hyne||217|
|Lochinvar||Sir Walter Scott||232|
|In Labrador||H. G. Wells||235|
|The Bugle Song||Alfred Tennyson||258|
|The Siege of the Castle||Sir Walter Scott||259|
|MODERN WONDER TALES|
|Sea Fever||John Masefield||334|
|A Greyport Legend||Bret Harte||335|
|A Hunt Beneath The Ocean||Jules Verne||337|
|Under Seas||Count Alexis Tolstoi||354|
|A Voyage to the Moon||Edgar Allan Poe||367|
|The Great Stone of Sardis||Frank R. Stockton||391|
|SKETCHES OF THE GREAT WAR|
|A Stop At Suzanne’s||Greayer Clover||407|
|The Making of a Man||W. J. Locke||414|
|In Flanders Fields||John McCrae||436|
|In Flanders Fields (An Answer)||C. B. Galbraith||436|
|A Ballad Of Heroes||Austin Dobson||437|
RIP VAN WINKLE
Whoever has made a voyage up the Hudson must remember the Catskill Mountains. They are a branch of the great vAppalachian9-* family, and are seen away to the west of the river, swelling up to a noble height, and lording it over the surrounding country. Every change of season, every change of weather, indeed, every hour of the day, produces some change in the magical hues and shapes of these mountains, and they are regarded by all the goodwives, far and near, as perfect vbarometers.
At the foot of these fairy mountains the traveler may have seen the light smoke curling up from a village, whose shingle roofs gleam among the trees, just where the blue tints of the upland melt away into the fresh green of the nearer landscape. It is a little village of great age, having been founded by some of the Dutch colonists in the early times of the province, just about the beginning of the government of the good Peter vStuyvesant (may he rest in peace!), and there were some of the houses of the original settlers standing within a few years, built of small yellow bricks brought from Holland, having latticed windows and gable fronts, surmounted with weathercocks.
In that same village, and in one of these very houses, there lived, many years since, while the country was yet a province of Great Britain, a simple, good-natured fellow, of the name of Rip Van Winkle. He was a descendant of the Van Winkles who figured so gallantly in the vchivalrous days of Peter Stuyvesant, and accompanied him to the siege of Fort Christina. He inherited, however, but little of the martial character of his ancestors. I have observed that he was a simple, good-natured man; he was, moreover, a kind neighbor and an obedient, henpecked husband.
Certain it is that he was a great favorite among all the goodwives of the village, who took his part in all family squabbles; and never failed, whenever they talked those matters over in their evening gossipings, to lay all the blame on Dame Van Winkle. The children of the village, too, would shout with joy whenever he approached. He assisted at their sports, made their playthings, taught them to fly kites and shoot marbles, and told them long stories of ghosts, witches, and Indians. Whenever he went dodging about the village, he was surrounded by a troop of them, hanging on his skirts, clambering on his back, and playing a thousand tricks on him; and not a dog would bark at him throughout the neighborhood.
The great error in Rip’s composition was a strong dislike of all kinds of profitable labor. It could not be from the want of perseverance; for he would sit on a wet rock, with a rod as long and heavy as a lance, and fish all day without a murmur, even though he should not be encouraged by a single nibble. He would carry a fowling piece on his shoulder for hours together, trudging through woods and swamps, and up hill and down dale, to shoot a few squirrels or wild pigeons. He would never refuse to assist a neighbor even in the roughest toil, and was a foremost man at all country frolics for husking Indian corn, or building stone fences; the women of the village, too, used to employ him to run their errands, and to do such little odd jobs as their less obliging husbands would not do for them. In a word, Rip was ready to attend to anybody’s business but his own; but as to doing family duty, and keeping his farm in order, he found it impossible.
His children, too, were as ragged and wild as if they belonged to nobody. His son Rip promised to inherit the habits, with the old clothes, of his father. He was generally seen trooping like a colt at his mother’s heels, equipped in a pair of his father’s cast-off breeches, which he had much ado to hold up with one hand, as a fine lady does her train in bad weather.
Rip Van Winkle, however, was one of those happy mortals, of foolish, well-oiled dispositions, who take the world easy, eat white bread or brown, whichever can be got with least thought or trouble, and would rather starve on a penny than work for a pound. If left to himself, he would have whistled life away in perfect contentment; but his wife kept continually dinning in his ear about his idleness, his carelessness, and the ruin he was bringing on his family. Morning, noon, and night, her tongue was incessantly going, and everything he said or did was sure to produce a torrent of household eloquence. Rip had but one way of replying to all lectures of the kind, and that, by frequent use, had grown into a habit. He shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, cast up his eyes, but said nothing. This, however, always provoked a fresh volley from his wife; so that he was fain to draw off his forces, and take to the outside of the house—the only side which, in truth, belongs to a henpecked husband.
Rip’s sole vdomestic adherent was his dog Wolf, who was as much henpecked as his master; for Dame Van Winkle regarded them as companions in idleness, and even looked upon Wolf with an evil eye, as the cause of his master’s going so often astray. True it is, in all points of spirit befitting an honorable dog, he was as courageous an animal as ever scoured the woods; but what courage can withstand the ever-enduring and all-besetting terrors of a woman’s tongue? The moment Wolf entered the house his crest fell, his tail drooped to the ground or curled between his legs, he sneaked about with a gallows air, casting many a sidelong glance at Dame Van Winkle, and at the least flourish of a broomstick or ladle he would fly to the door with yelping precipitation.
Times grew worse and worse with Rip Van Winkle as years of matrimony rolled on. A tart temper never mellows with age, and a sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use. For a long while he used to console himself, when driven from home, by frequenting a kind of perpetual club of sages, philosophers, and other idle personages of the village, which held its sessions on a bench before a small inn, designated by a vrubicund portrait of His Majesty George III. Here they used to sit in the shade of a long, lazy summer’s day, talking listlessly over village gossip, or telling endless sleepy stories about nothing. But it would have been worth any statesman’s money to have heard the profound discussions which sometimes took place, when by chance an old newspaper fell into their hands from some passing traveler. How solemnly they would listen to the contents, as drawled out by Derrick Van Bummel, the schoolmaster,—a dapper, learned little man, who was not to be daunted by the most gigantic word in the dictionary! and how sagely they would deliberate upon public events some months after they had taken place!
The opinions of this vjunto were completely controlled by Nicholas Vedder, a patriarch of the village, and landlord of the inn, at the door of which he took his seat from morning till night, just moving sufficiently to avoid the sun, and keep in the shade of a large tree; so that the neighbors could tell the hour by his movements as accurately as by a sun-dial. It is true, he was rarely heard to speak, but smoked his pipe incessantly. His adherents, however (for every great man has his adherents), perfectly understood him, and knew how to gather his opinions. When anything that was read or related displeased him, he was observed to smoke his pipe vehemently, and to send forth short, frequent, and angry puffs; but, when pleased, he would inhale the smoke slowly and tranquilly, and emit it in light and placid clouds, and sometimes, taking the pipe from his mouth, and letting the fragrant vapor curl about his nose, would nod his head in approbation.
From even this stronghold the unlucky Rip was at length routed by his vtermagant wife, who would suddenly break in upon the tranquility of the assemblage, and call the members all to naught; nor was that august personage, Nicholas Vedder himself, sacred from the daring tongue of this terrible virago, who charged him with encouraging her husband in habits of idleness.
Poor Rip was at last reduced almost to despair; and his only valternative, to escape from the labor of the farm and clamor of his wife, was to take gun in hand and stroll away into the woods. Here he would sometimes seat himself at the foot of a tree, and share the contents of his wallet with Wolf, with whom he sympathized as a fellow-sufferer in persecution. “Poor Wolf,” he would say, “thy mistress leads thee a dog’s life of it; but never mind, my lad, whilst I live thou shalt never want a friend to stand by thee.” Wolf would wag his tail, look wistfully in his master’s face; and if dogs can feel pity, I verily believe he vreciprocated the sentiment with all his heart.
In a long ramble of the kind on a fine autumnal day, Rip had unconsciously scrambled to one of the highest parts of the Catskill Mountains. He was after his favorite sport of squirrel-shooting, and the still solitudes had echoed and reëchoed with the reports of his gun. Panting and fatigued, he threw himself, late in the afternoon, on a green knoll, covered with mountain herbage, that crowned the brow of a precipice. From an opening between the trees he could overlook all the lower country for many a mile of rich woodland. He saw at a distance the lordly Hudson, far, far below him, moving on its silent but majestic course, with the reflection of a purple cloud, or the sail of a lagging bark, here and there sleeping on its glassy bosom, and at last losing itself in the blue highlands.
On the other side he looked down into a deep mountain glen, wild and lonely, the bottom filled with fragments from the overhanging cliffs, and scarcely lighted by the reflected rays of the setting sun. For some time Rip lay musing on this scene; evening was gradually advancing; the mountains began to throw their long blue shadows over the valleys; he saw that it would be dark long before he could reach the village, and he heaved a heavy sigh when he thought of encountering the terrors of Dame Van Winkle.
As he was about to descend, he heard a voice from a distance, hallooing, “Rip Van Winkle! Rip Van Winkle!” He looked round, but could see nothing but a crow winging its solitary flight across the mountain. He thought his fancy must have deceived him, and turned again to descend, when he heard the same cry ring through the still evening air: “Rip Van Winkle! Rip Van Winkle!”—at the same time Wolf bristled up his back, and giving a low growl, skulked to his master’s side, looking fearfully down into the glen. Rip now felt a vague apprehension stealing over him; he looked anxiously in the same direction, and perceived a strange figure slowly toiling up the rocks, and bending under the weight of something he carried on his back. He was surprised to see any human being in this lonely and unfrequented place; but supposing it to be some one of the neighborhood in need of his assistance, he hastened down to yield it.
On nearer approach he was still more surprised at the vsingularity of the stranger’s appearance. He was a short, square-built old fellow, with thick bushy hair, and a grizzled beard. His dress was of the antique Dutch fashion,—a cloth jerkin strapped round the waist, and several pair of breeches, the outer one of ample volume, decorated with rows of buttons down the sides. He bore on his shoulder a stout keg that seemed full of liquor, and made signs for Rip to approach and assist him with the load. Though rather shy and distrustful of this new acquaintance, Rip complied with his usual valacrity, and relieving one another, they clambered up a narrow gully, apparently the dry bed of a mountain torrent.
As they ascended, Rip every now and then heard long, rolling peals, like distant thunder, that seemed to issue out of a deep ravine, or rather cleft, between lofty rocks, toward which their rugged path conducted. He paused for an instant, but supposing it to be the muttering of one of those transient thundershowers which often take place in mountain heights, he proceeded. Passing through the ravine, they came to a hollow, like a small vamphitheater, surrounded by perpendicular precipices, over the brinks of which trees shot their branches, so that you only caught glimpses of the azure sky and the bright evening cloud. During the whole time Rip and his companion had labored on in silence; for though the former marveled greatly, what could be the object of carrying a keg of liquor up this wild mountain, yet there was something strange and incomprehensible about the unknown that inspired awe and checked familiarity.
On entering the amphitheater new objects of wonder presented themselves. On a level spot in the center was a company of odd-looking personages playing at ninepins. They were dressed in a quaint, outlandish fashion; some wore short doublets, others jerkins, with long knives in their belts, and most of them had enormous breeches, of similar style with that of the guide’s. Their visages, too, were peculiar: one had a large head, broad face, and small, piggish eyes; the face of another seemed to consist entirely of nose, and was surmounted by a white sugar-loaf hat, set off with a little red cock’s tail. They all had beards, of various shapes and colors. There was one who seemed to be the commander. He was a stout old gentleman, with a weather-beaten countenance; he wore a laced doublet, broad belt and hanger, high-crowned hat and feather, red stockings, and high-heeled shoes, with roses in them. The whole group reminded Rip of the figures in an old Flemish painting, in the parlor of vDominie Van Shaick, the village parson, which had been brought over from Holland at the time of the settlement.
What seemed particularly odd to Rip was that, though these folks were evidently amusing themselves, yet they maintained the gravest faces, the most mysterious silence, and were, withal, the most melancholy party of pleasure he had ever witnessed. Nothing interrupted the stillness of the scene but the noise of the balls, which, whenever they were rolled, echoed along the mountains like rumbling peals of thunder.
As Rip and his companion approached them, they suddenly desisted from their play, and stared at him with such fixed, statue-like gaze, and such strange, uncouth countenances, that his heart turned within him, and his knees smote together. His companion now emptied the contents of the keg into large flagons, and made signs to him to wait upon the company. He obeyed with fear and trembling; they quaffed the liquor in profound silence, and then returned to their game.
By degrees Rip’s awe and apprehension subsided. He even ventured, when no eye was fixed upon him, to taste the beverage, which he found had much of the flavor of excellent Hollands. He was naturally a thirsty soul, and was soon tempted to repeat the draught. One taste provoked another; and he repeated his visits to the flagon so often that at length his senses were overpowered, his eyes swam in his head, his head gradually declined, and he fell into a deep sleep.
On waking he found himself on the green knoll whence he had first seen the old man of the glen. He rubbed his eyes—it was a bright, sunny morning. The birds were hopping and twittering among the bushes, and the eagle was wheeling aloft, and breasting the pure mountain breeze. “Surely,” thought Rip, “I have not slept here all night.” He recalled the occurrences before he fell asleep. The strange man with a keg of liquor—the mountain ravine—the wild retreat among the rocks—the woe-begone party at ninepins—the flagon—“Oh! that flagon! that wicked flagon!” thought Rip; “what excuse shall I make to Dame Van Winkle?”
He looked round for his gun, but in place of the clean, well-oiled fowling piece, he found an old firelock lying by him, the barrel incrusted with rust, the lock falling off, and the stock worm-eaten. He now suspected that the grave revelers of the mountain had put a trick upon him and, having dosed him with liquor, had robbed him of his gun. Wolf, too, had disappeared, but he might have strayed away after a squirrel or partridge. He whistled after him, and shouted his name, but all in vain; the echoes repeated his whistle and shout, but no dog was to be seen.
He determined to revisit the scene of the last evening’s gambol, and if he met with any of the party, to demand his dog and gun. As he rose to walk, he found himself stiff in the joints, and wanting in his usual activity. “These mountain beds do not agree with me,” thought Rip, “and if this frolic should lay me up with a fit of the rheumatism, I shall have a blessed time with Dame Van Winkle.” With some difficulty he got down into the glen; he found the gully up which he and his companion had ascended the preceding evening; but to his astonishment a mountain stream was now foaming down it, leaping from rock to rock, and filling the glen with babbling murmurs. He, however, made shift to scramble up its sides, working his toilsome way through thickets of birch, sassafras, and witch-hazel, and sometimes tripped up or entangled by the wild grapevines that twisted their coils from tree to tree, and spread a kind of network in his path.
At length he reached to where the ravine had opened through the cliffs to the amphitheater; but no traces of such opening remained. The rocks presented a high, impenetrable wall, over which the torrent came tumbling in a sheet of feathery foam, and fell into a broad, deep basin, black from the shadows of the surrounding forest. Here, then, poor Rip was brought to a stand. He again called and whistled after his dog; he was only answered by the cawing of a flock of idle crows sporting high in air about a dry tree that overhung a sunny precipice; and who, secure in their elevation, seemed to look down and scoff at the poor man’s perplexities. What was to be done?—the morning was passing away, and Rip felt famished for want of his breakfast. He grieved to give up his dog and gun; he dreaded to meet his wife; but it would not do to starve among the mountains. He shook his head, shouldered the rusty firelock, and, with a heart full of trouble and anxiety, turned his steps homeward.
As he approached the village he met a number of people, but none whom he knew, which somewhat surprised him, for he had thought himself acquainted with every one in the country round. Their dress, too, was of a different fashion from that to which he was accustomed. They all stared at him with equal marks of surprise, and whenever they cast their eyes upon him, invariably stroked their chins. The constant recurrence of this gesture induced Rip, involuntarily, to do the same, when, to his astonishment, he found his beard had grown a foot long!
He had now entered the skirts of the village. A troop of strange children ran at his heels, hooting after him, and pointing at his gray beard. The dogs, too, not one of which he recognized for an old acquaintance, barked at him as he passed. The very village was altered; it was larger and more populous. There were rows of houses which he had never seen before, and those which had been his familiar haunts had disappeared. Strange names were over the doors—strange faces at the windows—everything was strange. His mind now misgave him; he began to doubt whether both he and the world around him were not bewitched. Surely this was his native village, which he had left but the day before. There stood the Catskill Mountains—there ran the silver Hudson at a distance—there was every hill and dale precisely as it had always been. Rip was sorely perplexed. “That flagon last night,” thought he, “has addled my poor head sadly!”
It was with some difficulty that he found the way to his own house, which he approached with silent awe, expecting every moment to hear the shrill voice of Dame Van Winkle. He found the house gone to decay—the roof fallen in, the windows shattered, and the doors off the hinges. A half-starved dog that looked like Wolf was skulking about it. Rip called him by name, but the cur snarled, showed his teeth, and passed on. This was an unkind cut indeed. “My very dog,” sighed Rip, “has forgotten me!”
He entered the house, which, to tell the truth, Dame Van Winkle had always kept in neat order. It was empty, forlorn, and apparently abandoned. He called loudly for his wife and children—the lonely chambers rang for a moment with his voice, and then all again was silence.
He now hurried forth, and hastened to his old resort, the village inn—but it, too, was gone. A large, rickety wooden building stood in its place, with great gaping windows, some of them broken and mended with old hats and petticoats, and over the door was painted, “The Union Hotel, by Jonathan Doolittle.” Instead of the great tree that used to shelter the quiet little Dutch inn of yore, there now was reared a tall, naked pole, with something on the top that looked like a red nightcap, and from it was fluttering a flag, on which was a singular assemblage of stars and stripes; all this was strange and incomprehensible. He recognized on the sign, however, the ruby face of King George, under which he had smoked so many a peaceful pipe; but even this was singularly changed. The red coat was changed for one of blue and buff, a sword was held in the hand instead of a scepter, the head was decorated with a cocked hat, and underneath was painted in large characters, General Washington.
There was, as usual, a crowd of folk about the door, but none that Rip recollected. The very character of the people seemed changed. There was a busy, bustling tone about it, instead of the accustomed drowsy tranquility. He looked in vain for the sage Nicholas Vedder, with his broad face, double chin, and long pipe, uttering clouds of tobacco smoke instead of idle speeches; or Van Bummel, the schoolmaster, doling forth the contents of an ancient newspaper. In place of these, a lean fellow, with his pockets full of handbills, was haranguing vehemently about rights of citizens—elections—members of congress—Bunker’s Hill—heroes of seventy-six—and other words, which were a perfect jargon to the bewildered Van Winkle.
The appearance of Rip, with his long, grizzled beard, his rusty fowling piece, his uncouth dress, and an army of women and children at his heels, soon attracted the attention of the tavern politicians. They crowded round him, eyeing him from head to foot with great curiosity. The orator bustled up to him, and, drawing him partly aside, inquired “On which side he voted?” Rip stared in vacant stupidity. Another short but busy little fellow pulled him by the arm, and, rising on tiptoe, inquired in his ear, “Whether he was Federal or Democrat?” Rip was equally at a loss to comprehend the question; when a knowing, self-important old gentleman, in a sharp cocked hat, made his way through the crowd, putting them to the right and left with his elbows as he passed, and planting himself before Van Winkle, with one arm akimbo, the other resting on his cane, his keen eyes and sharp hat penetrating, as it were, into his very soul, demanded, in an austere tone, “What brought him to the election with a gun on his shoulder, and a mob at his heels; and whether he meant to breed a riot in the village?”—“Alas! gentlemen,” cried Rip, somewhat dismayed, “I am a poor, quiet man, a native of the place, and a loyal subject of the king, God bless him!”
Here a general shout burst from the bystanders—“A tory! a tory! a spy! a refugee! hustle him! away with him!” It was with great difficulty that the self-important man in the cocked hat restored order; and having assumed a tenfold vausterity of brow, demanded again of the unknown culprit, what he came there for, and whom he was seeking! The poor man humbly assured him that he meant no harm, but merely came there in search of some of his neighbors.
“Well—who are they? Name them.”
Rip bethought himself a moment, and inquired, “Where’s Nicholas Vedder?”
There was a silence for a little while, when an old man replied, in a thin, piping voice, “Nicholas Vedder! why, he is dead and gone these eighteen years! There was a wooden tombstone in the churchyard that used to tell all about him, but that’s rotten and gone, too.”
“Where’s Brom Dutcher?”
“Oh, he went off to the army in the beginning of the war; some say he was killed at the storming of Stony Point; others say he was drowned in a squall at the foot of Anthony’s Nose. I don’t know; he never came back again.”
“Where’s Van Brummel, the schoolmaster?”
“He went off to the wars, too, was a great militia general, and is now in congress.”
Rip’s heart died away at hearing of these sad changes in his home and friends and finding himself thus alone in the world. Every answer puzzled him, too, by treating of such enormous lapses of time, and of matters which he could not understand: war—congress—Stony Point. He had no courage to ask after any more friends, but cried out in despair, “Does nobody here know Rip Van Winkle?”
Rip looked, and beheld a precise counterpart of himself, as he went up the mountain—apparently as lazy and certainly as ragged. The poor fellow was now completely confounded. He doubted his own identity, and whether he was himself or another man. In the midst of his bewilderment, the man in the cocked hat demanded who he was, and what was his name.
“God knows,” exclaimed he, at his wits’ end; “I’m not myself—I’m somebody else—that’s me yonder—no—that’s somebody else got into my shoes—I was myself last night, but I fell asleep on the mountain, and they’ve changed my gun, and everything’s changed, and I’m changed, and I can’t tell what’s my name, or who I am!”
The bystanders began now to look at each other, nod, wink significantly, and tap their fingers against their foreheads. There was a whisper, also, about securing the gun, and keeping the old fellow from doing mischief, at the very suggestion of which the self-important man in the cocked hat retired with some precipitation. At this critical moment a fresh, comely woman pressed through the throng to get a peep at the gray-bearded man. She had a chubby child in her arms, which, frightened at his looks, began to cry. “Hush, Rip,” cried she, “hush, you little fool; the old man won’t hurt you.” The name of the child, the air of the mother, the tone of her voice, all awakened a train of recollections in his mind. “What is your name, my good woman?” asked he.
“And your father’s name?”
“Ah, poor man, Rip Van Winkle was his name, but it’s twenty years since he went away from home with his gun, and never has been heard of since—his dog came home without him; but whether he shot himself, or was carried away by the Indians, nobody can tell. I was then but a little girl.”
Rip had but one question more to ask; but he put it with a faltering voice:
“Where’s your mother?”
“Oh, she, too, had died but a short time since; she broke a blood-vessel in a fit of passion at a New England peddler.”
There was a drop of comfort, at least, in this intelligence. The honest man could contain himself no longer. He caught his daughter and her child in his arms. “I am your father!” cried he—“Young Rip Van Winkle once—Old Rip Van Winkle now! Does nobody know poor Rip Van Winkle?”
All stood amazed until an old woman, tottering out from among the crowd, put her hand to her brow, and peering under it in his face for a moment, exclaimed, “Sure enough! it is Rip Van Winkle—it is himself! Welcome home again, old neighbor. Why, where have you been these twenty long years?”
Rip’s story was soon told, for the whole twenty years had been to him but as one night. The neighbors stared when they heard it; some were seen to wink at each other, and put their tongues in their cheeks: and the self-important man in the cocked hat, who when the alarm was over had returned to the field, screwed down the corners of his mouth, and shook his head—upon which there was a general shaking of the head throughout the assemblage.
It was determined, however, to take the opinion of old Peter Vanderdonk, who was seen slowly advancing up the road. He was a descendant of the historian of that name, who wrote one of the earliest accounts of the province. Peter was the most ancient inhabitant of the village, and well versed in all the wonderful events and traditions of the neighborhood. He recollected Rip at once, and corroborated his story in the most satisfactory manner. He assured the company that it was a fact, handed down from his ancestor the historian, that the Catskill Mountains had always been haunted by strange beings. It was affirmed that the great Hendrick Hudson, the first discoverer of the river and country, kept a kind of vigil there every twenty years, with his crew of the Half-moon; being permitted in this way to revisit the scenes of his enterprise, and keep a guardian eye upon the river and the great city called by his name. His father had once seen them in their old Dutch dresses playing at ninepins in a hollow of the mountain; and he himself had heard, one summer afternoon, the sound of their balls, like distant peals of thunder.
To make a long story short, the company broke up and returned to the more important concerns of the election. Rip’s daughter took him home to live with her; she had a snug, well-furnished house, and a stout, cheery farmer for a husband, whom Rip recollected for one of the urchins that used to climb upon his back. As to Rip’s son and heir, who was the ditto of himself, seen leaning against the tree, he was employed to work on the farm; but showed an hereditary disposition to attend to anything else but his business.
HELPS TO STUDY
“Rip Van Winkle” is the most beautiful of American legendary stories. Washington Irving, the author, taking the old idea of long sleep, as found in “The Sleeping Beauty” and other fairy tales, gave it an American setting and interwove in it the legend of Henry Hudson, the discoverer of the Hudson river, who was supposed to return to the scene of his achievement every twenty years, together with the shades of his crew.
I. Where is the scene of this story laid? In which paragraph do you learn when the incident related in the story took place? Why does Irving speak of the mountains as “fairy mountains”? In which paragraph do you meet the principal characters? Give the opinion you form of Rip and his wife. Read sentences that show Rip’s good qualities—those that show his faults. What unusual thing happened to Rip on his walk? How was the dog affected? Give a full account of what happened afterward. Tell what impressed you most in this scene. Read aloud the lines that best describe the scenery.
II. Describe Rip’s waking. What was his worst fear? How did he explain to himself the change in his gun and the disappearance of Wolf? How did he account for the stiffness of his joints? What was still his chief fear? Describe the changes which had taken place in the mountains. With what feeling did he turn homeward? Why? How did he discover the alteration in his own appearance? How did the children and dogs treat him? Why was this particularly hard for Rip to understand? What other changes did he find? What remained unaltered? How did Rip still account for the peculiar happenings? Describe Rip’s feelings as he turned to his own house, and its desolation.
III. What change had been made in the sign over the inn? Why? What important thing was taking place in the village? Why did the speech of the “lean fellow” seem “perfect jargon” to Rip? Why did he not understand the questions asked him? What happened when Rip made his innocent reply to the self-important gentleman? How did he at last learn of the lapse of time? What added to his bewilderment? How was the mystery explained? Note the question Rip reserved for the last and the effect the answer had upon him. How did Peter Vanderdonk explain the strange happening? What is the happy ending? Do you like Rip? Why?
- Urashima—Graded Classics III.
- Vice Versa—F. Anstey.
- Peter Pan—James Barrie.
- The Legend of Sleepy Hollow—Washington Irving.
- A Christmas Carol—Charles Dickens.
- Enoch Arden—Alfred Tennyson.
9-* For words marked v, see Dictionary.
One afternoon when the sun was going down, a mother and her little boy sat at the door of their cottage, talking about the Great Stone Face. They had but to lift their eyes, and there it was plainly to be seen, though miles away, with the sunshine brightening all its features.
And what was the Great Stone Face? The Great Stone Face was a work of Nature in her mood of majestic playfulness, formed on the perpendicular side of a mountain by some immense rocks, which had been thrown together in such a position as, when viewed at a proper distance, precisely to resemble the features of the human countenance. It seemed as if an enormous giant, or a vTitan, had sculptured his own likeness on the precipice. There was the broad arch of the forehead, a hundred feet in height; the nose, with its long bridge; and the vast lips, which, if they could have spoken, would have rolled their thunder accents from one end of the valley to the other.
It was a happy lot for children to grow up to manhood or womanhood with the Great Stone Face before their eyes, for all the features were noble, and the expression was at once grand and sweet, as if it were the glow of a vast, warm heart that embraced all mankind in its affections, and had room for more.
As we began with saying, a mother and her little boy sat at their cottage door, gazing at the Great Stone Face, and talking about it. The child’s name was Ernest. “Mother,” said he, while the Titanic visage smiled on him, “I wish that it could speak, for it looks so very kindly that its voice must be pleasant. If I were to see a man with such a face, I should love him dearly.”
“If an old prophecy should come to pass,” answered his mother, “we may see a man, some time or other, with exactly such a face as that.”
“What prophecy do you mean, dear mother?” eagerly inquired Ernest. “Pray tell me all about it!”
So his mother told him a story that her own mother had told to her, when she herself was younger than little Ernest; a story, not of things that were past, but of what was yet to come; a story, nevertheless, so very old that even the Indians, who formerly inhabited this valley, had heard it from their forefathers, to whom, they believed, it had been murmured by the mountain streams, and whispered by the wind among the tree tops. The story said that at some future day a child should be born hereabouts who was destined to become the greatest and noblest man of his time, and whose countenance, in manhood, should bear an exact resemblance to the Great Stone Face.
“O mother, dear mother!” cried Ernest, clapping his hands above his head, “I do hope that I shall live to see him!” His mother was an affectionate and thoughtful woman, and felt that it was wisest not to discourage the hopes of her little boy. She only said to him, “Perhaps you may,” little thinking that the prophecy would one day come true.
And Ernest never forgot the story that his mother told him. It was always in his mind whenever he looked upon the Great Stone Face. He spent his childhood in the log cottage where he was born, and was dutiful to his mother, and helpful to her in many things, assisting her much with his little hands, and more with his loving heart. In this manner, from a happy yet thoughtful child, he grew to be a mild, quiet, modest boy, sun-browned with labor in the fields, but with more intelligence in his face than is seen in many lads who have been taught at famous schools. Yet Ernest had had no teacher, save only that the Great Stone Face became one to him. When the toil of the day was over, he would gaze at it for hours, until he began to imagine that those vast features recognized him, and gave him a smile of kindness and encouragement in response to his own look of vveneration. We must not take upon us to affirm that this was a mistake, although the Face may have looked no more kindly at Ernest than at all the world besides. For the secret was that the boy’s tender simplicity vdiscerned what other people could not see; and thus the love, which was meant for all, became his alone.
About this time, there went a rumor throughout the valley that the great man, foretold from ages long ago, who was to bear a resemblance to the Great Stone Face, had appeared at last. It seems that, many years before, a young man had left the valley and settled at a distant seaport, where, after getting together a little money, he had set up as a shopkeeper. His name—but I could never learn whether it was his real one, or a nickname that had grown out of his habits and success in life—was Gathergold.
It might be said of him, as of vMidas in the fable, that whatever he touched with his finger immediately glistened, and grew yellow, and was changed at once into coin. And when Mr. Gathergold had become so rich that it would have taken him a hundred years only to count his wealth, he bethought himself of his native valley, and resolved to go back thither, and end his days where he was born. With this purpose in view, he sent a skillful architect to build him such a palace as should be fit for a man of his vast wealth to live in.
As I have said above, it had already been rumored in the valley that Mr. Gathergold had turned out to be the person so long and vainly looked for, and that his visage was the perfect and undeniable likeness of the Great Stone Face. People were the more ready to believe that this must needs be the fact when they beheld the splendid edifice that rose, as if by enchantment, on the site of his father’s old weather-beaten farmhouse. The exterior was of marble, so dazzling white that it seemed as though the whole structure might melt away in the sunshine, like those humbler ones which Mr. Gathergold, in his young playdays, had been accustomed to build of snow. It had a richly ornamented portico, supported by tall pillars, beneath which was a lofty door, studded with silver knobs, and made of a kind of variegated wood that had been brought from beyond the sea. The windows, from the floor to the ceiling of each stately apartment, were each composed of but one enormous pane of glass. Hardly anybody had been permitted to see the interior of this palace; but it was reported to be far more gorgeous than the outside, insomuch that whatever was iron or brass in other houses was silver or gold in this; and Mr. Gathergold’s bedchamber, especially, made such a glittering appearance that no ordinary man would have been able to close his eyes there. But, on the other hand, Mr. Gathergold was now so accustomed to wealth that perhaps he could not have closed his eyes unless where the gleam of it was certain to find its way beneath his eyelids.
In due time, the mansion was finished; next came the upholsterers, with magnificent furniture; then a whole troop of black and white servants, the harbingers of Mr. Gathergold, who, in his own majestic person, was expected to arrive at sunset. Our friend Ernest, meanwhile, had been deeply stirred by the idea that the great man, the noble man, the man of prophecy, after so many ages of delay, was at length to appear in his native valley. He knew, boy as he was, that there were a thousand ways in which Mr. Gathergold, with his vast wealth, might transform himself into an angel of beneficence, and assume a control over human affairs as wide and vbenignant as the smile of the Great Stone Face. Full of faith and hope, Ernest doubted not that what the people said was true, and that now he was to behold the living likeness of those wondrous features on the mountain side. While the boy was still gazing up the valley, and fancying, as he always did, that the Great Stone Face returned his gaze and looked kindly at him, the rumbling of wheels was heard, approaching swiftly along the winding road.
“Here he comes!” cried a group of people who were assembled to witness the arrival. “Here comes the great Mr. Gathergold!”
A carriage, drawn by four horses, dashed round the turn of the road. Within it, thrust partly out of the window, appeared the face of a little old man, with a skin as yellow as gold. He had a low forehead, small, sharp eyes, puckered about with innumerable wrinkles, and very thin lips, which he made still thinner by pressing them forcibly together.
“The very image of the Great Stone Face!” shouted the people. “Sure enough, the old prophecy is true.”
And, what greatly perplexed Ernest, they seemed actually to believe that here was the likeness which they spoke of. By the roadside there chanced to be an old beggar woman and two little beggar children, stragglers from some far-off region, who, as the carriage rolled onward, held out their hands and lifted up their doleful voices, most piteously beseeching charity. A yellow claw—the very same that had clawed together so much wealth—poked itself out of the coach window, and dropped some copper coins upon the ground; so that, though the great man’s name seems to have been Gathergold, he might just as suitably have been nicknamed Scattercopper. Still, nevertheless, with an earnest shout, and evidently with as much good faith as ever, the people bellowed:
“He is the very image of the Great Stone Face!”
But Ernest turned sadly from the wrinkled shrewdness of that visage and gazed up the valley, where, amid a gathering mist, gilded by the last sunbeams, he could still distinguish those glorious features which had impressed themselves into his soul. Their aspect cheered him. What did the benign lips seem to say?
“He will come! Fear not, Ernest; the man will come!”
The years went on, and Ernest ceased to be a boy. He had grown to be a young man now. He attracted little notice from the other inhabitants of the valley, for they saw nothing remarkable in his way of life, save that, when the labor of the day was over, he still loved to go apart and gaze and meditate upon the Great Stone Face. According to their idea of the matter, however, it was a pardonable folly, for Ernest was industrious, kind, and neighborly, and neglected no duty for the sake of this idle habit. They knew not that the Great Stone Face had become a teacher to him, and that the sentiment which was expressed in it would enlarge the young man’s heart, and fill it with wider and deeper sympathies than other hearts. They knew not that thence would come a better wisdom than could be learned from books, and a better life than could be molded on the example of other human lives. Neither did Ernest know that the thoughts and affections which came to him so naturally, in the fields and at the fireside, were of a higher tone than those which all men shared with him. A simple soul,—simple as when his mother first taught him the old prophecy,—he beheld the marvelous features beaming down the valley, and still wondered that their human counterpart was so long in making his appearance.
By this time poor Mr. Gathergold was dead and buried; and the oddest part of the matter was that his wealth, which was the body and spirit of his existence, had disappeared before his death, leaving nothing of him but a living skeleton, covered over with a wrinkled, yellow skin. Since the melting away of his gold, it had been very generally allowed that there was no such striking resemblance, after all, betwixt the ignoble features of the ruined merchant and that majestic face upon the mountain side. So the people ceased to honor him during his lifetime, and quietly forgot him after his decease. Once in a while, it is true, his memory was brought up in connection with the magnificent palace which he had built, and which had long ago been turned into a hotel for the accommodation of strangers, multitudes of whom came, every summer, to visit that famous natural curiosity, the Great Stone Face. The man of prophecy was yet to come.
It so happened that a native-born son of the valley, many years before, had enlisted as a soldier, and, after a great deal of hard fighting, had now become an illustrious commander. Whatever he may be called in history, he was known in camps and on the battlefield under the nickname of Old Blood-and-Thunder. This war-worn veteran, being now weary of a military life, and of the roll of the drum and the clangor of the trumpet that had so long been ringing in his ears, had lately signified a purpose of returning to his native valley, hoping to find repose where he remembered to have left it. The inhabitants, his old neighbors and their grown-up children, were resolved to welcome the vrenowned warrior with a salute of cannon and a public dinner; and all the more enthusiastically because it was believed that at last the likeness of the Great Stone Face had actually appeared. A friend of Old Blood-and-Thunder, traveling through the valley, was said to have been struck with the resemblance. Moreover, the schoolmates and early acquaintances of the general were ready to testify, on oath, that, to the best of their recollection, the general had been exceedingly like the majestic image, even when a boy, only that the idea had never occurred to them at that period. Great, therefore, was the excitement throughout the valley; and many people, who had never once thought of glancing at the Great Stone Face for years before, now spent their time in gazing at it, for the sake of knowing exactly how General Blood-and-Thunder looked.
On the day of the great festival, Ernest, and all the other people of the valley, left their work and proceeded to the spot where the banquet was prepared. As he approached, the loud voice of the Rev. Dr. Battleblast was heard, beseeching a blessing on the good things set before them, and on the distinguished friend of peace in whose honor they were assembled. The tables were arranged in a cleared space of the woods, shut in by the surrounding trees, except where a vista opened eastward, and afforded a distant view of the Great Stone Face. Over the general’s chair, which was a relic from the home of Washington, there was an arch of green boughs and laurel surmounted by his country’s banner, beneath which he had won his victories. Our friend Ernest raised himself on his tiptoes, in hopes to get a glimpse of the celebrated guest; but there was a mighty crowd about the tables anxious to hear the toasts and speeches, and to catch any word that might fall from the general in reply; and a volunteer company, doing duty as a guard, pricked with their bayonets at any particularly quiet person among the throng. So Ernest, being of a modest character, was thrust quite into the background, where he could see no more of Old Blood-and-Thunder’s face than if it had been still blazing on the battlefield. To console himself he turned toward the Great Stone Face, which, like a faithful and long-remembered friend, looked back and smiled upon him through the forest. Meantime, however, he could overhear the remarks of various individuals who were comparing the features of the hero with the face on the distant mountain side.
“’Tis the same face, to a hair!” cried one man, cutting a caper for joy.
“Wonderfully like, that’s a fact!” responded another.
“Like! Why, I call it Old Blood-and-Thunder himself, in a monstrous looking-glass!” cried a third. “And why not? He’s the greatest man of this or any other age, beyond a doubt.”
“The general! The general!” was now the cry. “Hush! Silence! Old Blood-and-Thunder’s going to make a speech.”
Even so; for, the cloth being removed, the general’s health had been drunk amid shouts of applause, and he now stood upon his feet to thank the company. Ernest saw him. There he was, over the shoulders of the crowd, from the two glittering epaulets and embroidered collar upward, beneath the arch of green boughs with intertwined laurel, and the banner drooping as if to shade his brow! And there, too, visible in the same glance, appeared the Great Stone Face! And was there, indeed, such a resemblance as the crowd had testified? Alas, Ernest could not recognize it! He beheld a war-worn and weather-beaten countenance, full of energy, and expressive of an iron will; but the gentle wisdom, the deep, broad, tender sympathies were altogether wanting in Old Blood-and-Thunder’s visage.
“This is not the man of prophecy,” sighed Ernest to himself, as he made his way out of the throng. “And must the world wait longer yet?”
The mists had gathered about the distant mountain side, and there were seen the grand and awful features of the Great Stone Face, awful but benignant, as if a mighty angel were sitting among the hills and enrobing himself in a cloud vesture of gold and purple. As he looked, Ernest could hardly believe but that a smile beamed over the whole visage, with a radiance still brightening, although without motion of the lips. It was probably the effect of the western sunshine, melting the thin vapors that had swept between him and the object that he had gazed at. But—as it always did—the aspect of his marvelous friend made Ernest as hopeful as if he had never hoped in vain.
“Fear not, Ernest,” said his heart, even as if the Great Face were whispering him—“fear not, Ernest.”
More years sped swiftly and tranquilly away. Ernest still dwelt in his native valley, and was now a man of middle age. By slow degrees he had become known among the people. Now, as heretofore, he labored for his bread, and was the same simple-hearted man that he had always been. But he had thought and felt so much, he had given so many of the best hours of his life to unworldly hopes for some great good to mankind, that it seemed as though he had been talking with the angels, and had imbibed a portion of their wisdom unawares. It was visible in the calm beneficence of his daily life, the quiet stream of which had made a wide, green margin all along its course. Not a day passed by that the world was not the better because this man, humble as he was, had lived. He never stepped aside from his own path, yet would always reach a blessing to his neighbor. Almost involuntarily, too, he had become a preacher. The pure and high simplicity of his thought, which took shape in the good deeds that dropped silently from his hand, flowered also forth in speech. He uttered truths that molded the lives of those who heard him. His hearers, it may be, never suspected that Ernest, their own neighbor and familiar friend, was more than an ordinary man; least of all did Ernest himself suspect it; but thoughts came out of his mouth that no other human lips had spoken.
When the people’s minds had had a little time to cool, they were ready enough to acknowledge their mistake in imagining a similarity between General Blood-and-Thunder and the benign visage on the mountain side. But now, again, there were reports and many paragraphs in the newspapers, affirming that the likeness of the Great Stone Face had appeared upon the broad shoulders of a certain eminent vstatesman. He, like Mr. Gathergold and Old Blood-and-Thunder, was a native of the valley, but had left it in his early days, and taken up the trades of law and politics. Instead of the rich man’s wealth and the warrior’s sword he had but a tongue, and it was mightier than both together. So wonderfully eloquent was he that, whatever he might choose to say, his hearers had no choice but to believe him; wrong looked like right, and right like wrong. His voice, indeed, was a magic instrument: sometimes it rumbled like the thunder; sometimes it warbled like the sweetest music. In good truth, he was a wondrous man; and when his tongue had acquired him all other imaginable success,—when it had been heard in halls of state and in the courts of princes,—after it had made him known all over the world, even as a voice crying from shore to shore,—it finally persuaded his countrymen to select him for the presidency. Before this time,—indeed, as soon as he began to grow celebrated,—his admirers had found out the resemblance between him and the Great Stone Face; and so much were they struck by it that throughout the country this distinguished gentleman was known by the name of Old Stony Phiz.
While his friends were doing their best to make him President, Old Stony Phiz, as he was called, set out on a visit to the valley where he was born. Of course he had no other object than to shake hands with his fellow-citizens, and neither thought nor cared about any effect which his progress through the country might have upon the election. Magnificent preparations were made to receive the villustrious statesmen; a cavalcade of horsemen set forth to meet him at the boundary line of the State, and all the people left their business and gathered along the wayside to see him pass. Among these was Ernest. Though more than once disappointed, as we have seen, he had such a hopeful and confiding nature that he was always ready to believe in whatever seemed beautiful and good. He kept his heart continually open, and thus was sure to catch the blessing from on high, when it should come. So now again, as buoyantly as ever, he went forth to behold the likeness of the Great Stone Face.
The cavalcade came prancing along the road, with a great clattering of hoofs and a mighty cloud of dust, which rose up so dense and high that the visage of the mountain side was completely hidden from Ernest’s eyes. All the great men of the neighborhood were there on horseback: militia officers, in uniform; the member of congress; the sheriff of the county; the editors of newspapers; and many a farmer, too, had mounted his patient steed, with his Sunday coat upon his back. It really was a very brilliant spectacle, especially as there were numerous banners flaunting over the cavalcade, on some of which were gorgeous portraits of the illustrious statesman and the Great Stone Face, smiling familiarly at one another, like two brothers. If the pictures were to be trusted, the resemblance, it must be confessed, was marvelous. We must not forget to mention that there was a band of music, which made the echoes of the mountains ring with the loud triumph of its strains, so that airy and soul-thrilling melodies broke out among all the heights and hollows, as if every nook of his native valley had found a voice to welcome the distinguished guest. But the grandest effect was when the far-off mountain precipice flung back the music; for then the Great Stone Face itself seemed to be swelling the triumphant chorus, in acknowledgment that, at length, the man of prophecy was come.
All this while the people were throwing up their hats and shouting with such enthusiasm that the heart of Ernest kindled up, and he likewise threw up his hat and shouted as loudly as the loudest, “Huzza for the great man! Huzza for Old Stony Phiz!” But as yet he had not seen him.
“Here he is now!” cried those who stood near Ernest. “There! There! Look at Old Stony Phiz and then at the Old Man of the Mountain, and see if they are not as like as two twin brothers!”
In the midst of all this gallant array came an open vbarouche, drawn by four white horses; and in the barouche, with his massive head uncovered, sat the illustrious statesman, Old Stony Phiz himself.
“Confess it,” said one of Ernest’s neighbors to him, “the Great Stone Face has met its match at last!”
Now, it must be owned that, at his first glimpse of the countenance which was bowing and smiling from the barouche, Ernest did fancy that there was a resemblance between it and the old familiar face upon the mountain side. The brow, with its massive depth and loftiness, and all the other features, indeed, were bold and strong. But the grand expression of a divine sympathy that illuminated the mountain visage might here be sought in vain.
Still Ernest’s neighbor was thrusting his elbow into his side, and pressing him for an answer.
“Confess! Confess! Is not he the very picture of your Old Man of the Mountain?”
“Then so much the worse for the Great Stone Face!” answered his neighbor. And again he set up a shout for Old Stony Phiz.
But Ernest turned away, melancholy, and almost despondent; for this was the saddest of his disappointments, to behold a man who might have fulfilled the prophecy, and had not willed to do so. Meantime, the cavalcade, the banners, the music, and the barouches swept past him, with the shouting crowd in the rear, leaving the dust to settle down, and the Great Stone Face to be revealed again, with the grandeur that it had worn for untold centuries.
“Lo, here I am, Ernest!” the benign lips seemed to say. “I have waited longer than thou, and am not yet weary. Fear not; the man will come.”
The years hurried onward, treading in their haste on one another’s heels. And now they began to bring white hairs and scatter them over the head of Ernest; they made wrinkles across his forehead and furrows in his cheeks. He was an aged man. But not in vain had he grown old; more than the white hairs on his head were the wise thoughts in his mind. And Ernest had ceased to be obscure. Unsought for, undesired, had come the fame which so many seek, and made him known in the great world, beyond the limits of the valley in which he had dwelt so quietly. College professors, and even the active men of cities, came from far to see and converse with Ernest; for the report had gone abroad that this simple farmer had ideas unlike those of other men, and a tranquil majesty as if he had been talking with the angels as his daily friends. Ernest received these visitors with the gentle sincerity that had marked him from boyhood, and spoke freely with them of whatever came uppermost, or lay deepest in his heart or their own. While they talked together his face would kindle and shine upon them, as with a mild evening light. When his guests took leave and went their way, and passing up the valley, paused to look at the Great Stone Face, they imagined that they had seen its likeness in a human countenance, but could not remember where.
While Ernest had been growing up and growing old, a bountiful Providence had granted a new poet to this earth. He, likewise, was a native of the valley, but had spent the greater part of his life at a distance from that romantic region, pouring out his sweet music amid the bustle and din of cities. Often, however, did the mountains which had been familiar to him in his childhood lift their snowy peaks into the clear atmosphere of his poetry. Neither was the Great Stone Face forgotten, for he had celebrated it in a poem which was grand enough to have been uttered by its lips.
The songs of this poet found their way to Ernest. He read them after his customary toil, seated on the bench before his cottage door, where for such a length of time he had filled his repose with thought, by gazing at the Great Stone Face. And now, as he read stanzas that caused the soul to thrill within him, he lifted his eyes to the vast countenance beaming on him so benignantly.
“O majestic friend,” he said, addressing the Great Stone Face, “is not this man worthy to resemble thee?”
The Face seemed to smile, but answered not a word.
Now it happened that the poet, though he dwelt so far away, had not only heard of Ernest, but had meditated much upon his character, until he deemed nothing so desirable as to meet this man whose untaught wisdom walked hand in hand with the noble simplicity of his life. One summer morning, therefore, he took passage by the railroad, and, in the decline of the afternoon, alighted from the cars at no great distance from Ernest’s cottage. The great hotel, which had formerly been the palace of Mr. Gathergold, was close at hand, but the poet, with his carpetbag on his arm, inquired at once where Ernest dwelt, and was resolved to be accepted as his guest.
Approaching the door, he there found the good old man, holding a volume in his hand, which he read, and then, with a finger between the leaves, looked lovingly at the Great Stone Face.
“Willingly,” answered Ernest. And then he added, smiling, “Methinks I never saw the Great Stone Face look so hospitably at a stranger.”
The poet sat down on the bench beside him, and he and Ernest talked together. Often had the poet conversed with the wittiest and the wisest, but never before with a man like Ernest, whose thoughts and feelings gushed up with such a natural freedom, and who made great truths so familiar by his simple utterance of them. Angels, as had been so often said, seemed to have wrought with him at his labor in the fields; angels seemed to have sat with him by the fireside. So thought the poet. And Ernest, on the other hand, was moved by the living images which the poet flung out of his mind, and which peopled all the air about the cottage door with shapes of beauty.
As Ernest listened to the poet, he imagined that the Great Stone Face was bending forward to listen, too. He gazed earnestly into the poet’s glowing eyes.
“Who are you, my strangely gifted guest!” he said.
The poet laid his finger on the volume that Ernest had been reading.
“You have read these poems,” said he. “You know me, then,—for I wrote them.”
Again, and still more earnestly than before, Ernest examined the poet’s features; then turned toward the Great Stone Face; then back to his guest. But his countenance fell; he shook his head, and mournfully sighed.
“Wherefore are you sad?” inquired the poet.
“Because,” replied Ernest, “all through life I have awaited the fulfillment of a prophecy; and when I read these poems, I hoped that it might be fulfilled in you.”
“You hoped,” answered the poet, faintly smiling, “to find in me the likeness of the Great Stone Face. And you are disappointed, as formerly with Mr. Gathergold, and Old Blood-and-Thunder, and Old Stony Phiz. Yes, Ernest, it is my doom. You must add my name to the illustrious three, and record another failure of your hopes. For—in shame and sadness do I speak it, Ernest—I am not worthy.”
“And why?” asked Ernest. He pointed to the volume. “Are not those thoughts divine?”
“You can hear in them the far-off echo of a heavenly song,” replied the poet. “But my life, dear Ernest, has not corresponded with my thought. I have had grand dreams, but they have been only dreams, because I have lived—and that, too, by my own choice—among poor and mean realities. Sometimes even—shall I dare to say it?—I lack faith in the grandeur, the beauty, and the goodness which my own works are said to have made more evident in nature and in human life. Why, then, pure seeker of the good and true, shouldst thou hope to find me in yonder image of the divine?”
At the hour of sunset, as had long been his frequent custom, Ernest was to speak to an assemblage of the neighboring inhabitants in the open air. He and the poet, arm in arm, still talking together as they went along, proceeded to the spot. It was a small nook among the hills, with a gray precipice behind, the stern front of which was relieved by the pleasant foliage of many creeping plants, that made a vtapestry for the naked rock by hanging their festoons from all its rugged angles. At a small elevation above the ground, set in a rich framework of verdure, there appeared a vniche, spacious enough to admit a human figure. Into this natural pulpit Ernest ascended and threw a look of familiar kindness around upon his audience. They stood, or sat, or reclined upon the grass, as seemed good to each, with the departing sunshine falling over them. In another direction was seen the Great Stone Face, with the same cheer, combined with the same solemnity, in its benignant aspect.
Ernest began to speak, giving to the people of what was in his heart and mind. His words had power, because they accorded with his thoughts; and his thoughts had reality and depth, because they harmonized with the life which he had always lived. The poet, as he listened, felt that the being and character of Ernest were a nobler strain of poetry than he had ever written. His eyes glistening with tears, he gazed reverentially at the venerable man, and said within himself that never was there an aspect so worthy of a prophet and a sage as that mild, sweet, thoughtful countenance with the glory of white hair diffused about it. At a distance, but distinctly to be seen, high up in the golden light of the setting sun, appeared the Great Stone Face, with hoary mists around it, like the white hairs around the brow of Ernest.
At that moment, in sympathy with a thought which he was about to utter, the face of Ernest assumed a grandeur of expression, so full of benevolence, that the poet, by an irresistible impulse, threw his arms aloft, and shouted:
“Behold! Behold! Ernest is himself the likeness of the Great Stone Face!”
Then all the people looked and saw that what the deep-sighted poet said was true. The prophecy was fulfilled. The man had appeared at last.
HELPS TO STUDY
I. What picture do you get from Part I? Tell in your own words what the mother told Ernest about the Great Stone Face. Who had carved the face? How? Find something that is one hundred feet high, and picture to yourself the immensity of the whole face, judging by the forehead alone. Describe Ernest’s childhood and his education.
II. What reason had the people for thinking that the great man had come in the person of Mr. Gathergold? Explain the reference to Midas. What was there in Mr. Gathergold’s appearance and action to disappoint Ernest? What comforted him? Why were the people willing to believe that Mr. Gathergold was the image of the Great Stone Face? What caused them to decide that he was not? What was there to indicate that Ernest would become a great and good man?
III. What new character is now introduced? Wherein was Old Blood-and-Thunder lacking in resemblance to the Great Stone Face? Compare him with Mr. Gathergold and decide which was the greater character? How was Ernest comforted in his second disappointment?
IV. What kind of man had Ernest become? What figure comes into the story now? Find a sentence that gives a clew to the character of Stony Phiz. Compare him with the characters previously introduced. Why was Ernest more disappointed than before? Where did he again look for comfort?
V. What changes did the hurrying years bring Ernest? What sentence indicates who the man of prophecy might be? Who is now introduced in the story? Give the opinion that Ernest and the poet had of each other. Find the sentence which explains why the poet failed. Who was the first to recognize in Ernest the likeness to the Great Stone Face? Why did Hawthorne have a poet to make the discovery? In what way was Ernest great? How had he become so? What trait of Ernest’s character is shown in the last sentence?
The story is divided into five parts. Make an outline telling what is the topic of each part.
- The Sketch Book—Washington Irving.
- Old Curiosity Shop—Charles Dickens.
- Pendennis—William Makepeace Thackeray.
- The Snow-Image—Nathaniel Hawthorne.
- The Legend Beautiful—Henry W. Longfellow.
- William Wilson—Edgar Allan Poe.
With conflicting feelings of love for Priscilla and duty to his friend, Miles Standish, John Alden does not “speak for himself,” but returns to Plymouth to tell Standish the result of the interview.
A report comes to the settlement that Miles Standish has been killed in a fight with the Indians. John Alden, feeling that Standish’s death has freed him from the need of keeping his own love for Priscilla silent, woos and wins her. At last the wedding-day arrives.
HELPS TO STUDY
Miles Standish was one of the early settlers of Plymouth colony. He came over soon after the landing of the Mayflower and was made captain of the colony because of his military experience. The feeble settlement was in danger from the Indians, and Standish’s services were of great importance. He was one of the leaders of Plymouth for a number of years. Longfellow shaped the legend of his courtship into one of the most beautiful poems of American literature, vividly describing the hardships and perils of the early life of New England.
I. Where is the scene of the story laid? At what time did it begin? What is the first impression you get of Miles Standish? of John Alden? Read the lines that bring out the soldierly qualities of the one and the studious nature of the other. What lines show that Standish had fought on foreign soil? Read the lines that show John Alden’s interest in Priscilla. What request did Standish make of Alden? How was it received? Why did Alden accept the task?
II. What time of the year was it? How do you know? Contrast Alden’s feelings with the scene around him. What were Priscilla’s feelings toward Alden? Quote lines that show this. How did he fulfill his task? With what question did Priscilla finally meet his eloquent appeal in behalf of his friend? How did Standish receive Alden’s report? What interruption occurred?
III. What report brought about the marriage of John Alden and Priscilla? Read the lines that describe the beauty of their wedding-day. What time of year was it? How do you know? What custom was followed in the marriage ceremony? Look in the Bible for a description of the marriage of Ruth and Boaz. Find other biblical references in the poem. Who appeared at the end of the ceremony? How was he received? Contrast his mood now with the mood when he left to fight the Indians. What adage did he use to show the difference between his age and Priscilla’s? Describe the final scene of the wedding—the procession to the new home. Tell what you know of early life in Massachusetts.
- Gareth and Lynette—Alfred Tennyson.
- The Courtin’—James Russell Lowell.
- Evangeline—Henry W. Longfellow.
This story is taken from Mary Johnston’s novel, To Have and to Hold, which describes the early settlement of Virginia. The most important event of this period was the Indian massacre of 1622. For some years the whites and Indians had lived in peace, and it was believed that there would be no further trouble from the savages. However, Opechancanough, the head chief of the Powhatan confederacy, formed a plot against the white men and suddenly attacked them with great fury. Hundreds of the English settlers were slain. The author of the novel, taking the bare outline of the massacre as given in the early histories, has woven around it the graphic story of Captain Ralph Percy and his saving of the colony. Percy, unlike Miles Standish, is not a historical character.
A man who hath been a soldier and adventurer into far and strange countries must needs have faced Death many times and in many guises. I had learned to know that grim countenance, and to have no great fear of it. The surprise of our sudden capture by the Indians had now worn away, and I no longer struggled to loose my bonds, Indian-tied and not to be loosened.
Another slow hour and I bethought me of Diccon, my servant and companion in captivity, and spoke to him, asking him how he did. He answered from the other side of the lodge that was our prison, but the words were scarcely out of his mouth before our guard broke in upon us, commanding silence.
It was now moonlight without the lodge and very quiet. The night was far gone; already we could smell the morning, and it would come apace. Knowing the swiftness of that approach and what the early light would bring, I strove for a courage which should be the steadfastness of the Christian and not the vainglorious pride of the heathen.
Suddenly, in the first gray dawn, as at a trumpet’s call, the village awoke. From the long communal houses poured forth men, women, and children; fires sprang up, dispersing the mist, and a commotion arose through the length and breadth of the place. The women made haste with their cooking and bore maize cakes and broiled fish to the warriors, who sat on the ground in front of the royal lodge. Diccon and I were loosed, brought without, and allotted our share of the food. We ate sitting side by side with our captors, and Diccon, with a great cut across his head, even made merry.
In the usual order of things in an Indian village, the meal over, tobacco should have followed. But now not a pipe was lit, and the women made haste to take away the platters and to get all things in readiness for what was to follow. The vwerowance of the vPaspaheghs rose to his feet, cast aside his mantle, and began to speak. He was a man in the prime of life, of a great figure, strong as a vSusquehannock, and a savage cruel and crafty beyond measure. Over his breast, stained with strange figures, hung a chain of small bones, and the scalp locks of his enemies fringed his moccasins. No player could be more skillful in gesture and expression, no poet more nice in the choice of words, no general more quick to raise a wild enthusiasm in the soldiers to whom he called. All Indians are eloquent, but this savage was a leader among them.
He spoke now to some effect. Commencing with a day in the moon of blossoms when for the first time winged canoes brought white men into the vPowhatan, he came down through year after year to the present hour, ceased, and stood in silence, regarding his triumph. It was complete. In its wild excitement the village was ready then and there to make an end of us, who had sprung to our feet and stood with our backs against a great bay tree, facing the maddened throng. Much the best would it be for us if the tomahawks left the hands that were drawn back to throw, if the knives that were flourished in our faces should be buried to the haft in our hearts; and so we courted death, striving with word and look to infuriate our executioners to the point of forgetting their former purpose in the passion for instant vengeance. It was not to be. The werowance spoke again, pointing to the hills which were dimly seen through the mist. A moment, and the hands clenched upon the weapons fell; another, and we were upon the march.
As one man, the village swept through the forest toward the rising ground that was but a few bowshots away. The young men bounded ahead to make the preparation; but the approved warriors and the old men went more sedately, and with them walked Diccon and I, as steady of step as they. The women and children for the most part brought up the rear, though a few impatient hags ran past us. One of these women bore a great burning torch, the flame and smoke streaming over her shoulder as she ran. Others carried pieces of bark heaped with the vslivers of pine of which every wigwam has store.
The sun was yet to rise when we reached a hollow amongst the low red hills. The place was a natural amphitheater, well fitted for a spectacle. Those Indians who could not crowd into the narrow level spread themselves over the rising ground and looked down with fierce laughter upon the driving of the stakes which the young men had brought. The women and children scattered into the woods beyond the cleft between the hills and returned bearing great armfuls of dry branches. Taunting laughter, cries of savage triumph, the shaking of rattles, and the furious beating of two great drums combined to make a clamor deafening me to stupor. Above the horizon was the angry reddening of the heavens and the white mist curling up like smoke.
I sat down beside Diccon on the log. I did not speak to him, nor he to me; there seemed no need of speech. In the vpandemonium to which the world had narrowed, the one familiar, matter-of-course thing was that he and I were to die together.
The stakes were in the ground and painted red, the wood was properly fixed. The Indian woman who held the torch that was to light the pile ran past us, whirling the wood around her head to make it blaze more fiercely. As she went by she lowered the brand and slowly dragged it across my wrists. The beating of the drums suddenly ceased, and the loud voices died away.
Seeing that they were coming for us, Diccon and I rose to await them. When they were nearly upon us, I turned to him and held out my hand.
He made no motion to take it. Instead, he stood with fixed eyes looking past me and slightly upward. A sudden pallor had overspread the bronze of his face.
“There’s a verse somewhere,” he said in a quiet voice,—“it’s in the Bible, I think—I heard it once long ago: ‘I will look unto the hills from whence cometh my help.’ Look, sir!”
I turned and followed with my eyes the pointing of his finger. In front of us the bank rose steeply, bare to the summit,—no trees, only the red earth, with here and there a low growth of leafless bushes. Behind it was the eastern sky. Upon the crest, against the sunrise, stood the figure of a man—an Indian. From one shoulder hung an otterskin, and a great bow was in his hand. His limbs were bare, and as he stood motionless, bathed in the rosy light, he looked like some bronze god, perfect from the beaded moccasins to the calm, uneager face below the feathered head-dress. He had but just risen above the brow of the hill; the Indians in the hollow saw him not.
While Diccon and I stared, our tormentors were upon us. They came a dozen or more at once, and we had no weapons. Two hung on my arms, while a third laid hold of my doublet to rend it from me. An arrow whistled over our heads and stuck into a tree behind us. The hands that clutched me dropped, and with a yell the busy throng turned their faces in the direction whence had come the arrow.
The Indian who had sent that dart before him was descending the bank. An instant’s breathless hush while they stared at the solitary figure; then the dark forms bent forward for the rush straightened, and there arose a cry of recognition. “The son of Powhatan! The son of Powhatan!”
He came down the hillside to the level of the hollow, the authority of his look and gesture making way for him through the crowd that surged this way and that, and walked up to us where we stood, hemmed round but no longer in the clutch of our enemies.
“You were never more welcome, Nantaquas,” I said to him, heartily.
Taking my hand in his, the chief turned to his frowning countrymen. “Men of the vPamunkeys!” he cried, “this is Nantaquas’ friend, and so the friend of all the tribes that called Powhatan ‘father.’ The fire is not for him nor for his servant; keep it for the vMonacans and for the dogs of the vLong House! The calumet is for the friend of Nantaquas, and the dance of the maidens, the noblest buck and the best of the fish-weirs.”
There was a surging forward of the Indians and a fierce murmur of dissent. The werowance, standing out from the throng, lifted his voice. “There was a time,” he cried, “when Nantaquas was the panther crouched upon the bough above the leader of the herd; now Nantaquas is a tame panther and rolls at the white men’s feet! There was a time when the word of the son of Powhatan weighed more than the lives of many dogs such as these, but I know not why we should put out the fire at his command! He is war chief no longer, for vOpechancanough will have no tame panther to lead the tribes. Opechancanough is our head, and he kindleth a fire indeed. We will give to this man what fuel we choose, and to-night Nantaquas may look for his bones!”
He ended, and a great clamor arose. The Paspaheghs would have cast themselves upon us again but for a sudden action of the young chief, who had stood motionless, with raised hand and unmoved face, during the werowance’s bitter speech. Now he flung up his hand, and in it was a bracelet of gold, carved and twisted like a coiled snake and set with a green stone. I had never seen the toy before, but evidently others had. The excited voices fell, and the Indians, Pamunkeys and Paspaheghs alike, stood as though turned to stone.
Nantaquas smiled coldly. “This day hath Opechancanough made me war chief again. We have smoked the peace pipe together—my father’s brother and I—in the starlight, sitting before his lodge, with the wide marshes and the river dark at our feet. Singing birds in the forest have been many; evil tales have they told; Opechancanough has stopped his ears against their false singing. My friends are his friends, my brother is his brother, my word is his word: witness the armlet that hath no like. Opechancanough is at hand; he comes through the forest with his two hundred warriors. Will you, when you lie at his feet, have him ask you, ‘Where is the friend of my friend, of my war chief?’”
There came a long, deep breath from the Indians, then a silence in which they fell back, slowly and sullenly—whipped hounds but with the will to break that leash of fear.
“Hark!” said Nantaquas, smiling. “I hear Opechancanough and his warriors coming over the leaves.”
The noise of many footsteps was indeed audible, coming toward the hollow from the woods beyond. With a burst of cries, the priests and the conjurer whirled away to bear the welcome of Okee to the royal worshipper, and at their heels went the chief men of the Pamunkeys. The werowance of the Paspaheghs was one that sailed with the wind; he listened to the deepening sound and glanced at the son of Powhatan where he stood, calm and confident, then smoothed his own countenance and made a most pacific speech, in which all the blame of the late proceedings was laid upon the singing birds. When he had done speaking, the young men tore the stakes from the earth and threw them into a thicket, while the women plucked apart the newly kindled fire and flung the brands into a little nearby stream, where they went out in a cloud of hissing steam.
I turned to the Indian who had wrought this miracle. “Art sure it is not a dream, Nantaquas? I think that Opechancanough would not lift a finger to save me from all the deaths the tribes could invent.”
“Opechancanough is very wise,” he answered quietly. “He says that now the English will believe in his love indeed when they see that he holds dear even one who might be called his enemy, who hath spoken against him at the Englishmen’s council fire. He says that for five suns Captain Percy shall feast with him, and then shall go back free to Jamestown. He thinks that then Captain Percy will not speak against him any more, calling his love to the white men only words with no good deeds behind.”
He spoke simply, out of the nobility of his nature, believing his own speech. I that was older, and had more knowledge of men and the masks they wear, was but half deceived. My belief in the hatred of the dark emperor was not shaken, and I looked yet to find the drop of poison within this honey flower. How poisoned was that bloom, God knows I could not guess!
By this time we three were alone in the hollow, for all the savages, men and women, had gone forth to meet the Indian whose word was law from the falls of the far west to the Chesapeake. The sun now rode above the low hills, pouring its gold into the hollow and brightening all the world besides. A chant raised by the Indians grew nearer, and the rustling of the leaves beneath many feet more loud and deep; then all noise ceased and Opechancanough entered the hollow alone. An eagle feather was thrust through his scalp lock; over his naked breast, which was neither painted nor pricked into strange figures, hung a triple row of pearls; his mantle was woven of bluebird feathers, as soft and sleek as satin. The face of this barbarian was as dark, cold, and impassive as death. Behind that changeless mask, as in a safe retreat, the subtle devil that was the man might plot destruction and plan the laying of dreadful mines.
I stepped forward and met him on the spot where the fire had been. For a minute neither spoke. It was true that I had striven against him many a time, and I knew that he knew it. It was also true that without his aid Nantaquas could not have rescued us from that dire peril. And it was again the truth that an Indian neither forgives nor forgets. He was my saviour, and I knew that mercy had been shown for some dark reason which I could not divine. Yet I owed him thanks and gave them as shortly and simply as I could.
He heard me out with neither liking nor disliking nor any other emotion written upon his face; but when I had finished, as though he had suddenly bethought himself, he smiled and held out his hand, white-man fashion.
“Singing birds have lied to Captain Percy,” he said. “Opechancanough thinks that Captain Percy will never listen to them again. The chief of the Powhatans is a lover of the white men, of the English, and of other white men. He would call the Englishmen his brothers and be taught of them how to rule and to whom to pray”—
“Let Opechancanough go with me to Jamestown,” I replied. “He hath the wisdom of the woods; let him come and gain that of the town.”
The emperor smiled again. “I will come to Jamestown soon, but not to-day or to-morrow or the next day. And Captain Percy must smoke the peace pipe in my lodge above the Pamunkey and watch my young men and maidens dance, and eat with me five days. Then he may go back to Jamestown with presents for the great white father there and with a message from me that I am coming soon to learn of the white man.”
For five days I tarried in the great chief’s lodge in his own village above the marshes of the Pamunkey. I will allow that the dark emperor to whom we were so much beholden gave us courteous keeping. The best of the hunt was ours, the noblest fish, the most delicate roots. We were alive and sound of limb, well treated and with the promise of release; we might have waited, seeing that wait we must, in some measure of content. We did not so. There was a horror in the air. From the marshes that were growing green, from the sluggish river, from the rotting leaves and cold black earth and naked forest, it rose like an vexhalation. We knew not what it was, but we breathed it in, and it went to the marrow of our bones.
The savage emperor we rarely saw, though we were bestowed so near to him that his sentinels served for ours. Like some god, he kept within his lodge, the hanging mats between him and the world without. At other times, issuing from that retirement, he would stride away into the forest. Picked men went with him, and they were gone for hours; but when they returned they bore no trophies, brute or human. What they did we could not guess. If escape had been possible, we would not have awaited the doubtful fulfillment of the promise made us. But the vigilance of the Indians never slept; they watched us like hawks, night and day.
In the early morning of the fifth day, when we came from our wigwam, it was to find Nantaquas sitting by the fire, magnificent in the paint and trappings of the ambassador, motionless as a piece of bronze and apparently quite unmindful of the admiring glances of the women who knelt about the fire preparing our breakfast. When he saw us he rose and came to meet us, and I embraced him, I was so glad to see him.
“The Rappahannocks feasted me long,” he said. “I was afraid that Captain Percy would be gone to Jamestown before I was back on the Pamunkey.”
“Shall I ever see Jamestown again, Nantaquas?” I demanded. “I have my doubts.”
He looked me full in the eyes, and there was no doubting the candor of his own. “You go with the next sunrise,” he answered. “Opechancanough has given me his word.”
“I am glad to hear it,” I said. “Why have we been kept at all? Why did he not free us five days agone?”
He shook his head. “I do not know. Opechancanough has many thoughts which he shares with no man. But now he will send you with presents for the governor, and with messages of his love for the white men. There will be a great feast to-day, and to-night the young men and maidens will dance before you. Then in the morning you will go.”
When we had sat by the fire for an hour, the old men and the warriors came to visit us, and the smoking began. The women laid mats in a great half circle, and each savage took his seat with perfect breeding: that is, in absolute silence and with a face like a stone. The peace paint was upon them all—red, or red and white—and they sat and looked at the ground until I had made the speech of welcome. Soon the air was dense with fragrant smoke; in the thick blue haze the sweep of painted figures had the seeming of some fantastic dream. An old man arose and made a long and touching speech, with much reference to calumets and buried hatchets. Then they waited for my contribution of honeyed words. The Pamunkeys, living at a distance from the settlements, had but little English, and the learning of the Paspaheghs was not much greater. I repeated to them the better part of a canto of Master Spenser’s Faery Queen, after which I told them the moving story of the Moor of Venice. It answered the purpose to admiration.
The day wore on, with relay after relay of food, which we must taste at least, with endless smoking of pipes and speeches which must be listened to and answered. When evening came and our entertainers drew off to prepare for the dance, they left us as wearied as by a long day’s march.
Suddenly, as we sat staring at the fire, we were beset by a band of maidens, coming out of the woods, painted, with antlers upon their heads and pine branches in their hands. They danced about us, now advancing until the green needles met above our heads, now retreating until there was a space of turf between us. They moved with grace, keeping time to a plaintive song, now raised by the whole choir, now fallen to a single voice.
The Indian girls danced more and more swiftly, and their song changed, becoming gay and shrill and sweet. Higher and higher rang the notes, faster and faster moved the dark feet; then quite suddenly song and motion ceased together. From the darkness now came a burst of savage cries only less appalling than the war whoop itself. In a moment the men of the village had rushed from the shadow of the trees into the broad, firelit space before us. They circled around us, then around the fire; now each man danced and stamped and muttered to himself. For the most part they were painted red, but some were white from head to heel—statues come to life—while others had first oiled their bodies, then plastered them over with small, bright-colored feathers.
Diccon and I watched that uncouth spectacle, that Virginian vmasque, as we had watched many another one, with disgust and weariness. It would last, we knew, for the better part of the night. For a time we must stay and testify our pleasure, but after a while we might retire, and leave the women and children the sole spectators. They never wearied of gazing at the rhythmic movement.
I observed that among the ranks of the women one girl watched not the dancers but us. Now and then she glanced impatiently at the wheeling figures, but her eyes always returned to us. At length I became aware that she must have some message to deliver or warning to give. Once when I made a slight motion as if to go to her, she shook her head and laid her finger on her lips.
Presently I rose and, making my way to the werowance of the village, where he sat with his eyes fixed on the spectacle, told him that I was wearied and would go to my hut, to rest for the few hours that yet remained of the night. He listened dreamily, but made no offer to escort me. After a moment he acquiesced in my departure, and Diccon and I quietly left the press of savages and began to cross the firelit turf between them and our lodge. When we had reached its entrance, we paused and looked back to the throng we had left. Every back seemed turned to us, every eye intent upon the leaping figures. Swiftly and silently we walked across the bit of even ground to the friendly trees and found ourselves in a thin strip of shadow. Beneath the trees, waiting for us, was the Indian maid. She would not speak or tarry, but flitted before us as dusk and noiseless as a moth, and we followed her into the darkness beyond the firelight. Here a wigwam rose in our path; the girl, holding aside the mats that covered the entrance, motioned to us to enter. A fire was burning within the lodge and it showed us Nantaquas standing with folded arms.
“Nantaquas!” I exclaimed, and would have touched him but that with a slight motion of his hand he kept me back.
“Well!” I asked at last. “What is the matter, my friend?”
For a full minute he made no answer, and when he did speak his voice matched his strained and troubled features.
“My friend,” he said, “I am going to show myself a friend indeed to the English, to the strangers who were not content with their own hunting-grounds beyond the great salt water. When I have done this, I do not know that Captain Percy will call me ‘friend’.”
“You were wont to speak plainly, Nantaquas,” I answered him. “I am not fond of riddles.”
Again he waited, as though he found speech difficult. I stared at him in amazement, he was so changed in so short a time.
He spoke at last: “When the dance is over and the fires are low and the sunrise is at hand, Opechancanough will come to you to bid you farewell. He will give you the pearls he wears about his neck for a present to the governor and a bracelet for yourself. Also he will give you three men for a guard through the forest. He has messages of love to send the white men, and he would send them by you who were his enemy and his captive. So all the white men shall believe in his love.”
“Well!” I said drily as he paused. “I will bear the messages. What next?”
“Your guards will take you slowly through the forest, stopping to eat and sleep. For them there is no need to run like the stag with the hunter behind it.”
“Then we should make for Jamestown as for life,” I said, “not sleeping or eating or making pause?”
“Yes,” he replied, “if you would not die, you and all your people.”
In the silence of the hut the fire crackled, and the branches of the trees outside, bent by the wind, made a grating sound against the bark roof.
“How die?” I asked at last. “Speak out!”
“Die by the arrow and the tomahawk,” he answered,—“yea, and by the guns you have given the red men. To-morrow’s sun, and the next, and the next—three suns—and the tribes will fall upon the English. At the same hour, when the men are in the fields and the women and children are in the houses, they will strike—all the tribes, as one man; and from where the Powhatan falls over the rocks to the salt water beyond Accomac, there will not be one white man left alive.”
He ceased to speak, and for a minute the fire made the only sound in the hut. Then I asked, “All die? There are three thousand Englishmen in Virginia.”
“They are scattered and unwarned. The fighting men of the villages of the Powhatan and the Pamunkey and the great bay are many, and they have sharpened their hatchets and filled their quivers with arrows.”
“Scattered!” I cried. “Strewn broadcast up and down the river—here a lonely house, there a cluster of two or three—the men in the fields or at the wharves, the women and children busy within doors, all unwarned!”
I leaned against the side of the hut, for my heart beat like a frightened woman’s. “Three days!” I exclaimed. “If we go with all our speed, we shall be in time. When did you learn this thing?”
“While you watched the dance,” the Indian answered, “Opechancanough and I sat within his lodge in the darkness. His heart was moved, and he talked to me of his own youth in a strange country, south of the sunset. Also he spoke to me of Powhatan, my father—of how wise he was and how great a chief before the English came, and how he hated them. And then—then I heard what I have told you!”
“How long has this been planned?”
“For many moons. I have been a child, fooled and turned aside from the trail; not wise enough to see it beneath the flowers, through the smoke of the peace pipes.”
“Why does Opechancanough send us back to the settlements?” I demanded.
“It is his fancy. Every hunter and trader and learner of our tongues, living in the villages or straying in the woods, has been sent back to Jamestown or his home with presents and fair words. You will lull the English in Jamestown into a faith in the smiling sky just before the storm bursts on them in fullest fury.”
There was a pause.
“Nantaquas,” I said, “you are not the first child of Powhatan who has loved and shielded the white men.”
“Pocahontas was a woman, a child,” he answered. “Out of pity she saved your lives, not knowing that it was to the hurt of her people. Then you were few and weak and could not take your revenge. Now, if you die not, you will drink deep of vengeance—so deep that your lips may never leave the cup. More ships will come, and more; you will grow ever stronger. There may come a moon when the deep forests and the shining rivers will know us, to whom vKiwassa gave them, no more.”
“You will be with your people in the war?” I asked.
“I am an Indian,” was his simple reply.
“Come against us if you will,” I returned. “Nobly warned, fair upon our guard, we will meet you as knightly foe should be met.”
Very slowly he raised his arm from his side and held out his hand. His eyes met mine in somber inquiry, half eager, half proudly doubtful. I went to him at once and took his hand in mine. No word was spoken. Presently he withdrew his hand from my clasp, and, putting his finger to his lips, whistled low to the Indian girl. She drew aside the mats, and we passed out, Diccon and I, leaving him standing as we had found him, upright against the post, in the red firelight.
Should we ever go through the woods, pass through that gathering storm, reach Jamestown, warn them there of the death that was rushing upon them? Should we ever leave that hated village? Would the morning ever come? It was an alarm that was sounding, and there were only two to hear; miles away beneath the mute stars English men and women lay asleep, with the hour thundering at their gates, and there was none to cry, “Awake!” I could have cried out in that agony of waiting, with the leagues on leagues to be traveled and the time so short! I saw, in my mind’s eye, the dark warriors gathering, tribe on tribe, war party on war party, thick crowding shadows of death, slipping through the silent forest … and in the clearings the women and children!
It came to an end, as all things earthly will. When the ruffled pools amid the marshes were rosy red beneath the sunrise, the women brought us food, and the warriors and old men gathered about us. I offered them bread and meat and told them that they must come to Jamestown to taste the white man’s cookery.
Scarcely was the meal over when Opechancanough issued from his lodge, and, coming slowly up to us, took his seat upon the white mat that was spread for him. Through his scalp lock was stuck an eagle’s feather; across his face, from temple to chin, was a bar of red paint; the eyes above were very bright and watchful.
One of his young men brought a great pipe, carved and painted, stem and bowl; it was filled with tobacco, lit, and borne to the emperor. He put it to his lips and smoked in silence, while the sun climbed higher and higher and the golden minutes that were more precious than heart’s blood went by swiftly.
At last, his part in the solemn mockery played, he held out the pipe to me.
“The sky will fall, and the rivers will run dry, and the birds cease to sing,” he said, “before the smoke of this peace-pipe fades from the land.”
I took the symbol of peace and smoked it as silently and soberly as he had done before me, then laid it leisurely aside and held out my hand.
“Come to Jamestown,” I said, “to smoke of the Englishman’s pipe and receive rich presents—a red robe like your brother Powhatan, and a cup from which you shall drink, you and all your people.”
But the cup I meant was that of punishment.
“These are Captain Percy’s guides and friends,” he announced. “The sun is high; it is time that he was gone. Here are presents for him and my brother the governor.” As he spoke, he took from his neck the rope of pearls and from his arm a copper bracelet, and laid both upon my palm.
“Thank you, Opechancanough,” I said briefly. “When we meet again I will not greet you with empty thanks.”
We bade farewell to the noisy throng and went down to the river, where we found a canoe and rowers, crossed the stream, and entered the forest, which stretched black and forbidding before us—the blacker that we now knew the dreadful secret it guarded.
After leaving the Indian village, Captain Percy and Diccon found that their guides purposely delayed the march, so that they would not reach Jamestown until just before the beginning of the attack, when it would be too late for them to warn the English, if they suspected anything. Percy and Diccon, in this dilemma, surprised the Indian guides and killed them, then hurried on with all possible speed toward Jamestown. As they hastened through the forest, Diccon was shot by an Indian and mortally wounded; Captain Percy remained with him until his death, and again took up the journey, now alone and greatly fearing that he would arrive too late.
The dusk had quite fallen when I reached the neck of land. Arriving at the palisade that protected Jamestown, I beat upon the gate and called to the warden to open. He did so with starting eyes. Giving him a few words and cautioning him to raise no alarm in the town, I hurried by him into the street and down it toward the house that was set aside for the governor of Virginia, Sir Francis Wyatt.
The governor’s door was open, and in the hall servingmen were moving to and fro. When I came in upon them, they cried out as if it had been a ghost, and one fellow let a silver dish fall to the floor with a clatter. They shook with fright and stood back as I passed them without a word and went on to the governor’s great room. The door was ajar, and I pushed it open and stood for a minute on the threshold. They were all there—the principal men of the colony, the governor, the vtreasurer, vWest, vJohn Rolfe.
At sight of me the governor sprang to his feet; through the treasurer’s lips came a long, sighing breath; West’s dark face was ashen. I came forward to the table, and leaned my weight upon it; for all the waves of the sea were roaring in my ears and the lights were going up and down.
“Are you man or spirit!” cried Rolfe through white lips. “Are you Ralph Percy?”
With an effort I drew myself erect, and standing so, told my tidings, quietly and with circumstance, so as to leave no room for doubt as to their verity, or as to the sanity of him who brought them. They listened with shaking limbs and gasping breath; for it was the fall and wiping out of a people of which I brought warning.
When all was told I thought to ask a question myself; but before my tongue could frame it, the roaring of the sea became so loud that I could hear naught else, and the lights all ran together into a wheel of fire. Then in a moment all sounds ceased and to the lights succeeded the blackness of outer darkness.
When I awoke from the sleep into which I must have passed from that swoon, it was to find myself lying in a room flooded with sunshine. For a moment I lay still, wondering where I was and how I came there. A drum beat, a dog barked, and a man’s quick voice gave a command. The sounds stung me into remembrance.
There were many people in the street. Women hurried by to the fort with white, scared faces, their arms filled with household gear; children ran beside them; men went to and fro, the most grimly silent, but a few talking loudly.
I could not see the palisade across the neck, but I knew that it was there that the fight—if fight there were—would be made. Should the Indians take the palisade, there would yet be the houses of the town, and, last of all, the fort in which to make a stand. I believed not that they would take it, for Indian warfare ran more to ambuscade and surprise than to assault in the open field.
The drum beat again, and a messenger from the palisade came down the street at a run.
“They’re in the woods over against us, thicker than ants!” he cried to West, who was coming along the way. “A boat has just drifted ashore, with two men in it, dead and scalped!”
I looked again at the neck of land and the forest beyond, and now, as if by magic, from the forest and up and down the river as far as the eye could reach, rose here and there thin columns of smoke. Suddenly, as I stared, three or four white smoke puffs, like giant flowers, started out of the shadowy woods across the neck. Following the crack of the muskets—fired out of pure bravado by the Indians—came the yelling of the savages. The sound was prolonged and deep, as though issuing from many throats.
The street, when I went out into it, was very quiet. All windows and doors were closed and barred. The yelling from the forest had ceased for the moment, but I knew well that it would soon begin with doubled noise. I hurried along the street to the palisade, where all the men of Jamestown were gathered, armed and helmeted and breast-plated, waiting for the foe in grim silence.
Through a loophole in the gate of the palisade I looked and saw the sandy neck joining the town to the mainland, and the deep and dark woods beyond, the fairy mantle giving invisibility to the foe. I drew back from my loophole and held out my hand to a woman for a loaded musket. A quick murmur like the drawing of a breath came from our line. The governor, standing near me, cast an anxious glance along the stretch of wooden stakes that were neither so high nor so thick as they should have been.
“I am new to this warfare, Captain Percy,” he said. “Do they think to use those logs they carry as battering rams?”
“As scaling ladders, your honor,” I replied. “It is possible that we may have some sword play after all.”
“We’ll take your advice the next time we build a palisade, Ralph Percy,” muttered West on my other side. Mounting the breastwork that we had thrown up to shelter the women who were to load the muskets, he coolly looked over the pales at the oncoming savages.
“Wait until they pass the blasted pine, men!” he cried. “Then give them a hail of lead that will beat them back to the Pamunkey.”
“If the leader could be picked off”—I said. “It’s a long shot, but there’s no harm in trying.”
As I spoke I raised my gun to my shoulder, but West leaned across Rolfe, who stood between us, and plucked me by the sleeve.
“You’ve not looked at him closely,” he said. “Look again.”
I did as he told me, and lowered my musket. It was not for me to send that Indian leader to his account. Rolfe’s lips tightened and a sudden pallor overspread his face. “Nantaquas?” he muttered in my ear, and I nodded yes.
The volley that we fired full into the ranks of our foe was deadly, and we looked to see them turn and flee, as they had fled so often before at a hot volley. But this time they were led by one who had been trained in English steadfastness. Broken for the moment by our fire, they rallied and came on yelling, bearing logs, thick branches of trees, oars tied together—anything by whose help they could hope to surmount the palisade. We fired again, but they had planted their ladders. Before we could snatch the loaded muskets from the women a dozen painted figures appeared above the sharpened stakes. A moment, and they and a score behind them had leaped down upon us.
It was no time now to skulk behind a palisade. At all hazards, that tide from the forest must be stemmed. Those that were among us we might kill, but more were swarming after them, and from the neck came the exultant yelling of madly hurrying reinforcements.
We flung open the gates. I drove my sword through the heart of an Indian who would have opposed me, and, calling for my men to follow, sprang forward. Perhaps thirty came at my call; together we made for the opening. A party of the savages in our midst interposed. We set upon them with sword and musket butt, and though they fought like very devils drove them before us through the gateway. Behind us were wild clamor, the shrieking of women, the stern shouts of the English, the whooping of the savages; before us a rush that must be met and turned.
It was done. A moment’s fierce fighting, then the Indians wavered, broke, and fled. Like sheep we drove them before us, across the neck, to the edge of the forest, into which they plunged. Into that ambush we cared not to follow, but fell back to the palisade and the town, believing, and with reason, that the lesson had been taught. The strip of sand was strewn with the dead and the dying, but they belonged not to us. Our dead numbered but three, and we bore their bodies with us.
Within the palisade we found the English in sufficiently good case. Of the score or more Indians cut off by us from their mates and penned within that death trap, half at least were already dead, run through with sword and pike, shot down with the muskets that there was now time to load. The remainder, hemmed about, pressed against the wall, were fast meeting with a like fate. They stood no chance against us; we cared not to make prisoners of them; it was a slaughter, but they had taken the vinitiative. They fought with the courage of despair, striving to spring in upon us, and striking when they could with hatchet and knife. They were brave men that we slew that day.
At last there was left but the leader—unharmed, unwounded, though time and again he had striven to close with some one of us, to strike and to die striking with his fellows. Behind him was the wall; of the half circle which he faced, well-nigh all were old soldiers and servants of the colony. We were swordsmen all. When in his desperation he would have thrown himself upon us, we contented ourselves with keeping him at sword’s length, and at last West sent the knife in the dark hand whirling over the palisade. Some one had shouted to the musketeers to spare him.
When he saw that he stood alone, he stepped back against the wall, drew himself up to his full height, and folded his arms. Perhaps he thought that we would shoot him down then and there; perhaps he saw himself a captive amongst us, a show for the idle and for the strangers that the ships brought in.
The din had ceased, and we the living, the victors, stood and looked at the vanquished dead at our feet, and at the dead beyond the gates, and at the neck upon which was no living foe, and at the blue sky bending over all. Our hearts told us, and truly, that the lesson had been taught, and that no more forever need we at Jamestown fear an Indian attack. And then we looked at him whose life we had spared.
He opposed our gaze with his folded arms and his head held high and his back against the wall. Slowly, as one man and with no spoken word, we fell back, the half circle straightening into a line, and leaving a clear pathway to the open gates. The wind had ceased to blow, and a sunny stillness lay upon the sand and the rough-hewn wooden stakes and a little patch of tender grass. The church bell began to ring.
The Indian out of whose path to life and freedom we had stepped glanced from the line of lowered steel to the open gates and the forest beyond, and understood. For a full minute he waited, not moving a muscle, still and stately as some noble masterpiece in bronze. Then he stepped from the shadow of the wall and moved past us, with his eyes fixed on the forest; there was no change in the superb calm of his face. He went by the huddled dead and the long line of the living that spoke no word, and out of the gates and across the neck, walking slowly, that we might yet shoot him down if we saw fit to repent ourselves. He reached the shadow of the trees: a moment, and the forest had back her own.
We sheathed our swords and listened to the governor’s few earnest words of thankfulness and recognition; and then we set to work to search for ways to reach and aid those who might be yet alive in the plantations above and below us.
Presently there came a great noise from the watchers on the river-bank, and a cry that boats were coming down the stream. It was so, and there were in them white men, nearly all of whom had wounds to show, and cowering women and children—all that were left of the people for miles along the James.
Then began that strange procession that lasted throughout the afternoon and night and into the next day, when a sloop dropped down from vHenricus with the news that the English were in force there to stand their ground, although their loss had been heavy. Hour after hour they came as fast as sail and oar could bring them, the panic-stricken folk, whose homes were burned, whose kindred were slain, who had themselves escaped as by a miracle. Each boatload had the same tale to tell of treachery, surprise, and fiendish butchery.
Before the dawning we had heard from all save the remoter settlements. The blow had been struck and the hurt was deep. But it was not beyond remedy, thank God! We took stern measures for our protection, and the wound to the colony was soon healed; vengeance was meted out to those who had set upon us in the dark and had failed to reach the heart. The colony of Virginia had passed through its greatest trial and had survived—for what greater ends, under Providence, I knew not.
HELPS TO STUDY
I. Describe the situation in which Percy and Diccon found themselves. What preparations did the Indians make for the death of the two men? How were they interrupted? Tell what happened after the appearance of Nantaquas? How were the five days spent? How did Nantaquas come to the rescue of the white men a second time? What did Opechancanough do to try to deepen the impression of friendship?
II. What happened on the way to Jamestown? Describe the scene when Percy entered the governor’s house. Give an account of the fight at the palisade. Why was Nantaquas spared? What was the result of the Indian attack? Give your opinion of Nantaquas. Of what Indian in The Last of the Mohicans does he remind you? Of whom does Opechancanough remind you?
Find out all you can of life in Virginia at the time this story was written. Compare the life there with the life in Plymouth colony.
- Prisoners of Hope—Mary Johnston.
- My Lady Pokahontas—John Esten Cooke.
- The Wept of Wish-ton-wish—J. Fenimore Cooper.
- Hiawatha—Henry W. Longfellow.
- Old Virginia and Her Neighbors—John Fiske.
Henry Esmond, by William Makepeace Thackeray, is considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of historical novels. It describes life in England during the first years of the eighteenth century, dealing chiefly with people of wealth and high position. “Harry Esmond’s Boyhood” narrates the early career of the hero, who was a poor orphan and an inmate of the family of his kinsman, the Viscount of Castlewood.
Harry Esmond had lived to be past fourteen years old; had never possessed but two friends, and had a fond and affectionate heart that would fain attach itself to somebody, and did not seem at rest until it had found a friend who would take charge of it.
At last he found such a friend in his new mistress, the lady of Castlewood. The instinct which led Harry Esmond to admire and love the gracious person, the fair apparition whose beauty and kindness had so moved him when he first beheld her, became soon a devoted affection and passion of gratitude, which entirely filled his young heart that as yet had had very little kindness for which to be thankful.
There seemed, as the boy thought, in every look or gesture of this fair creature, an angelical softness and bright pity—in motion or repose she seemed gracious alike; the tone of her voice, though she uttered words ever so trivial, gave him a pleasure that amounted almost to anguish. It cannot be called love, that a lad of fourteen years of age felt for an exalted lady, his mistress, but it was worship. To catch her glance; to divine her errand, and run on it before she had spoken it; to watch, follow, adore her, became the business of his life. Meanwhile, as is the way often, his idol had idols of her own, and never thought of or suspected the admiration of her little adorer.
My Lady had on her side three idols: first and foremost, vJove and supreme ruler, was her lord, Harry’s patron, the good vViscount of Castlewood. All wishes of his were laws with her. If he had a headache, she was ill. If he frowned, she trembled. If he joked, she smiled and was charmed. If he went a-hunting, she was always at the window to see him ride away. She made dishes for his dinner; spiced his wine for him; hushed the house when he slept in his chair, and watched for a look when he woke. Her eyes were never tired of looking at his face and wondering at its perfection. Her little son was his son, and had his father’s look and curly brown hair. Her daughter Beatrix was his daughter, and had his eyes—were there ever such beautiful eyes in the world? All the house was arranged so as to bring him ease and give him pleasure.
Harry Esmond was happy in this pleasant home. The happiest period of all his life was this; and the young mother, with her daughter and son, and the orphan lad whom she protected, read and worked and played, and were children together. If the lady looked forward—as what fond woman does not?—toward the future, she had no plans from which Harry Esmond was left out; and a thousand and a thousand times, in his passionate and impetuous way, he vowed that no power should separate him from his mistress; and only asked for some chance to happen by which he might show his vfidelity to her.
The second fight which Harry Esmond had was at fourteen years of age, with Bryan Hawkshaw, Sir John Hawkshaw’s son, who, advancing the opinion that Lady Castlewood henpecked my Lord, put Harry in so great a fury that Harry fell on him and with such rage that the other boy, who was two years older and far bigger than he, had by far the worst of the assault. It was interrupted by Doctor Tusher, the clergyman, who was just walking out of the dinner-room.
Bryan Hawkshaw got up bleeding at the nose, having indeed been surprised, as many a stronger man might have been, by the fury of the attack on him.
“You little beggar,” he said, “I’ll murder you for this.”
And indeed he was big enough.
“Beggar or not,” said Harry, grinding his teeth, “I have a couple of swords, and if you like to meet me, as man to man, on the terrace to-night—”
And here, the doctor coming up, the vcolloquy of the young champions ended. Very likely, big as he was, Hawkshaw did not care to continue a fight with such a ferocious opponent as this had been.
One day, some time later, Doctor Tusher ran into Castlewood House, with a face of consternation, saying that smallpox had made its appearance at the blacksmith’s house in the village, which was also an alehouse, and that one of the maids there was down with it.
Now, there was a pretty girl at this inn, called Nancy Sievewright, a bouncing, fresh-looking lass, whose face was as red as the hollyhocks over the pales of the garden behind the inn. Somehow it often happened that Harry Esmond fell in with Nance Sievewright’s bonny face. When Doctor Tusher brought the news that the smallpox was at the blacksmith’s, Harry Esmond’s first thought was of alarm for poor Nancy, and then of shame and disquiet for the Castlewood family, lest he might have brought this infection; for the truth is that Mr. Harry had been sitting in a back room for an hour that day, where Nancy Sievewright was with a little brother who complained of headache, and was lying crying in a chair by the corner of the fire or in Nancy’s lap.
Little Beatrix screamed at the news; and my Lord cried out, “God bless me!” He was a brave man, and not afraid of death in any shape but this. “We will take the children and ride away to Walcote,” he said.
To love children and be gentle with them was an instinct rather than merit in Harry Esmond; so much so that he thought almost with a feeling of shame of his liking for them and of the softness into which it betrayed him. On this day the poor fellow had not only had his young friend, the milkmaid’s brother, on his knee, but had been drawing pictures and telling stories to the little Frank Castlewood, who was never tired of Harry’s tales and of his pictures of soldiers and horses. As luck would have it, Beatrix had not on that evening taken her usual place, which generally she was glad enough to have, on Harry’s knee. For Beatrix, from the earliest time, was jealous of every caress which was given her little brother Frank. She would fling away even from the vmaternal arms, if she saw Frank had been there before her; insomuch that Lady Esmond was obliged not to show her love for her son in presence of the little girl, and embrace one or the other alone. Beatrix would turn pale and red with rage if she caught signs of intelligence or affection between Frank and his mother; would sit apart and not speak for a whole night if she thought the boy had a better fruit or a larger cake than hers; would fling away a ribbon if he had one, and would utter vinfantile sarcasms about the favor shown her brother.
So it chanced upon this very day, when poor Harry Esmond had had the blacksmith’s son and the vpeer’s son, alike upon his knee, little Beatrix, who would come to him willingly enough with her book and writing, had refused him, seeing the place occupied by her brother. Luckily for her, she had sat at the farther end of the room, away from him, playing with a spaniel dog which she had, and talking to Harry Esmond over her shoulder, as she pretended to caress the dog, saying that Fido would love her, and she would love Fido and nothing but Fido all her life.
When, then, the news was brought that the little boy at the blacksmith’s was ill with the smallpox, poor Harry Esmond felt a shock of alarm, not so much for himself as for his mistress’s son, whom he might have brought into peril. Beatrix, who had pouted sufficiently, her little brother being now gone to bed, was for taking her place on Esmond’s knee. But as she advanced toward him, he started back and placed the great chair on which he was sitting between him and her—saying in the French language to Lady Castlewood, “Madam, the child must not approach me. I must tell you that I was at the blacksmith’s to-day and had his little boy on my lap.”
“Where you took my son afterward,” Lady Castlewood said, very angry and turning red. “I thank you, sir, for giving him such company. Beatrix,” she said in English, “I forbid you to touch Harry Esmond. Come away, child; come to your room. And you, sir, had you not better go back to the alehouse?”
Her eyes, ordinarily so kind, darted flashes of anger as she spoke; and she tossed up her head (which hung down commonly) with the vmien of a princess.
“Heyday!” said my Lord, who was standing by the fireplace, “Rachel, what are you in a passion about? Though it does you good to get in a passion—you look very handsome!”
“It is, my Lord, because Mr. Harry Esmond, having nothing to do with his time here, and not having a taste for our company, has been to the blacksmith’s alehouse, where he has some friends.”
My Lord burst out with a laugh.
“Take Mistress Beatrix to bed,” my Lady cried at this moment to her woman, who came in with her Ladyship’s tea. “Put her into my room—no, into yours,” she added quickly. “Go, my child: go, I say; not a word.” And Beatrix, quite surprised at so sudden a tone of authority from one who was seldom accustomed to raise her voice, went out of the room with a scared face and waited even to burst out crying until she got upstairs.
For once, her mother took little heed of her. “My Lord,” she said, “this young man—your relative—told me just now in French—he was ashamed to speak in his own language—that he had been at the blacksmith’s all day, where he has had that little wretch who is now ill of the smallpox on his knee. And he comes home reeking from that place—yes, reeking from it—and takes my boy into his lap without shame, and sits down by me. He may have killed Frank for what I know—killed our child! Why was he brought in to disgrace our house? Why is he here? Let him go—let him go, I say, and vpollute the place no more!”
She had never before uttered a syllable of unkindness to Harry Esmond, and her cruel words smote the poor boy so that he stood for some moments bewildered with grief and rage at the injustice of such a stab from such a hand. He turned quite white from red, which he had been before.
“If my coming nigh your boy pollutes him,” he said, “it was not so always. Good-night, my Lord. Heaven bless you and yours for your goodness to me. I have tired her Ladyship’s kindness out, and I will go.”
“He wants to go to the alehouse—let him go!” cried my Lady.
Her reply was to burst into a flood of tears, and to quit the room with a rapid glance at Harry Esmond, as my Lord put his broad hand on Harry’s shoulder.
In a little while my Lady came back, looking very pale, with a handkerchief in her hand. Instantly advancing to Harry Esmond, she took his hand. “I beg your pardon, Harry,” she said. “I spoke very unkindly.”
“There is no use, my Lord,” she said. “Frank was on his knee as he was making pictures and was running constantly from Harry to me. The evil is done, if any.”
“Not with me,” cried my Lord. “I’ve been smoking.” And he lighted his pipe again with a coal. “As the disease is in the village—plague take it!—I would have you leave it. We’ll go to-morrow to Walcote.”
“I have no fear,” said my Lady. “I may have had it as an infant.”
“I won’t run the risk,” said my Lord. “I’m as bold as any man, but I’ll not bear that.”
“Take Beatrix with you and go,” said my Lady. “For us the mischief is done.”
My Lord, calling away Doctor Tusher, bade him come in the oak parlor and have a pipe.
When the lady and the boy were alone, there was a silence of some moments, during which he stood looking at the fire whilst her Ladyship busied herself with the vtambour frame and needles.
“I am sorry,” she said, after a pause, in a hard, dry voice—“I repeat I am sorry that I said what I said. It was not at all my wish that you should leave us, I am sure, unless you found pleasure elsewhere. But you must see that, at your age, and with your tastes, it is impossible that you can continue to stay upon the intimate footing in which you have been in this family. You have wished to go to college, and I think ’tis quite as well that you should be sent thither. I did not press the matter, thinking you a child, as you are indeed in years—quite a child. But now I shall beg my Lord to despatch you as quick as possible; and will go on with Frank’s learning as well as I can. And—and I wish you a good night, Harry.”
With this she dropped a stately curtsy, and, taking her candle, went away through the tapestry door, which led to her apartments. Esmond stood by the fireplace, blankly staring after her. Indeed, he scarce seemed to see until she was gone, and then her image was impressed upon him and remained forever fixed upon his memory. He saw her retreating, the taper lighting up her marble face, her scarlet lip quivering, and her shining golden hair. He went to his own room and to bed, but could not get to sleep until daylight, and woke with a violent headache.
He had brought the contagion with him from the alehouse, sure enough, and was presently laid up with the smallpox, which spared the hall no more than it did the cottage.
When Harry Esmond had passed through the vcrisis of the vmalady and returned to health again, he found that little Frank Esmond had also suffered and rallied from the disease, and that his mother was down with it. Nor could young Esmond agree in Doctor Tusher’s vvehement protestations to my Lady, when he visited her during her vconvalescence, that the malady had not in the least impaired her charms; whereas, in spite of these fine speeches, Harry thought that her Ladyship’s beauty was very much injured by the smallpox. The delicacy of her rosy complexion was gone; her eyes had lost their brilliancy, her hair fell, and she looked older. When Tusher in his courtly way vowed and protested that my Lady’s face was none the worse, the lad broke out and said, “It is worse, and my mistress is not near so handsome as she was.” On this poor Lady Castlewood gave a vrueful smile and a look into a little mirror she had, which showed her, I suppose, that what the stupid boy said was only too true, for she turned away from the glass and her eyes filled with tears.
The sight of these always created a sort of rage of pity in Esmond’s heart, and seeing them on the face of the lady whom he loved best, the young blunderer sank down on his knees and besought her to pardon him, saying that he was a fool and an idiot. Doctor Tusher told him that he was a bear, and a bear he would remain, at which speech poor Harry was so dumb-stricken that he did not even growl.
“He is my bear, and I will not have him baited, doctor,” said my Lady, putting her hand kindly on the boy’s head, as he was still kneeling at her feet. “How your hair has come off! And mine, too!” she added with another sigh.
“It is not for myself that I care,” my Lady said to Harry, when the parson had taken his leave; “but am I very much changed! Alas! I fear ’tis too true.”
“Madam, you have the dearest, and kindest, and sweetest face in the world, I think,” the lad said; and indeed he thought so.
For Harry Esmond his benefactress’ sweet face had lost none of its charms. It had always the kindest of looks and smiles for him—and beauty of every sort. She would call him “Mr. Tutor,” and she herself, as well as the two children, went to school to him. Of the pupils the two young people were but lazy scholars, and my Lord’s son only learned what he liked, which was but little. Mistress Beatrix chattered French prettily, and sang sweetly, but this from her mother’s teaching, not Harry Esmond’s. But if the children were careless, ’twas a wonder how eagerly the mother learned from her young tutor—and taught him, too. She saw the vlatent beauties and hidden graces in books; and the happiest hours of young Esmond’s life were those passed in the company of this kind mistress and her children.
These happy days were to end soon, however; and it was by Lady Castlewood’s own decree that they were brought to a conclusion. It happened about Christmas-tide, Harry Esmond being now past sixteen years of age. A messenger came from Winchester one day, bearer of the news that my Lady’s aunt was dead and had left her fortune of £2,000 among her six nieces. Many a time afterward Harry Esmond recalled the flushed face and eager look wherewith, after this intelligence, his kind lady regarded him. When my Lord heard of the news, he did not make any long face. “The money will come very handy to furnish the music-room and the vcellar,” he said, “which is getting low, and buy your Ladyship a coach and a couple of horses. Beatrix, you shall have a vspinet; and Frank, you shall have a little horse from Hexton fair; and Harry, you shall have five pounds to buy some books.” So spoke my Lord, who was generous with his own, and indeed with other folks’ money. “I wish your aunt would die once a year, Rachel; we could spend your money, and all your sisters’, too.”
“I have but one aunt—and—and I have another use for the money,” said my Lady, turning red.
“Another use, my dear; and what do you know about money?” cried my Lord.
“I intend it for Harry Esmond to go to college. Cousin Harry,” said my Lady, “you mustn’t stay any longer in this dull place, but make a name for yourself.”
“Is Harry going away? You don’t mean to say you will go away?” cried out Beatrix and Frank at one breath.
“Rachel, you’re a good woman,” said my Lord. “I wish you joy, my kinsman,” he continued, giving Harry Esmond a hearty slap on the shoulder, “I won’t balk your luck. Go to Cambridge, boy.”
When Harry Esmond went away for Cambridge, little Frank ran alongside his horse as far as the bridge, and there Harry stopped for a moment and looked back at the house where the best part of his life had been passed. And Harry remembered, all his life after, how he saw his mistress at the window looking out on him, the little Beatrix’s chestnut curls resting at her mother’s side. Both waved a farewell to him, and little Frank sobbed to leave him.
The village people had good-bye to say to him, too. All knew that Master Harry was going to college, and most of them had a kind word and a look of farewell. And with these things in mind, he rode out into the world.
William Makepeace Thackeray.
HELPS TO STUDY
Tell what you find out about the household in which Harry Esmond lived. What impression do you get of each person? What trouble did Harry bring upon the family? What change occurred in his life and now?
- The Virginians—William Makepeace Thackeray.
- The Sir Roger de Coverley Papers—Steele and Addison.
The story is an extract from Oliver Goldsmith’s famous novel, The Vicar of Wakefield. In this book Goldsmith describes the fortunes of the family of Doctor Primrose, a Church of England clergyman of the middle of the eighteenth century. The novel is considered a most faithful picture of English country life in that period.
The home I had come to as vvicar was in a little neighborhood consisting of farmers who tilled their own grounds and were equal strangers to vopulence and poverty. As they had almost all the conveniences of life within themselves, they seldom visited towns or cities in search of vsuperfluity. Remote from the polite, they still retained the vprimeval simplicity of manners; and, frugal by habit, they scarce knew that temperance was a virtue. They wrought with cheerfulness on days of labor, but observed festivals as intervals of idleness and pleasure. They kept up the Christmas carol, sent love-knots on Valentine morning, ate pancakes on vShrovetide, showed their wit on the first of April, and religiously cracked nuts on vMichaelmas-eve. Being apprised of our approach, the whole neighborhood came out to meet their minister, dressed in their finest clothes and preceded by a vpipe and vtabor: a feast, also, was provided for our reception, at which we sat cheerfully down, and what the conversation wanted in wit was made up in laughter.
Our little habitation was situated at the foot of a sloping hill, sheltered with a beautiful underwood behind, and a prattling river before; on one side a meadow, on the other a green. My farm consisted of about twenty acres of excellent land. Nothing could exceed the neatness of my little enclosures, the elms and hedgerows appearing with inexpressible beauty. My house consisted of but one story, and was covered with vthatch, which gave it an air of great snugness; the walls on the inside were nicely whitewashed, and my daughters undertook to adorn them with pictures of their own designing. Though the same room served us for parlor and kitchen, that only made it the warmer. Besides, as it was kept with the utmost neatness,—the dishes, plates and coppers being well scoured and all disposed in bright rows on the shelves—the eye was agreeably relieved and did not want richer furniture. There were three other apartments: one for my wife and me; another for our two daughters within our own; and the third, with two beds, for the rest of the children.
The little republic to which I gave laws was regulated in the following manner: by sunrise we all assembled in our common apartment, the fire being previously kindled by the servant. After we had saluted each other with proper ceremony—for I always thought fit to keep up some mechanical forms of good breeding, without which freedom ever destroys friendship—we all bent in gratitude to that Being who gave us another day. This duty performed, my son and I went to pursue our usual industry abroad, while my wife and daughters employed themselves in providing breakfast, which was always ready at a certain time. I allowed half an hour for this meal, and an hour for dinner, which time was taken up in innocent mirth between my wife and daughters, and in vphilosophical arguments between my son and me.
As we rose with the sun, so we never pursued our labors after it was gone down, but returned home to the expecting family, where smiling looks, a neat hearth, and a pleasant fire were prepared for our reception. Nor were we without guests; sometimes Farmer Flamborough, our talkative neighbor, and often a blind piper, would pay us a visit and taste our gooseberry wine, for the making of which we had lost neither the recipe nor the reputation. These harmless people had several ways of being good company; while one played, the other would sing some soothing ballad—“Johnny Armstrong’s Last Good-Night,” or “The Cruelty of Barbara Allen.” The night was concluded in the manner we began the morning, my youngest boys being appointed to read the lessons of the day; and he that read loudest, distinctest and best was to have an halfpenny on Sunday to put into the poor-box. This encouraged in them a wholesome rivalry to do good.
When Sunday came, it was, indeed, a day of finery, which all my vsumptuary edicts could not restrain. How well soever I fancied my lectures against pride had conquered the vanity of my daughters, yet I still found them secretly attached to all their former finery; they still loved laces, ribbons, and bugles, and my wife herself retained a passion for her crimson vpaduasoy, because I formerly happened to say it became her.
The first Sunday, in particular, their behavior served to mortify me. I had desired my girls the preceding night to be dressed early the next day, for I always loved to be at church a good while before the rest of the congregation. They punctually obeyed my directions; but when we were to assemble in the morning at breakfast, down came my wife and daughters, dressed out in all their former splendor—their hair plastered up with vpomatum, their faces vpatched to taste, their trains bundled up in a heap behind and rustling at every motion. I could not help smiling at their vanity, particularly that of my wife, from whom I expected more discretion. In this vexigence, therefore, my only resource was to order my son, with an important air, to call our coach. The girls were amazed at the command, but I repeated it, with more solemnity than before.
“Surely, you jest!” cried my wife. “We can walk perfectly well; we want no coach to carry us now.”
“Indeed!” replied my wife. “I always imagined that my Charles was fond of seeing his children neat and handsome about him.”
“You may be as neat as you please,” interrupted I, “and I shall love you the better for it; but all this is not neatness, but frippery. These rufflings and pinkings and patchings will only make us hated by all the wives of our neighbors. No, my children,” continued I, more gravely, “those gowns must be altered into something of a plainer cut, for finery is very unbecoming in us who want the means of vdecency.”
This remonstrance had the proper effect. They went with great composure, that very instant, to change their dress; and the next day I had the satisfaction of finding my daughters, at their own request, employed in cutting up their trains into Sunday waist-coats for Dick and Bill, the two little ones; and, what was still more satisfactory, the gowns seemed improved by this vcurtailing.
But the reformation lasted but for a short while. My wife and daughters were visited by the wives of some of the richer neighbors and by a squire who lived near by, on whom they set more store than on the plain farmers’ wives who were nearer us in worldly station. I now began to find that all my long and painful lectures upon temperance, simplicity, and contentment were entirely disregarded. Some distinctions lately paid us by our betters awakened that pride which I had laid asleep, but not removed. Our windows again, as formerly, were filled with washes for the neck and face. The sun was dreaded as an enemy to the skin without doors and the fire as a spoiler of the complexion within. My wife observed that rising too early would hurt her daughters’ eyes, that working after dinner would redden their noses, and she convinced me that the hands never looked so white as when they did nothing.
Instead, therefore, of finishing George’s shirts, we now had the girls new-modeling their old gauzes. The poor Miss Flamboroughs, their former gay companions, were cast off as mean acquaintance, and the whole conversation ran upon high life and high-lived company, with pictures, taste, and Shakespeare.
But we could have borne all this, had not a fortune-telling gypsy come to raise us into perfect vsublimity. The tawny vsibyl no sooner appeared than my girls came running to me for a shilling apiece to cross her hand with silver. To say the truth, I was tired of being always wise, and could not help gratifying their request, because I loved to see them happy. I gave each of them a shilling; after they had been closeted up with the fortune-teller for some time, I knew by their looks, upon their returning, that they had been promised something great.
“She positively declared that I am to be married to a squire in less than a twelvemonth.”
“Well, now, Sophy, my child,” said I, “and what sort of husband are you to have?”
“I am to have a lord soon after my sister has married the squire,” she replied.
“How,” cried I, “is that all you are to have for your two shillings? Only a lord and a squire for two shillings! You fools, I could have promised you a prince and a vnabob for half the money.”
This curiosity of theirs, however, was attended with very serious effects. We now began to think ourselves designed by the stars to something exalted, and already anticipated our future grandeur.
In this agreeable time my wife had the most lucky dreams in the world, which she took care to tell us every morning, with great solemnity and exactness. It was one night a coffin and cross-bones, the sign of an approaching wedding; at another time she imagined her daughters’ pockets filled with farthings, a certain sign they would shortly be stuffed with gold. The girls themselves had their omens. They saw rings in the candle, purses bounced from the fire, and love-knots lurked in the bottom of every teacup.
Toward the end of the week we received a card from two town ladies, in which, with their compliments, they hoped to see our family at church the Sunday following. All Saturday morning I could perceive, in consequence of this, my wife and daughters in close conference together, and now and then glancing at me with looks that betrayed a vlatent plot. To be sincere, I had strong suspicions that some absurd proposal was preparing for appearing with splendor the next day. In the evening they began their operations in a very regular manner, and my wife undertook to conduct the siege. After tea, when I seemed in fine spirits, she began thus:
“I fancy, Charles, my dear, we shall have a great deal of good company at our church to-morrow.”
“Perhaps we may, my dear,” returned I, “though you need be under no uneasiness about that; you shall have a sermon, whether there be or not.”
“That is what I expect,” returned she; “but I think, my dear, we ought to appear there as decently as possible, for who knows what may happen?”
“Your precautions,” replied I, “are highly commendable. A decent behavior and appearance in church is what charms me. We should be devout and humble, cheerful and serene.”
“Yes,” cried she, “I know that; but I mean we should go there in as proper a manner as possible; not like the scrubs about us.”
“You are quite right, my dear,” returned I, “and I was going to make the same proposal. The proper manner of going is to go as early as possible, to have time for meditation before the sermon begins.”
“Phoo! Charles,” interrupted she, “all that is very true, but not what I would be at. I mean, we should go there vgenteelly. You know the church is two miles off, and I protest I don’t like to see my daughters trudging up to their pew all blowzed and red with walking, and looking for all the world as if they had been winners at a vsmock race. Now, my dear, my proposal is this: there are our two plough-horses, the colt that has been in our family these nine years and his companion, Blackberry, that has scarce done an earthly thing for this month past. They are both grown fat and lazy. Why should they not do something as well as we? And let me tell you, when Moses has trimmed them a little, they will cut a very tolerable figure.”
To this proposal I objected that walking would be twenty times more genteel than such a paltry conveyance, as Blackberry was wall-eyed, and the colt wanted a tail; that they had never been broken to the rein, but had an hundred vicious tricks, and that we had but one saddle and vpillion in the whole house. All these objections, however, were overruled, so that I was obliged to comply.
The next morning I perceived them not a little busy in collecting such materials as might be necessary for the expedition; but as I found it would be a business of time, I walked on to the church before, and they promised speedily to follow. I waited near an hour in the reading desk for their arrival; but not finding them come as I expected, I was obliged to begin, and went through the service, not without some uneasiness at finding them absent.
This was increased when all was finished, and no appearance of the family. I therefore walked back by the horseway, which was five miles round, though the footway was but two; and when I had got about half-way home, I perceived the procession marching slowly forward toward the church—my son, my wife, and the two little ones exalted on one horse, and my two daughters upon the other. It was then very near dinner-time.
I demanded the cause of their delay, but I soon found, by their looks, that they had met with a thousand misfortunes on the road. The horses had, at first, refused to move from the door, till a neighbor was kind enough to beat them forward for about two hundred yards with his cudgel. Next, the straps of my wife’s pillion broke down, and they were obliged to stop to repair them before they could proceed. After that, one of the horses took it into his head to stand still, and neither blows nor entreaties could prevail with him to proceed. They were just recovering from this dismal situation when I found them; but, perceiving everything safe, I own their mortification did not much displease me, as it gave me many opportunities of future triumph, and would teach my daughters more humility.
HELPS TO STUDY
Describe the neighborhood and the home to which the vicar took his family; also their manner of living. Relate the two attempts the ladies made to appear at church in great style. What happened to raise the hopes of better days for the daughters? How were these hopes encouraged? What superstitions did the wife and daughters believe? Give your opinion of the vicar and of each member of the family.
- The School for Scandal—Richard Brinsley Sheridan.
- She Stoops to Conquer—Oliver Goldsmith.
- Life of Oliver Goldsmith—Washington Irving.
- David Copperfield—Charles Dickens.
- Barnaby Rudge—Charles Dickens.
My special amusement in New York is riding on the elevated railway. It is curious to note how little one can see on the crowded sidewalks of this city. It is simply a rush of the same people—hurrying this way or that on the same errands, doing the same shopping or eating at the same restaurants. It is a vkaleidoscope with infinite combinations but the same effects. You see it to-day, and it is the same as yesterday. Occasionally in the multitude you hit upon a vgenre specimen, or an odd detail, such as a prim little dog that sits upright all day and holds in its mouth a cup for pennies for its blind master, or an old bookseller, with a grand head and the deliberate motions of a scholar, moldering in a stall—but the general effect is one of sameness and soon tires and bewilders.
Once on the elevated road, however, a new world is opened, full of the most interesting objects. The cars sweep by the upper stories of the houses, and, running never too swiftly to allow observation, disclose the secrets of a thousand homes, and bring to view people and things never dreamed of by the giddy, restless crowd that sends its impatient murmur from the streets below. In a course of several months’ pretty steady riding from Twenty-third Street, which is the station for the Fifth Avenue Hotel, to Rector, which overlooks Wall Street, I have made many acquaintances along the route, and on reaching the city my first curiosity is in their behalf.
One of these is a boy about six years of age—akin in his fragile body and his serious mien—a youngster that is very precious to me. I first saw this boy on a little balcony about three feet by four, projecting from the window of a poverty-stricken fourth floor. He was leaning over the railing, his white, thoughtful head just clearing the top, holding a short, round stick in his hand. The little fellow made a pathetic picture, all alone there above the street, so friendless and desolate, and his pale face came between me and my business many a time that day. On going uptown that evening just as night was falling, I saw him still at his place, white and patient and silent.
Every day afterward I saw him there, always with the short stick in his hand. Occasionally he would walk around the balcony, rattling the stick in a solemn manner against the railing, or poke it across from one corner to another and sit on it. This was the only playing I ever saw him do, and the stick was the only plaything he had. But he was never without it. His little hand always held it, and I pictured him every morning when he awoke from his joyless sleep, picking up his poor toy and going out to his balcony, as other boys go to play. Or perhaps he slept with it, as little ones do with dolls and whip-tops.
I could see that the room beyond the window was bare. I never saw any one in it. The heat must have been terrible, for it could have had no ventilation. Once I missed the boy from the balcony, but saw his white head moving about slowly in the dusk of the room. Gradually the little fellow became a burden to me. I found myself continually thinking of him, and troubled with that remorse that thoughtless people feel even for suffering for which they are not in the slightest degree responsible. Not that I ever saw any suffering on his face. It was patient, thoughtful, serious, but with never a sign of petulance. What thoughts filled that young head—what contemplation took the place of what should have been the vineffable upspringing of childish emotion—what complaint or questioning were living behind that white face—no one could guess. In an older person the face would have betokened a resignation that found peace in the hope of things hereafter. In this child, without hope or aspiration, it was sad beyond expression.
One day as I passed I nodded at him. He made no sign in return. I repeated the nod on another trip, waving my hand at him—but without avail. At length, in response to an unusually winning exhortation, his pale lips trembled into a smile, but a smile that was soberness itself. Wherever I went that day that smile went with me. Wherever I saw children playing in the parks, or trotting along with their hands nestled in strong fingers that guided and protected, I thought of that tiny watcher in the balcony—joyless, hopeless, friendless—a desolate mite, hanging between the blue sky and the gladsome streets, lifting his wistful face now to the peaceful heights of the one, and now looking with grave wonder on the ceaseless tumult of the other. At length—but why go any further? Why is it necessary to tell that the boy had no father, that his mother was bedridden from his birth, and that his sister pasted labels in a drug-house, and he was thus left to himself.
It is sufficient to say that I went to Coney Island yesterday, and watched the bathers and the children—listened to the crisp, lingering music of the waves—ate a robust lunch on the pier—wandered in and out among the booths, tents, and hub-bub—and that through all these pleasures I had a companion that enjoyed them with a gravity that I can never hope to vemulate, but with a soulfulness that was touching. As I came back in the boat, the breezes singing through the vcordage, music floating from the fore-deck, and the sun lighting with its dying rays the shipping that covered the river, there was sitting in front of me a very pale but very happy bit of a boy, open-eyed with wonder, but sober and self-contained, clasping tightly in his little fingers a short, battered stick. And finally, whenever I pass by a certain overhanging balcony now, I am sure of a smile from an intimate and esteemed friend who lives there.
Henry W. Grady.
This story is taken from Booth Tarkington’s novel, The Conquest of Canaan, which gives an admirable description of modern life in an American town. Joe Louden, the hero, and Ariel Tabor, the heroine, were both friendless and, in a way, forlorn. How both of them triumphed over obstacles and won success and happiness is the theme of a book which is notable for keen observation of character and for a quiet and delightful humor.
Ariel had worked all the afternoon over her mother’s wedding-gown, and two hours were required by her toilet for the dance. She curled her hair frizzily, burning it here and there, with a slate-pencil heated over a lamp-chimney, and she placed above one ear three or four large artificial roses, taken from an old hat of her mother’s, which she had found in a trunk in the store-room. Possessing no slippers, she carefully blacked and polished her shoes, which had been clumsily resoled, and fastened into the strings of each small rosettes of red ribbon; after which she practised swinging the train of her skirt until she was proud of her manipulation of it.
She had no powder, but found in her grandfather’s room a lump of magnesia, which he was in the habit of taking for heartburn, and passed it over and over her brown face and hands. Then a lingering gaze into her small mirror gave her joy at last; she yearned so hard to see herself charming that she did see herself so. Admiration came, and she told herself that she was more attractive to look at than she had ever been in her life, and that, perhaps, at last she might begin to be sought for like other girls. The little glass showed a sort of prettiness in her thin, unmatured young face; tripping dance-tunes ran through her head, her feet keeping the time—ah, she did so hope to dance often that night! Perhaps—perhaps she might be asked for every number. And so, wrapping an old water-proof cloak about her, she took her grandfather’s arm and sallied forth, with high hopes in her beating heart.
It was in the dressing-room that the change began to come. Alone, at home in her own ugly little room, she had thought herself almost beautiful; but here in the brightly lighted chamber crowded with the other girls it was different. There was a big vcheval-glass at one end of the room, and she faced it, when her turn came—for the mirror was popular—with a sinking spirit. There was the contrast, like a picture painted and framed. The other girls all wore their hair after the fashion introduced to Canaan by Mamie Pike the week before, on her return from a visit to Chicago. None of them had “crimped” and none had bedecked their tresses with artificial flowers. Her alterations of the wedding-dress had not been successful; the skirt was too short in front and higher on one side than on the other, showing too plainly the heavy-soled shoes, which had lost most of their polish in the walk through the snow. The ribbon rosettes were fully revealed, and as she glanced at their reflection, she heard the words, “Look at that train and those rosettes!” whispered behind her, and saw in the mirror two pretty young women turn away with their handkerchiefs over their mouths and retreat hurriedly to an alcove. All the feet in the room except Ariel’s were in dainty kid or satin slippers of the color of the dresses from which they glimmered out, and only Ariel wore a train.
She went away from the mirror and pretended to be busy with a hanging thread in her sleeve.
She was singularly an alien in the chattering room, although she had been born and had lived all her life in the town. Perhaps her position among the young ladies may be best defined by the remark, generally current among them that evening, to the effect that it was “very sweet of Mamie to invite her.” Ariel was not like the others; she was not of them, and never had been. Indeed, she did not know them very well. Some of them nodded to her and gave her a word of greeting pleasantly; all of them whispered about her with wonder and suppressed amusement, but none talked to her. They were not unkindly, but they were young and eager and excited over their own interests,—which were then in the “gentlemen’s dressing-room.”
Each of the other girls had been escorted by a youth of the place, and, one by one, joining these escorts in the hall outside the door, they descended the stairs, until only Ariel was left. She came down alone after the first dance had begun, and greeted her young hostess’s mother timidly. Mrs. Pike—a small, frightened-looking woman with a ruby necklace—answered her absently, and hurried away to see that the vimported waiters did not steal anything.
Ariel sat in one of the chairs against the wall and watched the dancers with a smile of eager and benevolent interest. In Canaan no parents, no guardians or aunts were haled forth o’ nights to vduenna the junketings of youth; Mrs. Pike did not reappear, and Ariel sat conspicuously alone; there was nothing else for her to do, but it was not an easy matter.
When the first dance reached an end, Mamie Pike came to her for a moment with a cheery welcome, and was immediately surrounded by a circle of young men and women, flushed with dancing, shouting as was their wont, laughing vinexplicably over words and phrases and unintelligible vmonosyllables, as if they all belonged to a secret society and these cries were symbols of things exquisitely humorous, which only they understood. Ariel laughed with them more heartily than any other, so that she might seem to be of them and as merry as they were; but almost immediately she found herself outside of the circle, and presently they all whirled away into another dance, and she was left alone again.
So she sat, no one coming near her, through several dances, trying to maintain the smile of delighted interest upon her face, though she felt the muscles of her face beginning to ache with their fixedness, her eyes growing hot and glazed. All the other girls were provided with partners for every dance, with several young men left over, these latter lounging vhilariously together in the doorways. Ariel was careful not to glance toward them, but she could not help hating them. Once or twice between the dances she saw Miss Pike speak appealingly to one of the vsuperfluous, glancing, at the same time, in her own direction, and Ariel could see, too, that the appeal proved unsuccessful, until at last Mamie approached her, leading Norbert Flitcroft, partly by the hand, partly by will power. Norbert was an excessively fat boy, and at the present moment looked as patient as the blind. But he asked Ariel if she was “engaged for the next dance,” and, Mamie, having flitted away, stood vdisconsolately beside her, waiting for the music to begin. Ariel was grateful for him.
“I think you must be very good-natured, Mr. Flitcroft,” she said, with an air of vraillery.
“No, I’m not,” he replied, vplaintively. “Everybody thinks I am, because I’m fat, and they expect me to do things they never dream of asking anybody else to do. I’d like to see ’em even ask ’Gene Bantry to go and do some of the things they get me to do! A person isn’t good-natured just because he’s fat,” he concluded, morbidly, “but he might as well be!”
“Oh, I meant good-natured,” she returned, with a sprightly laugh, “because you’re willing to waltz with me.”
“Oh, well,” he returned, sighing, “that’s all right.”
The orchestra flourished into “La Paloma”; he put his arm mournfully about her, and taking her right hand with his left, carried her arm out to a rigid right angle, beginning to pump and balance for time. They made three false starts and then got away. Ariel danced badly; she hopped and lost the step, but they persevered, bumping against other couples continually. Circling breathlessly into the next room, they passed close to a long mirror, in which Ariel saw herself, although in a flash, more bitterly contrasted to the others than in the cheval-glass of the dressing-room. The clump of roses was flopping about her neck, her crimped hair looked frowzy, and there was something terribly wrong about her dress. Suddenly she felt her train to be vgrotesque, as a thing following her in a nightmare.
A moment later she caught her partner making a vburlesque face of suffering over her shoulder, and, turning her head quickly, saw for whose benefit he had constructed it. Eugene Bantry, flying expertly by with Mamie, was bestowing upon Mr. Flitcroft a commiserative wink. The next instant she tripped in her train and fell to the floor at Eugene’s feet, carrying her partner with her.
There was a shout of laughter. The young hostess stopped Eugene, who would have gone on, and he had no choice but to stoop to Ariel’s assistance.
“It seems to be a habit of mine,” she said, laughing loudly.
She did not appear to see the hand he offered, but got on her feet without help and walked quickly away with Norbert, who proceeded to live up to the character he had given himself.
“Perhaps we had better not try it again,” she laughed.
“Well, I should think not,” he returned with the frankest gloom. With the air of conducting her home, he took her to the chair against the wall whence he had brought her. There his responsibility for her seemed to cease. “Will you excuse me?” he asked, and there was no doubt he felt that he had been given more than his share that evening, even though he was fat.
“Yes, indeed.” Her laughter was continuous. “I should think you would be glad to get rid of me after that. Ha, ha, ha! Poor Mr. Flitcroft, you know you are!”
It was the deadly truth, and the fat one, saying, “Well, if you’ll excuse me now,” hurried away with a step which grew lighter as the distance from her increased. Arrived at the haven of a far doorway, he mopped his brow and shook his head grimly in response to frequent rallyings.
Ariel sat through more dances, interminable dances and intermissions, in that same chair, in which it began to seem she was to live out the rest of her life. Now and then, if she thought people were looking at her as they passed, she broke into a laugh and nodded slightly, as if still amused over her mishap.
After a long time she rose, and laughing cheerfully to Mr. Flitcroft, who was standing in the doorway and replied with a wan smile, stepped out quickly into the hall, where she almost ran into her great-uncle, Jonas Tabor. He was going toward the big front doors with Judge Pike, having just come out of the latter’s library, down the hall.
Jonas was breathing heavily and was shockingly pale, though his eyes were very bright. He turned his back upon his grandniece sharply and went out of the door. Ariel reëntered the room whence she had come. She laughed again to her fat friend as she passed him, went to the window and looked out. The porch seemed deserted and was faintly illuminated by a few Japanese lanterns. She sprang out, dropped upon the divan, and burying her face in her hands, cried heart-brokenly.
Presently she felt something alive touch her foot, and, her breath catching with alarm, she started to rise. A thin hand, issuing from a shabby sleeve, had stolen out between two of the green tubs and was pressing upon one of her shoes.
“Sh!” warned a voice. “Don’t make a noise!”
The warning was not needed; she had recognized the hand and sleeve instantly. It was her playmate and lifelong friend, Joe Louden.
“What were you going on about?” he asked angrily.
“Nothing,” she answered. “I wasn’t. You must go away; you know the Judge doesn’t like you.”
“What were you crying about?” interrupted the uninvited guest.
“Nothing, I tell you!” she repeated, the tears not ceasing to gather in her eyes. “I wasn’t.”
“I want to know what it was,” he insisted. “Didn’t the fools ask you to dance! Ah! You needn’t tell me. That’s it. I’ve been here, watching, for the last three dances and you weren’t in sight till you came to the window. Well, what do you care about that for!”
“I don’t,” she answered. “I don’t!” Then suddenly, without being able to prevent it, she sobbed.
“No,” he said, gently, “I see you don’t. And you let yourself be a fool because there are a lot of fools in there.”
She gave way, all at once, to a gust of sorrow and bitterness; she bent far over and caught his hand and laid it against her wet cheek. “Oh, Joe,” she whispered, brokenly, “I think we have such hard lives, you and I! It doesn’t seem right—while we’re so young! Why can’t we be like the others? Why can’t we have some of the fun?”
He withdrew his hand, with the embarrassment and shame he would have felt had she been a boy.
“Get out!” he said, feebly.
She did not seem to notice, but, still stooping, rested her elbows on her knees and her face in her hands. “I try so hard to have some fun, to be like the rest—and it’s always a mistake, always, always, always!” She rocked herself slightly from side to side. “I’m a fool, it’s the truth, or I wouldn’t have come to-night. I want to be attractive—I want to be in things. I want to laugh as they do—”
“To laugh, just to laugh, and not because there’s something funny?”
“Yes, I do, I do! And to know how to dress and to wear my hair—there must be some place where you can learn those things. I’ve never had any one to show me! It’s only lately I’ve cared, but I’m seventeen, Joe—” She faltered, came to a stop, and her whole body was shaken with sobs. “I hate myself so for crying—for everything!”
Just then a colored waiter, smiling graciously, came out upon the porch, bearing a tray of salad, hot oysters, and coffee. At his approach, Joe had fallen prone on the floor in the shadow. Ariel shook her head to the proffer of refreshments.
“I don’t want any,” she murmured.
“Ma’am?” said the waiter.
“I’ve changed my mind,” she replied quickly. The waiter, his elation restored, gave of his viands with the vsuperfluous bounty loved by his race when distributing the product of the wealthy.
When he had gone, “Give me everything that’s hot,” said Joe. “You can keep the salad.”
“I couldn’t eat it or anything else,” she answered, thrusting the plate between the palms.
For a time there was silence. From within the house came the continuous babble of voices and laughter, the clink of vcutlery on china. The young people spent a long time over their supper. By and by the waiter returned to the veranda, deposited a plate of colored ices upon Ariel’s knees with a noble gesture, and departed.
“No ice for me,” said Joe.
“Won’t you please go now?” she entreated.
“It wouldn’t be good manners,” he joked. “They might think I only came for the supper.”
A bottle-shaped figure appeared in the window, and she had no time to take the plate and cup which were being pushed through the palm-leaves. She whispered a word of warning, and the dishes were hurriedly withdrawn as Norbert Flitcroft, wearing a solemn expression of injury, came out upon the veranda.
“They want you. Some one’s come for you.”
“Oh, is grandfather waiting?” She rose.
“It isn’t your grandfather that has come for you,” answered the fat one, slowly. “It is Eskew Arp. Something’s happened.”
She looked at him for a moment, beginning to tremble violently, her eyes growing wide with fright.
“Is my grandfather—is he sick?”
“You’d better go and see. Old Eskew’s waiting in the hall. He’ll tell you.”
She was by him and through the window instantly. Mr. Arp was waiting in the hall, talking in a low voice to Mrs. Pike.
“Your grandfather’s all right,” he told the frightened girl quickly. “He sent me for you. Just hurry and get your things.”
She was with him again in a moment, and seizing the old man’s arm, hurried him down the steps and toward the street almost at a run.
“Nothing has happened to Roger Tabor,” panted Mr. Arp. “We’re going this way, not that.” They had come to the gate, and as she turned to the right he pulled her sharply to the left.
“Where are we going?” she demanded.
“To your Uncle Jonas’s.”
“Why?” she cried, in supreme astonishment. “What do you want to take me there for? Don’t you know that he doesn’t like me—that he has stopped speaking to me?”
“Yes,” said the old man, grimly; “he has stopped speaking to everybody.”
These startling words told Ariel that her uncle was dead. They did not tell her what she was soon to learn—that he had died rich, and that, failing other heirs, she and her grandfather had inherited his fortune.
It was Sunday in Canaan—Sunday some years later. Joe Louden was sitting in the shade of Main Street bridge, smoking a cigar. He was alone; he was always alone, for he had been away a long time, and had made few friends since his return.
A breeze wandered up the river and touched the leaves and grass to life. The young corn, deep green in the bottom-land, moved with a vstaccato flurry; the stirring air brought a smell of blossoms; the distance took on faint lavender hazes which blended the outlines of the fields, lying like square coverlets on the long slope of rising ground beyond the bottom-land, and empurpled the blue woodland shadows of the groves.
For the first time it struck Joe that it was a beautiful day. He opened his eyes and looked about him whimsically. Then he shook his head again. A lady had just emerged from the bridge and was coming toward him.
It would be hard to get at Joe’s first impressions of her. We can find conveyance for only the broadest and heaviest. At first sight of her, there was preëminently the shock of seeing anything so exquisite in his accustomed world. For she was exquisite; she was that, and much more, from the ivory vferrule of the parasol she carried, to the light and slender foot-print she left in the dust of the road. Joe knew at once that nothing like her had ever before been seen in Canaan.
He had little knowledge of the millinery arts, and he needed none to see the harmony of the things she wore. Her dress and hat and gloves and parasol showed a pale lavender overtint like that which he had seen overspreading the western slope. Under the summer hat her very dark hair swept back over the temples with something near trimness in the extent to which it was withheld from being fluffy. It may be that this approach to trimness, after all, was the true key to the mystery of the lady who appeared to Joe.
She was to pass him—so he thought—and as she drew nearer, his breath came faster. And then he realized that something wonderful was happening to him.
She had stopped directly in front of him; stopped and stood looking at him with her clear eyes. He did not lift his own to her; a great and unaccountable shyness beset him. He had risen and removed his hat, trying not to clear his throat—his everyday sense urging upon him that she was a stranger in Canaan who had lost her way.
“Can I—can I—” he stammered, blushing, meaning to finish with “direct you,” or “show you the way.”
Then he looked at her again and saw what seemed to him the strangest sight of life. The lady’s eyes had filled with tears—filled and overfilled.
“I’ll sit here on the log with you,” she said. “You don’t need to dust it!” she went on, tremulously. And even then he did not know who she was.
There was a silence, for if the dazzled young man could have spoken at all, he could have found nothing to say; and, perhaps, the lady would not trust her own voice just then. His eyes had fallen again; he was too dazed, and, in truth, too panic-stricken now, to look at her. She was seated beside him and had handed him her parasol in a little way which seemed to imply that, of course, he had reached for it, so that it was to be seen how used she was to have all such things done for her. He saw that he was expected to furl the dainty thing; he pressed the catch and let down the top timidly, as if fearing to break or tear it; and, as it closed, held near his face, he caught a very faint, sweet, spicy vemanation from it like wild roses and cinnamon.
“Do you know me?” asked the lady at last.
For answer he could only stare at her, dumfounded; he lifted an unsteady hand toward her appealingly. Her manner underwent an April change. She drew back lightly; he was favored with the most delicious low laugh he had ever heard.
“I’m glad you’re the same, Joe!” she said. “I’m glad you’re the same, and I’m glad I’ve changed, though that isn’t why you have forgotten me.”
He arose uncertainly and took three or four backward steps from her. She sat before him, radiant with laughter, the loveliest creature he had ever seen; but between him and this charming vision there swept, through the warm, scented June air, the dim picture of a veranda all in darkness and the faint music of violins.
“Isn’t it about time you were recognizing me?” she said.
. . . . . .
Sensations were rare in staid, dull, commonplace Canaan, but this fine Sunday morning the town was treated to one of the most memorable sensations in its history. The town, all except Joe Louden, had known for weeks that Ariel Tabor was coming home from abroad, but it had not seen her. And when she walked along the street with Joe, past the Sunday church-returning crowds, it is not quite truth to say that all except the children came to a dead halt, but it is not very far from it. The air was thick with subdued exclamations and whisperings.
Joe had not known her. The women recognized her, vinfallibly, at first sight; even those who had quite forgotten her. And the women told their men. Hence the un-Sunday-like demeanor of the procession, for few towns held it more unseemly to stand and stare at passers-by, especially on the Sabbath. But Ariel Tabor had returned.
A low but increasing murmur followed the two as they proceeded. It ran up the street ahead of them; people turned to look back and paused, so that Ariel and Joe had to walk round one or two groups. They had, also, to walk round Norbert Flitcroft, which was very like walking round a group. Mr. Flitcroft was one of the few (he was waddling home alone) who did not identify Miss Tabor, and her effect upon him was extraordinary. His mouth opened and he gazed vstodgily, his widening eyes like sun-dogs coming out of a fog. Mr. Flitcroft experienced a few moments of trance; came out of it stricken through and through; felt nervously of his tie; resolutely fell in behind, and followed, at a distance of some forty paces, determined to learn what household this heavenly visitor honored, and thrilling with the intention to please that same household with his own presence as soon and as often as possible.
Ariel flushed a little when she perceived the extent of their conspicuousness; but it was not the blush that Joe remembered had reddened the tanned skin of old; for her brownness had gone long ago, though it had not left her merely pink and white. There was a delicate rosiness rising from her cheeks to her temples, as the earliest dawn rises.
Joe kept trying to realize that this lady of wonder was Ariel Tabor, but he could not; he could not connect the shabby Ariel, whom he had treated as one boy treats another, with this young woman of the world. Although he had only a dim perception of the staring and whispering which greeted and followed them, Ariel, of course, was thoroughly aware of it, though the only sign she gave was the slight blush, which very soon disappeared.
“Don’t you know?” she said. “I’m staying here. Judge Pike has charge of all my property. Come to see me this afternoon.”
With a last charming smile, Ariel turned and left the dazed young man on the sidewalk.
That walk was but the beginning of her triumph. Judge Pike’s of a summer afternoon was the swirling social center of Canaan, but on that particular Sunday afternoon every unattached male in the town who possessed the privilege of calling at the big house appeared. They filled the chairs in the wide old-fashioned hall where Ariel received them, and overpoured on the broad steps of the old-fashioned spiral staircase, where Mr. Flitcroft, on account of his size, occupied two steps and a portion of a third. And Ariel was the center of it all!
HELPS TO STUDY
I. Describe Ariel’s pitiful attempts at beautifying herself when dressing for the dance. When did she realize her failure? How were her anticipations of the dance realized? What kind of girl was Mamie Pike? Give reasons for your answer. At what point were you most sorry for Ariel? With what startling news did the evening end?
II. Give an account of the meeting between the old playmates. Describe the scenes as they walked along the street. What do you think was the greatest part of Ariel’s “triumph?” Was she spoiled by her wealth? How do you know?
- Little Women—Louisa M. Alcott.
- Pride and Prejudice—Jane Austen.
141-* Copyright by Harper & Brothers.
HELPS TO STUDY
Make a list of the things the cloud does. Read aloud the lines in which the poet tells of each of these. Why is lightning spoken of as the pilot of the cloud? Where does it sit? Where is the thunder? How is the cloud “the daughter of the earth and water”? How “a nursling of the sky”? Explain “I change, but I cannot die.” A cenotaph is a memorial built to one who is buried elsewhere. Why should the clear sky be the cloud’s cenotaph? How does the reappearing of the cloud unbuild it?
There is a vsumptuous variety about the New England weather that compels the stranger’s admiration—and regret. The weather is always doing something there; always attending strictly to business; always getting up new designs and trying them on the people to see how they will go. But it gets through more business in spring than in any other season. In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather within four and twenty hours. It was I who made the fame and fortune of the man who had that marvelous collection of weather on exhibition at the Centennial, which so astounded the foreigners. He was going to travel around the world and get specimens from all climes. I said, “Don’t do it; just come to New England on a favorable spring day.” I told him what we could do in the way of style, variety, and quantity. Well, he came, and he made his collection in four days. As to variety, he confessed that he got hundreds of kinds of weather that he had never heard of before. And as to quantity, after he had picked out and discarded all that was blemished in any way, he not only had weather enough, but weather to spare, weather to hire out, weather to sell, weather to deposit, weather to invest, and weather to give to the poor.
Old Probabilities has a mighty reputation for accurate prophecy and thoroughly deserves it. You take up the paper and observe how crisply and confidently he checks off what to-day’s weather is going to be on the Pacific, down South, in the Middle States, in the Wisconsin region. See him sail along in the joy and pride of his power till he gets to New England, and then see his tail drop. He doesn’t know what the weather is going to be in New England. Well, he mulls over it, and by and by he gets out something like this: “Probable northeast to southwest winds, varying to the southward and westward and eastward and points between; high and low barometer, swapping around from place to place; probable areas of rain, snow, hail, and drought, succeeded or preceded by earthquakes with thunder and lightning.” Then he jots down this postscript from his wandering mind, to cover accidents: “But it is possible that the program may be wholly changed in the meantime.” Yes, one of the brightest gems in the New England weather is the dazzling uncertainty of it. There is certain to be plenty of weather, but you never can tell which end of the procession is going to move first.
But, after all, there are at least two or three things about that weather (or, if you please, the effects produced by it) which we residents would not like to part with. If we hadn’t our bewitching autumn foliage, we should still have to credit the weather with one feature which compensates for all its bullying vagaries—the ice storm. Every bough and twig is strung with ice beads, frozen dewdrops, and the whole tree sparkles cold and white like the vShah of Persia’s diamond plume. Then the wind waves the branches, and the sun comes out and turns all those myriads of beads and drops to prisms that glow and burn and flash with all manner of colored fires; which change and change again, with inconceivable rapidity, from blue to red, from red to green, and green to gold. The tree becomes a spraying fountain, a very explosion of dazzling jewels, and it stands there the vacme, the climax, the supremest possibility in art or nature, of bewildering, intoxicating, intolerable magnificence. One cannot make the words too strong. Month after month I lay up hate and grudge against the New England weather; but when the ice storm comes at last I say: “There, I forgive you now; you are the most enchanting weather in the world.”
HELPS TO STUDY
Mark Twain’s humor was noted for exaggeration. Find examples of exaggeration in this selection. Old Probabilities was the name signed by a weather prophet of the period. How was he affected by New England weather? At what point did Twain drop his fun and begin a beautiful tribute to a New England landscape? How does the tribute close?
- Three Men in a Boat—Jerome K. Jerome.
- The House Boat on the Styx—John Kendrick Bangs.
HELPS TO STUDY
When did the snow begin? How do you know? What time is it now? Is snow still falling? Read the lines that show this. Of what sorrow does the snow remind the poet? Read the lines which show that peace had come to the parents. Make a list of the comparisons (or similes) used by the poet. Read the lines which show that the storm was a quiet one. Which lines do you like best?
For some days after our arrival on the Bighorn range we did not come across any grizzly. There were plenty of black-tail deer in the woods, and we encountered a number of bands of cow and calf elk, or of young bulls; but after several days’ hunting, we were still without any game worth taking home, and we had seen no sign of grizzly, which was the game we were especially anxious to kill, for neither Merrifield nor I had ever seen a bear alive.
Sometimes we hunted in company; sometimes each of us went out alone. One day we had separated; I reached camp early in the afternoon, and waited a couple of hours before Merrifield put in an appearance.
At last I heard a shout, and he came in sight galloping at speed down an open glade, and waving his hat, evidently having had good luck; and when he reined in his small, wiry cow-pony, we saw that he had packed behind his saddle the fine, glossy pelt of a black bear. Better still, he announced that he had been off about ten miles to a perfect tangle of ravines and valleys where bear sign was very thick; and not of black bear either, but of grizzly. The black bear (the only one we got on the mountains) he had run across by accident.
Merrifield’s tale made me decide to shift camp at once, and go over to the spot where the bear-tracks were plentiful. Next morning we were off, and by noon pitched camp by a clear brook, in a valley with steep, wooded sides.
That afternoon we again went out, and I shot a fine bull elk. I came home alone toward nightfall, walking through a reach of burnt forest, where there was nothing but charred tree-trunks and black mold. When nearly through it I came across the huge, half-human footprints of a great grizzly, which must have passed by within a few minutes. It gave me rather an eery feeling in the silent, lonely woods, to see for the first time the unmistakable proofs that I was in the home of the mighty lord of the wilderness.
That evening we almost had a visit from one of the animals we were after. Several times we had heard at night the musical calling of the bull elk—a sound to which no writer has as yet done justice. This particular night, when we were in bed and the fire was smoldering, we were roused by a ruder noise—a kind of grunting or roaring whine, answered by the frightened snorts of the ponies. It was a bear which had evidently not seen the fire, as it came from behind the bank, and had probably been attracted by the smell of the horses. After it made out what we were, it stayed round a short while, again uttered its peculiar roaring grunt, and went off; we had seized our rifles and had run out into the woods, but in the darkness could see nothing; indeed it was rather lucky we did not stumble across the bear, as he could have made short work of us when we were at such a disadvantage.
Next day we went off on a long tramp through the woods and along the sides of the canyons. There were plenty of berry bushes growing in clusters; and all around these there were fresh tracks of bear. But the grizzly is also a flesh-eater, and has a great liking for vcarrion. On visiting the place where Merrifield had killed the black bear, we found that the grizzlies had been there before us, and had utterly devoured the carcass, with cannibal relish. Hardly a scrap was left, and we turned our steps toward where lay the bull elk I had killed. It was quite late in the afternoon when we reached the place.
A grizzly had evidently been at the carcass during the preceding night, for his great footprints were in the ground all around it, and the carcass itself was gnawed and torn, and partially covered with earth and leaves—the grizzly has a curious habit of burying all of his prey that he does not at the moment need.
The forest was composed mainly of what are called ridge-pole pines, which grow close together, and do not branch out until the stems are thirty or forty feet from the ground. Beneath these trees we walked over a carpet of pine needles, upon which our moccasined feet made no sound. The woods seemed vast and lonely, and their silence was broken now and then by the strange noises always to be heard in the great pine forests.
We climbed up along the trunk of a dead tree that had toppled over until its upper branches struck in the limb crotch of another, which thus supported it at an angle half-way in its fall. When above the ground far enough to prevent the bear’s smelling us, we sat still to wait for his approach; until, in the gathering gloom, we could no longer see the sights of our rifles. It was useless to wait longer; and we clambered down and stole out to the edge of the woods. The forest here covered one side of a steep, almost canyon-like ravine, whose other side was bare except for rock and sage-brush. Once out from under the trees there was still plenty of light, although the sun had set, and we crossed over some fifty yards to the opposite hillside, and crouched down under a bush to see if perchance some animal might not also leave the cover.
Again we waited quietly in the growing dusk until the pine trees in our front blended into one dark, frowning mass. At last, as we were rising to leave, we heard the sound of the breaking of a dead stick, from the spot where we knew the carcass lay. “Old Ephraim” had come back to the carcass. A minute afterward, listening with strained ears, we heard him brush by some dry twigs. It was entirely too dark to go in after him; but we made up our minds that on the morrow he should be ours.
Early next morning we were over at the elk carcass, and, as we expected, found that the bear had eaten his fill of it during the night. His tracks showed him to be an immense fellow, and were so fresh that we doubted if he had left long before we arrived; and we made up our minds to follow him up and try to find his lair. The bears that lived on these mountains had evidently been little disturbed; indeed, the Indians and most of the white hunters are rather chary of meddling with “Old Ephraim,” as the mountain men style the grizzly. The bears thus seemed to have very little fear of harm, and we thought it likely that the bed of the one who had fed on the elk would not be far away.
My companion was a skillful tracker, and we took up the trail at once. For some distance it led over the soft, yielding carpet of moss and pine needles, and the footprints were quite easily made out, although we could follow them but slowly; for we had, of course, to keep a sharp look-out ahead and around us as we walked noiselessly on in the somber half-light always prevailing under the great pine trees.
After going a few hundred yards the tracks turned off on a well-beaten path made by the elk; the woods were in many places cut up by these game trails, which had often become as distinct as ordinary footpaths. The beast’s footprints were perfectly plain in the dust, and he had lumbered along up the path until near the middle of the hillside, where the ground broke away and there were hollows and boulders. Here there had been a windfall, and the dead trees lay among the living, piled across one another in all directions; while between and around them sprouted up a thick growth of young spruces and other evergreens. The trail turned off into the tangled thicket, within which it was almost certain we should find our quarry. We could still follow the tracks, by the slight scrapes of the claws on the bark, or by the bent and broken twigs; and we advanced with noiseless caution.
When in the middle of the thicket we crossed what was almost a breastwork of fallen logs, and Merrifield, who was leading, passed by the upright stem of a great pine. As soon as he was by it, he sank suddenly on one knee, turning half round, his face fairly aflame with excitement; and as I strode past him, with my rifle at the ready, there, not ten steps off, was the great bear, slowly rising from his bed among the young spruces. He had heard us, but apparently hardly knew exactly where or what we were, for he reared up on his haunches sideways to us.
Then he saw us and dropped down again on all-fours, the shaggy hair on his neck and shoulders seeming to bristle as he turned toward us. As he sank down on his fore feet, I had raised the rifle; his head was bent slightly down, and when I saw the top of the white bead fairly between his small, glittering, evil eyes, I pulled trigger. Half-rising up, the huge beast fell over on his side in the death throes, the ball having gone into his brain, striking as fairly between the eyes as if the distance had been measured.
The whole thing was over in twenty seconds from the time I caught sight of the game; indeed, it was over so quickly that the grizzly did not have time to show fight. He was a monstrous fellow, much larger than any I have seen since. As near as we could estimate, he must have weighed above twelve hundred pounds.
HELPS TO STUDY
Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States from 1901 to 1909, was one of the greatest hunters of the present generation. As he was in weak health as a young man, he went West and lived for some time the life of a ranchman and hunter, killing much wild game. In later years he went on a great hunting trip to Africa, and finally explored the wilds of the Amazon river, in South America, in search of game and adventure. “Old Ephraim” narrates one of his earlier hunting experiences, and is taken from the book, The Hunting Trips of a Ranchman.
Give an account of the capture of the grizzly bear. Why did not Merrifield fire? Compare the weight of the bear with that of the average cow or horse. Tell of any bear hunt of which you know.
- Watchers of the Trail—Charles C. D. Roberts.
- Monarch, the Bear—Ernest Thompson Seton.
- Wild Animals I Have Known—Ernest Thompson Seton.
- African Game Trails—Theodore Roosevelt.
HELPS TO STUDY
When did this storm begin? Read lines which show this. Give reasons for your answer. What comparisons are used by the poet in describing the snowfall? Which comparison do you like best? What healing thought does the storm bring to the poet? Compare it with the same thought in The First Snowfall.
A GEORGIA FOX HUNT177-*
In the season of 1863, the Rockville Hunting Club, which had been newly organized, was at the height of its success. It was composed of men too old to go in the army, and of young men who were not old enough, or who, from one cause and another, were exempted from military service. Ostensibly, its object was to encourage the noble sport of fox-hunting and to bind by closer ties the congenial souls whose love for horse and hound and horn bordered on enthusiasm. This, I say, was its vostensible object, for it seems to me, looking back upon that terrible time, that the main purpose of the association was to devise new methods of forgetting the sickening vportents of disaster that were even then thick in the air. Any suggestion or plan calculated to relieve the mind from the weight of the horror of those desperate days was eagerly seized upon and utilized. With the old men and the fledgling boys in the neighborhood of Rockville, the desire to escape momentarily the realities of the present took the shape of fox-hunting and other congenial amusements. With the women—ah well! Heaven only knows how they sat dumb and silent over their great anguish and grief, cheering the helpless and comforting and succoring the sick and wounded. It was a mystery to me then, and it is a mystery to me now.
About the first of November the writer hereof received a long-expected letter from Tom Tunison, the secretary of the club, who was on a visit to Monticello. It was brief and breezy.
“Young man,” he wrote, “they are coming. They are going to give us a vruffle. Their dogs are good, but they lack form and finish as well as discipline—plenty of bottom but no confidence. I haven’t hesitated to put up our horn as the prize. Get the boys together and tell them about it, and see that our own eleven are in fighting trim. You won’t believe it, but Sue, Herndon, Kate, and Walthall are coming with the party; and the fair de Compton, who set all the Monticello boys wild last year when she got back from Macon, vows and declares she is coming, too. Remember the 15th. Be prepared.”
I took in the situation at a glance. Tom, in his reckless style, had bantered a party of Jasper county men as to the superiority of their dogs, and had even offered to give them an opportunity to gain the silver-mounted horn won by the Rockville club in Hancock county the year before. The Jasper county men, who were really breeding some excellent dogs, accepted the challenge, and Tom had invited them to share the hospitality of the plantation home called “Bachelors’ Hall.”
If the truth must be confessed, I was not at all grieved at the announcement in Tom’s letter, apart from the agreeable change in the social atmosphere that would result from the presence of ladies in “Bachelors’ Hall.” I was eagerly anxious to test the mettle of a favorite hound—Flora—whose care and training had cost me a great deal of time and trouble. Although it was her first season in the field, she had already become the pet and pride of the Rockville club, the members of which were not slow to sound her praises. Flora was an experiment. She was the result of a cross between the Henry hound (called in Georgia the “Birdsong dog,” in honor of the most successful breeder) and a Maryland hound. She was a grand-daughter of the famous Hodo and in everything except her color (she was white with yellow ears) was the exact reproduction of that magnificent fox-hound. I was anxious to see her put to the test.
It was with no small degree of satisfaction, therefore, that I informed Aunt Patience, the cook, of Tom’s programme. Aunt Patience was a privileged character, whose comments upon people and things were free and frequent; when she heard that a party of hunters, accompanied by ladies, proposed to make the hall their temporary headquarters, her remarks were ludicrously indignant.
“Well, ef dat Marse Tom ain’t de beatinest white man dat I ever sot eyes on—’way off yander givin’ way his vittles fo’ he buy um at de sto’! How I know what Marse Tom want, an’ tel I know, whar I gwineter git um? He better be home yer lookin’ atter deze lazy niggers, stidder high-flyin’ wid dem Jasper county folks. Ef dez enny vittles on dis plan’ash’n, hits more’n I knows un. En he’ll go runnin’ roun’ wid dem harum-skarum gals twell I boun’ he don’t fetch dat pipe an’ dat ’backer what he said he would. Can’t fool me ’bout de gals what grows up deze days. Dey duz like dey wanter stan’ up an’ cuss dersef’ case dey wuzent borned men.”
“Why, Aunt Patience, your Marse Tom says Miss de Compton is as pretty as a pink and as fine as a fiddle.”
“Law, chile! you needn’t talk ’bout de gals to dis ole ’omen. I done know um fo’ you wuz borned. W’en you see Miss Compton you see all de balance un um. Deze is new times. Marse Tom’s mammy useter spin her fifteen cents o’ wool a day—w’en you see Miss Compton wid a hank er yarn in ’er han’, you jes’ sen’ me word.”
Whereupon, Aunt Patience gave her head handkerchief a vigorous wrench, and went her way—the good old soul—even then considering how she should best set about preparing a genuine surprise for her young master in the shape of daily feasts for a dozen guests. I will not stop here to detail the character of this preparation or to dwell upon its success. It is enough to say that Tom Tunison praised Aunt Patience to the skies; and, as if this were not sufficient to make her happy, he produced a big clay pipe, three plugs of real “manufac terbacker,” which was hard to get in those times, a red shawl, and twelve yards of calico.
The fortnight that followed the arrival of Tom’s guests was one long to be remembered, not only in the vannals of the Rockville Hunting Club but in the annals of Rockville itself. The fair de Compton literally turned the heads of old men and young boys, and even succeeded in conquering the critics of her own sex. She was marvelously beautiful, and her beauty was of a kind to haunt one in one’s dreams. It was easy to perceive that she had made a conquest of Tom, and I know that every suggestion he made and every project he planned had for its sole end and aim the enjoyment of Miss Carrie de Compton.
It was several days before the minor details of the contest, which was at once the excuse for and the object of the visit of Tom’s guests, could be arranged, but finally everything was “vamicably adjusted,” and the day appointed. The night before the hunt, the club and the Jasper county visitors assembled in Tom Tunison’s parlor for a final discussion of the event.
“In order,” said Tom, “to give our friends and guests an opportunity fully to test the speed and bottom of their kennels, it has been decided to pay our respects to ‘Old Sandy’.”
“He is a fox, Miss de Compton, and a tough one. He is a trained fox. He has been hunted so often by the inferior packs in his neighborhood that he is well-nigh vinvincible. He is so well known that he has not been hunted, except by accident, for two seasons. He is not as suspicious as he was two years ago, but we must be careful if we want to get within hearing distance of him to-morrow morning.”
“Do any of the ladies go with us?” asked Jack Herndon.
“I go, for one,” responded Miss de Compton, and in a few minutes all the ladies had decided to go along, even if they found it inconvenient to participate actively in the hunt.
“Then,” said Tom, rising, “we must say good night. Uncle Plato will sound ‘Boots and Saddle’ at four o’clock to-morrow morning.”
“Four o’clock!” exclaimed the ladies in dismay.
“At four precisely,” answered Tom, and the ladies with pretty little gestures of mock despair swept upstairs while Tom brought out cigars for the boys.
My friend little knew how delighted I was that “Old Sandy” was to be put through his paces. He little knew how carefully I had studied the peculiarities of this famous fox—how often when training Flora I had taken her out and followed “Old Sandy” through all his ranges, how I had “felt of” both his speed and bottom and knew all his weak points.
Morning came, and with it Uncle Plato’s bugle call. Aunt Patience was ready with a smoking hot breakfast, and everybody was in fine spirits. As the eager, happy crowd filed down the broad avenue that led to the hall, the fair de Compton, who had been delayed in mounting, rode by my side.
“You choose your escort well,” I ventured to say.
“I have a weakness for children,” she replied; “particularly for children who know what they are about. Plato has told me that if I desired to see all of the hunt without much trouble, to follow you. I am selfish, you perceive.”
We rode over the red hills and under the russet trees until we came to “Old Sandy’s” favorite haunt. Here a council of war was held, and it was decided that Tom and a portion of the hunters should skirt the fields, while another portion led by Miss de Compton and myself should enter and bid the fox good morning. Uncle Plato, who had been given the cue, followed me with the dogs, and in a few moments we were very near the particular spot where I hoped to find the venerable deceiver of dogs and men. The hounds were already sallying hither and thither, anxious and evidently expectant.
Five minutes went by without a whimper from the pack. There was not a sound save the eager rustling of the dogs through the sedge and undergrowth. The ground was familiar to Flora, and I watched her with pride as with powerful strides she circled around. Suddenly she paused and flung her head in the air, making a beautiful picture where she stood poised, as if listening. My heart gave a great thump. It was a trick of hers, and I knew that “Old Sandy” had been around within the past twenty-four hours! With a rush, a bound, and an eager cry, my favorite came toward us, and the next moment “Old Sandy,” who had been lying almost at our horses’ feet, was up and away with Flora right at his heels. A wild hope seized me that my favorite would run into the shy veteran before he could get out of the field. But no! One of the Jasper county hunters, rendered momentarily insane by excitement, endeavored to ride the fox down with his horse, and in another moment Sir Reynard was over the fence and into the woodland beyond, followed by the hounds. They made a splendid but vineffectual burst of speed, for when “Old Sandy” found himself upon the blackjack hills he was foot-loose. The morning, however, was fine—just damp enough to leave the scent of the fox hanging breast high in the air, whether he shaped his course over lowlands or highlands.
In the midst of all the confusion that had ensued, Miss de Compton remained cool, serene, and appar
ently indifferent, but I observed a glow upon her face and a sparkle in her eyes, as Tom Tunison, riding his gallant gray and heading the hunters, easily and gracefully took a couple of fences when the hounds veered to the left.
“Our Jasper county friend has saved ‘Old Sandy,’ Miss de Compton,” I said, “but he has given us an opportunity of witnessing some very fine sport. The fox is so badly frightened that he may endeavor in the beginning to outfoot the dogs, but in the end he will return to his range, and then I hope to show you what a cunning old customer he is. If Flora doesn’t fail us at the critical moment, you will have the honor of wearing his brush on your saddle.”
“Youth is always confident,” replied Miss de Compton.
“In this instance, however, I have the advantage of knowing both hound and fox. Flora has a few weaknesses, but I think she understands what is expected of her to-day.”
Thus bantering and chaffing each other, we turned our horses’ heads in a direction voblique to that taken by the other hunters, who, with the exception of Tom Tunison and Jack Herndon, now well up with the dogs, were struggling along as best they could. For a half mile or more we cantered down a lane, then turned into a stubble field, and made for a hill crowned and skirted by a growth of blackjack, through which an occasional pine had broken, as it seemed, in a vain but noble effort to touch the sky. Once upon the summit of the hills, we had a majestic view upon all sides. The fresh morning breezes blew crisp and cool and bracing, but were not uncomfortable after the exercise we had taken; and as the clouds that had muffled up the east dispersed themselves or were dissolved, the generous sun spread layer upon layer of golden light upon hill and valley and forest and stream.
Away to the left we could hear the hounds, and the music of their voices, toyed with by the playful wind, rolled itself into melodious little echoes that broke pleasantly upon the ear, now loud, now faint, now far and now near. The first burst of speed, which had been terrific, had settled down into a steady run, but I knew by the sound that the pace was still tremendous, and I imagined I could hear the silvery tongue of Flora as she led the eager pack. The cries of the hounds, however, grew fainter and fainter, until presently they were lost in the distance.
“He is making a straight shoot for the Turner vold fields, two miles away,” I remarked, by way of explanation.
“And pray, why are we here?” Miss de Compton asked.
“To be in at the death. (The fair de Compton smiled vsarcastically.) In the Turner old fields the fox will make his grand double, gain upon the dogs, head for yonder hill, and come down the ravine upon our right. At the fence here, within plain view, he will attempt a trick that has heretofore always been successful, and which has given him a reputation as a trained fox. I depend upon the intelligence of Flora to see through ‘Old Sandy’s’ vstrategy, but if she hesitates a moment, we must set her right.”
I spoke with the confidence of one having experience, and Miss de Compton smiled and was content. We had little time for further conversation, for in a few minutes I observed a dark shadow emerge from the undergrowth on the opposite hill and slip quickly across the open space of fallow land. It crossed the ravine that intersected the valley, stole quietly through the stubble to the fence, and there paused a moment, as if hesitating. In a low voice I called Miss de Compton’s attention to the figure, but she refused to believe that it was the same fox we had aroused thirty minutes before. Howbeit, it was the vveritable “Old Sandy” himself. I should have known him among a thousand foxes. He was not in as fine feather as when, at the start, he had swung his brush across Flora’s nose—the pace had told on him—but he still moved with an air of confidence.
Then and there Miss de Compton beheld a display of fox tactics shrewd enough to excite the admiration of the most indifferent—a display of cunning that seemed to be something higher than instinct.
“Old Sandy” paused only a moment. With a bound he gained the top of the fence, stopped to pull something from one of his fore feet—probably a cockle bur—and then carefully balancing himself, proceeded to walk the fence. By this time, the music of the dogs was again heard in the distance, but “Old Sandy” took his time. One—two—three—seven—ten—twenty panels of the fence were cleared. Pausing, he again subjected his fore feet to examination, and licked them carefully. Then he proceeded on his journey along the fence until he was at least one hundred yards from where he left the ground. Here he paused for the first time, gathered himself together, leaped through the air, and rushed away. As he did so, the full note of the pack burst upon our ears as the hounds reached the brow of the hill from the lowlands on the other side.
“Upon my word!” exclaimed Miss de Compton; “that fox ought to go free. I shall beg Mr. Tunison—”
But before she finished her sentence the dogs came into view, and I could hardly restrain a shout of triumph as I saw Flora running easily and unerringly far to the front. Behind her, led by Captain—and so close together that, as Uncle Plato afterward remarked, “You mout kivver de whole caboodle wid a hoss-blanket”—were the remainder of the Tunison kennel, while the Jasper county hounds were strung out behind in wild but heroic confusion. I felt strongly tempted to give the view-halloo, and push “Old Sandy” to the wall at once, but I knew that the fair de Compton would regard the exploit with severe vreprobation forever after. Across the ravine and to the fence the dogs came, their voices, as they got nearer, crashing through the silence like a chorus of demons.
Now was the critical moment. If Flora should fail me—!
Several of the older dogs topped the rails, and scattered through the undergrowth. Flora came over with them, made a small circle, with her sensitive nose to the damp earth, and then went rushing down the fence. Past the point where “Old Sandy” took his flying leap she ran, turned suddenly to the left, and came swooping back in a wide circle. I had barely time to warn Miss de Compton that she must prepare to do a little rapid riding, when my favorite, with a fierce cry of delight that thrilled me through and through, picked up the blazing vdrag, and away we went with a scream and a shout. I felt in my very bones that “Old Sandy” was doomed. I had never seen Flora so prompt and eager; I had never observed the scent to be better. Everything was auspicious.
We went like the wind. Miss de Compton rode well, and the long stretches of stubble land through which the chase led were unbroken by ditch or fence. The pace of the hounds was simply terrific, and I knew that no fox on earth could long stand up before the white demon that led the hunt with such splendor.
Five—ten—fifteen minutes we rushed at the heels of the rearmost dogs, until, suddenly, we found ourselves in the midst of the pack. The scent was lost! Flora ran about in wide circles, followed by the greater portion of the dogs. To the left, to the right they went. At that moment, chancing to look back, I caught a glimpse of “Old Sandy,” broken down and bedraggled, making his way toward a clump of briars. He had played his last vtrump and lost. Pushed by the dogs, he had dropped in his tracks and literally allowed them to run over him. I rode at him with a shout; there was a short, sharp race, and in a few moments vLa Mort was sounded over the famous fox on the horn that the Jasper county boys did not win.
Joel Chandler Harris.
HELPS TO STUDY
This gives a good picture of a fox hunt in the South in the long ago. Tell what you like best about it. Who is telling the story? Was he young or old? How do you know? What opinion do you form of the “fair de Compton”? See if you can get an old man, perhaps a negro, to tell you of a fox hunt he has seen.
- In Ole Virginia—Thomas Nelson Page.
- Old Creole Days—George W. Cable.
- Swallow Barn—John P. Kennedy.
- The Prophet of the Great Smoky Mountains—Charles Egbert Craddock.
177-* From the Atlanta Constitution.
Presently the stars begin to peep out, timidly at first, as if to see whether the elements here below had ceased their strife, and if the scene on earth be such as they, from bright spheres aloft, may shed their sweet influences upon. Sirius, or that blazing world Argus, may be the first watcher to send down a feeble ray; then follow another and another, all smiling meekly; but presently, in the short twilight of the latitude, the bright leaders of the starry host blaze forth in all their glory, and the sky is decked and spangled with superb brilliants.
In the twinkling of an eye, and faster than the admiring gazer can tell, the stars seem to leap out from their hiding-places. By invisible hands, and in quick succession, the constellations are hung out; first of all, and with dazzling glory, in the azure depths of space appears the great Southern Cross. That shining symbol lends a holy grandeur to the scene, making it still more impressive.
Alone in the night-watch, after the sea-breeze has sunk to rest, I have stood on deck under those beautiful skies, gazing, admiring, rapt. I have seen there, above the horizon at once and shining with a splendor unknown to other latitudes, every star of the vfirst magnitude—save only six—that is contained in the catalogue of the one hundred principal fixed stars.
There lies the city on the seashore, wrapped in sleep. The sky looks solid, like a vault of steel set with diamonds. The stillness below is in harmony with the silence above, and one almost fears to speak, lest the harsh sound of the human voice, reverberating through those vaulted “chambers of the south,” should wake up echo and drown the music that fills the soul.
Orion is there, just about to march down into the sea; but Canopus and Sirius, with Castor and his twin brother, and vProcyon, Argus, and Regulus—these are high up in their course; they look down with great splendor, smiling peacefully as they precede the Southern Cross on its western way. And yonder, farther still, away to the south, float the Magellanic clouds, and the “Coal Sacks”—those mysterious, dark spots in the sky, which seem as though it had been rent, and these were holes in the “azure robe of night,” looking out into the starless, empty, black abyss beyond. One who has never watched the southern sky in the stillness of the night, after the sea-breeze with its turmoil is done, can have no idea of its grandeur, beauty, and loveliness.
Matthew Fontaine Maury.
HELPS TO STUDY
Do you know any of the stars or the constellations mentioned? Some of them are seen in our latitude, but the southern sky Maury describes is south of the equator. The “Southern Cross” is seen only below the equator. The “Magellan Clouds” are not far from the South Pole.
I had occasion, a few weeks since, to take the early train from Providence to Boston; and for this purpose I rose at two o’clock in the morning. Everything around was wrapped in darkness and hushed in silence. It was a mild, serene, midsummer night,—the sky was without a cloud,—the winds were vwhist. The moon, then in the last quarter, had just risen, and the stars shone with a luster but little affected by her presence.
Jupiter, two hours high, was the herald of the day; the vPleiades, just above the horizon, shed their sweet influence in the east; Lyra sparkled near the vzenith; Andromeda veiled her newly discovered glories from the naked eye in the south; the steady Pointers, far beneath the pole, looked meekly up from the depths of the north to their sovereign.
Such was the glorious spectacle as I entered the train. As we proceeded, the timid approach of twilight became more perceptible; the intense blue of the sky began to soften; the smaller stars, like little children, went first to rest; the sister-beams of the Pleiades soon melted together; but the bright constellations of the west and north remained unchanged. Steadily the wondrous transfiguration went on. Hands of angels, hidden from mortal eyes, shifted the scenery of the heavens; the glories of night dissolved into the glories of the dawn.
The blue sky now turned more softly gray; the great watch-stars shut up their holy eyes; the east began to kindle. Faint streaks of purple soon blushed along the sky; the whole celestial concave was filled with the inflowing tides of the morning light, which came pouring down from above in one great ocean of radiance; till at length, as we reached the Blue Hills, a flash of purple fire blazed out from above the horizon, and turned the dewy teardrops of flower and leaf into rubies and diamonds. In a few seconds, the everlasting gates of the morning were thrown wide open, and the lord of day, arrayed in glories too severe for the gaze of man, began his state.
I do not wonder at the superstition of the ancient vMagians, who, in the morning of the world, went up to the hilltops of Central Asia, and, ignorant of the true God, adored the most glorious work of His hand. But I am filled with amazement, when I am told that, in this enlightened age and in the heart of the Christian world, there are persons who can witness this daily manifestation of the power and wisdom of the Creator, and yet say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
HELPS TO STUDY
What experience did Everett describe? What impresses the mood of the early morning? In what latitude did Everett live? What stars and constellations did he mention? Trace the steps by which he pictured the sunrise. Why did he not wonder at the belief of the “ancient Magians”? What thought does cause amazement?
A thousand germs are groping through the gloom,And soon will burst their tomb.
It was a critical moment. There was a stir other than that of the wind among the pine needles and dry leaves that carpeted the ground.
The wary wild turkeys lifted their long necks with that peculiar cry of half-doubting surprise so familiar to a sportsman, then all was still for an instant. The world was steeped in the noontide sunlight, the mountain air tasted of the fresh vsylvan fragrance that pervaded the forest, the foliage blamed with the red and gold of autumn, the distant vChilhowee heights were delicately blue.
That instant’s doubt sealed the doom of one of the flock. As the turkeys stood in momentary suspense, the sunlight gilding their bronze feathers to a brighter sheen, there was a movement in the dense undergrowth. The flock took suddenly to wing,—a flash from among the leaves, the sharp crack of a rifle, and one of the birds fell heavily over the bluff and down toward the valley.
The young mountaineer’s exclamation of triumph died in his throat. He came running to the verge of the crag, and looked down ruefully into the depths where his game had disappeared.
“Waal, sir,” he broke forth pathetically, “this beats my time! If my luck ain’t enough ter make a horse laugh!”
He did not laugh, however; perhaps his luck was calculated to stir only vequine risibility. The cliff was almost perpendicular; at the depth of twenty feet a narrow ledge projected, but thence there was a sheer descent, down, down, down, to the tops of the tall trees in the valley far below.
As Ethan Tynes looked wistfully over the precipice, he started with a sudden surprise. There on the narrow ledge lay the dead turkey.
The sight sharpened Ethan’s regrets. He had made a good shot, and he hated to relinquish his game. While he gazed in dismayed meditation, an idea began to kindle in his brain. Why could he not let himself down to the ledge by those long, strong vines that hung over the edge of the cliff?
It was risky, Ethan knew, terribly risky. But then,—if only the vines were strong!
He tried them again and again with all his might, selected several of the largest, grasped them hard and fast, and then slipped lightly off the crag.
He waited motionless for a moment. His movements had dislodged clods of earth and fragments of rock from the verge of the cliff, and until these had ceased to rattle about his head and shoulders he did not begin his downward journey.
Now and then as he went he heard the snapping of twigs, and again a branch would break, but the vines which supported him were tough and strong to the last. Almost before he knew it, he stood upon the ledge, and with a great sigh of relief he let the vines swing loose.
“Waal, that warn’t sech a mighty job at last. But law, if it hed been Peter Birt ’stid of me, that thar wild tur-r-key would hev laid on this hyar ledge plumb till the Jedgmint Day!”
He walked deftly along the ledge, picked up the bird, and tied it to one of the vines with a string which he took from his pocket, intending to draw it up when he should be once more on the top of the crag. These preparations complete, he began to think of going back.
He caught the vines on which he had made the descent, but before he had fairly left the ledge, he felt that they were giving way.
He paused, let himself slip back to a secure foothold, and tried their strength by pulling with all his force.
Presently down came the whole mass in his hands. The friction against the sharp edges of the rock over which they had been stretched with a strong tension had worn them through. His first emotion was one of intense thankfulness that they had fallen while he was on the ledge instead of midway in his vprecarious ascent.
“Ef they hed kem down whilst I war a-goin’ up, I’d hev been flung down ter the bottom o’ the valley, ’kase this ledge air too narrer ter hev cotched me.”
The next moment a mortal terror seized him. What was to be his fate? To regain the top of the cliff by his own exertions was an impossibility.
He cast his despairing eyes up the ascent, as sheer and as smooth as a wall, without a crevice which might afford a foothold, or a shrub to which he might cling. His strong head was whirling as he again glanced downward to the unmeasured vabyss beneath. He softly let himself sink into a sitting posture, his heels dangling over the frightful depths, and addressed himself resolutely to the consideration of the terrible danger in which he was placed.
Taken at its best, how long was it to last? Could he look to any human being for deliverance? He reflected with growing dismay that the place was far from any dwelling, and from the road that wound along the ridge. There was no errand that could bring a man to this most unfrequented portion of the deep woods, unless an accident should hither direct some hunter’s step. It was quite possible, nay, probable, that years might elapse before the forest solitude would again be broken by human presence.
His brothers would search for him when he should be missed from home,—but such boundless stretches of forest! They might search for weeks and never come near this spot. He would die here, he would starve,—no, he would grow drowsy when exhausted and fall—fall—fall!
He was beginning to feel that morbid fascination that sometimes seizes upon those who stand on great heights,—an overwhelming impulse to plunge downward. His only salvation was to look up. He would look up to the sky.
And what were these words he was beginning to remember faintly? Had not the vcircuit-rider said in his last sermon that not even a sparrow falls to the ground unmarked of God? There was a definite strength in this suggestion. He felt less lonely as he stared resolutely at the big blue sky. There came into his heart a sense of encouragement, of hope. He would keep up as long and as bravely as he could, and if the worst should come,—was he indeed so solitary? He would hold in remembrance the sparrow’s fall of Scripture.
He had so nerved himself to meet his fate that he thought it was a fancy when he heard a distant step. But it did not die away, it grew more and more distinct,—a shambling step that curiously stopped at intervals and kicked the fallen leaves.
He sought to call out, but he seemed to have lost his voice. Not a sound issued from his thickened tongue and his dry throat. The step came nearer. It would presently pass. With a mighty effort Ethan sent forth a wild, hoarse cry.
The rocks vreverberated it, the wind carried it far, and certainly there was an echo of its despair and terror in a shrill scream set up on the verge of the crag. Then Ethan heard the shambling step scampering off very fast indeed.
The truth flashed upon him. It was some child, passing on an unimaginable errand through the deep woods, frightened by his sudden cry.
“Stop, bubby!” he shouted; “stop a minute! It’s Ethan Tynes that’s callin’ of ye. Stop a minute, bubby!”
The step paused at a safe distance, and the shrill pipe of a little boy demanded, “Whar is ye, Ethan Tynes?”
“I’m down hyar on the ledge o’ the bluff. Who air ye ennyhow?”
“George Birt,” promptly replied the little boy. “What air ye doin’ down thar? I thought it was Satan a-callin’ of me. I never seen nobody.”
“I kem down hyar on vines arter a tur-r-key I shot. The vines bruk, an’ I hev got no way ter git up agin. I want ye ter go ter yer mother’s house, an’ tell yer brother Pete ter bring a rope hyar fur me ter climb up by.”
Ethan expected to hear the shambling step going away with a vcelerity in keeping with the importance of the errand. On the contrary, the step was approaching the crag.
A moment of suspense, and there appeared among the jagged ends of the broken vines a small red head, a deeply freckled face, and a pair of sharp, eager blue eyes. George Birt had carefully laid himself down on his stomach, only protruding his head beyond the verge of the crag, that he might not fling away his life in his curiosity.
“Did ye git it?” he asked, with bated breath.
“Git what?” demanded poor Ethan, surprised and impatient.
“The tur-r-key—what ye hev done been talkin’ ’bout,” said George Birt.
Ethan had lost all interest in the turkey.
“Yes, yes; but run along, bub. I mought fall off’n this hyar place,—I’m gittin’ stiff sittin’ still so long,—or the wind mought blow me off. The wind is blowing toler’ble brisk.”
“Gobbler or hen?” asked George Birt eagerly.
“It air a hen,” said Ethan. “But look-a-hyar, George, I’m a-waitin’ on ye an’ if I’d fall off’n this hyar place, I’d be ez dead ez a door-nail in a minute.”
“Waal, I’m goin’ now,” said George Birt, with gratifying alacrity. He raised himself from his vrecumbent position, and Ethan heard him shambling off, kicking every now and then at the fallen leaves as he went.
Presently, however, he turned and walked back nearly to the brink of the cliff. Then he prostrated himself once more at full length,—for the mountain children are very careful of precipices,—snaked along dexterously to the verge of the crag, and protruding his red head cautiously, began to vparley once more, trading on Ethan’s necessities.
“Ef I go on this errand fur ye,” he said, looking very sharp indeed, “will ye gimme one o’ the whings of that thar wild tur-r-key?”
He coveted the wing-feathers, not the joint of the fowl. The “whing” of the domestic turkey is used by the mountain women as a fan, and is considered an elegance as well as a comfort. George Birt vaped the customs of his elders, regardless of sex,—a characteristic of very small boys.
“Oh, go ’long, bubby!” exclaimed poor Ethan, in dismay at the vdilatoriness and indifference of his vunique deliverer. “I’ll give ye both o’ the whings.” He would have offered the turkey willingly, if “bubby” had seemed to crave it.
“Waal, I’m goin’ now.” George Birt rose from the ground and started off briskly, vexhilarated by the promise of both the “whings.”
Ethan was angry indeed when he heard the boy once more shambling back. Of course one should regard a deliverer with gratitude, especially a deliverer from mortal peril; but it may be doubted if Ethan’s gratitude would have been great enough to insure that small red head against a vigorous rap, if it had been within rapping distance, when it was once more cautiously protruded over the verge of the cliff.
“I kem back hyar ter tell ye,” the vdoughty deliverer began, with an air of great importance, and magnifying his office with an extreme relish, “that I can’t go an’ tell Pete ’bout’n the rope till I hev done kem back from the mill. I hev got old Sorrel hitched out hyar a piece, with a bag o’ corn on his back, what I hev ter git ground at the mill. My mother air a-settin’ at home now a-waitin’ fur that thar corn-meal ter bake dodgers with. An’ I hev got a dime ter pay at the mill; it war lent ter my dad las’ week. An’ I’m afeard ter walk about much with this hyar dime; I mought lose it, ye know. An’ I can’t go home ’thout the meal; I’ll ketch it ef I do. But I’ll tell Pete arter I git back from the mill.”
“The mill!” echoed Ethan, aghast. “What air ye doin’ on this side o’ the mounting, ef ye air a-goin’ ter the mill? This ain’t the way ter the mill.”
“I kem over hyar,” said the little boy, still with much importance of manner, notwithstanding a slight suggestion of embarrassment on his freckled face, “ter see ’bout’n a trap that I hev sot fur squir’ls. I’ll see ’bout my trap, an’ then I hev ter go ter the mill, ’kase my mother air a-settin’ in our house now a-waitin’ fur meal ter bake corn-dodgers. Then I’ll tell Pete whar ye air, an’ what ye said ’bout’n the rope. Ye must jes’ wait fur me hyar.”
Poor Ethan could do nothing else.
As the echo of the boy’s shambling step died in the distance, a redoubled sense of loneliness fell upon Ethan Tynes. But he endeavored to vsolace himself with the reflection that the important mission to the squirrel-trap and the errand to the mill could not last forever, and before a great while Peter Birt and his rope would be upon the crag.
This idea vbuoyed him up as the hours crept slowly by. Now and then he lifted his head and listened with painful intentness. He felt stiff in every muscle, and yet he had a dread of making an effort to change his vconstrained position. He might lose control of his rigid limbs, and fall into those dread depths beneath.
His patience at last began to give way; his heart was sinking. The messenger had been even more vdilatory than he was prepared to expect. Why did not Pete come? Was it possible that George had forgotten to tell of his danger. The sun was going down, leaving a great glory of gold and crimson clouds and an vopaline haze upon the purple mountains. The last rays fell on the bronze feathers of the turkey still lying tied to the broken vines on the ledge.
And now there were only frowning masses of dark clouds in the west; and there were frowning masses of clouds overhead. The shadow of the coming night had fallen on the autumnal foliage in the deep valley; in the place of the opaline haze was only a gray mist.
And presently there came, sweeping along between the parallel mountain ranges, a somber raincloud. The lad could hear the heavy drops splashing on the tree-tops in the valley, long, long before he felt them on his head.
The roll of thunder sounded among the crags. Then the rain came down tumultuously, not in columns but in livid sheets. The lightnings rent the sky, showing, as it seemed to him, glimpses of the glorious brightness within,—too bright for human eyes.
He clung desperately to his precarious perch. Now and then a fierce rush of wind almost tore him from it. Strange fancies beset him. The air was full of that wild vsymphony of nature, the wind and the rain, the pealing thunder, and the thunderous echo among the cliffs, and yet he thought he could hear his own name ringing again and again through all the tumult, sometimes in Pete’s voice, sometimes in George’s shrill tones.
Ethan became vaguely aware, after a time, that the rain had ceased, and the moon was beginning to shine through rifts in the clouds. The wind continued unabated, but, curiously enough, he could not hear it now. He could hear nothing; he could think of nothing. His consciousness was beginning to fail.
George Birt had indeed forgotten him,—forgotten even the promised “whings.” Not that he had discovered anything so extraordinary in his trap, for it was empty, but when he reached the mill, he found that the miller had killed a bear and captured a cub, and the orphan, chained to a post, had deeply absorbed George Birt’s attention.
To vsophisticated people, the boy might have seemed as vgrotesque as the cub. George wore an unbleached cotton shirt. The waistband of his baggy jeans trousers encircled his body just beneath his armpits, reaching to his shoulder-blades behind, and nearly to his collar-bone in front. His red head was only partly covered by a fragment of an old white wool hat; and he looked at the cub with a curiosity as intense as that with which the cub looked at him. Each was taking first lessons in natural history.
As long as there was daylight enough left to see that cub, did George Birt stand and stare at the little beast. Then he clattered home on old Sorrel in the closing darkness, looking like a very small pin on the top of a large pincushion.
At home, he found the elders unreasonable,—as elders usually are considered. Supper had been waiting an hour or so for the lack of meal for dodgers. He “caught it” considerably, but not sufficiently to impair his appetite for the dodgers. After all this, he was ready enough for bed when a small boy’s bedtime came. But as he was nodding before the fire, he heard a word that roused him to a new excitement and stimulated his memory.
“These hyar chips air so wet they won’t burn,” said his mother. “I’ll take my tur-r-key whing an’ fan the fire.”
“Law!” he exclaimed. “Thar, now! Ethan Tynes never gimme that thar wild tur-r-key’s whings like he promised.”
“Whar did ye happen ter see Ethan?” asked Pete, interested in his friend.
“Seen him in the woods, an’ he promised me the tur-r-key whings.”
“What fur?” inquired Pete, a little surprised by this uncalled-for generosity.
“Waal,”—there was an expression of embarrassment on the important freckled face, and the small red head nodded forward in an explanatory manner,—“he fell off’n the bluffs arter the tur-r-key whings—I mean, he went down to the ledge arter the tur-r-key, and the vines bruk an’ he couldn’t git up no more. An’ he tole me that ef I’d tell ye ter fotch him a rope ter pull up by, he would gimme the whings. That happened a—leetle—while—arter dinner-time.”
“Who got him a rope ter pull up by?” demanded Pete.
There was again on the important face that indescribable shade of embarrassment. “Waal,”—the youngster balanced this word judicially,—“I forgot ’bout’n the tur-key whings till this minute. I reckon he’s thar yit.”
“Mebbe this hyar wind an’ rain hev beat him off’n the ledge!” exclaimed Pete, appalled and rising hastily. “I tell ye now,” he added, turning to his mother, “the best use ye kin make o’ that boy is ter put him on the fire fur a back-log.”
Pete made his preparations in great haste. He took the rope from the well, asked the vcrestfallen and browbeaten junior a question or two relative to the place, mounted old Sorrel without a saddle, and in a few minutes was galloping at headlong speed through the night.
The rain was over by the time he had reached the sulphur spring to which George had directed him, but the wind was still high, and the broken clouds were driving fast across the face of the moon.
By the time he had hitched his horse to a tree and set out on foot to find the cliff, the moonbeams, though brilliant, were so vintermittent that his progress was fitful and necessarily cautious. When the disk shone out full and clear, he made his way rapidly enough, but when the clouds intervened, he stood still and waited.
“I ain’t goin’ ter fall off’n the bluff ’thout knowin’ it,” he said to himself, in one of these veclipses, “ef I hev ter stand hyar all night.”
The moonlight was brilliant and steady when he reached the verge of the crag. He identified the spot by the mass of broken vines, and more positively by Ethan’s rifle lying upon the ground just at his feet. He called, but received no response.
“Hev Ethan fell off, sure enough?” he asked himself, in great dismay and alarm. Then he shouted again and again. At last there came an answer, as though the speaker had just awaked.
“Pretty nigh beat out, I’m a-thinkin’!” commented Pete. He tied one end of the cord around the trunk of a tree, knotted it at intervals, and flung it over the bluff.
At first Ethan was almost afraid to stir. He slowly put forth his hand and grasped the rope. Then, his heart beating tumultuously, he rose to his feet.
He stood still for an instant to steady himself and get his breath. Nerving himself for a strong effort, he began the ascent, hand over hand, up and up and up, till once more he stood upon the crest of the crag.
And, now that all danger was over, Pete was disposed to scold. “I’m a-thinkin’,” said Pete severely, “ez thar ain’t a critter on this hyar mounting, from a b’ar ter a copperhead, that could hev got in sech a fix, ’ceptin’ ye, Ethan Tynes.”
And Ethan was silent.
“What’s this hyar thing at the end o’ the rope?” asked Pete, as he began to draw the cord up, and felt a weight still suspended.
“Waal, sir!” exclaimed Pete, in indignant surprise.
And George, for duty performed, was vremunerated with the two “whings,” although it still remains a question in the mind of Ethan whether or not he deserved them.
Charles Egbert Craddock.
HELPS TO STUDY
Tell what happened to Ethan Tynes one day when he was hunting. How was he rescued? What qualities did Ethan show in his hour of trial? Give your opinion of George Birt; of Pete. Find out all you can about life in the mountains of East Tennessee.
- The Prophet of the Great Smoky Mountains—Charles Egbert Craddock.
- The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come—John Fox, Jr.
- June—John Fox, Jr.
When a whaling ship is beset in the ice of Davis Straits, there is little work for her second engineer, once the engines have been nicely tallowed down. Now, I am no man that can sit in his berth and laze. If I’ve no work to do, I get a-thinking about my home at vBallindrochater and the ministry, which my father intended I should have adorned, and what a fool I’ve made of myself, and this is depressing. I was not over-popular already on the Gleaner on account of some prophecies I had made in anger, which had unfortunately come true. The crew, and the captain, too, had come to fear my prophetic powers.
At last I bethought me of sporting on the ice. There was head-money offered for all bears, foxes, seals, musk-oxen, and such like that were shot and gathered. So I went to the skipper, and he gave me a Henry rifle, well rusted, and eight cartridges.
“Show me you can use those, McTodd,” says he, “and I’ll give you more.”
I made a big mistake with that rusty old gun. I may be a sportsman, but before that I’m an engineer, and it seemed to me that Heaven sent metal into this world to be kept bright and clean. So I took the rifle all to pieces and made the parts as smooth and sweet as you’d see in a gun-maker’s shop, barring rust-pits, and gave them a nice daubing of oil against the Arctic weather. Then I put on some thick clothes I had made, and all the other clothes I could get loaned me, and climbed out over the rail on to the vfloe.
The Gleaner lay in a bay some two miles from the shore, and let me tell you, if you do not know it, that Arctic ice is no skating-rink. There are great hills, and knolls, and bergs, and valleys spread all over, and even where it’s about level, the underfoot is as hard going as a newly-metalled road before the steam-roller has passed over it.
The air was clear enough when I left the bark, and though the vmercury was out of use and coiled up snugly in the bulb, it wasn’t as cold as you might think, for just then there was no wind. It’s a breeze up in the Arctic that makes you feel the chill. There was no sun, of course; there never is sun up there in that dreary winter: but the stars were burning blue and clear, and every now and then a big vcatherine wheel of vaurora would show off, for all the world like a firework exhibition.
My! but it was lonely, though, once you had left the ship behind! There was just the scrunching of your feet on the frost vrime, and not another sound in the world. Even the ice was frozen too hard to squeak. And overhead in that purple-black Heaven you never knew Who was looking down at you. Out there in that cold, bare, black, icy silence, I had occasion to remember that Neil Angus McTodd had been a sinner in his time, and it made me shiver when I glanced up toward those blue, cold stars and the deep purple darkness that lay between and behind them.
It may be that I was thinking less of my hunting than was advisable, for of a sudden I woke up to the sound of heavy feet padding over the crisp frost rime. I turned me round sharply enough, but as far as the dim light carried there was nothing alive to be seen through the gloom. As soon as I stopped, the footsteps stopped, too, and I don’t mind admitting that my scalp tickled.
However, when I’d hauled up the hammer of the Henry, and it dropped into position with a good, wholesome cluck, my nervousness very soon filtered out. There’s a comfort about a heavy-bore rifle like a Henry—which is the kind always used by whalers and sealers—that you can’t get from those fancy little guns. And then, as it seemed that the animal, whatever it might be, wasn’t going to move till I did, I shuffled my high sealskin boots on the crisp snow to make believe that I was tramping again.
The creature started after me promptly. It was hard to tell the direction, because every sound in that icy silence was echoed by a thousand bergs and hummocks of ice; but presently from behind a small splintered ridge of the floe there strolled out what seemed to me the largest bear in the Arctic regions. You must know that the night air there has a vdeceptive light—it enlarges things—and the beast appeared to me as standing some five feet six inches high at the shoulder, and measuring some twenty feet from nose to tail.
There was myself and there was the bear in the dark middle of that awful loneliness, with no one to interfere; and as there was only one of us to get home, I preferred it should not be he. So I took a brace on myself, and stood with the Henry ready to fire.
There was nothing you might call vdiffidence about that bear. He slouched along up to me at a steady walk, with the hair and skin on him swinging about as though it was too large for his carcass and he was wearing a misfit. He seemed to look upon me as dinner, and no hurry needful. There was a sort of calm certainty about him that made me angry.
I was not what you might call a marksman in those days, and so I set a bit of vhummock about ten yards off as a limit where I could not very conveniently miss, and waited until the bear should come opposite that. Well, he came to it right enough in his own time. There was, as I have said before, no diffidence about the creature. And then I raised the Henry and fired her off.
Cluck went the hammer on the nipple, but there was no bang.
My! it was a misfire, and there was the bear coming down on me as steady and unconcerned as a vtraction engine! I clawed out that cartridge and crammed in another. The bitter cold of the metal skinned my fingers like escaping steam. Then I cocked the gun again, shouldered it, and pulled trigger again.
Once more she wouldn’t go off!
The bear was now nearly on top of me and was beginning to rear on its hind legs. Somehow the rifle came into my hand muzzle-end, and I hit the great brute across the eyes with the butt hard enough to have felled an ox.
I might as well have struck it with a cane. Whack came a big yellow-white paw, the Henry went flying, and my wrists tingled with the jar; and there was I left looking, I’ve no doubt you’ll think, very humorous.
The bear might have finished me then if it had chosen. But it must needs turn aside to go snuffling at the rifle and lick the oil off the locks. I turned and footed it.
Now, at the best of times, I am no vsprinter, and in the great mountain of clothes one wears up there in the cold Arctic night, no man can make much speed. Besides, the way was that uneven it was a case of hands and scramble more often than plain running over the sharp, spiky level.
The bear, once he had finished his snuffle and lick at the Henry, came on at a dreadful pace, making nothing of those obstacles that balked me,—he had been born up there, you know. He laid himself out—I could see over my shoulder—like one of those American trotting horses, caring nothing for the ups and downs and ankle-breaking ice. In about two shakes he was snorting at my heels again, till I could almost feel his hot breath. The bundle of clothes hampered me. I stripped off my outer over-all and let it drop behind me.
The bear stopped and snuffed that, but I didn’t stay to watch him. I got a good fifty vfathoms ahead of him whilst he was thus occupied. But presently, when he’d got all his satisfaction out of that, on he comes again, and I had to give him my coat. I hadn’t a chance of equaling him in pace, but the trick with the clothing never tired him. Fifty fathoms was the least gain I made over a single piece, and as I got lower down toward my skin he stayed over the clothes longer.
But still the Gleaner was a long way off, over very tumbled ice, and there I was careering on in a costume which was barely enough for decency, and certainly insufficient for the climate.
However, it was little enough the bear cared for such refinements as those. I stripped off my last garment as I ran, and gained nigh on two hundred yards whilst he investigated it; and there were the bark’s upper spars showing above the hummocks half a mile away, with me in nothing but my long seal-skin boots!
But there was no help for it. Up came the hot breath behind me, and I leaned up against a hummock and stripped off a boot. I hailed the Gleaner with what breath I had left, but no one gave heed. Away went the other boot, and there I was running, mother-naked, over the jagged floe, leaving blood on every footmark.
Right up to the vessel did the outrageous beast chase me, and then when I got on board and called for guns, it slunk away into the shadows of a berg and was seen no more. My feet were cut to the bone; I was frost-nipped in twenty places, and you may imagine I had had a poor enough time of it. But the thought of that canvas over-all which I had thrown away first kept me cheerful. It was indeed a very humorous circumstance. Ye see it was a borrowed one.
I got down below to a berth, and the steward, who was rated as a doctor, tended me. But Captain Black put sourness on the whole affair. He came down to my bunk and said, “Where’s that Henry?”
“Lying quiet on the ice,” said I.
“Do you mean to say you left that rifle behind? My rifle!”
“I did that same. The thing wasn’t strong enough to fire a cartridge. I tried two.”
And then Black used violent and unjustifiable language. I was in no condition to give him a fair exchange. Besides, I made an unfortunate admission. I owned up to taking the rifle apart and cleaning her. I owned up, too, that I’d been free with the oil.
Black stuck out his face at me, and his fringe of beard fairly bristled.
“And you call yourself an engineer! You talk about having gone through the shops! Put your filthy engine-room oil on my Henry’s locks, would you? Why, you idiot, have you yet to learn that oil freezes up here as hard as cheese, and you’ve made up the lock space of that poor rifle into one solid chunk?”
“I never thought of that.”
“To look at your face, you’ve yet to start thinking at all.”
So we had it out, and as I was now aroused, I gave him some words on the inefficient way he ran his ship. At last I threatened to prophesy again, and this cooled him off. I offered to go hunting bears for him and he became quite polite.
“I’ll make you an offer touching those bears,” he said. “For every skin you bring here aboard, I’ll give you seven shillings vbonus above your share as a member of the ship’s company. I’ll give you another rifle, two rifles if you like, and a fine bag of cartridges. But, you beggar, I make one condition. You take yourself off and away from the ship to do your hunting. You may make yourself a snow house to stay in, and live on the meat you kill.”
“I wish to be rid of you, and that’s the truth. Man, I believe you’re Jonah resurrected. We’ve had no luck since first you put your foot on my deck planks. And, what’s more, the crew is of my way of thinking. So, refuse my offer, and I’ll put you in irons and keep you there till I can fling you ashore at vDundee.”
Now there is no doubt Black meant what he said, and so I did not waste dignity by arguing with him. I had no taste for the irons, and as for being turned out on the ice—well, I had a plan ahead. But I didn’t intend to leave Black more comfortable than I could help.
So I shut my eyes and said that the ship would have very bad luck that winter, that there would be much sickness aboard. (This was an easy guess.) I said, considering this fact, I was glad to leave such an unwholesome ship.
The crew were just aching to get rid of me. This prophesying sort of grows on a man; once you’ve started it, you’ve got to go on with it at all costs, and I could no more resist just letting my few remarks slip round amongst the men than I can resist eating when I’m hungry.
The nerves of the Gleaner people were in strings from the cold and the blackness of the Arctic night, and it put the horrors on the lot of them. The one thing they wanted was to see the last of me. They gave me almost anything I fancied, but my means of transport were small. There was a bit of a sledge, which I packed with some food, two Henry rifles and a few tools, five hundred cartridges, and the clothes I stood in. No more could be taken.
Then I went on deck into the bitter cold and over the side, and stood on the ice, ready to start on my journey. The crew lined the rail to see me off, and I can tell you their faces were very different. The older ones were savage and cared little how soon Jonah might die. The younger ones were crying to see a fellow driven away into that icy loneliness, far from shelter.
But for myself I didn’t care. I had method in all this performance. Soon after we were beset in the ice, a family of Esquimaux had come on the Gleaner to pay a polite call and get what they could out of us. They were that dirty you could have chipped them with a scaling hammer, but they were very friendly. One buck who stepped down into the engine room—vAmatikita, he said his name was—had some English, and came to the point as straight as anything.
“Give me a vdlink, Cappie,” says he.
“This is a dry ship,” says I.
“Plenty dlink in that box,” says he, handling an oil-can.
“Oh, if that’s what you want, take it,” I told him, and he clapped the nozzle between his lips, and sucked down a gill of vcylinder lubricating oil as though it had been water.
“You seem to like it,” I said; “have some more.”
But that was his fill. He thanked me and asked me to visit his village when I could get away from the ship. And just then some of his friends were caught pilfering, and the whole crew of them were bundled away.
Now I had noted that most of these Esquimaux had bits of bearskins amongst their other furs, and it was that I had in mind when I fell out with Captain Black. Amatikita had pointed out the direction in which his village lay, and it was to that I intended making my way with as little delay as possible. But I kept this to myself, and let no word of it slip out on the Gleaner. Indeed, when I was over the bark’s rails, I headed off due north across the ice. I climbed and stumbled on in this direction till I was well out of their sight and hearing amongst the hummocks, and then I turned at right angles for the shore.
The cold up yonder in that Arctic night takes away your breath; it seems to take the manhood out of you. You stumble along gasping. By a chance I came on an Esquimaux sealing, and he beat and thumped me into wakefulness. Then he packed me on to his dog-sleigh, and took my own bit of a sled behind, and set his fourteen-foot whip cracking, and off we set.
Well, you have to be pretty far gone if you can stay asleep with an vInnuit’s dog-sledge jolting and jumping beneath you, and I was well awakened, especially as the Esquimaux sat on top of me. And so in time we brought up at the huts, and a good job, too. I’d been tramping in the wrong direction, so it turned out, and, besides, if I had come to the village, I might well have walked over the top of it, as it was drifted up level with snow. There was a bit of a rabbit-hole giving entrance to each hut, with some three fathoms of tunnel underground, and skin curtains to keep out the draught, but once inside you might think yourself in a vstoke-hold again. There was the same smell of oil, and almost the same warmth. I tell you, it was fine after that slicing cold outside.
It was Amatikita’s house I was brought to, and he was very hospitable. They took off my outer clothes and put them on the rack above the soapstone lamp to dry, and waited on me most kindly. Indeed, they recognized me as a superior at once, and kept on doing it. They put tender young seal-meat in the dish above the lamp, and when it was cooked I ate my part of the stew, and then got up and took the best place on the raised sleeping-bench at the farther side of the hut. I cut a fill for my pipe, lit up and passed the plug, and presently we were all smoking, happy as you please.
Amatikita spoke up like a man. “Very pleased to see you, Cappie. What you come for? What you want?”
“You’re a man of business,” I said. “You waste no time. I like that. What I want is bearskins. The jackets of big, white, baggy-trousered polar bears, you know; and I brought along a couple of tip-top rifles for you to get them with. Now, I make you a fair offer. Get me all the bears in the North Polar regions, and you shall have my Henrys and all the cartridges that are left over. And as for the meat, you shall have that as your own share of the game.”
“You want shoot those bears yourself?”
“Not if I can help it. I’m an engineer, and a good one at that. But as a sportsman I’ve had but little experience, and don’t seem drawn toward learning. It is too draughty up here, just at present, for my taste. I’ll stay and keep house, and maybe do a bit of repairing and inventing among the furniture. I’ve brought along a hand-vice and a bag of tools with me, and if you can supply drift-wood and some scrap-iron, I’ll make this turf-house of yours a real cottage.”
The deal was made. I worked away with my tools, and whenever those powdering winter gales eased for a little, Amatikita and his friends would go off with the howling dog-sledges and the Henrys, and it was rare that they’d come back without one bear, and often they’d bring two or even three. These white bears sleep through the black winter months in hollows in the cliffs, and the Esquimaux know their lairs, though it’s rare enough they dare tackle them. Small blame, too, you’d say, if you saw the flimsy bone-tipped lances and harpoons, which are all they are armed with.
With a good, smashing, heavy-bore Henry rifle it is a different thing. The Esquimaux were no cowards. They would walk up within a yard of a bear, when the dogs had ringed it, and blow half its head away with a single shot. And then they would draw the carcass up to the huts with the dog trains, and the women would skin and dress the meat, and Amatikita and the others would gorge themselves.
At last the long winter wore away. Amatikita dived in through the entrance of the hut one day and told me that the ice-floe was beginning to break. The news affected me like the blow of a whip. I went out into the open and found the sun up. The men were overhauling their skin canoes. The snow was wet underfoot and seafowl were swooping around. The floe was still sound where it joined the shore, but two seaward lanes of blue water showed between the ice, and in one of them a whale was spouting pale gray mist.
It was high time for me to be off. So the bearskins were fastened by thongs to the sledges and word was shouted to the dog leader of each team. The dogs started, and presently away went the teams full tilt, the sledges leaping and crashing in their wake, with the drivers and a certain Scotch engineer who was unused to such vacrobatics clinging on top of the packs. My! but yon was a wild ride over the rotten, cracking, sodden floe, under the fresh, bright sunshine of that Arctic spring morn!
Presently round the flank of a small ice-berg we came in view of the Gleaner. She was still beset in the ice; but the hands were hard at work beating the ice from the rigging and cutting a gutter around her in the floe, so that she might float when the time came. They knocked off work when we drove up.
“Good-day, Captain Black,” I said. “I’ve been troubling myself over bearskins, and I’ll ask you for seven shillings head money on twenty-nine.”
“You’ve shot twenty-nine bears? You’re lying to me.”
“The skins are there, and you can count them for yourself.”
His color changed when the Esquimaux passed the skins over the side. And I clambered aboard the ship along with them.
W. Cutcliffe Hyne.
HELPS TO STUDY
Tell this story briefly, using your own words. What mistake did McTodd make in preparing for the hunt? What amused you most? How did McTodd show his shrewdness, even if he was not a good hunter? What do you learn about the Arctic region?
- The Frozen Pirate—W. Clark Russell.
- The Casting Away of Mrs. Leeks and Mrs. Aleshine—Frank R. Stockton.
HELPS TO STUDY
Read the poem through and tell the story briefly. Where is the scene laid? Border here means the part of Scotland bordering on England. Who is the hero? Give your opinion of him. Find the expressions used by the poet to inspire admiration for Lochinvar. Give your opinion of the bridegroom. Quote lines that express the poet’s opinion of him. What word is used instead of thicket in the second stanza? a loiterer? a coward? Why do you suppose the bride had consented? Why did her father put his hand on his sword? What reason did Lochinvar give for coming to the feast? Why did he act as if he did not care? Was the bride willing to marry “the laggard in love”? How do you know? Describe the scene as the two danced. What do you suppose was the “one word in her ear”?
Read aloud the lines describing Lochinvar’s ride to Netherby Hall. Read those describing the ride from the hall. Notice the galloping movement of the verse.
Trafford and Marjorie were in Labrador to spend the winter. It was a queer idea for a noted vscientist and rich and successful business man to cut himself loose from the world of London and go out into the Arctic storm and darkness of one of the bleakest quarters of the globe. But Trafford had fallen into a discontent with living, a weariness of the round of work and pleasure, and it was in the hope of winning back his lost zest and happiness that he had made up his mind to try the cure of the wilderness. Marjorie had insisted, like a good wife, on leaving children and home and comfort and accompanying him into the frozen wilds.
The voyage across the sea and the march inland into Labrador were uneventful. Trafford chose his winter-quarters on the side of a low razor-hacked, rocky mountain ridge, about fifty feet above a little river. Not a dozen miles away from them, they reckoned, was the Height of Land, the low watershed between the waters that go to the Atlantic and those that go to Hudson’s Bay. North and north-east of them the country rose to a line of low crests, with here and there a yellowing patch of last year’s snow, and across the valley were slopes covered in places by woods of stunted pine. It had an empty spaciousness of effect; the one continually living thing seemed to be the river, hurrying headlong, noisily, perpetually, in an eternal flight from this high desolation.
For nearly four weeks indeed they were occupied very closely in fixing their cabin and making their other preparations, and crept into their bunks at night as tired as wholesome animals who drop to sleep. At any time the weather might break; already there had been two overcast days and a frowning conference of clouds in the north. When at last storms began, they knew there would be nothing for it but to keep in the hut until the world froze up.
The weather broke at last. One might say it smashed itself over their heads. There came an afternoon darkness swift and sudden, a wild gale, and an icy sleet that gave place in the night to snow, so that Trafford looked out next morning to see a maddening chaos of small white flakes, incredibly swift, against something that was neither darkness nor light. Even with the door but partly ajar, a cruelty of cold put its claw within, set everything that was movable swaying and clattering, and made Marjorie hasten shuddering to heap fresh logs upon the fire. Once or twice Trafford went out to inspect tent and roof and store-shed; several times, wrapped to the nose, he battled his way for fresh wood, and for the rest of the blizzard they kept to the hut. It was slumberously stuffy, but comfortingly full of flavors of tobacco and food. There were two days of intermission and a day of gusts and icy sleet again, turning with one extraordinary clap of thunder to a wild downpour of dancing lumps of ice, and then a night when it seemed all Labrador, earth and sky together, was in hysterical protest against inconceivable wrongs.
And then the break was over; the annual freezing-up accomplished; winter had established itself; the snowfall moderated and ceased, and an ice-bound world shone white and sunlit under a cloudless sky.
One morning Trafford found the footmarks of some catlike creature in the snow near the bushes where he was accustomed to get firewood; they led away very plainly up the hill, and after breakfast he took his knife and rifle and snowshoes and went after the lynx—for that he decided the animal must be. There was no urgent reason why he should want to kill a lynx, unless perhaps that killing it made the store-shed a trifle safer; but it was the first trail of any living thing for many days; it promised excitement; some vprimitive instinct perhaps urged him.
The morning was a little overcast, and very cold between the gleams of wintry sunshine. “Good-by, dear wife!” he said, and then as she remembered afterward came back a dozen yards to kiss her. “I’ll not be long,” he said. “The beast’s prowling, and if it doesn’t get wind of me, I ought to find it in an hour.” He hesitated for a moment. “I’ll not be long,” he repeated, and she had an instant’s wonder whether he hid from her the same dread of loneliness that she concealed. Up among the tumbled rocks he turned, and she was still watching him. “Good-by!” he cried and waved, and the willow thickets closed about him.
She forced herself to the petty duties of the day, made up the fire from the pile he had left for her, set water to boil, put the hut in order, brought out sheets and blankets to air, and set herself to wash up. She wished she had been able to go with him. The sky cleared presently, and the low December sun lit all the world about her, but it left her spirit desolate.
She did not expect him to return until midday, and she sat herself down on a log before the fire to darn a pair of socks as well as she could. For a time this unusual occupation held her attention and then her hands became slow and at last inactive, and she fell into reverie. Thoughts came quick and fast of her children in England so far away.
What was that? She flashed to her feet.
It seemed to her she had heard the sound of a shot, and a quick, brief wake of echoes. She looked across the icy waste of the river, and then up the tangled slopes of the mountain. Her heart was beating fast. It must have been up there, and no doubt Trafford had killed his beast. Some shadow of doubt she would not admit crossed that obvious suggestion. The wilderness was making her as nervously responsive as a creature of the wild.
There came a second shot; this time there was no doubt of it. Then the desolate silence closed about her again.
Marjorie stood for a long time, staring at the shrubby slopes that rose to the barren rock wilderness of the purple mountain crest. She sighed deeply at last, and set herself to make up the fire and prepare for the midday meal. Once, far away across the river, she heard the howl of a wolf.
Time seemed to pass very slowly that day. Marjorie found herself going repeatedly to the space between the day tent and the sleeping hut from which she could see the stunted wood that had swallowed her husband up, and after what seemed a long hour her watch told her it was still only half-past twelve. And the fourth or fifth time that she went to look out she was set a-tremble again by the sound of a third shot. And then at regular intervals out of that distant brown-purple jumble of thickets against the snow came two more shots. “Something has happened,” she said, “something has happened,” and stood rigid. Then she became active, seized the rifle that was always at hand when she was alone, fired into the sky, and stood listening.
Prompt came an answering shot.
She was for starting at once, and then remembered this was not the way of the wilderness.
She thought and moved very rapidly. Her mind catalogued possible requirements,—rifle, hunting knife, the oilskin bag with matches, and some chunks of dry paper, the vrucksack. Besides, he would be hungry. She took a saucepan and a huge chunk of cheese and biscuit. Then a brandy flask is sometimes handy—one never knows,—though nothing was wrong, of course. Needles and stout thread, and some cord. Snowshoes. A waterproof cloak could be easily carried. Her light hatchet for wood. She cast about to see if there was anything else. She had almost forgotten cartridges—and a revolver. Nothing more. She kicked a stray brand or so into the fire, put on some more wood, damped the fire with an armful of snow to make it last longer, and set out toward the willows into which he had vanished.
There was a rustling and snapping of branches as she pushed her way through the bushes, a little stir that died insensibly into quiet again; and then the camping place became very still.
Trafford’s trail led Marjorie through the thicket of dwarf willows and down to the gully of the rivulet which they had called Marjorie Trickle; it had long since become a trough of snow-covered, rotten ice. The trail crossed this and, turning sharply uphill, went on until it was clear of shrubs and trees, and, in the windy open of the upper slopes, it crossed a ridge and came over the lip of a large desolate valley with slopes of ice and icy snow. Here Marjorie spent some time in following his loops back on the homeward trail before she saw what was manifestly the final trail running far away out across the snow, with the vspoor of the lynx, a lightly-dotted line, to the right of it. She followed this suggestion of the trail, put on her snowshoes, and shuffled her way across this valley, which opened as she proceeded. She hoped that over the ridge she would find Trafford, and scanned the sky for the faintest discoloration of a fire, but there was none. That seemed odd to her, but the wind was in her face, and perhaps it beat the smoke down. Then as her eyes scanned the hummocky ridge ahead, she saw something, something very intent and still, that brought her heart into her mouth. It was a big gray wolf, standing with back haunched and head down, watching and scenting something beyond.
Marjorie had an instinctive fear of wild animals, and it still seemed dreadful to her that they should go at large, uncaged. She suddenly wanted Trafford violently, wanted him by her side. Also, she thought of leaving the trail, going back to the bushes. But presently her nerve returned. In the wastes one did not fear wild beasts, one had no fear of them. But why not fire a shot to let him know she was near?
The beast flashed round with an animal’s instantaneous change of pose, and looked at her. For a couple of seconds, perhaps, woman and brute regarded one another across a quarter of a mile of snowy desolation.
Suppose it came toward her!
She would fire—and she would fire at it. Marjorie made a guess at the range and aimed very carefully. She saw the snow fly two yards ahead of the grisly shape, and then in an instant the beast had vanished over the crest.
She reloaded, and stood for a moment waiting for Trafford’s answer. No answer came. “Queer!” she whispered, “queer!”—and suddenly such a horror of anticipation assailed her that she started running and floundering through the snow to escape it. Twice she called his name, and once she just stopped herself from firing a shot.
Over the ridge she would find him. Surely she would find him over the ridge!
She now trampled among rocks, and there was a beaten place where Trafford must have waited and crouched. Then on and down a slope of tumbled boulders. There came a patch where he had either thrown himself down or fallen; it seemed to her he must have been running.
She had a swift conviction that he was dead. He was lying in a crumpled attitude on a patch of snow between vconvergent rocks, and the lynx, a mass of blood-smeared, silvery fur, was in some way mixed up with him. She saw as she came nearer that the snow was disturbed round about them, and discolored vcopiously, yellow, and in places bright red, with congealed and frozen blood. She felt no fear now and no emotion; all her mind was engaged with the clear, bleak perception of the fact before her. She did not care to call to him again. His head was hidden by the lynx’s body, as if he was burrowing underneath the creature; his legs were twisted about each other in a queer, unnatural attitude.
Then, as she dropped off a boulder, and came nearer, Trafford moved. A hand came out and gripped the rifle beside him; he suddenly lifted a dreadful face, horribly scarred and torn, and crimson with frozen blood; he pushed the gray beast aside, rose on an elbow, wiped his sleeve across his eyes, stared at her, grunted, and flopped forward. He had fainted.
Marjorie was now as clear-minded and as self-possessed as a woman in a shop. In another moment she was kneeling by his side. She saw, by the position of his knife and the huge rip in the beast’s body, that he had stabbed the lynx to death as it clawed his head; he must have shot and wounded it and then fallen upon it. His knitted cap was torn to ribbons, and hung upon his neck. Also his leg was manifestly injured—how, she could not tell. It was evident that he must freeze if he lay here, and it seemed to her that perhaps he had pulled the dead brute over him to protect his torn skin from the extremity of cold. The lynx was already rigid, its clumsy paws asprawl,—and the torn skin and clot upon Trafford’s face were stiff as she put her hands about his head to raise him. She turned him over on his back—how heavy he seemed?—and forced brandy between his teeth. Then, after a moment’s hesitation, she poured a little brandy on his wounds.
She glanced at his leg, which was surely broken, and back at his face. Then she gave him more brandy, and his eyelids flickered. He moved his hand weakly. “The blood,” he said, “kept getting in my eyes.”
She gave him brandy once again, wiped his face, and glanced at his leg. Something ought to be done to that, Marjorie thought. But things must be done in order.
The woman stared up at the darkling sky with its gray promise of snow, and down the slopes of the mountain. Clearly they must stay the night here. They were too high for wood among these rocks, but three or four hundred yards below there were a number of dwarfed fir trees. She had brought an ax, so that a fire was possible. Should she go back to camp and get the tent?
Trafford was trying to speak again. “I got—”
“Got my leg in that crack.”
Was he able to advise her? She looked at him, and then perceived that she must bind up his head and face. She knelt behind him and raised his head on her knee. She had a thick silk neck muffler, and this she supplemented by a band she cut and tore from her inner vest. She bound this, still warm from her body, about him, and wrapped her dark cloak round his shoulders. The next thing was a fire. Five yards away, perhaps, a great mass of purple vgabbro hung over a patch of nearly snowless moss. A hummock to the westward offered shelter from the bitter wind, the icy draught, that was soughing down the valley. Always in Labrador, if you can, you camp against a rock surface; it shelters you from the wind, guards your back.
“Dear!” she said.
“Awful hole,” said Trafford.
“What?” she cried sharply.
“Put you in an awful hole,” he said. “Eh?”
“Listen,” she said, and shook his shoulder. “Look! I want to get you up against that rock.”
“Won’t make much difference,” replied Trafford, and opened his eyes. “Where?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said.
“Go back to camp. Make a pack of all the strongest food—strenthin’—strengthrin’ food—you know?” He seemed unable to express himself.
“Yes,” she said.
“Down the river. Down—down. Till you meet help.”
He nodded his head and winced.
“You’re always plucky,” he said. “Look facts in the face. Children. Thought it over while you were coming.” A tear oozed from his eye. “Don’t be a fool, Madge. Kiss me good-by. Don’t be a fool. I’m done. Children.”
She stared at him and her spirit was a luminous mist of tears. “You old coward,” she said in his ear, and kissed the little patch of rough and bloody cheek beneath his eye. Then she knelt up beside him. “I’m boss now, old man,” she said. “I want to get you to that place there under the rock. If I drag, can you help?”
He answered obstinately: “You’d better go.”
“I’ll make you comfortable first,” she returned.
He made an enormous effort, and then, with her quick help and with his back to her knee, had raised himself on his elbows.
“Build a fire.”
“Two bits of wood tied on my leg—splints. Then I can drag myself. See? Like a blessed old walrus.”
He smiled and she kissed his bandaged face again.
“Else it hurts,” he apologized, “more than I can stand.”
She stood up again, put his rifle and knife to his hand, for fear of that lurking wolf, abandoning her own rifle with an effort, and went striding and leaping from rock to rock toward the trees below. She made the chips fly, and was presently towing three venerable pine dwarfs, bumping over rock and crevice, back to Trafford. She flung them down, stood for a moment bright and breathless, then set herself to hack off the splints he needed from the biggest stem. “Now,” she said, coming to him.
“A fool,” he remarked, “would have made the splints down there. You’re—good, Marjorie.”
She lugged his leg out straight, put it into the natural and least painful pose, padded it with moss and her torn handkerchief, and bound it up. As she did so a handful of snowflakes came whirling about them. She was now braced up to every possibility. “It never rains,” she said grimly, “but it pours,” and went on with her bone-setting. He was badly weakened by pain and shock, and once he spoke to her sharply. “Sorry,” he said a moment later.
She rolled him over on his chest, and left him to struggle to the shelter of the rock while she went for more wood.
The sky alarmed her. The mountains up the valley were already hidden by driven rags of slaty snowstorms. This time she found a longer but easier path for dragging her boughs and trees; she determined she would not start the fire until nightfall, nor waste any time in preparing food until then. There were dead boughs for kindling—more than enough. It was snowing quite fast by the time she got up to him with her second load, and a premature twilight already obscured and exaggerated the rocks and mounds about her. She gave some of her cheese to Trafford, and gnawed some herself on her way down to the wood again. She regretted that she had brought neither candles nor lantern, because then she might have kept on until the cold night stopped her, and she reproached herself bitterly because she had brought no tea. She could forgive herself the lantern, for she had never expected to be out after dark, but the tea was inexcusable. She muttered self-reproaches while she worked like two men among the trees, panting puffs of mist that froze upon her lips and iced the knitted wool that covered her chin. “Why don’t they teach a girl to handle an ax?” she cried.
When at last the wolfish cold of the Labrador night had come, it found Trafford and Marjorie seated almost warmly on a bed of pine boughs between the sheltering dark rock behind and a big but well-husbanded fire in front, drinking a queer-tasting but not unsavory soup of lynx-flesh, which she had fortified with the remainder of the brandy. Then they tried roast lynx and ate a little, and finished with some scraps of cheese and deep draughts of hot water.
The snowstorm poured incessantly out of the darkness to become flakes of burning fire in the light of the flames, flakes that vanished magically, but it only reached them and wetted them in occasional gusts. What did it matter for the moment if the dim snowheaps rose and rose about them? A glorious fatigue, an immense self-satisfaction, possessed Marjorie; she felt that they had both done well.
“I am not afraid of to-morrow now,” she said at last.
Trafford was smoking his pipe and did not speak for a moment. “Nor I,” he said at last. “Very likely we’ll get through with it.” He added after a pause: “I thought I was done for. A man—loses heart—after a loss of blood.”
“The leg’s better?”
Later Marjorie slept, but on a spring as it were, lest the fire should fall. She replenished it with boughs, tucked in the half-burnt logs, and went to sleep again. Then it seemed to her that some invisible hand was pouring a thin spirit on the flames that made them leap and crackle and spread north and south until they filled the heavens with a gorgeous glow. The snowstorm was overpast, leaving the sky clear and all the westward heaven alight with the trailing, crackling, leaping curtains of the vaurora, brighter than she had ever seen them before. Quite clearly visible beyond the smolder of the fire, a wintry waste of rock and snow, boulder beyond boulder, passed into a vdun obscurity. The mountain to the right of them lay long and white and stiff, a shrouded death. All earth was dead and waste, and the sky alive and coldly marvelous, signalling and astir. She watched the changing, shifting colors, and they made her think of the gathering banners of inhuman hosts, the stir and marshaling of icy giants for ends stupendous and indifferent to all the trivial impertinence of man’s existence! Marjorie felt a passionate desire to pray.
The bleak, slow dawn found Marjorie intently busy. She had made up the fire, boiled water and washed and dressed Trafford’s wounds, and made another soup of lynx. But Trafford had weakened in the night; the soup nauseated him; he refused it and tried to smoke and was sick, and then sat back rather despairfully after a second attempt to persuade her to leave him there to die. This failure of his spirit distressed her and a little astonished her, but it only made her more resolute to go through with her work. She had awakened cold, stiff and weary, but her fatigue vanished with movement; she toiled for an hour replenishing her pile of fuel, made up the fire, put his gun ready to his hand, kissed him, abused him lovingly for the trouble he gave her until his poor torn face lit in response, and then parting on a note of cheerful confidence, set out to return to the hut. She found the way not altogether easy to make out; wind and snow had left scarcely a trace of their tracks, and her mind was full of the stores she must bring and the possibility of moving Trafford nearer to the hut. She was startled to see by the fresh, deep spoor along the ridge how near the wolf had dared approach them in the darkness.
Ever and again Marjorie had to halt and look back to get her direction right. As it was, she came through the willow scrub nearly half a mile above the hut, and had to follow the steep bank of the frozen river. Once she nearly slipped upon an icy slope of rock.
One possibility she did not dare to think of during that time—a blizzard now would cut her off absolutely from any return to Trafford. Short of that, she believed she could get through.
Her quick mind was full of all she had to do. At first she had thought chiefly of Trafford’s immediate necessities, of food and some sort of shelter. She had got a list of things in her head—meat extract, bandages, vcorrosive sublimate by way of antiseptic, brandy, a tin of beef, some bread, and so forth; she went over it several times to be sure of it, and then for a time she puzzled about a tent. She thought she could manage a bale of blankets on her back, and that she could rig a sleeping tent for herself and Trafford out of them and some bent sticks. The big tent would be too much to strike and shift. And then her mind went on to a bolder enterprise, which was to get him home. The nearer she could bring him to the log hut, the nearer they would be to supplies.
She cast about for some sort of sledge. The snow was too soft and broken for runners, especially among the trees, but if she could get a flat of smooth wood, she thought she might be able to drag him. She decided to try the side of her bunk, which she could easily get off. She would have, of course, to run it edgewise through the thickets and across the ravine, but after that she would have almost clear going up to the steep place of broken rocks within two hundred yards of him. The idea of a sledge grew upon her, and she planned to nail a rope along the edge and make a kind of harness for herself.
Marjorie found the camping-place piled high with drifted snow, which had invaded tent and hut, and that some beast, a wolverine she guessed, had been into the hut, devoured every candle-end and the uppers of Trafford’s well-greased second boots, and had then gone to the corner of the store-shed and clambered up to the stores. She took no account of its vdepredations there, but set herself to make a sledge and get her supplies together. There was a gleam of sunshine, though she did not like the look of the sky and she was horribly afraid of what might be happening to Trafford. She carried her stuff through the wood and across the ravine, and returned for her improvised sledge. She was still struggling with that among the trees when it began to snow again.
It was hard then not to be frantic in her efforts. As it was, she packed her stuff so loosely on the planking that she had to repack it, and she started without putting on her snowshoes, and floundered fifty yards before she discovered that omission. The snow was now falling fast, darkling the sky and hiding everything but objects close at hand, and she had to use all of her wits to determine her direction: she knew she must go down a long slope and then up to the ridge, and it came to her as a happy inspiration that if she bore to the left she might strike some recognizable vestige of her morning’s trail. She had read of people walking in circles when they have no light or guidance, and that troubled her until she bethought herself of the little compass on her watch chain. By that she kept her direction. She wished very much she had timed herself across the waste, so that she could tell when she approached the ridge.
Soon her back and shoulders were aching violently, and the rope across her chest was tugging like some evil-tempered thing. But she did not dare to rest. The snow was now falling thick and fast; the flakes traced white spirals and made her head spin, so that she was constantly falling away to the southwestward and then correcting herself by the compass. She tried to think how this zig-zagging might affect her course, but the snow whirls confused her mind and a growing anxiety would not let her pause to think.
Marjorie felt blinded; it seemed to be snowing inside her eyes so that she wanted to rub them. Soon the ground must rise to the ridge, she told herself; it must surely rise. Then the sledge came bumping at her heels and she perceived that she was going down hill. She consulted the compass and found she was facing south. She turned sharply to the right again. The snowfall became a noiseless, pitiless torture to sight and mind.
The sledge behind her struggled to hold her back, and the snow balled under her snowshoes. She wanted to stop and rest, take thought, sit for a moment. She struggled with herself and kept on. She tried walking with shut eyes, and tripped and came near sprawling. “Oh God!” she cried, “Oh God!” too stupefied for more varticulate prayers. She was leaden with fatigue.
Would the rise of the ground to the ribs of rock never come?
A figure, black and erect, stood in front of her suddenly, and beyond appeared a group of black, straight antagonists. She staggered on toward them, gripping her rifle with some muddled idea of defense, and in another moment she was brushing against the branches of a stunted fir, which shed thick lumps of snow upon her feet. What trees were these? Had she ever passed any trees? No! There were no trees on her way to Trafford.
At that Marjorie began whimpering like a tormented child. But even as she wept, she turned her sledge about to follow the edge of the wood. She was too much downhill, she thought, and must bear up again.
She left the trees behind, made an angle uphill to the right, and was presently among trees again. Again she left them and again came back to them. She screamed with anger and twitched her sledge along. She wiped at the snowstorm with her arm as though to wipe it away; she wanted to stamp on the universe.
And she ached, she ached.
Suddenly something caught her eye ahead, something that gleamed; it was exactly like a long, bare, rather pinkish bone standing erect on the ground. Just because it was strange and queer she ran forward to it. As she came nearer, she perceived that it was a streak of barked trunk; a branch had been torn off a pine tree and the bark stripped down to the root. And then came another, poking its pinkish wounds above the snow. And there were chips! This filled her with wonder. Some one had been cutting wood! There must be Indians or trappers near, she thought, and of a sudden realized that the wood-cutter could be none other than herself.
She turned to the right and saw the rocks rising steeply, close at hand. “Oh Ragg!” she cried, and fired her rifle in the air.
Ten seconds, twenty seconds, and then so loud and near it amazed her, came his answering shot.
In another moment Marjorie had discovered the trail she had made overnight and that morning by dragging firewood. It was now a shallow, soft white trench. Instantly her despair and fatigue had gone from her. Should she take a load of wood with her? she asked herself, in addition to the weight behind her, and immediately had a better idea. She would unload and pile her stuff here, and bring him down on the sledge closer to the wood. The woman looked about and saw two rocks that diverged, with a space between. She flashed schemes. She would trample the snow hard and flat, put her sledge on it, pile boughs and make a canopy of blanket overhead and behind. Finally there would be a fine, roaring fire in front.
She tossed her provisions down and ran up the broad windings of her pine-tree trail to Trafford, with the sledge bumping behind her. Marjorie ran as lightly as though she had done nothing that day.
She found Trafford markedly recovered, weak and quiet, with snow drifting over his feet, his rifle across his knees, and his pipe alight. “Back already”—
He hesitated. “No grub?”
The wife knelt over him, gave his rough, unshaven cheek a swift kiss, and rapidly explained her plan.
Marjorie carried it out with all of the will-power that was hers. In three days’ time, in spite of the snow, in spite of every other obstacle, they were back in the hut, and Trafford was comfortably settled in bed. The icy vastness of Labrador still lay around them to infinite distances on every side, but the two might laugh at storm and darkness now in their cosy hut, with plenty of fuel and food and light.
H. G. Wells.
HELPS TO STUDY
I. Describe the location of Trafford’s camp; also the coming of winter. Give in your own words an account of the adventure that befell the two.
II. Name some characteristics Marjorie showed in the critical situation. What did she do that impressed you most? What would you have done in similar circumstances?
- Youth—Joseph Conrad.
- Prairie Folks—Hamlin Garland.
- Northern Lights—Sir Gilbert Parker.
This story is an extract from Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Ivanhoe, which describes life in England during the Middle Ages, something more than a century after the Norman Conquest. The hatred between the conquering Normans and the conquered Saxons still continued, and is graphically pictured by Scott. Ivanhoe centers about the household of one Cedric the Saxon, who was a great upholder of the traditions of his unfortunate people. Wilfred of Ivanhoe, Cedric’s son, entered the service of the Norman king of England, Richard I, and accompanied him to the Holy Land on the Third Crusade. His father disowned the young knight for what he considered disloyalty to his Saxon blood. Ivanhoe, returning to England, participated in a great tournament at Ashby, in which he won fame under the disguise of the “Disinherited Knight.” Among the other knights who took part in the tournament were the Normans, Maurice de Bracy, Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, and Brian de Bois-Guilbert, a Knight Templar. Two sides fought in the tournament, one representing the English, the other representing the foreign element in the land. An unknown knight, clad in black armor, brought victory to the English side, but left the field without disclosing his identity. An archery contest held at the tournament was won by a wonderful bowman who gave his name as Locksley. Ivanhoe, who fought with great valor, was badly wounded. Cedric had been accompanied to Ashby by his beautiful ward, the Lady Rowena, whose wealth and loveliness excited the cupidity of the lawless Norman knights. “The Siege of the Castle” opens with Cedric’s discovery of his son’s identity, and recounts the stirring incidents that follow the tournament. It gives a wonderful picture of warfare as it was hundreds of years ago, before the age of gunpowder.
When Cedric the Saxon saw his son drop down senseless in the great tournament at Ashby, his first impulse was to order him into the care of his own attendants, but the words choked in his throat. He could not bring himself to acknowledge, in the presence of such an assembly, the son whom he had renounced and disinherited for his allegiance to the Norman king of England, Richard of the Lion Heart. However, he ordered one of the officers of his household, his cupbearer, to convey Ivanhoe to Ashby as soon as the crowd had dispersed. But the man was anticipated in this good office. The crowd dispersed, indeed, but the wounded knight was nowhere to be seen.
It seemed as if the fairies had conveyed Ivanhoe from the spot; and Cedric’s officer might have adopted some such theory to account for his disappearance, had he not suddenly cast his eyes on a person attired like a squire, in whom he recognized the features of his fellow-servant Gurth, who had run away from his master. Anxious about Ivanhoe’s fate, Gurth was searching for him everywhere and, in so doing, he neglected the concealment on which his own safety depended. The cupbearer deemed it his duty to secure Gurth as a fugitive of whose fate his master was to judge. Renewing his inquiries concerning the fate of Ivanhoe, all that the cupbearer could learn was that the knight had been raised by certain well-attired grooms, under the direction of a veiled woman, and placed in a litter, which had immediately transported him out of the press. The officer, on receiving this intelligence, resolved to return to his master, carrying along with him Gurth, the swineherd, as a deserter from Cedric’s service.
The Saxon had been under intense vapprehensions concerning his son; but no sooner was he informed that Ivanhoe was in careful hands than paternal anxiety gave way anew to the feeling of injured pride and resentment at what he termed Wilfred’s vfilial disobedience.
“Let him wander his way,” said Cedric; “let those leech his wounds for whose sake he encountered them. He is fitter to do the juggling tricks of the Norman chivalry than to maintain the fame and honor of his English ancestry with the vglaive and vbrown-bill, the good old weapons of the country.”
The old Saxon now prepared for his return to Rotherwood, with his ward, the Lady Rowena, and his following. It was during the bustle preceding his departure that Cedric, for the first time, cast his eyes upon the deserter Gurth. He was in no very placid humor and wanted but a pretext for wreaking his anger upon some one.
“The vgyves!” he cried. “Dogs and villains, why leave ye this knave unfettered?”
Without daring to remonstrate, the companions of Gurth bound him with a halter, as the readiest cord which occurred. He submitted to the operation without any protest, except that he darted a reproachful look at his master.
“To horse, and forward!” ordered Cedric.
“It is indeed full time,” said the Saxon prince Athelstane, who accompanied Cedric, “for if we ride not faster, the preparations for our supper will be altogether spoiled.”
The travelers, however, used such speed as to reach the convent of Saint Withold’s before the apprehended evil took place. The abbot, himself of ancient Saxon descent, received the noble Saxons with the profuse hospitality of their nation, wherein they indulged to a late hour. They took leave of their reverend host the next morning after they had shared with him a vsumptuous breakfast, which Athelstane particularly appreciated.
The superstitious Saxons, as they left the convent, were inspired with a feeling of coming evil by the behavior of a large, lean black dog, which, sitting upright, howled most piteously when the foremost riders left the gate, and presently afterward, barking wildly and jumping to and fro, seemed bent on attaching itself to the party.
“In my mind,” said Athelstane, “we had better turn back and abide with the abbot until the afternoon. It is unlucky to travel where your path is crossed by a monk, a hare, or a howling dog, until you have eaten your next meal.”
“Away!” said Cedric impatiently; “the day is already too short for our journey. For the dog, I know it to be the cur of the runaway slave Gurth, a useless fugitive like its master.”
So saying and rising at the same time in his stirrups, impatient at the interruption of his journey, he launched his vjavelin at poor Fangs, who, having lost his master, was now rejoicing at his reappearance. The javelin inflicted a wound upon the animal’s shoulder and narrowly missed pinning him to the earth; Fangs fled howling from the presence of the enraged vthane. Gurth’s heart swelled within him, for he felt this attempted slaughter of his faithful beast in a degree much deeper than the harsh treatment he had himself received. Having in vain raised his hand to his eyes, he said to Wamba, the jester, who, seeing his master’s ill humor, had prudently retreated to the rear, “I pray thee, do me the kindness to wipe my eyes with the skirt of thy mantle; the dust offends me, and these bonds will not let me help myself one way or another.”
Wamba did him the service he required, and they rode side by side for some time, during which Gurth maintained a moody silence. At length he could repress his feelings no longer.
“Friend Wamba,” said he, “of all those who are fools enough to serve Cedric, thou alone hast sufficient dexterity to make thy folly acceptable to him. Go to him, therefore, and tell him that neither for love nor fear will Gurth serve him longer. He may strike the head from me—he may scourge me—he may load me with irons—but henceforth he shall never compel me either to love or obey him. Go to him and tell him that Gurth renounces his service.”
“Assuredly,” replied Wamba, “fool as I am, I will not do your fool’s errand. Cedric hath another javelin stuck into his girdle, and thou knowest he doth not always miss his mark.”
“I care not,” returned Gurth, “how soon he makes a mark of me. Yesterday he left Wilfred, my young master, in his blood. To-day he has striven to kill the only other living creature that ever showed me kindness. By Saint Edward, Saint Dunstan, Saint Withold, and every other saint, I will never forgive him!”
At noon, upon the motion of Athelstane, the travelers paused in a woodland shade by a fountain to repose their horses and partake of some provisions with which the hospitable abbot had loaded a vsumpter mule. Their repast was a pretty long one; and the interruption made it impossible for them to hope to reach Rotherwood without traveling all night, a conviction which induced them to proceed on their way at a more hasty pace than they had hitherto used.
The travelers had now reached the verge of the wooded country and were about to plunge into its recesses, held dangerous at that time from the number of outlaws whom oppression and poverty had driven to despair and who occupied the forests in such large bands as could easily bid defiance to the feeble police of the period. From these rovers, however, Cedric and Athelstane accounted themselves secure, as they had in attendance ten servants, besides Wamba and Gurth, whose aid could not be counted upon, the one being a jester and the other a captive. It may be added that in traveling thus late through the forest, Cedric and Athelstane relied on their descent and character as well as their courage. The outlaws were chiefly peasants and vyeomen of Saxon descent, and were generally supposed to respect the persons and property of their countrymen.
Before long, as the travelers journeyed on their way, they were alarmed by repeated cries for assistance; and when they rode up to the place whence the cries came, they were surprised to find a horse-litter placed on the ground. Beside it sat a very beautiful young woman richly dressed in the Jewish fashion, while an old man, whose yellow cap proclaimed him to belong to the same nation, walked up and down with gestures of the deepest despair and wrung his hands.
When he began to come to himself out of his agony of terror, the old man, named Isaac of York, explained that he had hired a bodyguard of six men at Ashby, together with mules for carrying the litter of a sick friend. This party had undertaken to escort him to Doncaster. They had come thus far in safety; but having received information from a wood-cutter that a strong band of outlaws was lying in wait in the woods before them, Isaac’s vmercenaries had not only taken to flight, but had carried off the horses which bore the litter and left the Jew and his daughter without the means either of defense or of retreat. Isaac ended by imploring the Saxons to let him travel with them. Cedric and Athelstane were somewhat in doubt as to what to do, but the matter was settled by Rowena’s intervention.
“The man is old and feeble,” she said to Cedric, “the maiden young and beautiful, their friend sick and in peril of his life. We cannot leave them in this extremity. Let the men unload two of the sumpter-mules and put the baggage behind two of the vserfs. The mules may transport the litter, and we have led-horses for the old man and his daughter.”
Cedric readily assented to what was proposed, and the change of baggage was hastily achieved; for the single word “outlaws” rendered every one sufficiently alert, and the approach of twilight made the sound yet more impressive. Amid the bustle, Gurth was taken from horseback, in the course of which removal he prevailed upon the jester to slack the cord with which his arms were bound. It was so negligently refastened, perhaps intentionally, on the part of Wamba, that Gurth found no difficulty in freeing his arms altogether, and then, gliding into the thicket, he made his escape from the party.
His departure was hardly noticed in the apprehension of the moment. The path upon which the party traveled was now so narrow as not to admit, with any sort of convenience, above two riders abreast, and began to descend into a dingle, traversed by a brook, the banks of which were broken, swampy, and overgrown with dwarf willows. Cedric and Athelstane, who were at the head of their vretinue, saw the risk of being attacked in this pass, but neither knew anything else to do than hasten through the defile as fast as possible. Advancing, therefore, without much order, they had just crossed the brook with a part of their followers, when they were assailed, in front, flank, and rear at once, by a band of armed men. The shout of a “White dragon! Saint George for merry England!” the war cry of the Saxons, was heard on every side, and on every side enemies appeared with a rapidity of advance and attack which seemed to multiply their numbers.
Both the Saxon chiefs were made prisoners at the same moment. Cedric, the instant an enemy appeared, launched at him his javelin, which, taking better effect than that which he had hurled at Fangs, nailed the man against an oak-tree that happened to be close behind him. Thus far successful, Cedric spurred his horse against a second, drawing his sword and striking with such inconsiderate fury that his weapon encountered a thick branch which hung over him, and he was disarmed by the violence of his own blow. He was instantly made prisoner and pulled from his horse by two or three of the vbanditti who crowded around him. Athelstane shared his captivity, his bridle having been seized and he himself forcibly dismounted long before he could draw his sword.
The attendants, embarrassed with baggage and surprised and terrified at the fate of their master, fell an easy prey to the assailants; while the Lady Rowena and the Jew and his daughter experienced the same misfortune.
Of all the train none escaped but Wamba, who showed upon the occasion much more courage than those who pretended to greater sense. He possessed himself of a sword belonging to one of the domestics, who was just drawing it, laid it about him like a lion, drove back several who approached him, and made a brave though ineffectual effort to succor his master. Finding himself overpowered, the jester threw himself from his horse, plunged into a thicket, and, favored by the general confusion, escaped from the scene of action.
Suddenly a voice very near him called out in a low and cautious tone, “Wamba!” and, at the same time, a dog which he recognized as Fangs jumped up and fawned upon him. “Gurth!” answered Wamba with the same caution, and the swineherd immediately stood before him.
“What is the matter?” he asked. “What mean these cries and that clashing of swords?”
“Only a trick of the times,” answered Wamba. “They are all prisoners.”
“Who are prisoners?”
“My lord, and my lady, and Athelstane, and the others.”
“In the name of God,” demanded Gurth, “how came they prisoners? and to whom?”
“They are prisoners to green vcassocks and black vvizors,” answered Wamba. “They all lie tumbled about on the green, like the crab-apples that you shake down to your swine. And I would laugh at it,” added the honest jester, “if I could for weeping.”
He shed tears of unfeigned sorrow.
Gurth’s countenance kindled. “Wamba,” he said, “thou hast a weapon and thy heart was ever stronger than thy brain. We are only two, but a sudden attack from men of resolution might do much. Follow me!”
“Whither, and for what purpose?” asked the jester.
“To rescue Cedric.”
“But you renounced his service just now.”
“That,” said Gurth, “was while he was fortunate. Follow me.”
As the jester was about to obey, a third person suddenly made his appearance and commanded them both to halt. From his dress and arms Wamba would have conjectured him to be one of the outlaws who had just assailed his master; but, besides that he wore no mask, the glittering baldric across his shoulders, with the rich bugle horn which it supported, as well as the calm and commanding expression of his voice and manner, made the jester recognize the archer who had won the prize at the tournament and who was known as Locksley.
“What is the meaning of all this?” the man demanded. “Who are they that rifle and ransom and make prisoners in these forests?”
“You may look at their cassocks close by,” replied Wamba, “and see whether they be thy children’s coats or no, for they are as like thine own as one green pea-pod is like another.”
“I will learn that presently,” returned Locksley: “and I charge ye, on peril of your lives, not to stir from this place where ye stand until I have returned. Obey me, and it shall be the better for you and your masters. Yet stay; I must render myself as like these men as possible.”
So saying, he drew a vvizard from his pouch, and, repeating his charges to them to stand fast, went to reconnoitre.
“Shall we stay, Gurth?” asked Wamba; “or shall we give him vleg-bail? In my foolish mind, he had all the equipage of a thief too much in readiness to be himself a true man.”
“Let him be the devil,” said Gurth, “an he will. We can be no worse for waiting his return. If he belongs to that party, he must already have given them the alarm, and it will avail us nothing either to fight or fly.”
The yeoman returned in the course of a few minutes.
“Friend Gurth,” he said, “I have mingled among yon men and have learned to whom they belong, and whither they are bound. There is, I think, no chance that they will proceed to any actual violence against their prisoners. For three men to attack them at this moment were little else than madness; for they are good men of war and have, as such, placed sentinels to give the alarm when any one approaches. But I trust soon to gather such a force as may act in defiance of all their precautions. You are both servants, and, as I think, faithful servants of Cedric the Saxon, the friend of the rights of Englishmen. He shall not want English hands to help him in this extremity. Come then with me, until I gather more aid.”
So saying, he walked through the wood at a great pace, followed by the jester and the swineherd. The three men proceeded with occasional converse but, for the most part, in silence for about three hours. Finally they arrived at a small opening in the forest, in the center of which grew an oak-tree of enormous magnitude, throwing its twisted branches in every direction. Beneath this tree four or five yeomen lay stretched on the ground, while another, as sentinel, walked to and fro in the moonlight.
Upon hearing the sound of feet approaching, the watch instantly gave the alarm, and the sleepers as suddenly started up and bent their bows. Six arrows placed on the string were pointed toward the quarter from which the travelers approached, when their guide, being recognized, was welcomed with every token of respect and attachment.
“On the road toward Rotherham.”
“With how many?” demanded the leader, for such he seemed to be.
“With six men, and good hope of booty, if it please Saint Nicholas.”
“Devoutly spoken,” said Locksley. “And where is Allan-a-Dale?”
“Walked up toward the vWatling Street, to watch for the Prior of Jorvaulx.”
“That is well thought on also,” replied the captain. “And where is the friar?”
“In his cell.”
“Thither will I go,” said Locksley. “Disperse and seek your companions. Collect what force you can, for there’s game afoot that must be hunted hard and will turn to bay. Meet me here at daybreak. And stay,” he added; “I have forgotten what is most necessary of the whole. Two of you take the road quickly toward Torquilstone, the castle of vFront-de-Boeuf. A set of gallants, who have been vmasquerading in such guise as our own, are carrying a band of prisoners thither. Watch them closely, for, even if they reach the castle before we collect our force, our honor is concerned to punish them, and we will find means to do so. Keep a good watch on them, therefore, and despatch one of your comrades to bring the news of the yeomen thereabouts.”
The men promised obedience and departed on their several errands. Meanwhile, their leader and his two companions, who now looked upon him with great respect as well as some fear, pursued their way to the chapel where dwelt the friar mentioned by Locksley. Presently they reached a little moonlit glade, in front of which stood an ancient and ruinous chapel and beside it a rude hermitage of stone half-covered with ivy vines.
The sounds which proceeded at that moment from the latter place were anything but churchly. In fact, the hermit and another voice were performing at the full extent of very powerful lungs an old drinking-song, of which this was the burden:
“Now, that is not ill sung,” said Wamba, who had thrown in a few of his own flourishes to help out the chorus. “But who, in the saint’s name, ever expected to have heard such a jolly chant come from a hermit’s cell at midnight?”
“Marry, that should I,” said Gurth, “for the jolly Clerk of Copmanhurst is a known man and kills half the deer that are stolen in this walk. Men say that the deer-keeper has complained of him and that he will be stripped of his vcowl and vcope altogether if he keep not better order.”
While they were thus speaking, Locksley’s loud and repeated knocks had at length disturbed the vanchorite and his guest, who was a knight of singularly powerful build and open, handsome face, and in black armor.
“By my beads,” said the hermit, “here come other guests. I would not for my cowl that they found us in this goodly exercise. All men have enemies, sir knight; and there be those malignant enough to construe the hospitable refreshment I have been offering to you, a weary traveler, into drinking and gluttony, vices alike alien to my profession and my disposition.”
“Base vcalumniators!” replied the knight. “I would I had the chastising of them. Nevertheless, holy clerk, it is true that all have their enemies; and there be those in this very land whom I would rather speak to through the bars of my helmet than bare-faced.”
“Get thine iron pot on thy head, then, sir knight,” said the hermit, “while I remove these pewter flagons.”
He struck up a thundering vDe profundis clamavi, under cover of which he removed the apparatus of their banquet, while the knight, laughing heartily and arming himself all the while, assisted his host with his voice from time to time as his mirth permitted.
“What devil’s vmatins are you after at this hour?” demanded a voice from outside.
“Heaven forgive you, sir traveler!” said the hermit, whose own noise prevented him from recognizing accents which were tolerably familiar to him. “Wend on your way, in the name of God and Saint Dunstan, and disturb not the devotions of me and my holy brother.”
“Mad priest,” answered the voice from without; “open to Locksley!”
“All’s safe—all’s right,” said the hermit to his companion.
“But who is he?” asked the Black Knight. “It imports me much to know.”
“Who is he?” answered the hermit. “I tell thee he is a friend.”
“What friend?” replied the hermit; “that now is one of the questions that is more easily asked than answered.”
“Well, open the door,” ordered the knight, “before he beat it from its hinges.”
The hermit speedily unbolted his portal and admitted Locksley, with his two companions.
“Why, hermit,” was the yeoman’s first question as soon as he beheld the knight, “what boon companion hast thou here?”
“A brother of our order,” replied the friar, shaking his head; “we have been at our devotions all night.”
“He is a monk of the church militant,” answered Locksley; “and there be more of them abroad. I tell thee, friar, thou must lay down the vrosary and take up the vquarter-staff; we shall need every one of our merry men, whether clerk or layman. But,” he added, taking a step aside, “art thou mad—to give admittance to a knight thou dost not know? Hast thou forgotten our agreement?”
“Good yeoman,” said the knight, coming forward, “be not wroth with my merry host. He did but afford me the hospitality which I would have compelled from him if he had refused it.”
“Thou compel!” cried the friar. “Wait but till I have changed this gray gown for a green cassock, and if I make not a quarter-staff ring twelve upon thy pate, I am neither true clerk nor good woodsman.”
While he spoke thus he stript off his gown and appeared in a close buckram doublet and lower garment, over which he speedily did on a cassock of green and hose of the same color.
“I pray thee vtruss my points,” he said to Wamba, “and thou shalt have a cup of sack for thy labor.”
“vGramercy for thy sack,” returned Wamba; “but thinkest thou that it is lawful for me to aid you to transmew thyself from a holy hermit into a sinful forester?”
While they were thus employed, Locksley led the knight a little apart and addressed him thus: “Deny it not, sir knight, you are he who played so glorious a part at the tournament at Ashby.”
“And what follows, if you guess truly, good yeoman?”
“For my purpose,” said the yeoman, “thou shouldst be as well a good Englishman as a good knight; for that which I have to speak of concerns, indeed, the duty of every honest man, but is more especially that of a true-born native of England.”
“I would willingly believe so,” said the woodsman; “and never had this country such need to be supported by those who love her. A band of villains, in the disguise of better men than themselves, have become masters of the persons of a noble Englishman named Cedric the Saxon, together with his ward and his friend, Athelstane of Coningsburgh, and have transported them to a castle in this forest called Torquilstone. I ask of thee, as a good knight and a good Englishman, wilt thou aid in their rescue?”
“I am bound by my vow to do so,” replied the knight; “but I would willingly know who you are who request my assistance in their behalf?”
“I am,” said the forester, “a nameless man; but I am a friend of my country and my country’s friends. Believe, however, that my word, when pledged, is as vinviolate as if I wore golden spurs.”
“I willingly believe it,” returned the knight. “I have been accustomed to study men’s countenances, and I can read in thine honesty and resolution. I will, therefore, ask thee no farther questions but aid thee in setting at freedom these oppressed captives, which done, I trust we shall part better acquainted and well satisfied with each other.”
When the friar was at length ready, Locksley turned to his companions.
While these measures were taking in behalf of Cedric and his companions, the armed men by whom the latter had been seized hurried their captives along toward the place of security, where they intended to imprison them. But darkness came on fast, and the paths of the wood seemed but imperfectly known to the vmarauders. They were compelled to make several long halts and once or twice to return on their road to resume the direction which they wished to pursue. It was, therefore, not until the light of the summer morn had dawned upon them that they could travel in full assurance that they held the right path.
In vain Cedric vexpostulated with his guards, who refused to break their silence for his wrath or his protests. They continued to hurry him along, traveling at a very rapid rate, until, at the end of an avenue of huge trees, arose Torquilstone, the hoary and ancient castle of Reginald Front-de-Boeuf. It was a fortress of no great size, consisting of a donjon, or large and high square tower, surrounded by buildings of inferior height. Around the exterior wall was a deep moat, supplied with water from a neighboring rivulet. Front-de-Boeuf, whose character placed him often at feud with his neighbors, had made considerable additions to the strength of his castle by building towers upon the outward wall, so as to flank it at every angle. The access, as usual in castles of the period, lay through an arched vbarbican or outwork, which was defended by a small turret.
Cedric no sooner saw the turrets of Front-de-Boeuf’s castle raise their gray and moss-grown battlements, glimmering in the morning sun, above the woods by which they were surrounded than he instantly augured more truly concerning the cause of his misfortune.
“I did injustice,” he said, “to the thieves and outlaws of these woods, when I supposed such banditti to belong to their bands. I might as justly have confounded the foxes of these brakes with the ravening wolves of France!”
Arrived before the castle, the prisoners were compelled by their guards to alight and were hastened across the drawbridge into the castle. They were immediately conducted to an apartment where a hasty repast was offered them, of which none but Athelstane felt any inclination to partake. Neither did he have much time to do justice to the good cheer placed before him, for the guards gave him and Cedric to understand that they were to be imprisoned in a chamber apart from Rowena. Resistance was vain; and they were compelled to follow to a large room, which, rising on clumsy Saxon pillars, resembled the vrefectories and chapter-houses which may still be seen in the most ancient parts of our most ancient monasteries.
The Lady Rowena was next separated from her train and conducted with courtesy, indeed, but still without consulting her inclination, to a distant apartment. The same alarming distinction was conferred on the young Jewess, Rebecca, in spite of the entreaties of her father, who offered money in the extremity of his distress that she might be permitted to abide with him.
“Base unbeliever,” answered one of his guards, “when thou hast seen thy lair, thou wilt not wish thy daughter to partake it.”
Without further discussion, the old Jew was dragged off in a different direction from the other prisoners. The domestics, after being searched and disarmed, were confined in another part of the castle.
The three leaders of the banditti and the men who had planned and carried out the outrage, Norman knights,—Front-de-Boeuf, the brutal owner of the castle; Maurice de Bracy, a free-lance, who sought to wed the Lady Rowena by force and so had arranged the attack, and Brian de vBois-Guilbert, a distinguished member of the famous order of vKnights Templar,—had a short discussion together and then separated. Front-de-Boeuf immediately sought the apartment where Isaac of York tremblingly awaited his fate.
The Jew had been hastily thrown into a dungeon-vault of the castle, the floor of which was deep beneath the level of the earth, and very damp, being lower than the moat itself. The only light was received through one or two loop-holes far above the reach of the captive’s hand. These vapertures admitted, even at midday, only a dim and uncertain light, which was changed for utter darkness long before the rest of the castle had lost the blessing of day. Chains and shackles, which had been the portion of former captives, hung rusted and empty on the walls of the prison, and in the rings of one of these sets of fetters there remained two moldering bones which seemed those of the human leg.
At one end of this ghastly apartment was a large fire-grate, over the top of which were stretched some transverse iron bars, half devoured with rust.
The whole appearance of the dungeon might have appalled a stouter heart than that of Isaac, who, nevertheless, was more composed under the imminent pressure of danger than he had seemed to be while affected by terrors of which the cause was as yet remote and vcontingent. It was not the first time that Isaac had been placed in circumstances so dangerous. He had, therefore, experience to guide him, as well as a hope that he might again be delivered from the peril.
The Jew remained without altering his position for nearly three hours, at the end of which time steps were heard on the dungeon stair. The bolts screamed as they were withdrawn, the hinges creaked as the wicket opened, and Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, followed by two Saracen slaves of the Templar, entered the prison.
Front-de-Boeuf, a tall and strong man, whose life had been spent in public war or in private feuds and broils and who had hesitated at no means of extending his vfeudal power, had features corresponding to his character, and which strongly expressed the fiercer and more evil passions of the mind. The scars with which his visage was seamed would, on features of a different cast, have excited the sympathy due to the marks of honorable valor; but in the peculiar case of Front-de-Boeuf they only added to the ferocity of his countenance and to the dread which his presence inspired. The formidable baron was clad in a leathern doublet, fitted close to his body, which was frayed and soiled with the stains of his armor. He had no weapon, except a vponiard at his belt, which served to counter-balance the weight of the bunch of rusty keys that hung at his right side.
The black slaves who attended Front-de-Boeuf were attired in jerkins and trousers of coarse linen, their sleeves being tucked up above the elbow, like those of butchers when about to exercise their functions in the slaughter-house. Each had in his hand a small vpannier; and when they entered the dungeon, they paused at the door until Front-de-Boeuf himself carefully locked and double-locked it. Having taken this precaution, he advanced slowly up the apartment toward the Jew, upon whom he kept his eye fixed as if he wished to paralyze him with his glance, as some animals are said to fascinate their prey.
The Jew sat with his mouth agape and his eyes fixed on the savage baron with such earnestness of terror that his frame seemed literally to shrink together and diminish in size while encountering the fierce Norman’s fixed and baleful gaze. The unhappy Isaac was deprived not only of the power of rising to make the vobeisance which his fear had dictated, but he could not even doff his cap or utter any word of supplication, so strongly was he agitated by the conviction that tortures and death were impending over him.
On the other hand, the stately form of the Norman appeared to dilate in magnitude, like that of the eagle, which ruffles up its plumage when about to pounce on its defenseless prey. He paused within three steps of the corner in which the unfortunate Hebrew had now, as it were, coiled himself up into the smallest possible space, and made a sign for one of the slaves to approach. The black vsatellite came forward accordingly, and producing from his basket a large pair of scales and several weights, he laid them at the feet of Front-de-Boeuf and retired to the respectful distance at which his companion had already taken his station.
The motions of these men were slow and solemn, as if there impended over their souls some vpreconception of horror and cruelty. Front-de-Boeuf himself opened the scene by addressing his ill-fated captive.
“Most accursed dog,” he said, awakening with his deep and sullen voice the echoes of the dungeon vault, “seest thou these scales?”
The unhappy Jew returned a feeble affirmative.
“In these very scales shalt thou weigh me out,” said the relentless baron, “a thousand silver pounds, after the just measure and weight of the Tower of London.”
“Holy Abraham!” returned the Jew, finding voice through the very extremity of his danger; “heard man ever such a demand? Who ever heard, even in a minstrel’s tale, of such a sum as a thousand pounds of silver? What human eyes were ever blessed with the sight of so great a mass of treasure? Not within the walls of York, ransack my house and that of all my tribe, wilt thou find the vtithe of that huge sum of silver that thou speakest of.”
“I am reasonable,” answered Front-de-Boeuf, “and if silver be scant, I refuse not gold. At the rate of a mark of gold for each six pounds of silver, thou shalt free thy unbelieving carcass from such punishment as thy heart has never even conceived in thy wildest imaginings.”
“Have mercy on me, noble knight!” pleaded Isaac. “I am old, and poor, and helpless. It were unworthy to triumph over me. It is a poor deed to crush a worm.”
“Old thou mayst be,” replied the knight, “and feeble thou mayst be; but rich it is known thou art.”
“I swear to you, noble knight,” said Isaac, “by all which I believe and all which we believe in common—”
“Perjure not thyself,” interrupted the Norman, “and let not thy obstinacy seal thy doom, until thou hast seen and well considered the fate that awaits thee. This prison is no place for trifling. Prisoners ten thousand times more distinguished than thou have died within these walls, and their fate has never been known. But for thee is reserved a long and lingering death, to which theirs was luxury.”
He again made a signal for the slaves to approach and spoke to them apart in their own language; for he had been a crusader in Palestine, where, perhaps, he had learned his lesson of cruelty. The Saracens produced from their baskets a quantity of charcoal, a pair of bellows, and a flask of oil. While the one struck a light with a flint and steel, the other disposed the charcoal in the large rusty grate which we have already mentioned and exercised the bellows until the fuel came to a red glow.
“Seest thou, Isaac,” said Front-de-Boeuf, “the range of iron bars above that glowing charcoal? On that warm couch thou shalt lie, stripped of thy clothes as if thou wert to rest on a bed of down. One of these slaves shall maintain the fire beneath thee, while the other shall anoint thy wretched limbs with oil, lest the roast should burn. Now choose betwixt such a scorching bed and the payment of a thousand pounds of silver; for, by the head of my father, thou hast no other voption.”
“It is impossible,” exclaimed the miserable Isaac; “it is impossible that your purpose can be real! The good God of nature never made a heart capable of exercising such cruelty!”
“Trust not to that, Isaac,” said Front-de-Boeuf; “it were a fatal error. Dost thou think that I who have seen a town sacked, in which thousands perished by sword, by flood, and by fire, will blench from my purpose for the outcries of a single wretch? Be wise, old man; discharge thyself of a portion of thy superfluous wealth; repay to the hands of a Christian a part of what thou hast acquired by vusury. Thy cunning may soon swell out once more thy shriveled purse, but neither leech nor medicine can restore thy scorched hide and flesh wert thou once stretched on these bars. Tell down thy vransom, I say, and rejoice that at such a rate thou canst redeem thyself from a dungeon, the secrets of which few have returned to tell. I waste no more words with thee. Choose between thy vdross and thy flesh and blood, and as thou choosest so shall it be.”
“So may Abraham and all the fathers of our people assist me!” said Isaac; “I cannot make the choice because I have not the means of satisfying your vexorbitant demand!”
“Seize him and strip him, slaves,” said the knight.
The assistants, taking their directions more from the baron’s eye and hand than his tongue, once more stepped forward, laid hands on the unfortunate Isaac, plucked him up from the ground, and holding him between them, waited the hard-hearted baron’s further signal. The unhappy man eyed their countenances and that of Front-de-Boeuf in the hope of discovering some symptoms of softening; but that of the baron showed the same cold, half-sullen, half-sarcastic smile, which had been the prelude to his cruelty; and the savage eyes of the Saracens, rolling gloomily under their dark brows, evinced rather the secret pleasure which they expected from the approaching scene than any reluctance to be its agents. The Jew then looked at the glowing furnace, over which he was presently to be stretched, and, seeing no chance of his tormentor’s relenting, his resolution gave way.
“I will pay,” he said, “the thousand pounds of silver—that is, I will pay it with the help of my brethren, for I must beg as a mendicant at the door of our synagogue ere I make up so unheard-of a sum. When and where must it be delivered?” he inquired with a sigh.
“Here,” replied Front-de-Boeuf. “Weighed it must be—weighed and told down on this very dungeon floor. Thinkest thou I will part with thee until thy ransom is secure?”
“Then let my daughter Rebecca go forth to York,” said Isaac, “with your safe conduct, noble knight, and so soon as man and horse can return, the treasure—” Here he groaned deeply, but added, after the pause of a few seconds,—“the treasure shall be told down on this floor.”
“Thy daughter!” said Front-de-Boeuf, as if surprised. “By Heavens, Isaac, I would I had known of this! I gave yonder black-browed girl to Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert, to be his prisoner. She is not in my power.”
The yell which Isaac raised at this unfeeling communication made the very vault to ring, and astounded the two Saracens so much that they let go their hold of the victim. He availed himself of his freedom to throw himself on the pavement and clasp the knees of Front-de-Boeuf.
“Take all that you have asked,” said he—“take ten times more—reduce me to ruin and to beggary, if thou wilt—nay, pierce me with thy poniard, broil me on that furnace, but spare my daughter! Will you deprive me of my sole remaining comfort in life?”
“Think not so vilely of me,” returned Isaac, eager to improve the moment of apparent sympathy. “I love mine own, even as the hunted fox, the tortured wildcat loves its young.”
“Be it so,” said Front-de-Boeuf; “but it aids us not now. I cannot help what has happened or what is to follow. My word is passed to my comrade in arms that he shall have the maiden as his share of the spoil, and I would not break it for ten Jews and Jewesses to boot. Take thought instead to pay me the ransom thou hast promised, or woe betide thee!”
“Robber and villain!” cried the Jew, “I will pay thee nothing—not one silver penny will I pay thee unless my daughter is delivered to me in safety!”
“Art thou in thy senses, Israelite?” asked the Norman sternly. “Hast thy flesh and blood a charm against heated iron and scalding oil?”
“I care not!” replied the Jew, rendered desperate by paternal affection; “my daughter is my flesh and blood, dearer to me a thousand times than those limbs thy cruelty threatens. No silver will I give thee unless I were to pour it molten down thy vavaricious throat—no, not a silver penny will I give thee, vNazarene, were it to save thee from the deep damnation thy whole life has merited. Take my life, if thou wilt, and say that the Jew, amidst his tortures, knew how to disappoint the Christian.”
“We shall see that,” said Front-de-Boeuf; “for by the blessed vrood thou shalt feel the extremities of fire and steel! Strip him, slaves, and chain him down upon the bars.”
In spite of the feeble struggles of the old man, the Saracens had already torn from him his upper garment and were proceeding totally to disrobe him, when the sound of a bugle, twice winded without the castle, penetrated even to the recesses of the dungeon. Immediately after voices were heard calling for Sir Reginald Front-de-Boeuf. Unwilling to be found engaged in his hellish occupation, the savage baron gave the slaves a signal to restore Isaac’s garment; and, quitting the dungeon with his attendants, he left the Jew to thank God for his own deliverance or to lament over his daughter’s captivity, as his personal or parental feelings might prove the stronger.
When the bugle sounded, De Bracy was engaged in pressing his suit with the Saxon heiress Rowena, whom he had carried off under the impression that she would speedily surrender to his rough wooing. But he found her vobdurate as well as tearful and in no humor to listen to his professions of devotion. It was, therefore, with some relief that the free-lance heard the summons at the barbican. Going into the hall of the castle, De Bracy was presently joined by Bois-Guilbert.
“Where is Front-de-Boeuf!” the latter asked.
They were soon after joined by Front-de-Boeuf, who had only tarried to give some necessary directions.
“Let us see the cause of this cursed clamor,” he said. “Here is a letter which has just been brought in, and, if I mistake not, it is in Saxon.”
He looked at it, turning it round and round as if he had some hopes of coming at the meaning by inverting the position of the paper, and then handed it to De Bracy.
“It may be magic spells for aught I know,” said De Bracy, who possessed his full proportion of the ignorance which characterized the chivalry of the period.
“Give it to me,” said the Templar. “We have that of the priestly character that we have some knowledge to enlighten our valor.”
“Let us profit by your most reverend knowledge, then,” returned De Bracy. “What says the scroll?”
“It is a formal letter of defiance,” answered Bois-Guilbert; “but, by our Lady of Bethlehem, if it be not a foolish jest, it is the most extraordinary vcartel that ever went across the drawbridge of a baronial castle.”
“Jest!” exclaimed Front-de-Boeuf. “I would gladly know who dares jest with me in such a matter! Read it, Sir Brian.”
The Templar accordingly read as follows:
“I, Wamba, the son of Witless, jester to a noble and free-born man, Cedric of Rotherwood, called the Saxon: and I, Gurth, the son of Beowulph, the swineherd—”
“Thou art mad!” cried Front-de-Boeuf, interrupting the reader.
“By Saint Luke, it is so set down,” answered the Templar. Then, resuming his task, he went on: “I, Gurth, the son of Beowulph, swineherd unto the said Cedric, with the assistance of our allies and confederates, who make common cause with us in this our feud, namely, the good knight, called for the present the Black Knight, and the stout yeoman, Robert Locksley, called Cleve-the-wand: Do you, Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, and your allies and accomplices whomsoever, to wit, that whereas you have, without cause given or feud declared, wrongfully and by mastery, seized upon the person of our lord and master, the said Cedric; also upon the person of a noble and free-born damsel, the Lady Rowena; also upon the person of a noble and free-born man, Athelstane of Coningsburgh; also upon the persons of certain free-born men, their vassals; also upon certain serfs, their born bondsmen; also upon a certain Jew, named Isaac of York, together with his daughter, and certain horses and mules: therefore, we require and demand that the said persons be within an hour after the delivery hereof delivered to us, untouched and unharmed in body and goods. Failing of which, we do pronounce to you that we hold ye as robbers and traitors and will wager our bodies against ye in battle and do our utmost to your destruction. Signed by us upon the eve of Saint Withold’s day, under the great oak in the Hart-hill Walk, the above being written by a holy man, clerk to God and Saint Dunstan in the chapel of Copmanhurst.”
The knights heard this uncommon document read from end to end and then gazed upon each other in silent amazement, as being utterly at a loss to know what it could portend. De Bracy was the first to break silence by an uncontrollable fit of laughter, wherein he was joined, though with more moderation, by the Templar. Front-de-Boeuf, on the contrary, seemed impatient of their ill-timed vjocularity.
“I give you plain warning,” he said, “fair sirs, that you had better consult how to bear yourselves under these circumstances than to give way to such misplaced merriment.”
“Front-de-Boeuf has not recovered his temper since his overthrow in the tournament,” said De Bracy to the Templar. “He is cowed at the very idea of a cartel, though it be from a fool and a swineherd.”
“I would thou couldst stand the whole brunt of this adventure thyself, De Bracy,” answered Front-de-Boeuf. “These fellows dared not to have acted with such inconceivable impudence had they not been supported by some strong bands. There are enough outlaws in this forest to resent my protecting the deer. I did but tie one fellow, who was taken red-handed and in the fact, to the horns of a wild stag, which gored him to death in five minutes, and I had as many arrows shot at me as were launched in the tournament. Here, fellow,” he added to one of his attendants, “hast thou sent out to see by what force this precious challenge is to be supported?”
“There are at least two hundred men assembled in the woods,” answered a squire who was in attendance.
“Here is a proper matter!” said Front-de-Boeuf. “This comes of lending you the use of my castle. You cannot manage your undertaking quietly, but you must bring this nest of hornets about my ears!”
“Of hornets?” echoed De Bracy. “Of stingless drones rather—a band of lazy knaves who take to the wood and destroy the venison rather than labor for their maintenance.”
“Stingless!” replied Front-de-Boeuf. “Fork-headed shafts of a cloth-yard in length, and these shot within the breadth of a French crown, are sting enough.”
“Enough, and too much,” agreed De Bracy. “I should be ashamed to couch lance against them.”
“True,” answered Front-de-Boeuf, drily, “were they black Turks or Moors, Sir Templar, or the craven peasants of France, most valiant De Bracy; but these are English yeomen, over whom we shall have no advantage save what we may derive from our arms and horses, which will avail us little in the glades of the forest. Sally, saidst thou? We have scarce men enough to defend the castle. The best of mine are at York; so is your band, De Bracy; and we have scarce twenty, besides the handful that were engaged in this mad business.”
“Thou dost not fear,” said the Templar, “that they can assemble in force sufficient to attempt the castle?”
“Not so, Sir Brian,” answered Front-de-Boeuf. “These outlaws have indeed a daring captain; but without machines, scaling ladders, and experienced leaders my castle may defy them.”
“Send to thy neighbors,” suggested the Templar. “Let them assemble their people and come to the rescue of three knights, besieged by a jester and swineherd in the baronial castle of Reginald Front-de-Boeuf!”
“Then send to York and recall our people,” said De Bracy. “If these vchurls abide the shaking of my standard, I will give them credit for the boldest outlaws that ever bent bow in greenwood.”
“And who shall bear such a message?” said Front-de-Boeuf. “The knaves will beset every path and rip the errand out of the man’s bosom. I have it,” he added, after pausing for a moment. “Sir Templar, thou canst write as well as read, and if we can but find writing materials, thou shalt return an answer to this bold challenge.”
Paper and pen were presently brought, and Bois-Guilbert sat down and wrote, in the French language, an epistle of the following tenor:
“Sir Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, with his noble and knightly allies and confederates, receives no defiances at the hands of slaves, bondsmen, or fugitives. If the person calling himself the Black Knight hath indeed a claim to the honors of chivalry, he ought to know that he stands degraded by his present association and has no right to ask reckoning at the hands of good men of noble blood. Touching the prisoners we have made, we do in Christian charity require you to send a man of religion to receive their confession and reconcile them with God; since it is our fixed intention to execute them this morning before noon, so that their heads, being placed on the battlements, shall show to all men how lightly we esteem those who have bestirred themselves in their rescue. Wherefore, as above, we require you to send a priest to reconcile them with God, in doing which you shall render them the last earthly service.”
This letter, being folded, was delivered to the squire, and by him to the messenger who waited without, as the answer to that which he had brought.
About one hour afterward a man arrayed in the cowl and frock of a hermit, and having his knotted cord twisted around his middle, stood before the portal of the castle of Front-de-Boeuf. The warder demanded of him his name and errand.
“Thou art a bold friar,” said the warder, “to come hither, where, saving our own drunken confessor, a rooster of thy feather hath not crowed these twenty years.”
With these words, he carried to the hall of the castle his unwonted intelligence that a friar stood before the gate and desired admission. With no small wonder he received his master’s command to admit the holy man immediately; and, having previously manned the entrance to guard against surprise, he obeyed, without farther scruple, the order given him.
“Who and whence art thou, priest?” demanded Front-de-Boeuf.
“Pax vobiscum,” reiterated the priest, with trembling voice. “I am a poor servant of Saint Francis, who, traveling through this wilderness, have fallen among thieves, which thieves have sent me unto this castle in order to do my ghostly office on two persons condemned by your honorable justice.”
“Ay, right,” answered Front-de-Boeuf; “and canst thou tell me, the number of those banditti?”
“Gallant sir,” said the priest, “vnomen illis legio, their name is legion.”
“Tell me in plain terms what numbers there are, or, priest, thy cloak and cord will ill protect thee from my wrath.”
“Alas!” said the friar, “vcor meum eructavit, that is to say, I was like to burst with fear! But I conceive they may be—what of yeomen, what of commons—at least five hundred men.”
“What!” said the Templar, who came into the hall that moment, “muster the wasps so thick here? It is time to stifle such a mischievous brood.” Then taking Front-de-Boeuf aside, “Knowest thou the priest?”
“Then trust him not with our purpose in words,” urged the Templar. “Let him carry a written order to De Bracy’s company of Free Companions, to repair instantly to their master’s aid. In the meantime, and that the shaveling may suspect nothing, permit him to go freely about his task of preparing the Saxon hogs for the slaughter-house.”
“It shall be so,” said Front-de-Boeuf. And he forthwith appointed a domestic to conduct the friar to the apartment where Cedric and Athelstane were confined.
The natural impatience of Cedric had been rather enhanced than diminished by his confinement. He walked from one end of the hall to the other, with the attitude of a man who advances to charge an enemy or storm the breach of a beleaguered place, sometimes ejaculating to himself and sometimes addressing Athelstane. The latter stoutly and vstoically awaited the issue of the adventure, digesting in the meantime, with great composure, the liberal meal which he had made at noon and not greatly troubling himself about the duration of the captivity.
“Pax vobiscum!” pronounced the priest, entering the apartment. “The blessing of Saint Dunstan, Saint Dennis, Saint Duthoc, and all other saints whatsoever, be upon ye and about ye.”
“To bid you prepare yourselves for death,” was the reply.
“It is impossible!” said Cedric, starting. “Fearless and wicked as they are, they dare not attempt such open and vgratuitous cruelty!”
“Alas!” returned the priest, “to restrain them by their sense of humanity is the same as to stop a runaway horse with a bridle of silk thread. Bethink thee, therefore, Cedric, and you also, Athelstane, what crimes you have committed in the flesh, for this very day will ye be called to answer at a higher vtribunal.”
“Hearest thou this, Athelstane?” said Cedric. “We must rouse up our hearts to this last action, since better it is we should die like men than live like slaves.”
“I am ready,” answered Athelstane, “to stand the worst of their malice, and shall walk to my death with as much composure as ever I did to my dinner.”
“Let us, then, unto our holy vgear, father,” said Cedric.
“Wait yet a moment, good vuncle,” said the priest in a voice very different from his solemn tones of a moment before; “better look before you leap in the dark.”
“By my faith!” cried Cedric; “I should know that voice.”
“How meanest thou, knave?” demanded the Saxon.
“Even thus,” replied Wamba; “take thou this frock and cord and march quietly out of the castle, leaving me your cloak and girdle to take the long leap in thy stead.”
“Leave thee in my stead!” exclaimed Cedric, astonished at the proposal; “why, they would hang thee, my poor knave.”
“E’en let them do as they are permitted,” answered Wamba. “I trust—no disparagement to your birth—that the son of Witless may hang in a chain with as much gravity as the chain hung upon his ancestor the valderman.”
“Well, Wamba,” said Cedric, “for one thing will I grant thy request. And that is, if thou wilt make the exchange of garments with Lord Athelstane instead of me.”
“No,” answered Wamba; “there were little reason in that. Good right there is that the son of Witless should suffer to save the son of Hereward; but little wisdom there were in his dying for the benefit of one whose fathers were strangers to his.”
“Villain,” cried Cedric, “the fathers of Athelstane were monarchs of England!”
“They might be whomsoever they pleased,” replied Wamba; “but my neck stands too straight on my shoulders to have it twisted for their sake. Wherefore, good my master, either take my proffer yourself, or suffer me to leave this dungeon as free as I entered.”
“Let the old tree wither,” persisted Cedric, “so the stately hope of the forest be preserved. Save the noble Athelstane, my trusty Wamba! It is the duty of each who has Saxon blood in his veins. Thou and I will abide together the utmost rage of our oppressors, while he, free and safe, shall arouse the awakened spirits of our countrymen to avenge us.”
“Not so, father Cedric,” said Athelstane, grasping his hand—for, when roused to think or act, his deeds and sentiments were not unbecoming his high race—“not so. I would rather remain in this hall a week without food save the prisoner’s stinted loaf, or drink save the prisoner’s measure of water, than embrace the opportunity to escape which the slave’s untaught kindness has vpurveyed for his master. Go, noble Cedric. Your presence without may encourage friends to our rescue; your remaining here would ruin us all.”
“And is there any prospect, then, of rescue from without?” asked Cedric, looking at the jester.
“Prospect indeed!” echoed Wamba. “Let me tell you that when you fill my cloak you are wrapped in a general’s cassock. Five hundred men are there without, and I was this morning one of their chief leaders. My fool’s cap was a vcasque, and my vbauble a truncheon. Well, we shall see what good they will make by exchanging a fool for a wise man. Truly, I fear they will lose in valor what they may gain in discretion. And so farewell, master, and be kind to poor Gurth and his dog Fangs; and let my vcoxcomb hang in the hall at Rotherwood in memory that I flung away my life for my master—like a faithful fool!”
The last word came out with a sort of double expression, betwixt jest and earnest. The tears stood in Cedric’s eyes.
“Thy memory shall be preserved,” he said, “while fidelity and affection have honor upon earth. But that I trust I shall find the means of saving Rowena and thee, Athelstane, and thee also, my poor Wamba, thou shouldst not overbear me in this matter.”
The exchange of dress was now accomplished, when a sudden doubt struck Cedric.
“I know no language but my own and a few words of their mincing Norman. How shall I bear myself like a reverend brother?”
“The spell lies in two words,” replied Wamba: “Pax vobiscum will answer all queries. If you go or come, eat or drink, bless or ban, Pax vobiscum carries you through it all. It is as useful to a friar as a broomstick to a witch or a wand to a conjurer. Speak it but thus, in a deep, grave tone,—Pax vobiscum!—it is irresistible. Watch and ward, knight and squire, foot and horse, it acts as a charm upon them all. I think, if they bring me out to be hanged to-morrow, as is much to be doubted they may, I will try its weight.”
“If such prove the case,” said his master, “my religious orders are soon taken. Pax vobiscum! I trust I shall remember the password. Noble Athelstane, farewell; and farewell, my poor boy, whose heart might make amends for a weaker head. I will save you, or return and die with you. Farewell.”
“Farewell, noble Cedric,” said Athelstane; “remember it is the true part of a friar to accept refreshment, if you are offered any.”
Thus exhorted, Cedric sallied forth upon his expedition and presently found himself in the presence of Front-de-Boeuf. The Saxon, with some difficulty, compelled himself to make obeisance to the haughty baron, who returned his courtesy with a slight inclination of the head.
“Thy penitents, father,” said the latter, “have made a long vshrift. It is the better for them, since it is the last they shall ever make. Hast thou prepared them for death?”
“I found them,” said Cedric, in such French as he could command, “expecting the worst, from the moment they knew into whose power they had fallen.”
“I was bred in the convent of Saint Withold of Burton,” answered Cedric.
“Ay,” said the baron; “it had been better for thee to have been a Norman, and better for my purpose, too; but need has no choice of messengers. That Saint Withold’s of Burton is a howlet’s nest worth the harrying. The day will soon come that the frock shall protect the Saxon as little as the mail-coat.”
“God’s will be done!” returned Cedric, in a voice tremulous with passion, which Front-de-Boeuf imputed to fear.
“I see,” he said, “thou dreamest already that our men-at-arms are in thy refectory and thy ale-vaults. But do me one cast of thy holy office and thou shalt sleep as safe in thy cell as a snail within his shell of proof.”
“Speak your commands,” replied Cedric, with suppressed emotion.
“Follow me through this passage, then, that I may dismiss thee by the postern.”
As he strode on his way before the supposed friar, Front-de-Boeuf thus schooled him in the part which he desired he should act.
“Thou seest, sir friar, yon herd of Saxon swine who have dared to environ this castle of Torquilstone. Tell them whatever thou hast a mind of the weakness of this vfortalice, or aught else that can detain them before it for twenty-four hours. Meantime bear this scroll—but soft—canst thou read, sir priest?”
“Not a jot I,” answered Cedric, “save on my vbreviary; and then I know the characters because I have the holy service by heart, praised be Saint Withold!”
“The fitter messenger for my purpose. Carry thou this scroll to the castle of Philip de vMalvoisin; say it cometh from me and is written by the Templar, Brian de Bois-Guilbert, and that I pray him to send it to York with all speed man and horse can make. Meanwhile, tell him to doubt nothing he shall find us whole and sound behind our battlement. Shame on it, that we should be compelled to hide thus by a pack of runagates who are wont to fly even at the flash of our pennons and the tramp of our horses! I say to thee, priest, contrive some cast of thine art to keep the knaves where they are until our friends bring up their lances.”
With these words, Front-de-Boeuf led the way to a postern where, passing the moat on a single plank, they reached a small barbican, or exterior defense, which communicated with the open field by a well-fortified sally-port.
“Begone, then; and if thou wilt do mine errand, and return hither when it is done, thou shalt see Saxon flesh cheap as ever was hog’s in the shambles of Sheffield. And, hark thee! thou seemest to be a jolly confessor—come hither after the onslaught and thou shalt have as much good wine as would drench thy whole convent.”
“Assuredly we shall meet again,” answered Cedric.
“Something in the hand the whilst,” continued the Norman; and, as they parted at the postern door, he thrust in Cedric’s reluctant hand a gold vbyzant, adding, “Remember, I will flay off both cowl and skin if thou failest in thy purpose.”
The supposed priest passed out of the door without further words.
Front-de-Boeuf turned back within the castle.
“Ho! Giles jailer,” he called, “let them bring Cedric of Rotherwood before me, and the other churl, his companion—him I mean of Coningsburgh—Athelstane there, or what call they him? Their very names are an encumbrance to a Norman knight’s mouth, and have, as it were, a flavor of bacon. Give me a stoop of wine, as jolly Prince John would say, that I may wash away the relish. Place it in the armory, and thither lead the prisoners.”
His commands were obeyed; and upon entering that Gothic apartment, hung with many spoils won by his own valor and that of his father, he found a flagon of wine on a massive oaken table, and the two Saxon captives under the guard of four of his dependants. Front-de-Boeuf took a long draught of wine and then addressed his prisoners, for the imperfect light prevented his perceiving that the more important of them had escaped.
“Gallants of England,” said Front-de-Boeuf, “how relish ye your entertainment at Torquilstone? Faith and Saint Dennis, an ye pay not a rich ransom, I will hang ye up by the feet from the iron bars of these windows till the kites and hooded crows have made skeletons of you! Speak out, ye Saxon dogs, what bid ye for your worthless lives? What say you, you of Rotherwood?”
“Not a vdoit I,” answered poor Wamba, “and for hanging up by the feet, my brain has been topsy-turvy ever since the vbiggin was bound first around my head; so turning me upside down may peradventure restore it again.”
“Hah!” cried Front-de-Boeuf, “what have we here?”
And with the back of his hand he struck Cedric’s cap from the head of the jester, and throwing open his collar, discovered the fatal badge of servitude, the silver collar round his neck.
“Giles—Clement—dogs and varlets!” called the furious Norman, “what villain have you brought me here?”
“I think I can tell you,” said De Bracy, who just entered the apartment. “This is Cedric’s clown.”
“Go,” ordered Front-de-Boeuf; “fetch me the right Cedric hither, and I pardon your error for once—the rather that you but mistook a fool for a Saxon vfranklin.”
“Ay, but,” said Wamba, “your chivalrous excellency will find there are more fools than franklins among us.”
“What means this knave?” said Front-de-Boeuf, looking toward his followers, who, lingering and loath, faltered forth their belief that if this were not Cedric who was there in presence, they knew not what was become of him.
“Heavens!” exclaimed De Bracy. “He must have escaped in the monk’s garments!”
“Fiends!” echoed Front-de-Boeuf. “It was then the boar of Rotherwood whom I ushered to the postern and dismissed with my own hands! And thou,” he said to Wamba, “whose folly could over-reach the wisdom of idiots yet more gross than thyself. I will give thee holy orders, I will shave thy crown for thee! Here, let them tear the scalp from his head and pitch him headlong from the battlements. Thy trade is to jest: canst thou jest now?”
“You deal with me better than your word, noble knight,” whimpered forth poor Wamba, whose habits of vbuffoonery were not to be overcome even by the immediate prospect of death; “if you give me the red cap you propose, out of a simple monk you will make a vcardinal.”
“The poor wretch,” said De Bracy, “is resolved to die in his vocation.” The next moment would have been Wamba’s last but for an unexpected interruption. A hoarse shout, raised by many voices, bore to the inmates of the hall the tidings that the besiegers were advancing to the attack. There was a moment’s silence in the hall, which was broken by De Bracy. “To the battlements,” he said; “let us see what these knaves do without.”
So saying, he opened a latticed window which led to a sort of projecting balcony, and immediately called to those in the apartment, “Saint Dennis, it is time to stir! They bring forward vmantelets and vpavisses, and the archers muster on the skirts of the wood like a dark cloud before a hail-storm.”
Front-de-Boeuf also looked out upon the field and immediately snatched his bugle. After winding a long and loud blast, he commanded his men to their posts on the walls.
“De Bracy, look to the eastern side, where the walls are lowest. Noble Bois-Guilbert, thy trade hath well taught thee how to attack and defend, so look thou to the western side. I myself will take post at the barbican. Our numbers are few, but activity and courage may supply that defect, since we have only to do with rascal clowns.”
The Templar had in the meantime been looking out on the proceedings of the besiegers with deeper attention than Front-de-Boeuf or his giddy companion.
“By the faith of mine order,” he said, “these men approach with more touch of discipline than could have been judged, however they come by it. See ye how dexterously they avail themselves of every cover which a tree or bush affords and avoid exposing themselves to the shot of our cross-bows? I spy neither banner nor pennon, and yet I will gage my golden chain that they are led by some noble knight or gentleman skillful in the practice of wars.”
“I espy him,” said De Bracy; “I see the waving of a knight’s crest and the gleam of his armor. See yon tall man in the black mail who is busied marshaling the farther troop of the rascally yeomen. By Saint Dennis, I hold him to be the knight who did so well in the tournament at Ashby.”
The demonstrations of the enemy’s approach cut off all farther discourse. The Templar and De Bracy repaired to their posts and, at the head of the few followers they were able to muster, awaited with calm determination the threatened assault, while Front-de-Boeuf went to see that all was secure in the besieged fortress.
In the meantime, the wounded Wilfred of Ivanhoe had been gradually recovering his strength. Taken into her litter by Rebecca when his own father hesitated to succor him, the young knight had lain in a stupor through all the experiences of the journey and the capture of Cedric’s party by the Normans. De Bracy, who, bad as he was, was not without some vcompunction, on finding the occupant of the litter to be Ivanhoe, had placed the invalid under the charge of two of his squires, who were directed to state to any inquirers that he was a wounded comrade. This explanation was now accordingly returned by these men to Front-de-Boeuf, when, in going the round of the castle, he questioned them why they did not make for the battlements upon the alarm of the attack.
“A wounded comrade!” he exclaimed in great wrath and astonishment. “No wonder that churls and yeomen wax so presumptuous as even to lay leaguer before castles, and that clowns and swineherds send defiances to nobles, since men-at-arms have turned sick men’s nurses. To the battlements, ye loitering villains!” he cried, raising his vstentorian voice till the arches rang again; “to the battlements, or I will splinter your bones with this truncheon.”
The men, who, like most of their description, were fond of enterprise and detested inaction, went joyfully to the scene of danger, and the care of Ivanhoe fell to Rebecca, who occupied a neighboring apartment and who was not kept in close confinement.
The beautiful young Jewess rejoined the knight, whom she had so signally befriended, at the moment of the beginning of the attack on the castle. Ivanhoe, already much better and chafing at his enforced inaction, resembled the war-horse who scenteth the battle afar.
“If I could but drag myself to yonder window,” he said, “that I might see how this brave game is like to go—if I could strike but a single blow for our deliverance! It is in vain; I am alike nerveless and weaponless!”
“Fret not thyself, noble knight,” answered Rebecca, “the sounds have ceased of a sudden. It may be they join not battle.”
“Thou knowest naught of it,” returned Wilfred, impatiently; “this dead pause only shows that the men are at their posts on the walls and expect an instant attack. What we have heard was but the distant muttering of the storm, which will burst anon in all its fury. Could I but reach yonder window!”
“Thou wilt injure thyself by the attempt, noble knight,” replied the attendant. Then she added, “I myself will stand at the lattice and describe to you as I can what passes without.”
“You must not; you shall not!” exclaimed Ivanhoe. “Each lattice will soon be a mark for the archers; some random shaft may strike you. At least cover thy body with yonder ancient buckler and show as little of thyself as may be.”
Availing herself of the protection of the large, ancient shield, which she placed against the lower part of the window, Rebecca, with tolerable security, could witness part of what was passing without the castle and report to Ivanhoe the preparations being made for the storming. From where she stood she had a full view of the outwork likely to be the first object of the assault. It was a fortification of no great height or strength, intended to protect the postern-gate through which Cedric had been recently dismissed by Front-de-Boeuf. The castle moat divided this species of barbican from the rest of the fortress, so that, in case of its being taken, it was easy to cut off the communication with the main building by withdrawing the temporary bridge. In the outwork was a sally-port corresponding to the postern of the castle, and the whole was surrounded by a strong palisade. From the mustering of the assailants in a direction nearly opposite the outwork, it seemed plain that this point had been selected for attack.
Rebecca communicated this to Ivanhoe, and added, “The skirts of the wood seem lined with archers, although only a few are advanced from its dark shadow.”
“Under what banner?” asked Ivanhoe.
“Under no ensign of war which I can observe,” answered Rebecca.
“A singular novelty,” muttered the knight, “to advance to storm such a castle without pennon or banner displayed! Seest thou who they are that act as leaders? Or, are all of them but stout yeomen?”
“A knight clad in sable armor is the most conspicuous,” she replied; “he alone is armed from head to foot, and he seems to assume the direction of all around him.”
“Seem there no other leaders?” demanded the anxious inquirer.
“None of mark and distinction that I can behold from this station,” said Rebecca. “They appear even now preparing to attack. God of Zion protect us! What a dreadful sight! Those who advance first bear huge shields and defenses made of plank; the others follow, bending their bows as they come on. They raise their bows! God of Moses, forgive the creatures thou hast made!”
Her description was suddenly interrupted by the signal for assault, which was the blast of a shrill bugle, at once answered by a flourish of the Norman trumpets from the battlements. The shouts of both parties augmented the fearful din, the assailants crying, “Saint George for merry England!” and the Normans answering them with cries of “vBeauseant! Beauseant!“
It was not, however, by clamor that the contest was to be decided, and the desperate efforts of the assailants were met by an equally vigorous defense on the part of the besieged. The archers, trained by their woodland pastimes to the most effective use of the longbow, shot so rapidly and accurately that no point at which a defender could show the least part of his person escaped their vcloth-yard shafts. By this heavy discharge, which continued as thick and sharp as hail, two or three of the garrison were slain and several others wounded. But, confident in their armor of proof and in the cover which their situation afforded, the followers of Front-de-Boeuf, and his allies, showed an obstinacy in defense proportioned to the fury of the attack, replying with the discharge of their large cross-bows to the close and continued shower of arrows. As the assailants were necessarily but indifferently protected, they received more damage than they did.
“And I must lie here like a bedridden monk,” exclaimed Ivanhoe, “while the game that gives me freedom or death is played out by the hands of others! Look from the window once again, kind maiden, but beware that you are not marked by the archers beneath—look out once more and tell me if they yet advance to the storm.”
With patient courage, Rebecca again took post at the lattice.
“What dost thou see?” demanded the wounded knight.
“That cannot endure,” remarked Ivanhoe. “If they press not on to carry the castle by pure force of arms, the archery may avail but little against stone walls and bulwarks. Look for the sable knight and see how he bears himself, for as the leader is, so will his followers be.”
“I see him not,” said Rebecca.
“Foul craven!” exclaimed Ivanhoe; “does he blench from the helm when the wind blows highest?”
“He blenches not! he blenches not!” cried Rebecca. “I see him now; he heads a body of men close under the outer barrier of the barbican. They pull down the piles and palisades; they hew down the barriers with axes. His high black plume floats over the throng, like a raven over the field of the slain. They have made a breach in the barriers—they rush in—they are thrust back! Front-de-Boeuf heads the defenders; I see his gigantic form above the press. They throng again to the breach, and the pass is disputed hand to hand, and man to man. Have mercy, God!”
She turned her head from the lattice, as if unable longer to endure a sight so terrible.
“Look forth again, Rebecca,” urged Ivanhoe, mistaking the cause of her retiring; “the archery must in some degree have ceased, since they are now fighting hand to hand. Look again; there is less danger.”
Rebecca again looked forth and almost immediately exclaimed: “Holy prophets of the law! Front-de-Boeuf and the Black Knight fight hand to hand in the breach, amid the roar of their followers, who watch the progress of the strife.” She then uttered a loud shriek, “He is down! he is down!”
“Who is down?” cried Ivanhoe; “tell me which has fallen?”
“The Black Knight,” answered Rebecca, faintly; then shouted with joyful eagerness, “But no—the name of the Lord of Hosts be blessed!—he is on foot again and fights as if there were twenty men’s strength in his single arm. His sword is broken—he snatches an ax from a yeoman—he presses Front-de-Boeuf with blow on blow. The giant stoops and totters like an oak under the steel of a woodsman—he falls—he falls!”
“Front-de-Boeuf?” exclaimed Ivanhoe.
“Front-de-Boeuf!” answered the Jewess. “His men rush to the rescue, headed by the haughty Templar—their united force compels the champion to pause—they drag Front-de-Boeuf within the walls.”
“The assailants have won the barriers, have they not?” Ivanhoe eagerly queried.
“They have! they have!” answered Rebecca; “and they press the besieged hard on the outer wall. Some plant ladders, some swarm like bees and endeavor to ascend upon the shoulders of each other. Down go stones, beams, and trunks of trees on their heads, and as fast as they bear the wounded to the rear, fresh men supply their places. Great God! hast thou given men thine own image, that it should be thus cruelly defaced by the hands of their brethren!”
“Think not of that,” said Ivanhoe. “This is no time for such thoughts. Who yield—who push their way?”
“The ladders are thrown down,” replied Rebecca, shuddering; “the soldiers lie groveling under them like crushed reptiles; the besieged have the better.”
“Saint George strike for us!” exclaimed the knight; “do the false yeomen give way?”
“No,” exclaimed Rebecca, “they bear themselves right yeomanly—the Black Knight approaches the postern with his huge ax—the thundering blows he deals you may hear above all the din of the battle. Stones and beams are hailed down on the bold champion—he regards them no more than if they were thistle-down or feathers!”
“By Saint John of Acre,” cried Ivanhoe, raising himself joyfully on his couch, “methought there was but one man in England that might do such a deed!”
“The postern-gate shakes,” continued Rebecca; “it crashes—it is splintered by his blows—they rush in—the outwork is won! Oh, God! they hurl the defenders from the battlements—they throw them into the moat—men, if ye indeed be men, spare them that can resist no longer!”
“No,” replied Rebecca. “The Templar has destroyed the plank on which they crossed—few of the defenders escaped with him into the castle—the shrieks and cries you hear tell the fate of the others! Alas! I see it is more difficult to look on victory than on battle.”
“What do they now, maiden?” asked Ivanhoe. “Look forth yet again; this is no time to faint at bloodshed.”
“It is over for the time,” answered Rebecca. “Our friends strengthen themselves within the outwork which they have mastered; it affords them so good a shelter from the foeman’s shot that the garrison only bestow a few bolts on it from interval to interval, as if to disquiet rather than to injure them.”
“Our friends,” said Wilfred, “will surely not abandon an enterprise so gloriously begun and so happily attained. Oh, no! I will put my faith in the good knight whose ax hath rent heart-of-oak and bars of iron.”
During the interval of quiet which followed the first success of the besiegers, the Black Knight was employed in causing to be constructed a sort of floating bridge, or long raft, by means of which he hoped to cross the moat in despite of the resistance of the enemy. This was a work of some time.
When the raft was completed, the Black Knight addressed the besiegers: “It avails not waiting here longer, my friends; the sun is descending in the west, and I may not tarry for another day. Besides, it will be a marvel if the horsemen do not come upon us from York, unless we speedily accomplish our purpose. Wherefore, one of you go to Locksley and bid him commence a discharge of arrows on the opposite side of the castle, and move forward as if about to assault it; while you, true Englishmen, stand by me and be ready to thrust the raft end-long over the moat whenever the postern on our side is thrown open. Follow me boldly across, and aid me to burst yon sally-port in the main wall of the castle. As many of you as like not this service, or are but ill-armed, do you man the top of the outwork, draw your bowstrings to your ears and quell with your shot whoever shall appear upon the rampant. Noble Cedric, wilt thou take the direction of those that remain?”
“Not so,” answered the Saxon. “Lead I cannot, but my posterity curse me in my grave if I follow not with the foremost wherever thou shalt point the way!”
“Yet, bethink thee, noble Saxon,” said the knight, “thou hast neither hauberk nor corslet, nor aught but that light helmet, vtarget, and sword.”
“The better,” replied Cedric; “I shall be the lighter to climb these walls. And—forgive the boast, sir knight—thou shalt this day see the naked breast of a Saxon as boldly presented to the battle as ever you beheld the steel corslet of a Norman warrior.”
“In the name of God, then,” said the knight, “fling open the door and launch the floating bridge!”
The portal which led from the inner wall of the barbican, now held by the besiegers, to the moat and corresponded with a sally-port in the main wall of the castle was suddenly opened. The temporary bridge was immediately thrust forward and extended its length between the castle and outwork, forming a slippery and precarious passage for two men abreast to cross the moat. Well aware of the importance of taking the foe by surprise, the Black Knight, closely followed by Cedric, threw himself upon the bridge and reached the opposite shore. Here he began to thunder with his ax on the gate of the castle, protected in part from the shot and stones cast by the defenders by the ruins of the former drawbridge, which the Templar had demolished in his retreat from the barbican, leaving the vcounterpoise still attached to the upper part of the portal. The followers of the knight had no such shelter; two were instantly shot with cross-bow bolts, and two more fell into the moat. The others retreated back into the barbican.
The situation of Cedric and the Black Knight was now truly dangerous and would have been still more
 so but for the constancy of the archers in the barbican, who ceased not to shower their arrows on the battlements, distracting the attention of those by whom they were manned and thus affording a respite to their two chiefs from the storm of missiles, which must otherwise have overwhelmed them. But their situation was eminently perilous, and was becoming more so with every moment.
“Shame on ye all!” cried De Bracy to the soldiers around him; “do ye call yourselves cross-bowmen and let these two dogs keep their station under the walls of the castle? Heave over the coping stones from the battlement, an better may not be. Get pick-ax and levers and down with that huge pinnacle!” pointing to a heavy piece of stone-carved work that projected from the parapet.
At this moment Locksley whipped up the courage of his men.
“Saint George for England!” he cried. “To the charge, bold yeomen! Why leave ye the good knight and noble Cedric to storm the pass alone? Make in, yeomen! The castle is taken. Think of honor; think of spoil. One effort and the place is ours.”
With that he bent his good bow and sent a shaft right through the breast of one of the men-at-arms, who, under De Bracy’s direction, was loosening a fragment from one of the battlements to precipitate on the heads of Cedric and the Black Knight. A second soldier caught from the hands of the dying man the iron crow, with which he had heaved up and loosened the stone pinnacle, when, receiving an arrow through his headpiece, he dropped from the battlement into the moat a dead man. The men-at-arms were daunted, for no armor seemed proof against the shot of this tremendous archer.
“Do you give ground, base knaves?” cried De Bracy. “vMountjoy Saint Dennis! Give me the lever.”
Snatching it up, he again assailed the loosened pinnacle, which was of weight enough, if thrown down, not only to have destroyed the remnant of the drawbridge, which sheltered the two foremost assailants, but also to have sunk the rude float of planks over which they had crossed. All saw the danger, and the boldest, even the stout friar himself, avoided setting a foot on the raft. Thrice did Locksley bend his shaft against De Bracy, and thrice did his arrow bound back from the knight’s armor of proof.
“Curse on thy Spanish steel-coat!” said Locksley; “had English smith forged it, these arrows had gone through it as if it had been silk.” He then began to call out: “Comrades! friends! noble Cedric! bear back and let the ruin fall.”
His warning voice was unheard, for the din which the Black Knight himself occasioned by his strokes upon the postern would have drowned twenty war-trumpets. The faithful Gurth indeed sprang forward on the planked bridge to warn Cedric of his impending fate, or to share it with him. But his warning would have come too late; the massive pinnacle already tottered, and De Bracy, who still heaved at his task, would have accomplished it, had not the voice of the Templar sounded close in his ear.
“All is lost, De Bracy; the castle burns.”
“Thou art mad to say so,” replied the knight.
“It is all in a light flame on the western side,” returned Bois-Guilbert. “I have striven in vain to extinguish it.”
“What is to be done?” cried De Bracy. “I vow to Saint Nicholas of Limoges a candlestick of pure gold—”
“Spare thy vow,” said the Templar, “and mark me. Lead thy men down, as if to a sally; throw the postern-gate open. There are but two men who occupy the float; fling them into the moat and push across to the barbican. I will charge from the main gate and attack the barbican on the outside. If we can regain that post, we shall defend ourselves until we are relieved or, at least, until they grant us fair quarter.”
“It is well thought upon,” replied De Bracy; “I will play my part.”
De Bracy hastily drew his men together and rushed down to the postern-gate, which he caused instantly to be thrown open. Scarce was this done ere the portentous strength of the Black Knight forced his way inward in despite of De Bracy and his followers. Two of the foremost instantly fell, and the rest gave way, notwithstanding all their leader’s efforts to stop them.
“Dogs!” cried De Bracy; “will ye let two men win our only pass for safety?”
“He is the devil!” replied a veteran man-at-arms, bearing back from the blows of their sable antagonist.
“And if he be the devil,” said De Bracy, “would you fly from him into the mouth of hell? The castle burns behind us, villains! Let despair give you courage, or let me forward. I will cope with this champion myself.”
And well and chivalrously did De Bracy that day maintain the fame he had acquired in the civil wars of that dreadful period. The vaulted passages in which the two redoubted champions were now fighting hand to hand rang with the furious blows they dealt each other, De Bracy with his sword, the Black Knight with his ponderous ax. At length the Norman received a blow, which, though its force was partly parried by his shield, descended yet with such violence on his crest that he measured his length on the paved floor.
“Yield thee, De Bracy,” said the Black Knight, stooping over him and holding against the bars of his helmet the fatal poniard with which knights despatched their enemies; “yield thee, Maurice de Bracy, rescue or no rescue, or thou art but a dead man. Speak!”
The gallant Norman, seeing the hopelessness of further resistance, yielded, and was allowed to rise.
“Let me tell thee what it imports thee to know,” he said. “Wilfred of Ivanhoe is wounded and a prisoner, and will perish in the burning castle without present help.”
“Wilfred of Ivanhoe!” exclaimed the Black Knight. “The life of every man in the castle shall answer if a hair of his head be singed. Show me his chamber!”
“Ascend yonder stair,” directed De Bracy. “It leads to his apartment.”
The turret was now in bright flames, which flashed out furiously from window and shot-hole. But, in other parts, the great thickness of the walls and the vaulted roofs of the apartments resisted the progress of the fire, and there the rage of man still triumphed; for the besiegers pursued the defenders of the castle from chamber to chamber. Most of the garrison resisted to the uttermost; few of them asked quarter—none received it. The air was filled with groans and the clashing of arms.
Through this scene of confusion the Black Knight rushed in quest of Ivanhoe, whom he found in Rebecca’s charge. The knight, picking up the wounded man as if he were a child, bore him quickly to safety. In the meantime, Cedric had gone in search of Rowena, followed by the faithful Gurth. The noble Saxon was so fortunate as to reach his ward’s apartment just as she had abandoned all hope of safety and sat in expectation of instant death. He committed her to the charge of Gurth, to be carried without the castle. The loyal Cedric then hastened in quest of his friend Athelstane, determined at every risk to himself to save the prince. But ere Cedric penetrated as far as the old hall in which he himself had been a prisoner, the inventive genius of Wamba had procured liberation for himself and his companion.
When the noise of the conflict announced that it was at the hottest, the jester began to shout with the utmost power of his lungs, “Saint George and the Dragon! Bonny Saint George for merry England! The castle is won!” These sounds he rendered yet more fearful by banging against each other two or three pieces of rusty armor which lay scattered around the hall.
The guards at once ran to tell the Templar that foemen had entered the old hall. Meantime the prisoners found no difficulty in making their escape into the court of the castle, which was now the last scene of the contest. Here sat the fierce Templar, mounted on horseback and surrounded by several of the garrison, who had united their strength in order to secure the last chance of safety and retreat which remained to them. The principal, and now the single remaining drawbridge, had been lowered by his orders, but the passage was beset; for the archers, who had hitherto only annoyed the castle on that side by their missiles, no sooner saw the flames breaking out and the bridge lowered than they thronged to the entrance. On the other hand, a party of the besiegers who had entered by the postern on the opposite side were now issuing into the court-yard and attacking with fury the remnant of the defenders in the rear.
Animated, however, by despair and the example of their gallant leader, the remaining soldiers of the castle fought with the utmost valor; and, being well armed, they succeeded in driving back the assailants.
Crying aloud, “Those who would save themselves, follow me!” Bois-Guilbert pushed across the drawbridge, dispersing the archers who would have stopped them. He was followed by the Saracen slaves and some five or six men-at-arms, who had mounted their horses. The Templar’s retreat was rendered perilous by the number of arrows shot at him and his party; but this did not prevent him from galloping round to the barbican, where he expected to find De Bracy.
“De Bracy!” he shouted, “art thou there?”
“I am here,” answered De Bracy, “but a prisoner.”
“Can I rescue thee?” cried Bois-Guilbert.
“No,” said the other. “I have rendered myself.”
Upon hearing this, the Templar galloped off with his followers, leaving the besiegers in complete possession of the castle.
Fortunately, by this time all the prisoners had been rescued and stood together without the castle, while the yeomen ran through the apartments seeking to save from the devouring flames such valuables as might be found. They were soon driven out by the fiery element. The towering flames surmounted every obstruction and rose to the evening skies one huge and burning beacon, seen far and wide through the adjacent country. Tower after tower crashed down, with blazing roof and rafter.
The victors, assembling in large bands, gazed with wonder not unmixed with fear upon the flames, in which their own ranks and arms glanced dusky red. The voice of Locksley was at length heard, “Shout, yeomen! the den of tyrants is no more! Let each bring his spoil to the tree in Hart-hill Walk, for there we will make just partition among ourselves, together with our worthy allies in this great deed of vengeance.”
Sir Walter Scott.
HELPS TO STUDY
I. Tell what you find out about Cedric and his son, Ivanhoe, or the “Disinherited Knight.” What impression do you get of Cedric’s character? of Athelstane’s? What was the first adventure the travelers had? Who was “the sick friend” the Jews were assisting? What further adventure befell the travelers? How did Gurth show his true character? Who came to the aid of Gurth and Wamba? What did Wamba mean by “whether they be thy children’s coats or no”? What impression do you get of the stranger? Describe the scene in the hermit’s abode. What impression do you get of him? Of the Black Knight?
II. Who had made Cedric’s party prisoners? Why? Tell what Cedric said when he discovered who his captors were. What disposition was made of the prisoners? Describe the scene in Isaac’s cell. How was Front-de-Boeuf interrupted?
III. What challenge did the knights receive? How did they answer it?
IV. Who came in the character of a priest? What plan did he carry out? How? How did Cedric act his part? Describe the scene when the escape was discovered. How was Front-de-Boeuf prevented from doing Wamba harm?
V. How did Ivanhoe fall to the care of Rebecca? Where did Rebecca take her station? Describe the scenes she saw. What knight led the assault? How did Rebecca describe him? Can you guess who the Black Knight was? Whom did Ivanhoe think of when he said, “Methought there was but one man in England that might do such a deed”?
VI. What plan did the Black Knight make? How was it executed? Which of the assailants proved themselves especial heroes? What was De Bracy’s plan? How was its accomplishment prevented? What plan for escape did the Templar have? How did it end? Tell how Ivanhoe, Rowena, Athelstane and Wamba were liberated. Tell what became of the knights. Who do you think Locksley was?
All of the party were rescued except Rebecca, who was carried off by Bois-Guilbert and accused of witchcraft. You will have to read the novel, Ivanhoe, to learn of the further adventures of her, Rowena, the Black Knight, and Ivanhoe.
- The Talisman—Sir Walter Scott.
- The White Company—A. Conan Doyle.
- When Knighthood Was in Flower—Charles Major.
- The Last of the Barons—Edward Bulwer-Lytton.
- Don Quixote—Miguel de Cervantes.
- The Idylls of the King—Alfred Tennyson.
- Scottish Chiefs—Jane Porter.
HELPS TO STUDY
Read the poem and tell the story found in it. Why was every one so “cold and white”? What was the great danger? What happened to prevent the sailors’ getting to the hulk? What is the tale that is told? What is the thought the poet leaves with us in the last stanza?
This story is taken from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, the book that foreshadowed the modern submarine. Monsieur Aronnax, a scientist, with two companions, Ned Land and Conseil, was rescued at sea by a strange craft, the Nautilus, owned and commanded by one Captain Nemo, who hated mankind and never went ashore on inhabited land. Monsieur Aronnax remained on the submarine for months in a kind of captivity and met with many wonderful adventures. It should be noted that modern inventions have already outstripped many of the author’s imaginings.
On returning to my room with Ned and Conseil, I found upon my table a note addressed to me. I opened it impatiently. It was written in a bold clear hand, and ran as follows:
“November 16, 1867.
To Professor Aronnax, on board the Nautilus:
Captain Nemo invites Professor Aronnax to a hunting party, which will take place to-morrow morning in the forest of the island of Crespo. He hopes that nothing will prevent the professor from being present, and he will with pleasure see him joined by his companions.”
“A hunt!” exclaimed Ned.
“And in the forests of the island of Crespo!” added Conseil.
“Oh, then the gentleman is going on vterra firma?” asked Ned Land.
“Well, we must accept,” said Ned. “Once more on dry land, we shall know what to do. Indeed, I shall not be sorry to eat a piece of fresh venison.”
I contented myself with replying, “Let us see where the island of Crespo is.”
I consulted the vplanisphere and in 32° 40´ north latitude, and 157° 50´ west vlongitude, I found a small island recognized in 1801 by Captain Crespo, and marked in the ancient Spanish maps as Rocca de la Platta, or Silver Rock.
I showed this little rock lost in the midst of the North Pacific to my companions.
“If Captain Nemo does sometimes go on dry ground,” said I, “he at least chooses desert islands.”
Ned Land shrugged his shoulders without speaking, and Conseil and he left me. After supper, which was served by the steward, mute and impassive, I went to bed, not without some anxiety.
The next morning, the 7th of November, I felt on awakening that the Nautilus was perfectly still. I dressed quickly and entered the saloon. Captain Nemo was there, waiting for me. He rose, bowed, and asked me if it was convenient for me to accompany him. I simply replied that my companions and myself were ready to follow him.
We entered the room where breakfast was served.
“M. Aronnax,” said the captain, “pray share my breakfast without ceremony; we will chat as we eat. Though I promised you a walk in the forest, I did not undertake to find hotels there; so breakfast as a man should who will most likely not have his dinner till very late.”
I did honor to the repast. It was composed of several kinds of fish, and different sorts of seaweed. Our drink consisted of pure water, to which the captain added some drops of a fermented liquor extracted from a seaweed. Captain Nemo ate at first without saying a word. Then he began:
“Professor, when I proposed to you to hunt in my submarine forest of Crespo, you evidently thought me mad. Sir, you should never judge lightly of any man.”
“But, captain, believe me—”
“Be kind enough to listen, and you will then see whether you have any cause to accuse me of folly and contradiction.”
“You know as well as I do, professor, that man can live under water, providing he carries with him a sufficient supply of breathable air. In submarine works, the workman, clad in an vimpervious dress, with his head in a metal helmet, receives air from above by means of forcing-pumps and vregulators.”
“That is a diving apparatus,” said I.
“Just so. But under these conditions the man is not at liberty; he is attached to the pump which sends him air through a rubber tube, and if we were obliged to be thus held to the Nautilus, we could not go far.”
“And the means of getting free?” I asked.
“It is to use the Rouquayrol apparatus, invented by two of your own countrymen, which I have brought to perfection for my own use and which will allow you to risk yourself without any organ of the body suffering. It consists of a reservoir of thick iron plates, in which I store the air under a pressure of fifty vatmospheres. This reservoir is fixed on the back by means of braces, like a soldier’s knapsack. Its upper part forms a box in which the air is kept by means of a bellows, and therefore cannot escape unless at its vnormal tension. In the Rouquayrol apparatus such as we use, two rubber pipes leave this box and join a sort of tent which holds the nose and mouth; one is to introduce fresh air, the other to let out foul, and the tongues close one or the other pipe according to the wants of the vrespirator. But I, in encountering great pressures at the bottom of the sea, was obliged to shut my head like that of a diver in a ball of copper; and it is into this ball of copper that the two pipes, the inspirator and the expirator, open. Do you see?”
“Perfectly, Captain Nemo. But the air that you carry with you must soon be used; when it contains only fifteen per cent of oxygen it is no longer fit to breathe.”
“Right! But I told you, M. Aronnax, that the pumps of the Nautilus allow me to store the air under considerable pressure; and the reservoir of the apparatus can furnish breathable air for nine or ten hours.”
“I have no further objections to make,” I answered. “I will only ask one thing, captain—how can you light your road at the bottom of the sea?”
“With the Ruhmkorff apparatus, M. Aronnax. One is carried on the back, the other is fastened to the waist. It is composed of a vbunsen pile, which I do not work with bichromate of potash but with sodium. A wire is introduced which collects the electricity produced, and directs it toward a lantern. In this lantern is a spiral glass which contains a small quantity of carbonic acid gas. When the apparatus is at work, this gas becomes luminous, giving out a white and continuous light. Thus provided, I can breathe and I can see.”
“Captain Nemo, to all my objections you make such crushing answers that I dare no longer doubt. But if I am forced to admit the Rouquayrol and Ruhmkorff apparatus, I must be allowed some reservations with regard to the gun I am to carry.”
“But it is not a gun for powder,” he said.
“Then it is an air-gun?” I asked.
“Doubtless. How would you have me manufacture gunpowder on board, without saltpeter, sulphur, or charcoal?”
“That would be no difficulty. There exist guns which can fire under these conditions. But I repeat, having no powder, I use air under great pressure, which the pumps of the Nautilus furnish abundantly.”
“But this air must be rapidly used?”
“Well, have I not my Rouquayrol reservoir, which can furnish it at need? A tap is all that is required. Besides, M. Aronnax, you must see yourself that during our submarine hunt we can spend but little air.”
“But it seems to me that in this twilight, and in the midst of this fluid, which is very dense compared with the atmosphere, shots could not go far or easily prove fatal.”
“On the contrary,” replied Nemo, “with this gun every blow is mortal; however lightly the animal is touched, it falls dead as if struck by a thunderbolt.”
“Because the balls sent by this gun are not ordinary balls, but little cases of glass, of which I have a large supply. These glass cases are covered with a shell of steel and weighted with a pellet of lead; they are real vLeyden jars, into which electricity is forced to a very high tension. With the slightest shock they are discharged, and the animal, however strong it may be, falls dead.”
Captain Nemo then led me aft; and in passing before Ned and Conseil’s cabin, I called my two companions, who followed immediately. Conseil was delighted at the idea of exploring the sea, but Ned declined to go when he learned that the hunt was to be a submarine one. We came to a kind of cell near the machinery-room, in which we were to put on our walking-dress. It was, in fact, the arsenal and wardrobe of the Nautilus. A dozen diving-suits hung from the partition, awaiting our use.
At the captain’s call two of the ship’s crew came to help us dress in these heavy and impervious clothes, made of rubber without seam and constructed expressly to resist considerable pressure. One might have taken this diving apparatus for a suit of armor, both supple and resisting. It formed trousers and waistcoat; the trousers were finished off with thick boots, weighted with heavy leaden soles. The texture of the waistcoat was held together by bands of copper, which crossed the chest, protecting it from the great pressure of the water and leaving the lungs free to act. The sleeves ended in gloves, which in no way restrained the movement of the hands. There was a vast difference noticeable between this dress and the old-fashioned diving-suit.
Captain Nemo and one of his companions, Conseil and myself, were soon enveloped in the dresses; there remained nothing more to be done but inclose our heads in the metal boxes. Captain Nemo thrust his head into the helmet, Conseil and I did the same. The upper part of our dress terminated in a copper collar, upon which was screwed the metal helmet. Three holes, protected by thick glass, allowed us to see in all directions by simply turning our heads in the interior of the head-dress. As soon as it was in position, the Rouquayrol apparatus on our backs began to act; and, for my part, I could breathe with ease.
With the Ruhmkorff lamp hanging from my belt, and the gun in my hand, I was ready to set out. But to speak the truth, imprisoned in these heavy garments and glued to the deck by the leaden soles, it was impossible for me to take a step. This state of things, however, was provided for. I felt myself being pushed into a little room next the wardrobe-room. My companions followed, towed along in the same way. I heard a water-tight door, furnished with stopper-plates, close upon us, and we were wrapped in profound darkness.
After some minutes, a loud hissing was heard; I felt the cold mount from my feet to my chest. Evidently from some part of the vessel they had, by means of a tap, given entrance to the water, which was invading us and with which the room was soon filled. A second door cut in the side of the Nautilus then opened. We saw a faint light. In another instant our feet trod the bottom of the sea.
How can I retrace the impression left upon me by that walk under the waters? Words are impotent to relate such wonders. Captain Nemo walked in front, his companion followed some steps behind. Conseil and I remained near each other, as if an exchange of words had been possible through our metallic cases. I no longer felt the weight of my clothing, or of my shoes, of my reservoir of air, or my thick helmet, in the midst of which my head rattled like an almond in its shell.
The light which lit the soil thirty feet below the surface of the ocean astonished me by its power. The solar rays shone through the watery mass easily and dissipated all color, and I clearly distinguished objects at a distance of a hundred and fifty yards. Beyond that the tints darkened into fine gradations of vultramarine and faded into vague obscurity. We were walking on fine, even sand, not wrinkled as on a flat shore, which retains the impression of the billows. This dazzling carpet, really a reflector, repelled the rays of the sun with wonderful intensity, which accounted for the vibration which penetrated every atom of liquid. Shall I be believed when I say that, at a depth of thirty feet, I could see as well as if I was in broad daylight?
For a quarter of an hour I trod on this sand; the hull of the Nautilus, resembling a long shoal, disappeared by degrees; but its lantern would help to guide us back when darkness should overtake us in the waters. Soon forms of objects outlined in the distance became discernible. I recognized magnificent rocks, hung with a tapestry of vzoophytes of the most beautiful kind.
It was then about ten o’clock in the morning, and the rays of the sun struck the surface of the waves at rather an oblique angle; at the touch of the light, decomposed by vrefraction as through a prism, flowers, rocks, plants, and shells were shaded at the edges by the seven solar colors. It was a marvelous feast for the eyes, this complication of colored tints, a perfect vkaleidoscope of green, yellow, orange, violet, indigo, and blue!
All these wonders I saw in the space of a quarter of a mile, scarcely stopping and following Captain Nemo, who beckoned me on by signs. Soon the nature of the soil changed; to the sandy plain succeeded an extent of slimy mud; we then traveled over a plain of seaweed of wild and luxuriant vegetation. This sward was of close texture and soft to the feet, rivaling the softest carpet woven by the hand of man. While verdure was spread at our feet, it did not abandon our heads. A light network of marine plants grew on the surface of the water.
We had been gone from the Nautilus an hour and a half. It was near noon; I knew this by the vperpendicularity of the sun’s rays, which were no longer refracted. The magical colors disappeared by degrees and the shades of emerald and sapphire were effaced. We walked with a regular step, which rang upon the ground with astonishing intensity; indeed the slightest noise was transmitted with a quickness and vividness to which the ear is unaccustomed on earth, water being a better conductor of sound than air in the vratio of four to one. At this period the earth sloped downward; the light took a uniform tint. We were at a depth of a hundred and five yards.
At this depth I could still see the rays of the sun, though feebly; to their intense brilliancy had succeeded a reddish twilight, but we could find our way well enough. It was not necessary to resort to the Ruhmkorff apparatus as yet. At this moment Captain Nemo stopped and waited till I joined him, pointing then to an obscure mass which loomed in the shadow at a short distance.
“It is the forest of the island of Crespo,” thought I, and I was not mistaken.
This under-sea forest was composed of large tree-plants; and the moment we penetrated under its vast varcades I was struck by the singular position of their branches: not an herb which carpeted the ground, not a branch which clothed the trees was either broken or bent, nor did they extend in a vhorizontal direction; all stretched up toward the surface of the sea. Not a filament, not a ribbon, however thin, but kept as straight as a rod of iron. They were motionless, yet when bent to one side by the hand they directly resumed their former position. Truly it was a region of perpendicularity.
I soon accustomed myself to this fantastic position, as well as to the comparative darkness which surrounded us. The sights were very wonderful. Under numerous shrubs as large as trees on land were massed bushes of living flowers—animals rather than plants—of various colors and glowing softly in the obscurity of the ocean depth. Fish flies flew from branch to branch like a swarm of humming-birds, while swarms of marine creatures rose at our feet like a flight of snipes.
In about an hour Captain Nemo gave the signal to halt. I, for my part, was not sorry, and we stretched ourselves under an arbor of plants, the long thin blades of which stood up like arrows. I felt an irresistible desire to sleep, an experience which happens to all divers. My eyes soon closed behind the thick glasses and I fell into a heavy slumber. Captain Nemo and his companion, stretched in the clear crystal, set me the example.
How long I remained buried in this drowsiness I cannot judge; but when I woke, the sun seemed sinking toward the horizon. Captain Nemo had already risen, and I was beginning to stretch my limbs when an unexpected sight brought me briskly to my feet.
A few steps off, a monster sea-spider, about forty inches high, was watching me with squinting eyes, ready to spring on me. Though my diver’s dress was thick enough to defend me from the bite of this animal, I could not help shuddering with horror. Conseil and the sailor of the Nautilus awoke at this moment. Captain Nemo pointed out the hideous creature, which a blow from the butt end of a gun knocked over; I saw the claws of the monster writhe in horrible convulsions. This incident reminded me that other animals more to be feared might haunt these obscure depths, against whose attacks my diving-clothes would not protect me.
Indeed, I thought that this halt would mark the end of our walk; but I was mistaken, for instead of returning to the Nautilus, we continued our bold excursion. The ground was still on the incline; its declivity seemed to be getting greater and to be leading us to lower depths. It must have been about three o’clock when we reached a narrow valley between high walls; thanks to the perfection of our apparatus, we were far below the depth to which divers ever penetrate.
At our great depth the darkness thickened; ten paces away not an object was visible. I was groping my way when I suddenly saw a brilliant white light flash out ahead; Captain Nemo had turned on his electric torch. The rest of us soon followed his example, and the sea, lit by our four lanterns, was illuminated for a circle of forty yards.
Captain Nemo still plunged onward into the dark reaches of the forest, whose trees were getting scarcer at every step. At last, after about four hours, this marvelous excursion came to an end. A wall of superb rocks rose before us, a heap of gigantic blocks, an enormous granite shore. It was the prop of the island of Crespo. It was the earth!
The return now began. Captain Nemo resumed his place at the head of his little band and directed the course without hesitation. I thought we were not following the road we had come, on our return to the Nautilus. The new way was very steep and consequently very painful; we approached the surface of the sea rapidly, but this ascent was not so sudden as to cause a too rapid relief from the pressure of the water, which would have been dangerous. Very soon light reappeared and grew, and as the sun was low on the horizon, the refraction edged all objects with a vspectral ring. At ten yards deep, we walked amid a shoal of little fishes, more numerous than the birds of the air; but no vaquatic game worthy of a shot had as yet met our gaze. Suddenly I saw the captain put his gun to his shoulder and follow a moving object into the shrubs. He fired; I heard a slight hissing and the creature fell stunned at some distance from us.
It was a magnificent sea-otter, five feet long and very valuable. Its skin, chestnut-brown above and silvery underneath, would have made one of those beautiful furs so sought after in the Russian and Chinese markets. I admired the curious animal, with its rounded head ornamented with short ears, its round eyes, and white whiskers like those of a cat, and its webbed feet and nails and tufted tail. This precious beast, hunted and tracked by fishermen, has now become very rare and has sought refuge in the northern parts of the Pacific.
Captain Nemo’s companion threw the sea-otter over his shoulder, and we continued our journey. For an hour a plain of sand lay stretched before us, which sometimes rose to within two yards of the surface of the water. I then saw our image clearly reflected, drawn inversely, and above us appeared an identical group reflecting our movements: in a word, the image was like us in every point, except that the figures walked with their heads downward and their feet in the air.
For two hours we followed these sandy plains, then fields of valgae very disagreeable to cross. Candidly, I felt that I could do no more when I saw a glimmer of light, which for a half-mile broke the darkness of the waters. It was the lantern of the Nautilus. Before twenty minutes were over we should be on board, and I should be able to breathe with ease, for it seemed that my reservoir supplied air very deficient in oxygen. But I did not reckon on an accidental meeting which delayed our arrival for some time.
I had remained some steps behind, when presently I saw Captain Nemo come hurriedly toward me. With his strong hand he bent me to the ground, while his companion did the same to Conseil. At first I knew not what to think of this sudden attack, but I was soon reassured by seeing the captain lie down beside me and remain immovable.
I was stretched on the ground, just under shelter of a bush of algae, when, raising my head, I saw some enormous mass, casting phosphorescent gleams, pass blusteringly by. My blood froze in my veins as I recognized two formidable sharks. They were man-eaters, terrible creatures with enormous tails and a dull glassy stare—monstrous brutes which could crush a whole man in their iron jaws! I noticed their silver undersides and their huge mouths bristling with teeth, from a very unscientific point of view and more as a possible victim than as a naturalist.
Happily the vvoracious creatures do not see well. They passed without noticing us, brushing us with their brownish fins, and we escaped by a miracle from a danger certainly greater than that of meeting a tiger full-face in a forest. Half an hour later, guided by the electric light, we reached the Nautilus. The outside door had been left open, and Captain Nemo closed it as soon as we entered the first cell. He then pressed a knob. I heard the pumps working in the midst of the vessel. I felt the water sinking from around me, and in a few minutes the cell was entirely empty. The inside door then opened, and we entered the vestry.
Our diving-dress was taken off, not without some trouble; and fairly worn out from want of food and sleep, I returned to my room in great wonder at this surprising excursion at the bottom of the sea.
HELPS TO STUDY
What was the hunt to which the adventurers were invited? Describe the preparations for it. What kind of gun did the hunters carry? Describe the descent to the bottom of the sea and the walk. What impressed you most? Would you care to take a nap at the bottom of the sea? What were the main incidents in the return trip? Find out all you can about divers and about life on the floor of the ocean.
- The Mysterious Island—Jules Verne.
- Thirty Strange Stories—H. G. Wells.
- The Great Stone of Sardis—Frank R. Stockton.
This story is a realistic description of a submarine cruise in the recent war. The Kate was a Russian underwater boat operating against the German fleet in the Baltic Sea. Her experiences in this terrible mode of fighting were the same as those of hundreds of submarines belonging to the various warring powers. It may be observed from the description how marvelous has been the advance of science in the last generation. What Jules Verne imagined in his book, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, the Kate accomplished. This story of actual war is not less wonderful than the vision of the romancer.
Men were placed at the water-pumps, the oxygen containers, air-purifiers and vdistilling machinery, and the vhatchways were thoroughly examined; the gunners took their posts at the torpedo tubes. The order had been given to move about as little as possible, to keep in the berths when not on duty, and not to talk and laugh. Then the watchman left the vconning tower, and the main hatchway was vhermetically closed.
Captain Andrey gave the order to submerge and went over to the navigating compartment. Water rushed into the vballast tanks, the boat grew heavy, and its rolling and pitching ceased: the Kate sank and ran ahead under water, steering by means of the vperiscope. Andrey pushed a button and a cone of pale blue rays poured from the tube. The vscreen of the periscope grew alive with tiny waves, passing clouds, and a tail of smoke on the skyline. With his chin resting on his arm, Andrey scanned the image of the sea which lay before him. Presently the smoke vanished, and on the right hand appeared the hazy outline of land.
At nightfall, the boat, taking advantage of the darkness, rose to the surface of the sea and sailed without lights. Andrey stood on the bridge throughout the night. The water was placid, the stars were screened by a light mist, and far away to the south the pale blue gleam of an enemy searchlight moved through the clouds.
The boat was now approaching a mine field. At dawn, when the greenish-orange light began slowly to pervade the fleecy clouds, the Kate sank to a great depth at a definitely fixed point in the sea. Steering solely by compass and map, she commenced to pick her way under the mines. Yakovlev was in charge of the steering apparatus, while Prince Bylopolsky calculated the vside drift and reported to the chief engineer in charge of the motors. Andrey, leaning over the map, gave orders to the man at the wheel.
There was no sensation of movement, and it seemed as if the Kate stood still amidst the eery darkness. The men for the most part were stretched on their backs, seeking to consume as little oxygen as possible. In spite of this precaution, however, the air was thick, and the sailors felt a tingling sensation in the ears.
“Stop! Stop!” called out Andrey, dashing forth from the navigating cabin.
The pinions cracked and the motors ceased to pulsate. Immediately the air became hot, as in a Turkish bath. Andrey entered the water-tight conning tower, which was flooded with diluted, greenish light from the ports provided for the purpose of giving a view of the surrounding waters. He peered through the glass pane. Vague, blurred forms and shadows gradually became visible in the twilight of the deep. One of the shadows wavered and glided along the window, and the round, tragic eyes of a fish glanced at Andrey. The fish disappeared in the depths below the boat. Evidently the Kate had not run aground, nor were there any submerged reefs in that quarter. Andrey gave an order to raise the boat several feet. Then numerous shadows leaped aside and scattered, and the captain plainly saw a jumbled heap of ropes and ladders. It was obvious that the Kate had blundered into the remains of a sunken ship.
The halt was unfortunate—indeed, might prove fatal. The uniform motion of the boat had been disturbed, the vorientation lost; the inevitable small error made at the point of submerging must have increased in the course beneath the waves. The Kate had lost her way, and something must be done. Andrey drummed nervously on the window-pane as he thought. It was impossible to stay under water any longer, and yet to rise to the surface meant to be seen and attacked by enemy warships. Only in this way, however, was it possible to determine the boat’s position.
Andrey, giving an order for the boat to rise slowly, returned to his observation point. The water gradually grew clearer. Suddenly a dark ball moved down to meet the craft. “A mine!” flashed across Andrey’s mind, and, overcoming the torpor which had begun to oppress his brain, he ordered the submarine to be swerved from her course. The ball moved away, but another appeared on the right. There was another change of direction. And now everywhere in the midst of the greenish twilight cast-iron shells lay in wait. The Kate was in the toils of a mine net!
Sea water, when viewed from a great height, is so transparent that large fishes can even be seen in it. Owing to this fact, the Kate was discovered by two enemy vhydroplanes as she rose among the mines toward the surface of the bay. The aircraft were seen, however, and the boat dived again to a great depth.
The Kate now blindly groped her way forward. The motors worked at their top speed, and the body of the boat trembled. Hundreds of demons called horsepowers fiercely turned the various wheels, pinions, and shafts. The air was hot and stuffy; the men at the engine, stripped to the waist, worked feverishly. Speed was necessary, for only oxygen enough to sustain the crew for one hour remained in the lead cylinders.
Yakovlev still sat at the compass, his elbows on his knees and his hands pressing his head. The men lounged in the cabins and corridors, their faces livid with suffocation. Prince Bylopolsky remained leaning over his vlogarithmic tables, which had now become useless. From time to time he wiped his face, as if removing a net of invisible cobwebs. Finally he rose to his feet, took a few steps, and fainted dead away.
Giving the order to proceed at full speed, Andrey hoped to pass the mine zone, even though some of his men succumbed for lack of air. Pale and excited, his hair in disorder, and his coat unbuttoned, he was everywhere at once, and his voice sustained the failing strength of the half-suffocated crew. Seeing the prince stretched unconscious on a berth, Andrey poured a few drops of brandy in his mouth and kissed his wet, childlike forehead. In making too rapid a movement, lurid flames danced before his eyes, and he bent back, striking his head against a sharp angle of an engine. He felt no pain from the blow.
“Bad!” thought Andrey, and crawled over to the emergency oxygen container. He opened the faucet and inhaled the fragrant stream of gas. His head began to swim and a sweet fire ran through his veins. With an effort he rose to his feet. The outlines of the objects around him were strangely distinct, and the faces of the men imploringly turned to him—some of them bearded and high-cheekboned, others tender and childlike—seemed to him touchingly human….
In the corridor Andrey came upon a man standing against the wall and gulping the air like a fish. Seeing the commander, he made an effort to cheer up and mumbled, “Beg pardon, sir; I’m a bit unwell.” The captain leaned over and looked into his eyes, which a film of death was already beginning to veil. Andrey, turning to the telephone tube, gave a command to rise. The Kate shook all over and dived upward. The ascent lasted four minutes and a half, at the end of which time the boat stood still and light fell on the screen of the periscope. The sailors crawled up to the main hatchway and unscrewed it. Cold salt air rushed into the boat, swelling the chests of the sufferers and turning their heads; the sensation of free breathing was delicious after the suffocation they had so long endured.
Andrey, leaping on the bridge, found the evening sun suspended above vast masses of warm clouds and the sea quiet and peaceful. He began to take observations with the vsextant, which shook in his trembling hand. Presently a loud buzzing was heard in the sky, followed by the measured crackling of a machine gun; from the hull of the boat came a sharp rat-a-tat, as if some one was throwing dry peas on it. A hydroplane was circling above the Kate.
Andrey bit his lip and kept on working; a squad of his men loaded their rifles. The hydroplane swooped down almost to the surface of the sea, then soared with a shrill “F-r-r-r” and flew right over the boat. A clean-shaven pilot sat motionless, his hands on the wheel; below him an observer gazed downward, waiting. Suddenly the latter lifted a bomb and threw it into a tube. The missile flashed in the air and plunged into the sea at the very side of the boat. One of the crew fired his rifle, and the observer threw up his leather-covered arms with outspread fingers. Slowly circling under the fire of the submarine crew, the aircraft rose toward the clouds and sailed off.
Over the sky-ridge another aeroplane appeared, looking like a long thin line. Meantime the Kate picked her way with graceful ease across the orange-colored waters as if cutting through molten glass. Andrey, buttoning his coat, said with a grimace, “Well, Yakovlev, the mines are behind us, but what are we going to do now?”
“This region is full of reefs and sandbanks,” replied Yakovlev.
“That’s just the trouble. I wouldn’t risk sailing under the water. Wait a moment.” He raised his hand.
A violent whizzing sound came from the west; Andrey ordered greater speed. A vgrenade hissed on the right, and a jet of water spurted up from the quiet surface. The Kate tacked sharply toward the purpling horizon in the west, and behind, in her shadowy wake, another bomb burst and blossomed out into a small cloud. The boat then turned east again, but now in front of her, on both sides, everywhere, shells burst and sputtered fire. The scouting hydroplane dashed over the submarine like a bat; two pale faces looked down and disappeared. Then right above the stern of the Kate a grenade exploded and one of the sailors dropped his rifle, clutched his face, toppled over the railing, and disappeared beneath the water.
“All hands below!” cried Andrey; and, watching where the shells fell thickest, he began to give his orders. The Kate circled like a run-down hare, while all along the darkening skyline the smoking stacks of mine-layers and destroyers were visible as the enemy’s ruthless ring rapidly tightened about the submarine.
Having had her wireless mast shot off by a shell, the Kate now dashed toward the rocky shore, running awash. Six sparks shot up in the dark and six steel-clad demons hissed above the boat. The long shadow of a ship glided along the shore. The Kate shook, and a sharp-nosed torpedo detached itself from her hull and glided away under the water to meet the vsilhouette of the vessel. A moment passed, and a fluffy, mountainous mass of fire and water rose from the spot where the stacks of a mine-layer had projected shortly before. The mountain sank and the silhouette disappeared. The Kate entered a baylet among the rocks, submerged, and lay on the sandy sea-bed.
Two weeks the submarine remained in the inlet, completely cut off from the rest of the world. By day she hid in the deep, and only under the cover of night did she rise to the surface to get a supply of air. The greatest precautions were necessary, for there was little likelihood that the enemy believed the submarine to be destroyed.
At the end of that time some action was inevitable, as the boat’s supplies had given out; for three days the crew had fed on fish which one of the men had caught at great risk. Audrey decided to leave the bay and make a supreme effort to run the enemy’s cordon.
About daybreak, as the Kate was nearing the surface of the sea, the crew became aware of a tremendous muffled cannonade; and when the boat emerged into a white fog, the whole coast shook and echoed with the roar and crash of a sea battle. Broadsides and terrific explosions alternated with the crackling of guns. It was as though a multitude of sea-devils coughed and blew and roared at each other.
“Quick, sir,” shouted Yakovlev, holding on to the railing; “we can break through now!” His teeth rattled.
The preparations for the dash had been completed. A strong gale swept away the fog and drove its torn masses over the sea, laying bare the rocky shore. The Kate dashed out of the bay into the open. The firing was now heard behind and on the right; the road to the port was open at last. The submarine rushed along, ripping in twain the frothing waves.
In this moment of exaltation, to return safely to base, simply to do one’s duty, seemed too little to these fearless men. The feeling that possessed them was not enthusiasm but a greediness, a yearning for destruction.
“We cannot go away like this,” Yakovlev shouted in Audrey’s ear; “turn back or I will shoot myself!” The man was completely beside himself; his pale face twisted convulsively.
Just then the sun arose, turning the rolling sea into a dull orange. Near at hand invisible ships thundered against each other. Suddenly a gray mountain-like shape emerged from the fog, enveloped in flame and smoke. Above its turrets, stacks, and masts fluttered a flag bearing a black eagle.
Mad with the thought that the opportunity had come at last, Andrey rushed down the hatchway, knocking over Yakovlev on the way, and loaded the torpedo tube. The Kate submerged a little, and sailing awash, headed straight for the enemy vessel.
The shadow of the hostile ship glided along the periscope screen, every now and then wrapping itself into a cloud pierced with fiery needles of shots. The Kate fired a torpedo but missed her aim. Leaning over the screen and biting his lips to bleeding, Andrey examined the tiny image of the vessel, one of the mightiest of battleships. The distance between the Kate and the enemy vessel continued to decrease; the image of the ship already occupied half of the periscope screen.
“Another torpedo!” shouted Andrey.
At that very instant a blow was struck the boat and the periscope screen grew dark. Andrey ran out from the navigating compartment and shouted:
“The periscope is shot away! Full speed forward!”
The engineer seized the handle of a lever and asked, “Which way?”
Andrey went into the conning tower; straight in front of him foamy eddies whirled furiously. The dark hull of a ship appeared, obscuring the light.
“Stop!” shouted Andrey. “Fire another one! Full speed backward!” He closed his eyes.
For a moment it seemed to him that the end had come. He was hurled by the explosion of the torpedo into the corridor and dashed against the wall. The outcries of the men were drowned by the muffled thud of the inrushing water. The light went out; the Kate began to rotate and sink.
The boat did not stay long in the deep; freed from the weight of two torpedoes, she slowly began to rise, stopped before reaching the surface, and commenced to sink again as the water continued to leak into her hull.
A sailor found Andrey in a narrow passage unconscious, though breathing regularly. The man dressed the captain’s wounds, but could not bring him to his senses. Another sailor tried to revive Yakovlev, but soon saw that that officer was dead. All the available hands toiled at the pumps, while the engineer and his two assistants worked frantically at the engine.
The Kate was near the surface, but as the periscope and the indicator had been destroyed, it was impossible to tell precisely where she was. On the other hand, to unscrew the hatch and look out would subject the boat to the risk of being flooded. Finally, the engineer reported that it was necessary to replace the cylinder, but that this was difficult to do because the supply of candles was giving out. Kuritzyn, a sailor who had assumed command, ordered the men at the pumps to pump until they dropped dead, if necessary, but to raise the boat at least one yard. The men obeyed in grim silence. Presently the last candle went out. “It’s all over, boys,” said some one, and the pumps stopped. The only sound that now broke the silence was the monotonous splash of water leaking down on the periscope screen.
Feeling their way in the darkness, several men followed the leader into the corridor and up the spiral staircase in the main hatchway. When they reached the top, they grasped the bolts of the lid.
“Here’s our finish,” said one of the men.
Just then the sound of footsteps on the outside of the boat reached their ears. Some one was walking on the Kate’s hull!
“Down to the ballast tanks!” Kuritzyn ordered. “When I fire, blow them out. We are ordered not to surrender the boat.”
With his revolver between his teeth, he pressed the bolt. The lid yielded; light and air rushed into the opening.
“Hey, who is there?” Kuritzyn shouted.
“Russians, Russians,” replied a voice.
“Thank God!” said Kuritzyn in a tone of intense gratitude.
Count Alexis Tolstoi.
HELPS TO STUDY
Tell of the preparations made for the submerging of the Kate. Describe the scene within the vessel. What accident halted the boat? Describe the events that followed. Where did the Kate find anchorage? Describe her exit from the bay. What flag was it that bore a black eagle? What was the fate of the ship bearing that flag?
- Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea—Jules Verne.
- The Pilot—J. Fenimore Cooper.
The moon, being the nearest to the earth of all the heavenly bodies, has always occupied the imagination of men. Many fanciful accounts have been written of voyages to the moon, of which the following story by Edgar Allan Poe is among the best. So wonderful has been the advance of science that it is conceivable that at some distant time in the future the inhabitants of this world may possibly be able to visit the beautiful body which lights the night for us.
After a long and arduous devotion to the study of physics and astronomy, I, Hans Pfaal of Rotterdam, at length determined to construct a balloon of my own along original lines and to try a flight in it. Accordingly I had made an enormous bag out of cambric muslin, varnished with caoutchouc for protection against the weather. I procured all the instruments needed for a prolonged ascent and finally prepared for the inflation of the balloon. Herein lay my secret, my invention, the thing in which my balloon differed from all the balloons that had gone before. Out of a peculiar vmetallic substance and a very common acid I was able to manufacture a gas of a density about 37.4 less than that of hydrogen, and thus by far the lightest substance ever known. It would serve to carry the balloon to heights greater than had been attained before, for hydrogen is the gas usually used.
The hour for my experiment in ballooning finally arrived. I had chosen the night as the best time for the ascension, because I should thereby avoid annoyances caused by the curiosity of the ignorant and the idle.
It was the first of April. The night was dark; there was not a star to be seen; and a drizzling rain, falling at intervals, made me very uncomfortable. But my chief anxiety was concerning the balloon, which, in spite of the varnish with which it was defended, began to grow rather heavy with the moisture. I therefore set my assistants to working, and in about four hours and a half I found the balloon sufficiently inflated. I attached the car and put all my implements in it—a telescope, a barometer, a thermometer, an velectrometer, a compass, a magnetic needle, a seconds watch, a bell, and other things. I had further procured a globe of glass, exhausted of air and carefully closed with a stopper, not forgetting a special apparatus for condensing air, a copious supply of water, and a large quantity of provisions, such as vpemmican, in which much vnutriment is contained in comparatively little bulk. I also secured a cat in the car.
It was now nearly daybreak, and I thought it high time to take my departure. I immediately cut the single cord which held me to the earth, and was pleased to find that I shot upward with vinconceivable rapidity, carrying with all ease one hundred and seventy-five pounds of leaden ballast and able to have carried as much more.
Scarcely, however, had I attained the height of fifty yards, when roaring and rumbling up after me in the most vtumultuous and terrible manner, came so dense a hurricane of fire and gravel and burning wood and blazing metal that my very heart sunk within me and I fell down in the car, trembling with terror. Some of my chemical materials had exploded immediately beneath me almost at the moment of my leaving earth. The balloon at first collapsed, then furiously expanded, then whirled round and round with sickening vvelocity, and finally, reeling and staggering like a drunken man, hurled me over the rim of the car; and in the moment of my fall I lost consciousness.
I had no knowledge of what had saved me. When I partially recovered the sense of existence, I found the day breaking, the balloon at a vprodigious height over a wilderness of ocean, and not a trace of land to be discovered far and wide within the limits of the vast horizon. My sensations, however, upon thus recovering, were by no means so vreplete with agony as might have been anticipated. Indeed, there was much of madness in the calm survey which I began to take of my situation. I drew up to my eyes each of my hands, one after the other, and wondered what occurrence could have given rise to the swelling of the veins and the horrible blackness of the finger nails. I afterward carefully examined my head, shaking it repeatedly and feeling it with minute attention, until I succeeded in satisfying myself that it was not, as I had more than half suspected, larger than the balloon. It now occurred to me that I suffered great uneasiness in the joint of my left ankle, and a dim consciousness of my situation began to glimmer through my mind. I began to understand that my foot had caught in a rope and that I was hanging downward outside the car. But strange to say! I was neither astonished nor horror-stricken. If I felt any emotion at all, it was a sort of chuckling satisfaction at the cleverness I was about to display in getting myself out of this vdilemma.
With great caution and deliberation, I put my hands behind my back and unfastened the large iron buckle which belonged to the waistband of my pantaloons. This buckle had three teeth, which, being somewhat rusty, turned with great difficulty on their axis. I brought them, however, after some trouble, at right angles to the body of the buckle and was glad to find them remain firm in that position. Holding with my teeth the instrument thus obtained, I proceeded to untie the knot of my cravat; it was at length accomplished. To one end of the cravat I then made fast the buckle, and the other end I tied, for greater security, tightly around my wrist. Drawing now my body upward, with a prodigious exertion of muscular force, I succeeded, at the very first trial, in throwing the buckle over the car, and entangling it, as I had anticipated, in the circular rim of the wicker-work.
My body was now inclined toward the side of the car at an angle of about forty-five degrees; but it must not be understood that I was therefore only forty-five degrees below the vperpendicular. So far from it, I still lay nearly level with the plane of the horizon, for the change of position which I had acquired had forced the bottom of the car considerably outward from my position, which was accordingly one of the most extreme peril. It should be remembered, however, that when I fell from the car, if I had fallen with my face turned toward the balloon, instead of turned outwardly from it as it actually was—or if, in the second place, the cord by which I was suspended had chanced to hang over the upper edge instead of through a crevice near the bottom of the car—in either of these cases, I should have been unable to accomplish even as much as I had now accomplished. I had therefore every reason to be grateful, although, in point of fact, I was still too stupid to be anything at all, and hung for perhaps a quarter of an hour in that extraordinary manner, without making the slightest farther exertion, and in a singularly tranquil state of idiotic enjoyment.
This feeling, however, did not fail to die rapidly away, and thereunto succeeded horror and dismay, and a sense of utter helplessness and ruin. In fact, the blood so long accumulating in the vessels of my head and throat, and which had hitherto buoyed up my spirits with delirium, had now begun to retire within its proper channels, and the distinctness which was thus added to my perception of the danger merely served to deprive me of the self-possession and courage to encounter it. But this weakness was, luckily for me, of no very great duration. In good time came to my rescue the spirit of despair, and with frantic cries and struggles, I jerked my body upward, till, at length, clutching with a vice-like grip the long-desired rim, I writhed my person over it and fell headlong and shuddering within the car.
When I had recovered from the weakness caused by being so long in that position and the horror from which I had suffered, I found that all my implements were in place and that neither ballast nor provisions had been lost.
It is now high time that I should explain the object of my voyage. I had been harassed for long by poverty and creditors. In this state of mind, wishing to live and yet wearied with life, my deep studies in astronomy opened a resource to my imagination. I determined to depart, yet live—to leave the world, yet continue to exist—in short, to be plain, I resolved, let come what would, to force a passage, if possible, to the moon.
This was not so mad as it seems. The moon’s actual distance from the earth was the first thing to be attended to. The mean or average interval between the centers of the two planets is only about 237,000 miles. But at certain times the moon and earth are much nearer than at others, and if I could contrive to meet the moon at the moment when it was nearest earth, the above-mentioned distance would be materially lessened. But even taking the average distance and deducting the vradius of the earth and the moon, the actual interval to be traversed under average circumstances would be 231,920 miles. Now this, I reflected, was no very extraordinary distance. Traveling on the land has been repeatedly accomplished at the rate of sixty miles an hour; and indeed a much greater speed may be anticipated. But even at this velocity it would take me no more than 161 days to reach the surface of the moon. There were, however, many particulars inducing me to believe that my average rate of traveling might possibly very much exceed that of sixty miles an hour.
The next point to be regarded was one of far greater importance. We know that at 18,000 feet above the surface of the earth we have passed one-half the material, or, at all events, one-half the vponderable body of air upon the globe. It is also calculated that at a height of eighty miles the vrarefaction of air is so great that animal life can be sustained in no manner. But I did not fail to perceive that these calculations are founded on our experimental knowledge of the air in the immediate vicinity of the earth, and that it is taken for granted that animal life is incapable of vmodification. I thought that no matter how high we may ascend we cannot arrive at a limit beyond which no atmosphere is to be found. It must exist, I argued, although it may exist in a state of vinfinite rarefaction.
Having adopted this view of the subject, I had little farther hesitation. Granting that on my passage I should meet with atmosphere essentially the same as at the surface of the earth, I thought that, by means of my very ingenious apparatus for that purpose, I should readily be able to condense it in sufficient quantity for breathing. This would remove the chief obstacle in a journey to the moon.
I now turned to view the prospect beneath me. At twenty minutes past six o’clock, the barometer showed an elevation of 26,000 feet, or five miles to a fraction. The outlook seemed unbounded. I beheld as much as a sixteen-hundredth part of the whole surface of the globe. The sea appeared as unruffled as a mirror, although, by means of the telescope, I could perceive it to be in a state of violent agitation. I now began to experience, at intervals, severe pain in the head, especially about the ears, due to the rarefaction of the air. The cat seemed to suffer no inconvenience whatever.
I was rising rapidly, and by seven o’clock the barometer indicated an altitude of no less than nine miles and a half. I began to find great difficulty in drawing my breath. My head, too, was excessively painful; and, having felt for some time a moisture about my cheeks, I at length discovered it to be blood, which was oozing quite fast from the drums of my ears. These symptoms were more than I had expected and occasioned me some alarm. At this juncture, very imprudently and without consideration, I threw out from the car three five-pound pieces of ballast. The increased rate of ascent thus obtained carried me too rapidly into a highly rarefied layer of atmosphere, and the result nearly proved fatal to my expedition and myself. I was suddenly seized with a spasm, which lasted for more than five minutes, and even when this in a measure ceased, I could catch my breath only at long intervals, and in a gasping manner—bleeding all the while copiously at the nose and ears and even slightly at the eyes.
The cat mewed piteously, and, with her tongue hanging out of her mouth, staggered to and fro in the car as if under the influence of poison. I now too late discovered the great rashness of which I had been guilty in discharging my ballast, and my agitation was excessive. I expected nothing less than death, and death in a few minutes. I lay down in the bottom of the car and endeavored to collect my faculties. In this I so far succeeded as to determine upon the experiment of losing blood. Having no lancet, I was obliged to open a vein in my arm with the blade of a penknife. The blood had hardly commenced flowing when I experienced a sensible relief, and by the time I had lost about half a basin-full most of the worst symptoms were gone. The difficulty of breathing, however, was diminished in a very slight degree, and I found that it would be soon positively necessary to make use of my condenser.
By eight o’clock I had actually attained an elevation of seventeen miles above the surface of the earth. Thus it seemed to me evident that my rate of ascent was not only on the increase, but that the progress would have been apparent to a slight extent even had I not discharged the ballast which I did. The pains in my head and ears returned at intervals and with violence, and I still continued to bleed occasionally at the nose; but upon the whole I suffered much less than might have been expected. I now unpacked the condensing apparatus and got it ready for immediate use.
The view of the earth at this period of my ascension was beautiful indeed. To the westward, the northward, and the southward, as far as I could see, lay a boundless sheet of apparently unruffled ocean, which every moment gained a deeper and deeper tint of blue. At a vast distance to the eastward, although perfectly discernible, extended the islands of Great Britain, the entire Atlantic coasts of France and Spain, with a small portion of the northern part of the continent of Africa. Of individual edifices not a trace could be found, and the proudest cities of mankind had utterly faded away from the surface of the earth.
At a quarter-past eight, being able no longer to draw breath without the most intolerable pain, I proceeded forthwith to adjust around the car the apparatus belonging to the condenser. I had prepared a very strong, perfectly air-tight gum-elastic bag. In this bag, which was of sufficient size, the entire car was in a manner placed. That is to say, the bag was drawn over the whole bottom of the car, up its sides and so on, up to the upper rim where the net-work is attached. Having pulled up the bag and made a complete inclosure on all sides, I was shut in an air-tight chamber.
In the sides of this covering had been inserted three circular panes of thick but clear glass, through which I could see without difficulty around me in every horizontal direction. In that portion of the cloth forming the bottom was a fourth window corresponding with a small aperture in the floor of the car itself. This enabled me to see straight down, but I had been unable to fix a similar window above me and so I could expect to see no objects directly overhead.
The condensing apparatus was connected with the outer air by a tube to admit air at one end and by a valve at the bottom of the car to eject foul air. By the time I had completed these arrangements and filled the chamber with condensed air by means of the apparatus, it wanted only ten minutes of nine o’clock. During the whole period of my being thus employed, I endured the most terrible distress from difficulty of respiration, and bitterly did I repent the foolhardiness of which I had been guilty in putting off to the last moment a matter of so much importance. But having at length accomplished it, I soon began to reap the benefit of my invention. Once again I breathed with perfect freedom and ease—and indeed why should I not? I was also agreeably surprised to find myself, in a great measure, relieved from the violent pains which had hitherto tormented me. A slight headache, accompanied by a sensation of fulness about the wrists, the ankles, and the throat, was nearly all of which I had now to complain.
At twenty minutes before nine o’clock, the mercury attained its limit, or ran down, in the barometer. The instrument then indicated an altitude of twenty-five miles, and I consequently surveyed at that time an extent of the earth’s area amounting to no less than one three-hundred-and-twentieth part of the entire surface.
At half-past nine, I tried the experiment of throwing out a handful of feathers through the valve. They did not float as I had expected, but dropped down like a bullet and with the greatest velocity, being out of sight in a very few seconds. It occurred to me that the atmosphere was now far too rare to sustain even feathers; that they actually fell, as they appeared to do, with great speed, and that I had been surprised by the united velocities of their descent and my own rise.
At six o’clock P. M., I perceived a great portion of the earth’s visible area to the eastward involved in thick shadow, which continued to advance with great rapidity, until at five minutes before seven the whole surface in sight was enveloped in the darkness of night. It was not, however, until long after this time that the rays of the setting sun ceased to illumine the balloon, and this fact, although, of course, expected, did not fail to give me great pleasure. In the morning I should behold the rising vluminary many hours before the citizens of Rotterdam, in spite of their situation so much farther to the eastward, and thus, day after day, in proportion to the height ascended, I should enjoy the light of the sun for a longer and longer period. I now resolved to keep a journal of my passage, reckoning the days by twenty-four hours instead of by day and night.
At ten o’clock, feeling sleepy, I determined to lie down for the rest of the night; but here a difficulty presented itself, which, obvious as it may appear, had escaped my attention up to the very moment of which I am now speaking. If I went to sleep, as I proposed, how could the air in the chamber be renewed in the meanwhile? To breath it more than an hour at the farthest would be impossible; or, even if this term could be extended to an hour and a quarter, the most ruinous consequences might ensue. This dilemma gave me no little anxiety; and it will hardly be believed that, after the dangers I had undergone, I should look upon this business in so serious a light as to give up all hope of accomplishing my ultimate design, and finally make up my mind to the necessity of a descent.
But this hesitation was only momentary. I reflected that man is the slave of custom and that many things are deemed essential which are only the results of habit. It was certain that I could not do without sleep; but I might easily bring myself to feel no inconvenience from being awakened at intervals of an hour during the whole period of my repose. It would require but five minutes to renew the air, and the only difficulty was to contrive a method of arousing myself at the proper moment for so doing.
This question caused me no little trouble to solve. I at length hit upon the following plan. My supply of water had been put on board in kegs of five gallons each and ranged securely around the interior of the car. I unfastened one of these and, taking two ropes, tied them tightly across the rim of the wicker-work from one side to the other, placing them about a foot apart and parallel, so as to form a kind of shelf, upon which I placed the keg and steadied it. About eight inches below these ropes I fastened another shelf made of thin plank, on which shelf, and beneath one of the rims of the keg, a small pitcher was placed. I bored a hole in the end of the keg over the pitcher and fitted in a plug of soft wood, which I pushed in or pulled out, until, after a few experiments, it arrived at that exact degree of tightness at which the water, oozing from the hole and falling into the pitcher below, would fill the latter to the brim in the period of sixty minutes. Having arranged all this, the rest of the plan was simple. My bed was so contrived upon the floor of the car as to bring my head, in lying down, immediately below the mouth of the pitcher. It was evident that, at the expiration of an hour, the pitcher, getting full, would be forced to run over and to run over at the mouth, which was somewhat lower than the rim. It was also evident that the water, falling from a height, could not do otherwise than fall on my face and awaken me even from the soundest slumber in the world.
It was fully eleven by the time I had completed these arrangements, and I at once betook myself to bed with full confidence in my invention. Nor in this matter was I disappointed. Punctually every sixty minutes I was aroused by my trusty clock, when, having emptied the pitcher into the bung-hole of the keg and filled the chamber with condensed air, I retired again to bed. These regular interruptions to my slumber caused me less discomfort than I had anticipated; and when I finally arose for the day, it was seven o’clock and the sun was high above the horizon.
I found the balloon at an immense height indeed, and the earth’s roundness had now become strikingly manifest. Below me in the ocean lay a cluster of black specks, which undoubtedly were islands. Overhead, the sky was of a jetty black, and the stars were brilliantly visible; indeed they had been so constantly since the first day of ascent. Far away to the northward I saw a thin, white and exceedingly brilliant line, or streak, on the edge of the horizon, and I had no hesitation in supposing it to be the southern disc of the ices of the Polar sea. My curiosity was greatly excited, for I had hopes of passing on much farther to the north, and might possibly, at some period, find myself directly above the Pole itself. I now lamented that my great elevation would, in this case, prevent me from taking as accurate a survey as I could wish.
My condensing apparatus continued in good order, and the balloon still ascended without any perceptible change. The cold was intense, and obliged me to wrap up closely in an overcoat. When darkness came over the earth, I went to bed, although it was for many hours afterward broad daylight all around me. The water-clock was punctual in its duty, and I slept until next morning soundly, with the exception of the periodical interruptions.
April 4th. I arose in good health and spirits, and was astonished at the singular change which had taken place in the appearance of the sea. It had lost, in a great measure, the deep tint of blue it had hitherto worn, being now of a grayish-white and of a luster dazzling to the eye. The curve of the ocean had become so evident that the entire mass of water seemed to be tumbling headlong over the abyss of the horizon, and I found myself listening on tiptoe for the echoes of the mighty cataract. The islands were no longer visible; whether they had passed down the horizon to the southeast, or whether my increasing elevation had left them out of sight, it is impossible to say. I was inclined, however, to the latter opinion. The rim of ice to the northward was growing more and more apparent. The cold was by no means so intense.
April 5th. I beheld the singular sight of the sun rising while nearly the whole visible surface of the earth continued to be involved in darkness. In time, however, the light spread itself over all, and I again saw the line of ice to the northward. It was now very distinct and appeared of a much darker hue than the waters of the ocean. I was evidently approaching it, and with great rapidity. I fancied I could again distinguish a strip of land to the eastward, and one also to the westward, but could not be certain.
April 6th. I was surprised at finding the rim of ice at a very moderate distance, and an immense field of the same material stretching away off to the horizon in the north. It was evident that if the balloon held its present course, it would soon arrive above the Frozen Ocean, and I had now little doubt of ultimately seeing the Pole. During the whole of the day I continued to near the ice. Toward night the limits of my horizon very suddenly and materially increased, owing undoubtedly to the earth’s form, which is round but flattened near the poles. When darkness at length overtook me, I went to bed in great anxiety, fearing to pass over the object of so much curiosity when I should have no opportunity of observing it.
April 7th. I arose early, and, to my great joy, at length beheld what there could be no hesitation in supposing the northern Pole itself. It was there, beyond a doubt, and immediately beneath my feet; but alas! I had now ascended to so vast a distance that nothing could with accuracy be made out. Indeed, I estimated that at four o’clock in the morning of April the seventh the balloon had reached a height of not less than 7,254 miles above the surface of the sea. At all events I undoubtedly beheld the whole of the earth’s diameter; the entire northern hemisphere lay beneath me like a chart, and the great circle of the equator itself formed the boundary line of my horizon.
April 8th. I found a sensible diminution in the earth’s size, besides a material alteration in its general color and appearance. The whole area partook in different degrees of a tint of pale yellow, and in some portions had acquired a brilliancy even painful to the eye. My view was somewhat impeded by clouds near the earth, but nevertheless I could easily perceive that the balloon now hovered above the great lakes in North America and was holding a course due south which would soon bring me to the tropics. This circumstance did not fail to give me the most heartfelt satisfaction, and I hailed it as a happy omen of ultimate success. Indeed, the direction I had hitherto taken had filled me with uneasiness, for it was evident that had I continued it much longer, there would have been no possibility of my arriving at the moon at all, which revolves around the earth in the plane of the equator.
April 9th. To-day the earth’s diameter was greatly diminished, and the color of the surface assumed hourly a deeper tint of yellow. The balloon kept steadily on her course to the southward, and arrived at nine P. M. over the Mexican Gulf.
April 12th. A singular alteration took place in regard to the direction of the balloon, and, although fully anticipated, afforded me the very greatest delight. Having reached, in its former course, about the twentieth parallel of southern latitude, it turned off suddenly at an acute angle to the eastward, and thus proceeded throughout the day, keeping nearly, if not altogether, in the exact plane of the moon’s path around the earth.
April 13th. Great decrease in the earth’s apparent size. The moon could not be seen at all, being nearly above me. I still continued in the plane of the moon’s path, but made little progress eastward.
April 14th. Extremely rapid decrease in the size of the earth. To-day I became strongly impressed with the idea that the balloon was holding the direct course which would bring it immediately to the moon where it comes nearest the earth. The moon was directly overhead, and consequently hidden from my view. Great and long continued labor was necessary for the condensation of the atmosphere.
April 16th. To-day, looking upward as well as I could, through each of the side windows alternately, I beheld, to my great delight, a very small portion of the moon’s disk protruding, as it were, on all sides beyond the huge bulk of the balloon. My agitation was extreme, for I had now little doubt of soon reaching the end of my perilous voyage. Indeed, the labor required by the condenser had increased to such a degree that I had scarcely any respite from exertion. Sleep was a matter nearly out of question. I became quite ill, and my frame trembled with exhaustion. It was impossible that human nature could endure this state of intense suffering much longer.
April 17th. This morning proved an epoch in my voyage. It will be remembered that on the thirteenth the earth had diminished; on the fourteenth, it had still further dwindled; on the fifteenth, a still more rapid decrease was observable; and on retiring for the night of the sixteenth, the earth had shrunk to small size. What, therefore, must have been my amazement, on awakening from a brief and disturbed slumber on the morning of this day, the seventeenth, at finding the surface beneath me so suddenly and wonderfully increased in volume as to seem but a comparatively short distance beneath me! I was thunderstruck! No words can give any adequate idea of the extreme, the absolute horror and astonishment, with which I was seized, possessed and altogether overwhelmed. My knees tottered beneath me—my teeth chattered—my hair started up on end. The balloon then had actually burst! These were the first ideas which hurried through my mind. The balloon had burst! I was falling—falling with the most impetuous, the most wonderful velocity! To judge from the immense distance already so quickly passed over, it could not be more than ten minutes at the farthest before I should meet the surface of the earth and be hurled into annihilation!
But at length reflection came to my relief. I paused, I considered, and I began to doubt. The matter was impossible. I could not, in any reason, have so rapidly come down. Besides, although I was evidently approaching the surface below me, it was with a speed by no means commensurate with the velocity I had at first conceived. This consideration served to calm my mind, and I finally succeeded in looking at the matter in its proper point of view. In fact, amazement must have fairly deprived me of my senses when I could not see the vast difference in appearance between the surface below me and the surface of my mother earth. The latter was indeed over my head and completely hidden by the balloon, while the moon—the moon itself in all its glory—lay beneath me and at my feet!
I had indeed arrived at the point where the attraction of the moon had proved stronger than the attraction of the earth, and so the moon now appeared to be below me and I was descending upon it. It lay beneath me like a chart, and I studied it with the deepest attention. The entire absence of ocean or sea, and indeed of any lake or river, or body of water whatsoever, struck me at the first glance as the most extraordinary feature in its appearance.
April 18th. To-day I found an enormous increase in the moon’s apparent bulk—and the evidently increased velocity of my descent began to fill me with alarm. I had relied on finding some atmosphere at the moon and on the resistance of this atmosphere to vgravitation as affording me a chance to land in safety. Should I prove to have been mistaken about the atmosphere, I had nothing better to expect than to be dashed into atoms against the rugged surface of the earth’s vsatellite. And indeed I had now every reason to be terrified. My distance from the moon was comparatively trivial, while the labor required by the condenser was diminished not at all, and I could discover no indication whatever of a decreasing rarity of the air.
April 19th. This morning, to my great joy, about nine o’clock, the surface of the moon being frightfully near and my fears excited to the utmost, the pump of my condenser at length gave evident tokens of an alteration in the atmosphere. By ten, I had reason to believe its density considerably increased. By eleven, very little labor was necessary at the apparatus; and at twelve o’clock, with some hesitation, I ventured to open the car a little and suffered no inconvenience. I finally threw aside the gum-elastic chamber and unrigged it from around the car. As might have been expected, spasms and violent headache were the immediate consequences of an experiment so rash. But this was forgotten in consideration of other things. My approach was still rapid in the extreme; and it soon became certain that although I had probably not been deceived in the expectation of finding a fairly dense atmosphere, still I had been wrong in supposing that atmosphere dense enough to support the great weight contained in the car of the balloon. I was now close upon the planet and coming down with the most terrible rapidity. I lost not a moment, accordingly, in throwing overboard first my ballast, then my water-kegs, then my condensing apparatus and gum-elastic chamber, and finally every article within the car.
But it was all to no purpose. I still fell with horrible speed, and was now not more than half a mile from the surface. As a last resource, therefore, having got rid of my coat, hat, and boots, I cut loose from the balloon the car itself, which was of no inconsiderable weight, and thus clinging with both hands to the net-work, I had barely time to observe that the whole country, as far as the eye could reach, was thickly sown with small habitations, ere I tumbled headlong into the very heart of a fantastic city and into the middle of a vast crowd of ugly little people. I turned from them, and gazing upward at the earth so lately left, and left perhaps forever, beheld it like a huge, dull copper shield, fixed immovably in the heavens overhead and tipped on one of its edges with a crescent border of the most brilliant gold.
Edgar Allan Poe.
HELPS TO STUDY
Describe the balloon Hans constructed. How did he extricate himself from each difficulty he encountered? What characteristic did this show? Note the changes in the appearance of the earth as he made his journey. On what day did he see the North Pole? In what region was he when he saw the moon? What did he find when he reached that body?
- From the Earth to the Moon—Jules Verne.
- The War of the Worlds—H. G. Wells.
THE GREAT STONE OF SARDIS391-*
This fanciful tale is taken from Frank R. Stockton’s The Great Stone of Sardis. In this book the hero, Roland Clewe, is pictured as a scientist who had made many startling discoveries and inventions at his works in Sardis about the year 1946. One of his inventions was an automatic shell. This was an enormous projectile, the peculiarity of which was that its motive power was contained within itself, very much as a rocket contains the explosives which send it upward. The extraordinary piece of mechanism was of vcylindrical form, eighteen feet in length and fourteen feet in diameter. The forward end was vconical and not solid, being formed of a number of flat steel rings, decreasing in size as they approached the point of the cone. When not in operation these rings did not touch one another, but they could be forced together by pressure on the point of the cone. One day this shell fell from the supports on which it lay, the conical end down, and ploughed its way with terrific force into the earth—how far no one could tell. Clewe determined to descend the hole in search of the shell by means of an electric elevator. Margaret Raleigh, to whom he was engaged, had gone to the seashore, and during her absence, Clewe planned to make his daring venture.
On the day that Margaret left Sardis, Roland began his preparations for descending the shaft. He had so thoroughly considered the machinery and appliances necessary for the undertaking and had worked out all his plans in such detail, in his mind and upon paper, that he knew exactly what he wanted to do. His orders for the great length of chain needed exhausted the stock of several factories, and the engines he obtained were even more powerful than he had intended them to be; but these he could procure immediately, and for smaller ones he would have been obliged to wait.
The circular car which was intended to move up and down the shaft, and the peculiar machinery connected with it, together with the hoisting apparatus, were all made in his works. His skilled artisans labored steadily day and night.
It was ten days before he was ready to make his descent. Margaret was still at the seashore. They had written to each other frequently, but neither had made mention of the great shaft. Even when he was ready to go down, Clewe said nothing to any one of an immediate intention of descending. There was a massive door which covered the mouth of the pit; this he ordered locked and went away.
The next morning he walked into the building a little earlier than was his custom, called for the engineers, and for Bryce, who was to take charge of everything connected with the descent, and announced that he was going down that day.
Bryce and the men who were to assist him looked very serious at this. Indeed, if their employer had been any other man than Roland Clewe, it is possible they might have remonstrated with him; but they knew him, and they said and did nothing more than what was their duty.
The door of the shaft was removed, the car which had hung high above it was lowered to the mouth of the opening, and Roland stepped within it and seated himself. Above him and around him were placed vgeological tools and instruments of many kinds, a lantern, food, and drink—everything, in fact, which he could possibly be presumed to need upon this extraordinary journey. A telephone was at his side by which he could communicate at any time with the surface of the earth. There were electric bells; there was everything to make his expedition safe and profitable. Finally he gave the word to start the engines; there were no ceremonies, and nothing was said out of the common.
When the conical top of the car had descended below the surface, a steel grating, with holes for the passage of the chains, was let down over the mouth of the shaft, and the downward journey began. In the floor of the car were grated openings, through which Clewe could look downward; but, although the shaft below him was brilliantly illuminated by electric lights placed beneath the car, it failed to frighten him or make him dizzy to look down, for the vaperture did not appear to be very far below him. The upper part of the car was partially open, and bright lights shone upon the sides of the shaft.
As he slowly descended, Clewe could see the various vstrata appearing and disappearing in the order in which he knew them. Not far below the surface he passed cavities which he believed had held water; but there was no water in them now. He had expected these pockets, and had feared that upon their edges might be loosened patches of rock or soil, but everything seemed tightly packed and hard. If anything had been loosened, it had gone down already.
Down, down he went until he came to the eternal rocks, where the inside of the shaft was polished as if it had been made of glass. The air became warmer and warmer, but Clewe knew that the heat would soon decrease. The character of the rocks changed, and he studied them as he went down, continually making notes.
After a time the polished rocky sides of the shaft grew to be of a solemn sameness. Clewe ceased to take notes; he lighted a cigar and smoked. He tried to imagine what he would come to when he reached the bottom; it would be some sort of a cave, he thought, in which his shell had made an opening. He began to imagine what sort of a cave it would be, and how high the roof was from the floor. Clewe then suddenly wondered whether his gardener had remembered what he had told him about the flower-beds in front of the house; he wished certain changes made which Margaret had suggested. He tried to keep his mind on the flower-beds, but it drifted away to the cave below. He thought of the danger of coming into some underground body of water, where he would be drowned; but he knew that was a silly idea. If the shell had gone through vsubterranean reservoirs, the water of these would have run out, and before it reached the bottom of the shaft would have dissipated into mist.
Down, down he went. He looked at his watch; he had been in that car only an hour and a half. Was that possible? He had supposed he was almost at the bottom. Suddenly his mind reverted to the people above and the telephone. Why had not some of them spoken to him? It was shameful! He instantly called Bryce, and his heart leaped with joy when he heard the familiar voice in his ear. Now he talked steadily on for more than an hour. He had his gardener summoned, and told the man all that he wanted done in the flower-beds. He gave many directions in regard to the various operations at the works. There were two or three inventions in which he took particular interest, and of these he talked at great length with Bryce. Suddenly, in the midst of some talk about hollow steel rods, he told Bryce to let the engines run faster; there was no reason why the car should go so slowly.
The windlasses moved with a little more rapidity, and Clewe now turned and looked at an indicator which was placed on the side of the car, a little over his head. This instrument showed the depth to which he had descended, but he had not looked at it before, for if anything would make him nervous, it would be the continual consideration of the depth to which he had descended.
The indicator showed that he had gone down fourteen and one-eighth miles. Clewe turned and sat stiffly in his seat. He glanced down and saw beneath him only an illuminated hole, fading away at the bottom. Then he turned to speak to Bryce, but to his surprise, he could think of nothing to say. After that he lighted another cigar and sat quietly.
Some minutes passed—he did not know how many—and he looked down through the gratings in the floor of the car. The electric light streamed downward through a deep vcrevice, which did not now fade away into nothingness, but ended in something dark and glittering. Then, as he came nearer and nearer to this glittering thing, Clewe saw that it was his automatic shell, lying on its side; only a part of it was visible through the opening of the shaft which he was descending. In an instant, as it seemed to him, the car emerged from the shaft, and he seemed to be hanging in the air—at least there was nothing he could see except that great shell, lying some forty feet below him. But it was impossible that the shell should be lying on the air! He rang to stop the car.
“Anything the matter?” cried Bryce.
In a state of the highest nervous excitement, Clewe gazed about him. He was no longer in a shaft; but where was he? Look around on what side he would, he saw nothing but the light going out from his lamps, light which seemed to extend indefinitely all about him. There appeared to be no limit to his vision in any direction. Then he leaned over the side of his car and looked downward. There lay the great shell directly under him, although under it and around it, extending as far beneath it as it extended in every other direction, shone the light from his own lamp. Nevertheless, that great shell, weighing many tons, lay as if it rested upon the solid ground!
After a few moments, Clewe shut his eyes; they pained him. Something seemed to be coming into them like a fine frost in a winter wind. Then he called to Bryce to let the car descend very slowly. It went down, down, gradually approaching the great shell. When the bottom of the car was within two feet of it, Clewe rang to stop. He looked down at the complicated machine he had worked upon so long, with something like a feeling of affection. This he knew; it was his own. Gazing upon its familiar form, he felt that he had a companion in this region of unreality.
Pushing back the sliding door of the car, Clewe sat upon the bottom and cautiously put out his feet and legs, lowering them until they touched the shell. It was firm and solid. Although he knew it must be so, the immovability of the great mass of iron gave him a sudden shock of mysterious fear. How could it be immovable when there was nothing under it—when it rested on air?
But he must get out of that car, he must explore, he must find out. There certainly could be no danger so long as he clung to the shell.
He cautiously got out of the car and let himself down upon the shell. It was not a pleasant surface to stand on, being uneven, with great spiral ribs, and Clewe sat down upon it, clinging to it with his hands. Presently he leaned over to one side and looked beneath him. The shadows of that shell went down, down, down into space, until it made him sick to look at them. He drew back quickly, clutched the shell with his arms, and shut his eyes. He felt as if he were about to drop with it into a measureless depth of atmosphere.
But he soon raised himself. He had not come down there to be frightened, to let his nerves run away with him. He had come to find out things. What was it that this shell rested upon? Seizing two of the ribs with a strong clutch, he let himself hang over the sides of the shell until his feet were level with its lower side. They touched something hard. He pressed them downward; it was very hard. He raised himself and stood upon the substance which supported the shell. It was as solid as any rock. He looked down and saw
 his shadow stretching far beneath him. It seemed as if he were standing upon vpetrified air. He put out one foot and moved a little, still holding on to the shell. He walked, as if upon solid air, to the foremost end of the long vprojectile. It relieved him to turn his thoughts from what was around him to this familiar object. He found its conical end shattered.
After a little he slowly made his way back to the other end of the shell, and now his eyes became somewhat accustomed to the great radiance about him. He thought he could perceive here and there faint signs of long, nearly horizontal lines—lines of different shades of light. Above him, as if it hung in the air, was the round, dark hole through which he had descended.
He rose, took his hands from the shell, and made a few steps. He trod upon a horizontal surface, but in putting one foot forward, he felt a slight incline. It seemed to him, that he was about to slip downward! Instantly he retreated to the shell and clutched it in a sudden frenzy of fear.
Standing thus, with his eyes still wandering, he heard the bell of the telephone ring. Without hesitation he mounted the shell and got into the car. Bryce was calling him.
“Come up,” he said. “You have been down there long enough. No matter what you have found, it is time for you to come up.”
The car rose. When it reached the orifice in the top of the cave of light, Clewe heard the conical steel top grate slightly as it touched the edge, for the car was still swinging a little from the motion given to it by his entrance; but it soon hung perfectly vertical and went silently up the shaft.
Seated in the car, which was steadily ascending the great shaft, Roland Clewe took no notice of anything about him. He did not look at the brilliantly lighted interior of the shaft; he paid no attention to his instruments; he did not consult his watch, or glance at the dial which indicated the distance he had traveled. Several times the telephone bell rang, and Bryce inquired how he was getting along; but these questions he answered as briefly as possible, and sat looking down at his knees and seeing nothing.
When he was half-way up, he suddenly became conscious that he was very hungry. He hurriedly ate some sandwiches and drank some water, and again gave himself up entirely to mental labor. When, at last, the noise of machinery above him and the sound of voices aroused him from his abstraction, and the car emerged upon the surface of the earth, Clewe hastily slid back the door and stepped out. At that instant he felt himself encircled by a pair of arms. Bryce was near by, and there were other men by the engines, but the owner of those arms thought nothing of this.
“Margaret!” cried Clewe, “how came you here?”
“I have been here all the time,” she exclaimed; “or, at least, nearly all the time.” And as she spoke she drew back and looked at him, her eyes full of happy tears. “Mr. Bryce telegraphed to me the instant he knew you were going down, and I was here before you had descended half-way.”
“What!” he cried. “And all those messages came from you?”
“Nearly all,” she answered. “But tell me, Roland—tell me; have you been successful?”
Bryce came forward.
“I will speak to you all very soon,” said Clewe. “I can’t tell you anything now. Margaret, let us go. I wish to talk to you, but not until I have been to my office. I will meet you at your house in a very few minutes.” And with that he left the building and fairly ran to his office.
A quarter of an hour later Roland entered Margaret’s library, where she sat awaiting him. He carefully closed the doors and windows. They sat side by side upon the sofa.
“Now, Roland,” she said, “I cannot wait one second longer. What is it that you have discovered?”
“When I arrived at the bottom of the shaft,” he began, “I found myself in a cleft, I know not how large, made in a vast mass of transparent substance, hard as the hardest rock and as transparent as air in the light of my electric lamps. My shell rested securely upon this substance. I walked upon it. It seemed as if I could see miles below me. In my opinion, Margaret, that substance was once the head of a comet.”
“What is the substance?” she asked, hastily.
“It is a mass of solid diamond!”
Margaret screamed. She could not say one word.
“Yes,” said he, “I believe the whole central portion of the earth is one great diamond. When it was moving about in its orbit as a comet, the light of the sun streamed through this diamond and spread an enormous tail out into space; after a time this vnucleus began to burn.”
“Burn!” exclaimed Margaret.
“Yes, the diamond is almost pure vcarbon; why should it not burn? It burned and burned and burned. Ashes formed upon it and encircled it; it still burned, and when it was entirely covered with ashes it ceased to be transparent and ceased to be a comet; it became a planet, and revolved in a different orbit. It still burned within its covering of ashes, and these gradually changed to rock, to metal, to everything that forms the crust of the earth.”
She gazed upon him, entranced.
“Some parts of this great central mass of carbon burn more fiercely than other parts. Some parts do not burn at all. In volcanic regions the fires rage; where my great shell went down it no longer burns. Now you have my theory. It is crude and rough, for I have tried to give it to you in as few words as possible.”
“Oh, Roland,” she cried, “it is absurd! Diamond! Why, people will think you are crazy. You must not say such a thing as that to anybody. It is simply impossible that the greater part of this earth should be an enormous diamond.”
“Margaret,” he answered, “nothing is impossible. The central portion of this earth is composed of something; it might just as well be diamond as anything else. In fact, if you consider the matter, it is more likely to be, because diamond is a very original substance. As I have said, it is almost pure carbon. I do not intend to repeat a word of what I have told you to any one—at least until the matter has been well considered—but I am not afraid of being thought crazy. Margaret, will you look at these?”
He took from his pocket some shining substances resembling glass. Some of them were flat, some round; the largest was as big as a lemon; others were smaller fragments of various sizes.
“These are pieces of the great diamond which were broken when the shell struck the bottom of the cave in which I found it. I picked them up as I felt my way around this shell, when walking upon what seemed to me solid air. I thrust them into my pocket, and I would not come to you, Margaret, with this story, until I had visited my office to find out what these fragments are. I tested them; their substance is diamond!”
Half-dazed, she took the largest piece in her hand.
“Roland,” she whispered, “if this is really a diamond, there is nothing like it known to man!”
“Nothing, indeed,” said he.
She sat staring at the great piece of glowing mineral which lay in her hand. Its surface was irregular; it had many faces; the subdued light from the window gave it the appearance of animated water. He felt it necessary to speak.
“Even these little pieces,” he said, “are most valuable jewels.”
“Roland,” she suddenly cried, excitedly, “these are riches beyond imagination! What is common wealth to what you have discovered? Every living being on earth could—”
“Ah, Margaret,” he interrupted, “do not let your thoughts run that way. If my discovery should be put to the use of which you are thinking, it would bring poverty to the world, not wealth, and every diamond on earth would be worthless.”
She trembled. “And these—are they to be valued as common pebbles?”
“Roland,” she cried, “are you going down into that shaft for more of them?”
“Never, never, never again,” he answered. “What we have here is enough for us, and if I were offered all the good that there is in this world, which money cannot buy, I would never go down into that cleft again. There was one moment, as I stood in that cave, when an awful terror shot into my soul that I shall never be able to forget. In the light of my electric lamps, sent through a vast transparent mass, I could see nothing, but I could feel. I put out my foot, and I found it was upon a sloping surface. In another instant I might have slid—where? I cannot bear to think of it!”
Frank E. Stockton.
HELPS TO STUDY
What happened to Clewe’s automatic shell? What did he decide to do? Tell of the preparations he made for his descent. What occurred when he reached the end of the shaft? Of what was Clewe thinking so intently while making his ascent? Why did he go at once to his office? What conclusion did he reach as to the central part of the earth? What did he have to prove the correctness of his theory? Why was he unwilling ever to make the descent again? This story was written about the end of the nineteenth century: what great scientific discoveries have been made since then?
- A Journey to the Center of the Earth—Jules Verne.
- The Adventures of Captain Horn—Frank R. Stockton.
391-* Copyright by Harper & Brothers.
The author of this sketch, a young American aviator, a resident of Richmond, Virginia, was killed in battle in August, 1918.
Suzanne is a very pretty girl, I was told, but the charm of “Suzanne’s” wasn’t with her alone, for, always, one spoke of the deliciously-tasting meal, how nice the old madame is, and how fine a chap is her mari, the father of Suzanne. Then of the garden in the back—and before you had finished listening you didn’t know which was the most important thing about “Suzanne’s.” All you knew was that it was the place to go when on an aeroplane voyage.
At the pilotage office I found five others ahead of me; all of us were bound in the same direction. We were given vbarographs, altimeters and maps and full directions as to forced landings and what to do when lost. We hung around the voyage hangar until about eight in the morning, but there was a low mist and cloudy sky, so we could not start out until afternoon; and I didn’t have luncheon at “Suzanne’s.”
After noon several of the others started out, but I wanted to plan my supper stop for the second point, so I waited until about four o’clock before starting.
Almost before I knew it a village, which on the map was twelve kilometers away, was slipping by beneath me and then off to one side was a forest, green and cool-looking and very regular around the edges. Pretty soon I came to a deep blue streak bordered by trees, and was so interested in it—it wound around under a railroad track, came up and brushed by lots of back gates and, finally, fell in a wide splash of silver over a little fall by a mill—that I forgot all about flying and suddenly woke up to the fact that one wing was about as low as it could get and that the nose of the machine was doing its best to follow the wing.
Long before I came to the stopping point, I could see the little white hangar. The field is not large, but it is strange, so you come down rather anxiously, for if you can’t make that field the first time, you never will be able to fly, they tell you before leaving. I glided down easily enough, for, after all, it is just that—either you can or you can’t—and made a good-enough landing. The sergeant signed my paper, and a few minutes later away I went for “Suzanne’s.” The next stop is near a little village—Suzanne’s village—so when I came to the field and landed I was sure to be too tired to go up again immediately. Instead, off I went to town after making things right with the man in charge. That wasn’t a bit difficult, either, for all I did was to wink as hard as I could, and he understood perfectly.
I knew where “Suzanne’s” was, so I made directly for it. It was a little early, but you should never miss the vapertif. With that first, success is assured; without it, it is like getting out of bed on the wrong foot.
Up I marched to the unimposing door and walked in to the main room—a big room, with long, wooden tables and benches and a zinc bar at one end, where all kinds of bottles rested. It isn’t called “Suzanne’s,” of course; it only has that name among us.
As I closed the door behind me and looked about, a bonne was serving several men at a corner table, and behind the bar a big, red-faced, stout man was pouring stuff into bottles. He looked at me a moment and then with a tremendous “Tiens!“ he came out from behind the tables and advanced toward me.
“Oh, no,” I answered, “only from ——.”
“Tiens!“ he repeated; then, “Ah, you are from the school.” L’ecole, he called it.
From l’ecole, I admitted, and, taking me by the arm, he led me to a door at the rear. Through this he propelled me, and then in his huge voice he called “Suzanne, un vpilote!“ and I was introduced.
As he shut the door, I could just see the corner table with the three old men staring open-mouthed, the wine before them forgotten, the bread and cheese in their hands untasted; then, down the stairs came light steps and a rustle of skirts, and Suzanne was before me with smiling face and outstretched hand.
Her instant welcome, the genuine smile! Almost immediately, I understood the fame of this little station, so far from everything but the air route.
Her charm is indescribable. She is pretty, she is well dressed, but it isn’t that. It is a sincerity of manner, complete hospitality; at once you are accepted as a bosom friend of the family—that is the charm of Suzanne’s.
After a few questions as to where I came from, how long I had been there, and where I was going, Suzanne led me upstairs to be presented to v“Ma belle mere,” a white-haired old lady sitting in a big, straight-backed chair. Then, after more courtesies had been extended to me, Suzanne preceded me down to the garden and left me alone while she went in to see that the supper was exceptionally good.
A soft footstep on the gravel walk sounded behind me, and I turned to see one of the most beautiful women I ever beheld. She was tall and slender, and as she came gracefully across the lawn she swung a little work bag from one arm. All in black she was, with a lace shawl over her bare head. Like every one in that most charming and hospitable house, there was no formality or show about her. She came, smiling, and sat on the bench beside me, drawing open her work bag. I could not help noticing, particularly, her beautiful eyes, for they told the story, a story too common here, except that her eyes had changed now to an expression of resigned peace. Then she told me about Suzanne.
Long before, ages and ages ago it seemed, but really only four years, a huge, ungainly bird fell crashing to earth and from the wreck a man was taken, unconscious. He was carried to “Suzanne’s,” and she nursed him and cared for him until he was well again. “Suzanne was very happy then,” madame told me. And no wonder, for the daring aviator and Suzanne were in love. She nursed him back to health, but when he went away he left his heart forever with her.
They were engaged, and every little while he would fly over from his station to see Suzanne. Those were in the early days and aviation—well, even at that, it hasn’t changed so much.
One day a letter came for Suzanne, and with a catch at her throbbing heart she read that her fiancé had been killed. v“Mort pour la patrie,” it said, and Suzanne was never the same afterward.
For many months the poor girl grieved, but, finally, she began to realize that what had happened to her had happened to thousands of other girls, too, and, gradually, she took up the attitude that you find throughout this glorious country. Only her eyes now tell the sad story.
One evening two men walked into the café and from their talk Suzanne knew they were from l’ecole. She sat down and listened to them. They talked about the war, about aviation, about deeds of heroism, and Suzanne drank in every word, for they were talking the language of her dead lover. The two aviators stayed to dinner, but the big room was not good enough. They must come back to the family dinner—to the intimacy of the back room.
They stayed all night and left early next morning, but before they left they wrote their names in a big book. To-day, Suzanne has the book, filled full of names, many now famous, many names that are only a memory—that is how it started.
When the two pilots went back to l’ecole, they spoke in glowing terms of “Suzanne’s,” of the soft beds, of the delicious dinner, and, I think, mostly of Suzanne.
Visitors came after that to eat at “Suzanne’s,” and to see her famous book. They came regularly and, finally, “Suzanne’s” became an institution.
Always, a pilote was taken into the back room; he ate with the family, he told them all the news from l’ecole, and, in exchange, he heard stories about the early days, stories that will never be printed, but which embody examples of the heroism and intelligence that have done their part to develop aviation.
Soon, we went in to dinner, and such a dinner! Truly, nothing is too good for an aviator at “Suzanne’s,” and they give of their best to these wandering strangers. They do not ask your name, they call every one Monsieur, but before you leave you sign the book and they all crowd around to look, without saying anything. Your name means nothing yet, but a year from now, perhaps, who can tell? In the first pages are names that have been bywords for years and some that are famous the world over.
After dinner, Suzanne slipped away, presently to reappear with a special bottle and glasses. I felt sure this was part of the entertainment afforded all their winged visitors, for they went about it in a practised manner; each was familiar with his or her part, but to me it was all delightfully new.
Our glasses were filled, and Suzanne raised hers up first. Without a word, she looked around the circle. Her eyes met them all, then rested with madame. She had not said a word; it was “papa” who proposed my health, and as the bottoms went up, Suzanne and madame both had a struggle to repress a tear. They were drinking my health, but their thoughts were far away, and in my heart I was wishing that happiness might again come to them. Suzanne certainly deserves it.
When I returned to school, they asked, “Did you stop at ‘Suzanne’s’?” And now to the others, just ready to make the voyage, I always say, “Be sure to stop at ‘Suzanne’s’.”
Marmaduke, otherwise Doggie, Trevor owned a pleasant home set on fifteen acres of ground. He had an income of three thousand pounds a year. Old Peddle, the butler, and his wife, the housekeeper, saved him from domestic cares. He led a well-regulated life. His meals, his toilet, his music, his wall-papers, his drawing and embroidery, his sweet peas, his chrysanthemums, his postage stamps, and his social engagements filled the hours not claimed by slumber.
In the town of Durdlebury, Doggie Trevor began to feel appreciated. He could play the piano, the harp, the viola, the flute, and the clarionette, and sing a mild tenor. Besides music, Doggie had other accomplishments. He could choose the exact shade of silk for a drawing-room sofa cushion, and he had an excellent gift for the selection of wedding-presents. All in all, Marmaduke Trevor was a young gentleman of exquisite taste.
After breakfast on a certain July morning, Doggie, attired in a green shot-silk dressing-gown, entered his own particular room and sat down to think. In its way it was a very beautiful room—high, spacious, well-proportioned, facing southeast. The wall-paper, which Doggie had designed himself, was ivory white, with trimmings of peacock blue. vVellum-bound books filled the cases; delicate water-colors adorned the walls. On his writing-table lay an ivory set: inkstand, pen-tray, blotter, and calendar. Bits of old embroidery, harmonizing with the peacock shades, were spread here and there. A spinet inlaid with ivory formed the center for the arrangement of other musical instruments—a viol, mandolins, and flutes. One tall, closed cabinet was devoted to Doggie’s collection of wall-papers. Another held a collection of little dogs in china and porcelain—thousands of them; he got them from dealers from all over the world.
An unwonted frown creased Doggie’s brow, for several problems disturbed him. The morning sun disclosed, beyond doubt, discolorations, stains, and streaks on the wall-paper. It would have to be renewed.
Then, his thoughts ran on to his cousin, Oliver Manningtree, who had just returned from the South Sea. It was Oliver, the strong and masculine, who had given him the name of Doggie years before, to his infinite disgust. And now every one in Durdlebury seemed to have gone crazy over the fellow. Doggie’s uncle and aunt had hung on his lips while Oliver had boasted unblushingly of his adventures. Even the fair cousin Peggy, with whom Doggie was mildly in love, had listened open-eyed and open-mouthed to Oliver’s tales of shipwreck in distant seas.
“All right,” it said. “Don’t worry, Peddle. I’ll show myself in.”
The door burst open, and Oliver, pipe in mouth and hat on one side, came into the room.
“Hello, Doggie!” he cried boisterously. “Thought I’d look you up. Hope I’m not disturbing you.”
“Not at all,” said Doggie. “Do sit down.”
But Oliver walked about and looked at things.
“I like your water colors,” he said. “Did you collect them yourself!”
“I congratulate you on your taste. This is a beauty.”
The appreciation brought Doggie at once to his side. He took Oliver delightedly around the pictures, expounding their merits and their little histories. Doggie was just beginning to like the big fellow, when, stopping before the collection of china dogs, the latter spoiled everything.
“My dear Doggie,” he said, “is that your family?”
“It’s the finest collection of the kind in the world,” replied Doggie stiffly, “and is worth several thousand pounds.”
Oliver heaved himself into a chair—that was Doggie’s impression of his method of sitting down.
Doggie was hurt. “It would be useless to try to explain,” he said, with dignity. “And my name is Marmaduke.”
Oliver took off his hat and sent it skimming to the couch.
“Look here, old chap,” he said, “I seem to have put my foot in it. I didn’t mean to, really. I’ll call you Marmaduke, if you like, instead of Doggie—though it’s a beast of a name. I’m a rough sort of chap. I’ve had ten years’ pretty tough training. I’ve slept on boards; I’ve slept in the open without a cent to hire a board. I’ve gone cold and I’ve gone hungry, and men have knocked me about, and I’ve lost most of my politeness. In the wilds if a man once gets the name, say, of Duck-Eyed Joe, it sticks to him, and he accepts it, and answers to it, and signs it.”
“But I’m not in the wilds,” objected Marmaduke, “and haven’t the slightest intention of ever leading the unnatural and frightful life you describe. So what you say doesn’t apply to me.”
Oliver, laughing, clapped him on the shoulder.
“You don’t give a fellow a chance,” he said. “Look here, tell me, as man to man, what are you going to do with your life? Here you are, young, strong, educated, intelligent—”
“I’m not strong,” said Doggie.
“I don’t admit that you have any right to question me,” said Doggie.
“Peggy and I had a talk,” declared Oliver. “I said I’d take you out with me to the Islands and give you a taste for fresh air and salt water and exercise. I’ll teach you how to sail a schooner and how to go about barefoot and swab decks.”
Doggie smiled pityingly, but said politely, “Your offer is kind, Oliver, but I don’t think that sort of life would suit me.”
Being a man of intelligence, he realized that Oliver’s offer arose from a genuine desire to do him service. But if a friendly bull out of the fulness of its affection invited you to accompany it to the meadow and eat grass, what could you do but courteously decline the invitation?