Pieces in Early Youth, 1834-'42
by Walt Whitman
DEATH IN THE
THE BOY LOVER
THE CHILD AND
TALK TO AN
WOUNDED IN THE
HOUSE OF FRIENDS
— Like dough; yielding to pressure; pale. — Webster's
We are all docile dough-faces,
They knead us with the fist,
They, the dashing southern lords,
We labor as they list;
For them we speak — or hold our tongues,
For them we turn and twist.
We join them in their howl against
Free soil and "abolition,"
That firebrand — assassin knife —
Which risk our land's condition,
And leave no peace of life to any
To put down "agitation," now,
We think the most judicious;
To damn all "northern fanatics,"
Those "traitors" black and vicious;
The reg'lar party usages"
For us, and no "new issues."
Things have come to a pretty pass,
When a trifle small as this,
Moving and bartering nigger slaves,
Can open an abyss,
With jaws a-gape for "the two great parties;"
A pretty thought, I wis!
Principle — freedom! — fiddlesticks!
We know not where they're found.
Rights of the masses — progress! — bah!
Words that tickle and sound;
But claiming to rule o'er "practical men"
Is very different ground.
Beyond such we know a term
Charming to ears and eyes,
With it we'll stabng Freedom,
And do it in disguise;
Speak soft, ye wily dough-faces —
That term is "compromise."
And what if children, growing up,
In future seasons read
The thing we do? and heart and tongue
Accurse us for the deed?
The future cannot touch us;
The present gain we heed.
Then, all together, dough-faces!
Let's stop the exciting clatter,
And pacify slave-breeding wrath
By yielding all the matter;
For otherwise, as sure as guns,
The Union it will shatter.
Besides, to tell the honest truth
(For us an innovation,)
Keeping in with the slave power
Is our personal salvation;
We're very little to expect
From t' other part of the nation.
Besides it's plain at Washington
Who likeliest wins the race,
What earthly chance has "free soil"
For any good fat place?
While many a daw has feather'd his nest,
By his creamy and meek dough-face.
Take heart, then, sweet companions,
Be steady, Scripture Dick!
Webster, Cooper, Walker,
To your allegiance stick!
With Brooks, and Briggss and Phoenix,
Stand up through thin and thick!
We do not ask a bold brave front;
We never try that game;
'Twould bring the storm upon our heads,
A huge mad storm of shame;
Evade it, brothers — "compromise"
Will answer just the same.
DEATH IN THE SCHOOL-ROOM (A Fact)
Ting-a-ling-ling-ling! went the little bell on the teacher's desk
of a village-school one morning, when the studies of the earlier part
of the day were about half completed. It was well understood that this
was a command for silence and attention; and when these had been
obtain'd, the master spoke. He was a low thick-set man, and his name
"Boys," said he, "I have had a complaint enter'd, that last night
some of you were stealing fruit from Mr. Nichols's garden. I rather
think I know the thief. Tim Barker, step up here, sir."
The one to whom he spoke came forward. He was a slight,
fair-looking boy of about thirteen; and his face had a laughing,
good-humor'd expression, which even the charge now preferr'd against
him, and the stern tone and threatening look of the teacher, had not
entirely dissipated. The countenance of the boy, however, was too
unearthly fair for health; it had, notwithstanding its fleshy, cheerful
look, a singular cast as if some inward disease, and that a fearful
one, were seated within. As the stripling stood before that place of
judgment — that place so often made the scene of heartless and coarse
brutality, of timid innocence confused, helpless childhood outraged,
and gentle feelings crush'd — Lugare looked on him with a frown which
plainly told that he felt in no very pleasant mood. (Happily a
worthier and more philosophical system is proving to men that schools
can be better govern'd than by lashes and tears and sighs. We are
waxing toward that consummation when one of the old-fashion'd
school-masters, with his cowhide, his heavy birch-rod, and his many
ingenious methods of child-torture, will be gazed upon as a scorn'd
memento of an ignorant, cruel, and exploded doctrine. May propitious
gales speed that day!)
"Were you by Mr. Nichols's garden-fence last night?" said Lugare.
"Yes, sir," answer'd the boy, "I was."
"Well, sir, I'm glad to find you so ready with your confession. And
so you thought you could do a little robbing, and enjoy yourself in a
manner you ought to be ashamed to own, without being punish'd, did
"I have not been robbing," replied the boy quickly. His face was
suffused, whether with resentment or fright, it was difficult to tell.
"And I didn't do anything last night, that I am ashamed to own."
"No impudence!" exclaim'd the teacher, passionately, as he grasp'd
a long and heavy ratan: "give me none of your sharp speeches, or I'll
thrash you till you beg like a dog."
The youngster's face paled a little; his lip quiver'd, but he did
"And pray, sir," continued Lugare, as the outward signs of wrath
disappear'd from his features; "what were you about the garden for?
Perhaps you only receiv'd the plunder, and had an accomplice to do the
more dangerous part of the job?"
"I went that way because it is on my road home. I was there again
afterwards to meet an acquaintance; and — and — But I did not go into
the garden, nor take anything away from it. I would not steal, —
hardly to save myself from starving."
"You had better have stuck to that last evening. You were seen, Tim
Barker, to come from under Mr. Nichols's garden-fence, a little after
nine o'clock, with a bag full of something or other over your
shoulders. The bag had every appearance of being filled with fruit, and
this morning the melon-beds are found to have been completely clear'd.
Now, sir, what was there in that bag?" Like fire itself glow'd the
face of the detected lad. He spoke not a word. All the school had their
eyes directed at him. The perspiration ran down his white forehead like
"Speak, sir!" exclaimed Lugare, with a loud strike of his ratan on
The boy look'd as though he would faint. But the unmerciful
teacher, confident of having brought to light a criminal, and exulting
in the idea of the severe chastisement he should now be justified in
inflicting, kept working himself up to a still greater and greater
degree of passion. In the meantime, the child seem'd hardly to know
what to do with himself. His tongue cleav'd to the roof of his mouth.
Either he was very much frighten'd, or he was actually unwell.
"Speak, I say!" again thunder'd Lugare; and his hand, grasping his
ratan, tower'd above his head in a very significant manner.
"I hardly can, sir," said the poor fellow faintly. His voice was
husky and thick. "I will tell you some — some other time. Please let
me go to my seat — I a'n't well."
"Oh yes; that's very likely;" and Mr. Lugare bulged out his nose
and cheeks with contempt. "Do you think to make me believe your lies?
I've found you out, sir, plainly enough; and I am satisfied that you
are as precious a little villain as there is in the State. But I will
postpone settling with you for an hour yet. I shall then call you up
again; and if you don't tell the whole truth then, I will give you
something that'll make you remember Mr. Nichols's melons for many a
month to come: — go to your seat."
Glad enough of the ungracious permission, and answering not a
sound, the child crept tremblingly to his bench. He felt very
strangely, dizzily — more as if he was in a dream than in real life;
and laying his arms on his desk, bow'd down his face between them. The
pupils turn'd to their accustom'd studies, for during the reign of
Lugare in the village-school, they had been so used to scenes of
violence and severe chastisement, that such things made but little
interruption in the tenor of their way.
Now, while the intervening hour is passing, we will clear up the
mystery of the bag, and of young Barker being under the garden fence on
the preceding night. The boy's mother was a widow, and they both had
to live in the very narrowest limits. His father had died when he was
six years old, and little Tim was left a sickly emaciated infant whom
no one expected to live many months. To the surprise of all, however,
the poor child kept alive, and seem'd to recover his health, as he
certainly did his size and good looks. This was owing to the kind
offices of an eminent physician who had a country-seat in the
neighborhood, and who had been interested in the widow's little family.
Tim, the physician said, might possibly outgrow his disease; but
everything was uncertain. It was a mysterious and baffling malady; and
it would not be wonderful if he should in some moment of apparent
health be suddenly taken away. The poor widow was at first in a
continual state of uneasiness; but several years had now pass'd, and
none of the impending evils had fallen upon the boy's head. His mother
seem'd to feel confident that he would live, and be a help and an honor
to her old age; and the two struggled on together, mutually happy in
each other, and enduring much of poverty and discomfort without
repining, each for the other's sake.
Tim's pleasant disposition had made him many friends in the
village, and among the rest a young farmer named Jones, who, with his
elder brother, work'd a large farm in the neighborhood on shares. Jones
very frequently made Tim a present of a bag of potatoes or corn, or
some garden vegetables, which he took from his own stock; but as his
partner was a parsimonious, high-tempered man, and had often said that
Tim was an idle fellow, and ought not to be help'd because he did not
work, Jones generally made his gifts in such a manner that no one knew
anything about them, except himself and the grateful objects of his
kindness. It might be, too, that the widow was loth to have it
understood by the neighbors that she received food from anyone; for
there is often an excusable pride in people of her condition which
makes them shrink from being consider'd as objects of "charity" as they
would from the severest pains. On the night in question, Tim had been
told that Jones would send them a bag of potatoes, and the place at
which they were to be waiting for him was fixed at Mr. Nichols's
garden-fence. It was this bag that Tim had been seen staggering under,
and which caused the unlucky boy to be accused and convicted by his
teacher as a thief. That teacher was one little fitted for his
important and responsible office. Hasty to decide, and inflexibly
severe, he was the terror of the little world he ruled so despotically.
Punishment he seemed to delight in. Knowing little of those sweet
fountains which in children's breasts ever open quickly at the call of
gentleness and kind words, he was fear'd by all for his sternness, and
loved by none. I would that he were an isolated instance in his
The hour of grace had drawn to its close, and the time approach'd
at which it was usual for Lugare to give his school a joyfully-receiv'd
dismission. Now and then one of the scholars would direct a furtive
glance at Tim, sometimes in pity, sometimes in indifference or inquiry.
They knew that he would have no mercy shown him, and though most of
them loved him, whipping was too common there to exact much sympathy.
Every inquiring glance, however, remain'd unsatisfied, for at the end
of the hour, Tim remain'd with his face completely hidden, and his head
bow'd in his arms, precisely as he had lean'd himself when he first
went to his seat. Lugare look'd at the boy occasionally with a scowl
which seem'd to bode vengeance for his sullenness. At length the last
class had been heard, and the last lesson recited, and Lugare seated
himself behind his desk on the platform, with his longest and stoutest
ratan before him.
"Now, Barker," he said, "we'll settle that little business of
yours. Just step up here."
Tim did not move. The school-room was as still as the grave. Not a
sound was to be heard, except occasionally a long-drawn breath.
"Mind me, sir, or it will be the worse for you. Step up here, and
take off your jacket!"
The boy did not stir any more than if he had been of wood. Lugare
shook with passion. He sat still a minute, as if considering the best
way to wreak his vengeance. That minute, passed in death-like silence,
was a fearful one to some of the children, for their faces whiten'd
with fright. It seem'd, as it slowly dropp'd away, like the minute
which precedes the climax of an exquisitely-performed tragedy, when
some mighty master of the histrionic art is treading the stage, and you
and the multitude around you are waiting, with stretch'd nerves and
suspended breath, in expectation of the terrible catastrophe.
"Tim is asleep, sir," at length said one of the boys who sat near
Lugare, at this intelligence, allow'd his features to relax from
their expression of savage anger into a smile, but that smile look'd
more malignant if possible, than his former scowls. It might be that he
felt amused at the horror depicted on the faces of those about him; or
it might be that he was gloating in pleasure on the way in which he
intended to wake the slumberer.
"Asleep! are you, my young gentleman!" said he; "let us see if we
can't find something to tickle your eyes open. There's nothing like
making the best of a bad case, boys. Tim, here, is determin'd not to be
worried in his mind about a little flogging, for the thought of it
can't even keep the little scoundrel awake."
Lugare smiled again as he made the last observation. He grasp'd his
ratan firmly, and descended from his seat. With light and stealthy
steps he cross'd the room, and stood by the unlucky sleeper. The boy
was still as unconscious of his impending punishment as ever. He might
be dreaming some golden dream of youth and pleasure; perhaps he was far
away in the world of fancy, seeing scenes, and feeling delights, which
cold reality never can bestow. Lugare lifted his ratan high over his
head, and with the true and expert aim which he had acquired by long
practice, brought it down on Tim's back with a force and whacking sound
which seem'd sufficient to awake a freezing man in his last lethargy.
Quick and fast, blow follow'd blow. Without waiting to see the effect
of the first cut, the brutal wretch plied his instrument of torture
first on one side of the boy's back, and then on the other, and only
stopped at the end of two or three minutes from very weariness. But
still Tim show'd no signs of motion; and as Lugare, provoked at his
torpidity, jerk'd away one of the child's arms, on which he had been
leaning over the desk, his head dropp'd down on the board with a dull
sound, and his face lay turn'd up and exposed to view. When Lugare saw
it, he stood like one transfix'd by a basilisk. His countenance turn'd
to a leaden whiteness; the ratan dropp'd from his grasp; and his eyes,
stretch'd wide open, glared as at some monstrous spectacle of horror
and death. The sweat started in great globules seemingly from every
pore in his face; his skinny lips contracted, and show'd his teeth; and
when he at length stretch'd forth his arm, and with the end of one of
his fingers touch'd the child's cheek, each limb quiver'd like the
tongue of a snake; and his strength seemed as though it would
momentarily fail him. The boy was dead. He had probably been so for
some time, for his eyes were turn'd up, and his body was quite cold.
Death was in the school-room, and Lugare had been flogging a CORPSE. —
Democratic Review, August, 1841.
ONE WICKED IMPULSE!
That section of Nassau street which runs into the great mart of New
York brokers and stock-jobbers, has for a long time been much occupied
by practitioners of the law. Tolerably well-known amid this class some
years since, was Adam Covert, a middle-aged man of rather limited
means, who, to tell the truth, gained more by trickery than he did in
the legitimate and honorable exercise of his profession. He was a tall,
bilious-faced widower; the father of two children; and had lately been
seeking to better his fortunes by a rich marriage. But somehow or other
his wooing did not seem to thrive well, and, with perhaps one
exception, the lawyer's prospects in the matrimonial way were
Among the early clients of Mr. Covert had been a distant relative
named Marsh, who, dying somewhat suddenly, left his son and daughter,
and some little property, to the care of Covert, under a will drawn out
by that gentleman himself. At no time caught without his eyes open, the
cunning lawyer, aided by much sad confusion in the emergency which had
caused his services to be called for, and disguising his object under a
cloud of technicalities, inserted provisions in the will, giving
himself an almost arbitrary control over the property and over those
for whom it was designed. This control was even made to extend beyond
the time when the children would arrive at mature age. The son, Philip,
a spirited and high-temper'd fellow, had some time since pass'd that
age. Esther, the girl, a plain, and somewhat devotional young woman,
was in her nineteenth year.
Having such power over his wards, Covert did not scruple openly to
use his advantage, in pressing his claims as a suitor for Esther's
hand. Since the death of Marsh, the property he left, which had been in
real estate, and was to be divided equally between the brother and
sister, had risen to very considerable value; and Esther's share was to
a man in Covert's situation a prize very well worth seeking. All this
time, while really owning a respectable income, the young orphans often
felt the want of the smallest sum of money — and Esther, on Philip's
account, was more than once driven to various contrivances — the
pawn-shop, sales of her own little luxuries, and the like, to furnish
him with means.
Though she had frequently shown her guardian unequivocal evidence
of her aversion, Esther continued to suffer from his persecutions,
until one day he proceeded farther and was more pressing than usual.
She possess'd some of her brother's mettlesome temper, and gave him an
abrupt and most decided refusal. With dignity, she exposed the baseness
of his conduct, and forbade him ever again mentioning marriage to her.
He retorted bitterly, vaunted his hold on her and Philip, and swore an
oath that unless she became his wife, they should both thenceforward
become penniless. Losing his habitual self-control in his exasperation,
he even added insults such as woman never receives from any one
deserving the name of man, and at his own convenience left the house.
That day, Philip return'd to New York, after an absence of several
weeks on the business of a mercantile house in whose employment he had
Toward the latter part of the same afternoon, Mr. Covert was
sitting in his office, in Nassau street, busily at work, when a knock
at the door announc'd a visitor, and directly afterward young Marsh
enter'd the room. His face exhibited a peculiar pallid appearance that
did not strike Covert at all agreeably, and he call'd his clerk from an
adjoining room, and gave him something to do at a desk near by.
"I wish to see you alone, Mr. Covert, if convenient," said the
new-comer. "We can talk quite well enough where we are," answer'd the
lawyer; "indeed, I don't know that I have any leisure to talk at all,
for just now I am very much press'd with business."
"But I must speak to you," rejoined Philip sternly, "at least I
must say one thing, and that is, Mr. Covert, that you are a villain!"
"Insolent!" exclaimed the lawyer, rising behind the table, and
pointing to the door: "Do you see that, sir! Let one minute longer find
you the other side, or your feet may reach the landing by quicker
method. Begone, sir!"
Such a threat was the more harsh to Philip, for he had rather
high-strung feelings of honor. He grew almost livid with suppress'd
"I will see you again very soon," said he, in a low but distinct
manner, his lips trembling as he spoke; and left the office.
The incidents of the rest of that pleasant summer day left little
impression on the young man's mind. He roam'd to and fro without any
object or destination. Along South street and by Whitehall, he watch'd
with curious eyes the movements of the shipping, and the loading and
unloading of cargoes; and listen'd to the merry heave-yo of the sailors
and stevedores. There are some minds upon which great excitement
produces the singular effect of uniting two utterly inconsistent
faculties — a sort of cold apathy, and a sharp sensitiveness to all
that is going on at the same time. Philip's was one of this sort; he
noticed the various differences in the apparel of a gang of
wharf-laborers — turn'd over in his brain whether they receiv'd wages
enough to keep them comfortable, and their families also — and if they
had families or not, which he tried to tell by their looks. In such
petty reflections the daylight passed away. And all the while the
master wish of Philip's thoughts was a desire to see the lawyer Covert.
For what purpose he himself was by no means clear.
Nightfall came at last. Still, however, the young man did not
direct his steps homeward. He felt more calm, however, and entering an
eating house, order'd something for his supper, which, when it was
brought to him, he merely tasted, and stroll'd forth again. There was a
kind of gnawing sensation of thirst within him yet, and as he pass'd a
hotel, he bethought him that one little glass of spirits would perhaps
be just the thing. He drank, and hour after hour wore away
unconsciously; he drank not one glass, but three or four, and strong
glasses they were to him, for he was habitually abstemious.
It had been a hot day and evening, and when Philip, at an advanced
period of the night, emerged from the bar-room into the street, he
found that a thunderstorm had just commenced. He resolutely walk'd on,
however, although at every step it grew more and more blustering.
The rain now pour'd down a cataract; the shops were all shut; few
of the street lamps were lighted; and there was little except the
frequent flashes of lightning to show him his way. When about half the
length of Chatham street, which lay in the direction he had to take,
the momentary fury of the tempest forced him to turn aside into a sort
of shelter form'd by the corners of the deep entrance to a Jew
pawnbroker's shop there. He had hardly drawn himself in as closely as
possible, when the lightning reveal'd to him that the opposite corner
of the nook was tenanted also.
"A sharp rain, this," said the other occupant, who simultaneously
The voice sounded to the young man's ears a note which almost made
him sober again. It was certainly the voice of Adam Covert. He made
some commonplace reply, and waited for another flash of lightning to
show him the stranger's face. It came, and he saw that his companion
was indeed his guardian.
Philip Marsh had drank deeply — (let us plead all that may be
possible to you, stern moralist.) Upon his mind came swarming, and he
could not drive them away, thoughts of all those insults his sister had
told him of, and the bitter words Covert had spoken to her; he
reflected, too, on the injuries Esther as well as himself had receiv'd,
and were still likely to receive, at the hands of that bold, bad man;
how mean, selfish, and unprincipled was his character — what base and
cruel advantages he had taken of many poor people, entangled in his
power, and of how much wrong and suffering he had been the author, and
might be again through future years. The very turmoil of the elements,
the harsh roll of the thunder, the vindictive beating of the rain, and
the fierce glare of the wild fluid that seem'd to riot in the ferocity
of the storm around him, kindled a strange sympathetic fury in the
young man's mind. Heaven itself (so deranged were his imaginations)
appear'd to have provided a fitting scene and time for a deed of
retribution, which to his disorder'd passion half wore the semblance of
a divine justice. He remember'd not the ready solution to be found in
Covert's pressure of business, which had no doubt kept him later than
usual; but fancied some mysterious intent in the ordaining that he
should be there, and that they two should meet at that untimely hour.
All this whirl of influence came over Philip with startling quickness
at that horrid moment. He stepp'd to the side of his guardian.
"Ho!" said he, "have we met so soon, Mr. Covert? You traitor to my
dead father — robber of his children! I fear to think on what I think
The lawyer's natural effrontery did not desert him.
"Unless you'd like to spend a night in the watch-house, young
gentleman," said he, after a short pause, "move on. Your father was a
weak man, I remember; as for his son, his own wicked heart is his worst
foe. I have never done wrong to either — that I can say, and swear
"Insolent liar!" exclaimed Philip, his eye flashing out sparks of
fire in the darkness.
Covert made no reply except a cool, contemptuous laugh, which stung
the excited young man to double fury. He sprang upon the lawyer, and
clutch'd him by the neckcloth.
"Take it, then!" he cried hoarsely, for his throat was impeded by
the fiendish rage which in that black hour possess'd him. "You are not
fit to live!"
He dragg'd his guardian to the earth and fell crushingly upon him,
choking the shriek the poor victim but just began to utter. Then, with
monstrous imprecations, he twisted a tight knot around the gasping
creature's neck, drew a clasp knife from his pocket, and touching the
spring, the long sharp blade, too eager for its bloody work, flew open.
During the lull of the storm, the last strength of the prostrate
man burst forth into one short loud cry of agony. At the same instant,
the arm of the murderer thrust the blade, once, twice, thrice, deep in
his enemy's bosom! Not a minute had passed since that fatal
exasperating laugh — but the deed was done, and the instinctive
thought which came at once to the guilty one, was a thought of fear and
In the unearthly pause which follow'd, Philip's eyes gave one long
searching sweep in every direction, above and around him. Above! God of
the all-seeing eye! What, and who was that figure there?
"Forbear! In Jehovah's name forbear;" cried a shrill, but clear and
It was as if some accusing spirit had come down to bear witness
against the deed of blood. Leaning far out of an open window, appear'd
a white draperied shape, its face possess'd of a wonderful youthful
beauty. Long vivid glows of lightning gave Philip a full opportunity to
see as clearly as though the sun had been shining at noonday. One hand
of the figure was raised upward in a deprecating attitude, and his
large bright black eyes bent down upon the scene below with an
expression of horror and shrinking pain. Such heavenly looks, and the
peculiar circumstance of the time, fill'd Philip's heart with awe.
"Oh, if it is not yet too late," spoke the youth again, "spare him.
In God's voice, I command, `Thou shalt do no murder!'"
The words rang like a knell in the ear of the terror-stricken and
already remorseful Philip. Springing from the body, he gave a second
glance up and down the walk, which was totally lonesome and deserted;
then crossing into Reade street, he made his fearful way in a half
state of stupor, half-bewilderment, by the nearest avenues to his home.
When the corpse of the murder'd lawyer was found in the morning,
and the officers of justice commenced their inquiry, suspicion
immediately fell upon Philip, and he was arrested. The most rigorous
search, however, brought to light nothing at all implicating the young
man, except his visit to Covert's office the evening before, and his
angry language there. That was by no means enough to fix so heavy a
charge upon him.
The second day afterward, the whole business came before the
ordinary judicial tribunal, in order that Philip might be either
committed for the crime, or discharged. The testimony of Mr. Covert's
clerk stood alone. One of his employers, who, believing in his
innocence, had deserted him not in this crisis, had provided him with
the ablest criminal counsel in New York. The proof was declared
entirely insufficient, and Philip was discharged.
The crowded court-room made way for him as he came out; hundreds of
curious looks fixed upon his features, and many a jibe pass'd upon him.
But of all that arena of human faces, he saw only one — a sad, pale,
black-eyed one, cowering in the centre of the rest. He had seen that
face twice before — the first time as a warning spectre — the second
time in prison, immediately after his arrest — now for the last time.
This young stranger — the son of a scorn'd race — coming to the
court-room to perform an unhappy duty, with the intention of testifying
to what he had seen, melted at the sight of Philip's bloodless cheek,
and of his sister's convulsive sobs, and forbore witnessing against the
murderer. Shall we applaud or condemn him? Let every reader answer the
question for himself.
That afternoon Philip left New York. His friendly employer own'd a
small farm some miles up the Hudson, and until the excitement of the
affair was over, he advised the young man to go thither. Philip
thankfully accepted the proposal, made a few preparations, took a
hurried leave of Esther, and by nightfall was settled in his new abode.
And how, think you, rested Philip Marsh that night? Rested indeed!
O, if those who clamor so much for the halter and the scaffold to
punish crime, could have seen that sight, they might have learn'd a
lesson there! Four days had elapsed since he that lay tossing upon the
bed there had slumber'd. Not the slightest intermission had come to his
awaken'd and tensely strung sense, during those frightful days.
Disturb'd waking dreams came to him, as he thought what he might do
to gain his lost peace. Far, far away would he go! The cold roll of the
murder'd man's eye, as it turn'd up its last glance into his face —
the shrill exclamation of pain — all the unearthly vividness of the
posture, motions, and looks of the dead — the warning voice from above
— pursued him like tormenting furies, and were never absent from his
mind, asleep or awake, that long weary night. Anything, any place, to
escape such horrid companionship! He would travel inland — hire
himself to do hard drudgery upon some farm — work incessantly through
the wide summer days, and thus force nature to bestow oblivion upon his
senses, at least a little while now and then. He would fly on, on, on,
until amid different scenes and a new life, the old memories were
rubb'd entirely out. He would fight bravely in himself for peace of
mind. For peace he would labor and struggle — for peace he would pray!
At length after a feverish slumber of some thirty or forty minutes,
the unhappy youth, waking with a nervous start, rais'd himself in bed,
and saw the blessed daylight beginning to dawn. He felt the sweat
trickling down his naked breast; the sheet where he had lain was quite
wet with it. Dragging himself wearily, he open'd the window. Ah! that
good morning air — how it refresh'd him — how he lean'd out, and
drank in the fragrance of the blossoms below, and almost for the first
time in his life felt how beautifully indeed God had made the earth,
and that there was wonderful sweetness in mere existence. And amidst
the thousand mute mouths and eloquent eyes, which appear'd as it were
to look up and speak in every direction, he fancied so many invitations
to come among them. Not without effort, for he was very weak, he
dress'd himself, and issued forth into the open air.
Clouds of pale gold and transparent crimson draperied the eastern
sky, but the sun, whose face gladden'd them into all that glory, was
not yet above the horizon. It was a time and place of such rare, such
Eden-like beauty! Philip paused at the summit of an upward slope, and
gazed around him. Some few miles off he could see a gleam of the Hudson
river, and above it a spur of those rugged cliffs scatter'd along its
western shores. Nearer by were cultivated fields. The clover grew
richly there, the young grain bent to the early breeze, and the air was
filled with an intoxicating perfume. At his side was the large
well-kept garden of his host, in which were many pretty flowers, grass
plots, and a wide avenue of noble trees. As Philip gazed, the holy
calming power of Nature — the invisible spirit of so much beauty and
so much innocence, melted into his soul. The disturb'd passions and the
feverish conflict subsided. He even felt something like envied peace of
mind — a sort of joy even in the presence of all the unmarr'd
goodness. It was as fair to him, guilty though he had been, as to the
purest of the pure. No accusing frowns show'd in the face of the
flowers, or in the green shrubs, or the branches of the trees. They,
more forgiving than mankind, and distinguishing not between the
children of darkness and the children of light — they at least treated
him with gentleness. Was he, then a being so accurs'd? Involuntarily,
he bent over a branch of red roses, and took them softly between his
hands — those murderous, bloody hands! But the red roses neither
wither'd nor smell'd less fragrant. And as the young man kiss'd them,
and dropp'd a tear upon them, it seem'd to him that he had found pity
and sympathy from Heaven itself.
Though against all the rules of story-writing, we continue our
narrative of these mainly true incidents (for such they are,) no
further. Only to say that the murderer soon departed for a new field of
action — that he is still living — and that this is but one of
thousands of cases of unravel'd, unpunish'd crime — left, not to the
tribunals of man, but to a wider power and judgment.
THE LAST LOYALIST
She came to me last night, The floor gave back no tread."
The story I am going to tell is a traditional reminiscence of a
country place, in my rambles about which I have often passed the house,
now unoccupied, and mostly in ruins, that was the scene of the
transaction. I cannot, of course, convey to others that particular kind
of influence which is derived from my being so familiar with the
locality, and with the very people whose grandfathers or fathers were
contemporaries of the actors in the drama I shall transcribe. I must
hardly expect, therefore, that to those who hear it thro' the medium of
my pen, the narration will possess as life-like and interesting a
character as it does to myself.
On a large and fertile neck of land that juts out in the Sound,
stretching to the east of New York city, there stood, in the latter
part of the last century, an old-fashion'd country-residence. It had
been built by one of the first settlers of this section of the New
World; and its occupant was originally owner of the extensive tract
lying adjacent to his house, and pushing into the bosom of the salt
waters. It was during the troubled times which mark'd our American
Revolution that the incidents occurr'd which are the foundation of my
story. Some time before the commencement of the war, the owner, whom I
shall call Vanhome, was taken sick and died. For some time before his
death he had lived a widower; and his only child, a lad of ten years
old, was thus left an orphan. By his father's will this child was
placed implicitly under the guardianship of an uncle, a middle-aged
man, who had been of late a resident in the family. His care and
interest, however, were needed but a little while — not two years
elaps'd after the parents were laid away to their last repose before
another grave had to be prepared for the son — the child who had been
so haplessly deprived of their fostering care.
The period now arrived when the great national convulsion burst
forth. Sounds of strife and the clash of arms, and the angry voices of
disputants, were borne along by the air, and week after week grew to
still louder clamor. Families were divided; adherents to the crown, and
ardent upholders of the rebellion, were often found in the bosom of the
same domestic circle. Vanhome, the uncle spoken of as guardian to the
young heir, was a man who lean'd to the stern, the high-handed and the
severe. He soon became known among the most energetic of the loyalists.
So decided were his sentiments that, leaving the estate which he had
inherited from his brother and nephew, he join'd the forces of the
British king. Thenceforward, whenever his old neighbors heard of him,
it was as being engaged in the cruelest outrages, the boldest inroads,
or the most determin'd attacks upon the army of his countrymen or their
Eight years brought the rebel States and their leaders to that
glorious epoch when the last remnant of a monarch's rule was to leave
their shores — when the last waving of the royal standard was to
flutter as it should be haul'd down from the staff, and its place
fill'd by the proud testimonial of our warriors' success. Pleasantly
over the autumn fields shone the November sun, when a horseman, of
somewhat military look, plodded slowly along the road that led to the
old Vanhome farmhouse. There was nothing peculiar in his attire, unless
it might be a red scarf which he wore tied round his waist. He was a
dark-featured, sullen-eyed man; and as his glance was thrown restlessly
to the right and left, his whole manner appear'd to be that of a person
moving amid familiar and accustom'd scenes. Occasionally he stopp'd,
and looking long and steadily at some object that attracted his
attention, mutter'd to himself, like one in whose breast busy thoughts
were moving. His course was evidently to the homestead itself, at which
in due time he arrived. He dismounted, led his horse to the stables,
and then, without knocking, though there were evident signs of
occupancy around the building, the traveler made his entrance as
composedly and boldly as though he were master of the whole
Now the house being in a measure deserted for many years, and the
successful termination of the strife rendering it probable that the
Vanhome estate would be confiscated to the new government, an aged,
poverty-stricken couple had been encouraged by the neighbors to take
possession as tenants of the place. Their name was Gills; and these
people the traveler found upon his entrance were likely to be his host
and hostess. Holding their right as they did by so slight a tenure,
they ventur'd to offer no opposition when the stranger signified his
intention of passing several hours there.
The day wore on, and the sun went down in the west; still the
interloper, gloomy and taciturn, made no signs of departing. But as the
evening advanced (whether the darkness was congenial to his sombre
thoughts, or whether it merely chanced so) he seem'd to grow more
affable and communicative, and informed Gills that he should pass the
night there, tendering him at the same time ample remuneration, which
the latter accepted with many thanks.
"Tell me," said he to his aged host, when they were all sitting
around the ample hearth, at the conclusion of their evening meal, "tell
me something to while away the hours."
"Ah! sir," answered Gills, "this is no place for new or interesting
events. We live here from year to year, and at the end of one we find
ourselves at about the same place which we filled in the beginning."
"Can you relate nothing, then?" rejoin'd the guest, and a singular
smile pass'd over his features; "can you say nothing about your own
place? — this house or its former inhabitants, or former history?"
The old man glanced across to his wife, and a look expressive of
sympathetic feeling started in the face of each.
"It is an unfortunate story, sir," said Gills, "and may cast a
chill upon you, instead of the pleasant feeling which it would be best
to foster when in strange walls."
"Strange walls!" echoed he of the red scarf, and for the first time
since his arrival he half laughed, but it was not the laugh which comes
from a man's heart.
"You must know, sir," continued Gills, "I am myself a sort of
intruder here. The Vanhomes — that was the name of the former
residents and owners — I have never seen; for when I came to these
parts the last occupant had left to join the red-coat soldiery. I am
told that he is to sail with them for foreign lands, now that the war
is ended, and his property almost certain to pass into other hands."
As the old man went on, the stranger cast down his eyes, and
listen'd with an appearance of great interest, though a transient smile
or a brightening of the eye would occasionally disturb the serenity of
"The old owners of this place," continued the white-haired
narrator, "were well off in the world, and bore a good name among their
neighbors. The brother of Sergeant Vanhome, now the only one of the
name, died ten or twelve years since, leaving a son — a child so small
that the father's will made provision for his being brought up by his
uncle, whom I mention'd but now as of the British army. He was a
strange man, this uncle; disliked by all who knew him; passionate,
vindictive, and, it was said, very avaricious, even from his childhood.
"Well, not long after the death of the parents, dark stories began
to be circulated about cruelty and punishment and whippings and
starvation inflicted by the new master upon his nephew. People who had
business at the homestead would frequently, when they came away, relate
the most fearful things of its manager, and how he misused his
brother's child. It was half hinted that he strove to get the youngster
out of the way in order that the whole estate might fall into his own
hands. As I told you before, however, nobody liked the man; and perhaps
they judged him too uncharitably.
"After things had gone on in this way for some time, a countryman,
a laborer, who was hired to do farm-work upon the place, one evening
observed that the little orphan Vanhome was more faint and pale even
than usual, for he was always delicate, and that is one reason why I
think it possible that his death, of which I am now going to tell you,
was but the result of his own weak constitution, and nothing else. The
laborer slept that night at the farmhouse. Just before the time at
which they usually retired to bed, this person, feeling sleepy with his
day's toil, left the kitchen hearth and wended his way to rest. In
going to his place of repose he had to pass a chamber — the very
chamber where you, sir, are to sleep to-night — and there he heard the
voice of the orphan child uttering half-suppress'd exclamations as if
in pitiful entreaty. Upon stopping, he heard also the tones of the
elder Vanhome, but they were harsh and bitter. The sound of blows
followed. As each one fell it was accompanied by a groan or shriek, and
so they continued for some time. Shock'd and indignant, the countryman
would have burst open the door and interfered to prevent this brutal
proceeding, but he bethought him that he might get himself into
trouble, and perhaps find that he could do no good after all, and so he
passed on to his room.
"Well, sir, the following day the child did not come out among the
work-people as usual. He was taken very ill. No physician was sent for
until the next afternoon; and though one arrived in the course of the
night, it was too late — the poor boy died before morning.
"People talk'd threateningly upon the subject, but nothing could be
proved against Vanhome. At one period there were efforts made to have
the whole affair investigated. Perhaps that would have taken place, had
not every one's attention been swallow'd up by the rumors of difficulty
and war, which were then beginning to disturb the country.
"Vanhome joined the army of the king. His enemies said that he
feared to be on the side of the rebels, because if they were routed his
property would be taken from him. But events have shown that, if this
was indeed what he dreaded, it has happen'd to him from the very means
which he took to prevent it."
The old man paused. He had quite wearied himself with so long
talking. For some minutes there was unbroken silence.
Presently the stranger signified his intention of retiring for the
night. He rose, and his host took a light for the purpose of ushering
him to his apartment.
When Gills return'd to his accustom'd situation in the large
arm-chair by the chimney hearth, his ancient helpmate had retired to
rest. With the simplicity of their times, the bed stood in the same
room where the three had been seated during the last few hours; and now
the remaining two talk'd together about the singular events of the
evening. As the time wore on, Gills show'd no disposition to leave his
cosy chair; but sat toasting his feet, and bending over the coals.
Gradually the insidious heat and the lateness of the hour began to
exercise their influence over the old man. The drowsy indolent feeling
which every one has experienced in getting thoroughly heated through by
close contact with a glowing fire, spread in each vein and sinew, and
relax'd its tone. He lean'd back in his chair and slept.
For a long time his repose went on quietly and soundly. He could
not tell how many hours elapsed; but, a while after midnight, the
torpid senses of the slumberer were awaken'd by a startling shock. It
was a cry as of a strong man in his agony — a shrill, not very loud
cry, but fearful, and creeping into the blood like cold, polish'd
steel. The old man raised himself in his seat and listen'd, at once
fully awake. For a minute, all was the solemn stillness of midnight.
Then rose that horrid tone again, wailing and wild, and making the
hearer's hair to stand on end. One moment more, and the trampling of
hasty feet sounded in the passage outside. The door was thrown open,
and the form of the stranger, more like a corpse than living man,
rushed into the room.
"All white!" yell'd the conscience-stricken creature — "all white,
and with the grave-clothes around him. One shoulder was bare, and I
saw," he whisper'd, "I saw blue streaks upon it. It was horrible, and
I cried aloud. He stepp'd toward me! He came to my very bedside; his
small hand almost touch'd my face. I could not bear it, and fled."
The miserable man bent his head down upon his bosom; convulsive
rattlings shook his throat; and his whole frame waver'd to and fro like
a tree in a storm. Bewilder'd and shock'd, Gills look'd at his
apparently deranged guest, and knew not what answer to make, or what
course of conduct to pursue.
Thrusting out his arms and his extended fingers, and bending down
his eyes, as men do when shading them from a glare of lightning, the
stranger stagger'd from the door, and, in a moment further, dash'd
madly through the passage which led through the kitchen into the outer
road. The old man heard the noise of his falling footsteps, sounding
fainter and fainter in the distance, and then, retreating, dropp'd his
own exhausted limbs into the chair from which he had been arous'd so
terribly. It was many minutes before his energies recover'd their
accustomed tone again. Strangely enough, his wife, unawaken'd by the
stranger's ravings, still slumber'd on as profoundly as ever.
Pass we on to a far different scene — the embarkation of the
British troops for the distant land whose monarch was never more to
wield the sceptre over a kingdom lost by his imprudence and tyranny.
With frowning brow and sullen pace the martial ranks moved on. Boat
after boat was filled, and, as each discharged its complement in the
ships that lay heaving their anchors in the stream, it return'd, and
was soon filled with another load. And at length it became time for the
last soldier to lift his eye and take a last glance at the broad banner
of England's pride, which flapp'd its folds from the top of the highest
staff on the Battery.
As the warning sound of a trumpet called together all who were
laggards — those taking leave of friends, and those who were arranging
their own private affairs, left until the last moment — a single
horseman was seen furiously dashing down the street. A red scarf
tightly encircled his waist. He made directly for the shore, and the
crowd there gather'd started back in wonderment as they beheld his
dishevel'd appearance and ghastly face. Throwing himself violently from
his saddle, he flung the bridle over the animal's neck, and gave him a
sharp cut with a small riding whip. He made for the boat; one minute
later, and he had been left. They were pushing the keel from the
landing — the stranger sprang — a space of two or three feet already
intervened — he struck on the gunwale — and the Last Soldier of King
George had left the American shores.
WILD FRANK'S RETURN
As the sun, one August day some fifty years ago, had just pass'd
the meridian of a country town in the eastern section of Long Island, a
single traveler came up to the quaint low-roof'd village tavern, open'd
its half-door, and enter'd the common room. Dust cover'd the clothes of
the wayfarer, and his brow was moist with sweat. He trod in a lagging,
weary way; though his form and features told of an age not more than
nineteen or twenty years. Over one shoulder was slung a sailor's
jacket, and in his hand he carried a little bundle. Sitting down on a
rude bench, he told a female who made her appearance behind the bar,
that he would have a glass of brandy and sugar. He took off the liquor
at a draught: after which he lit and began to smoke a cigar, with which
he supplied himself from his pocket — stretching out one leg, and
leaning his elbow down on the bench, in the attitude of a man who takes
an indolent lounge.
"Do you know one Richard Hall that lives somewhere here among you?"
"Mr. Hall's is down the lane that turns off by that big locust
tree," answer'd the woman, pointing to the direction through the open
door; "it's about half a mile from here to his house."
The youth, for a minute or two, puff'd the smoke from his mouth
very leisurely in silence. His manner had an air of vacant
self-sufficiency, rather strange in one of so few years.
"I wish to see Mr. Hall," he said at length — "Here's a silver
sixpence, for any one who will carry a message to him."
"The folks are all away. It's but a short walk, and your limbs are
young," replied the female, who was not altogether pleased with the
easy way of making himself at home, which mark'd her shabby-looking
customer. That individual, however, seem'd to give small attention to
the hint, but lean'd and puff'd his cigar-smoke as leisurely as before.
"Unless," continued the woman, catching a second glance at the
sixpence; "unless old Joe is at the stable, as he's very likely to be.
I'll go and find out for you." And she push'd open a door at her back,
stepp'd through an adjoining room into a yard, whence her voice was the
next moment heard calling the person she had mention'd, in accents by
no means remarkable for their melody or softness.
Her search was successful. She soon return'd with him who was to
act as messenger — a little, wither'd, ragged old man — a hanger-on
there, whose unshaven face told plainly enough the story of his
intemperate habits — those deeply seated habits, now too late to be
uprooted, that would ere long lay him in a drunkard's grave. The youth
inform'd him what the required service was, and promised him the reward
as soon as he should return.
"Tell Richard Hall that I am going to his father's house this
afternoon. If he asks who it is that wishes him here, say the person
sent no name," continued the stranger, sitting up from his indolent
posture, as the feet of old Joe were about leaving the door-stone, and
his blear'd eyes turned to catch the last sentence of the mandate.
"And yet, perhaps you may as well," added he, communing a moment
with himself: "you may tell him his brother Frank, Wild Frank, it is,
who wishes him to come."
The old man departed on his errand, and he who call'd himself Wild
Frank, toss'd his nearly smoked cigar out of the window, and folded his
arms in thought.
No better place than this, probably, will occur to give a brief
account of some former events in the life of the young stranger,
resting and waiting at the village inn. Fifteen miles east of that inn
lived a farmer named Hall, a man of good repute, well-off in the world,
and head of a large family. He was fond of gain — required all his
boys to labor in proportion to their age; and his right hand man, if he
might not be called favorite, was his eldest son Richard. This eldest
son, an industrious, sober-faced young fellow, was invested by his
father with the powers of second in command; and as strict and swift
obedience was a prime tenet in the farmer's domestic government, the
children all tacitly submitted to their brother's sway — all but one,
and that was Frank. The farmer's wife was a quiet woman, in rather
tender health; and though for all her offspring she had a mother's
love, Frank's kiss ever seem'd sweetest to her lips. She favor'd him
more than the rest — perhaps, as in a hundred similar instances, for
his being so often at fault, and so often blamed. In truth, however, he
seldom receiv'd more blame than he deserv'd, for he was a capricious,
high-temper'd lad, and up to all kinds of mischief. From these traits
he was known in the neighborhood by the name of Wild Frank.
Among the farmer's stock there was a fine young blood mare — a
beautiful creature, large and graceful, with eyes like dark-hued
jewels, and her color that of the deep night. It being the custom of
the farmer to let his boys have something about the farm that they
could call their own, and take care of as such, Black Nell, as the mare
was called, had somehow or other fallen to Frank's share. He was very
proud of her, and thought as much of her comfort as his own. The elder
brother, however, saw fit to claim for himself, and several times to
exercise, a privilege of managing and using Black Nell, notwithstanding
what Frank consider'd his prerogative. On one of these occasions a hot
dispute arose, and after much angry blood, it was referr'd to the
farmer for settlement. He decided in favor of Richard, and added a
harsh lecture to his other son. The farmer was really unjust; and Wild
Frank's face paled with rage and mortification. That furious temper
which he had never been taught to curb, now swell'd like an overflowing
torrent. With difficulty restraining the exhibition of his passions, as
soon as he got by himself he swore that not another sun should roll by
and find him under that roof. Late at night he silently arose, and
turning his back on what he thought an inhospitable home, in mood in
which the child should never leave the parental roof, bent his steps
toward the city.
It may well be imagined that alarm and grief pervaded the whole of
the family, on discovering Frank's departure. And as week after week
melted away and brought no tidings of him, his poor mother's heart grew
wearier and wearier. She spoke not much, but was evidently sick in
spirit. Nearly two years had elaps'd when about a week before the
incidents at the commencement of this story, the farmer's family were
joyfully surprised by receiving a letter from the long absent son. He
had been to sea, and was then in New York, at which port his vessel had
just arrived. He wrote in a gay strain; appear'd to have lost the angry
feeling which had caused his flight from home; and said he heard in the
city that Richard had married, and settled several miles distant, where
he wished him all good luck and happiness. Wild Frank wound up his
letter by promising, as soon as he could get through the imperative
business of his ship, to pay a visit to his parents and native place.
On Tuesday of the succeeding week, he said he would be with them.
Within half an hour after the departure of old Joe, the form of
that ancient personage was seen slowly wheeling round the locust-tree
at the end of the lane, accompanied by a stout young man in primitive
homespun apparel. The meeting between Wild Frank and his brother
Richard, though hardly of that kind which generally takes place between
persons so closely related, could not exactly be call'd distant or cool
either. Richard press'd his brother to go with him to the farm house,
and refresh and repose himself for some hours at least, but Frank
"They will all expect me home this afternoon," he said, "I wrote to
them I would be there to-day."
"But you must be very tired, Frank," rejoin'd the other; "won't you
let some of us harness up and carry you? Or if you like — " he stopp'd
a moment, and a trifling suffusion spread over his face; "if you like,
I'll put the saddle on Black Nell — she's here at my place now, and
you can ride home like a lord."
Frank's face color'd a little, too. He paused for a moment in
thought — he was really foot-sore, and exhausted with his journey that
hot day — so he accepted his brother's offer.
"You know the speed of Nell, as well as I," said Richard; "I'll
warrant when I bring her here you'll say she's in good order as ever."
So telling him to amuse himself for a few minutes as well as he could,
Richard left the tavern.
Could it be that Black Nell knew her early master? She neigh'd and
rubb'd her nose on his shoulder; and as he put his foot in the stirrup
and rose on her back, it was evident that they were both highly pleased
with their meeting. Bidding his brother farewell, and not forgetting
old Joe, the young man set forth on his journey to his father's house.
As he left the village behind, and came upon the long monotonous road
before him, he thought on the circumstances of his leaving home — and
he thought, too, on his course of life, how it was being frittered away
and lost. Very gentle influences, doubtless, came over Wild Frank's
mind then, and he yearn'd to show his parents that he was sorry for the
trouble he had cost them. He blamed himself for his former follies, and
even felt remorse that he had not acted more kindly to Richard, and
gone to his house. Oh, it had been a sad mistake of the farmer that he
did not teach his children to love one another. It was a foolish thing
that he prided himself on governing his little flock well, when sweet
affection, gentle forbearance, and brotherly faith, were almost unknown
The day was now advanced, though the heat pour'd down with a
strength little less oppressive than at noon. Frank had accomplish'd
the greater part of his journey; he was within two miles of his home.
The road here led over a high, tiresome hill, and he determined to stop
on the top of it and rest himself, as well as give the animal he rode a
few minutes' breath. How well he knew the place! And that mighty oak,
standing just outside the fence on the very summit of the hill, often
had he reposed under its shade. It would be pleasant for a few minutes
to stretch his limbs there again as of old, he thought to himself; and
he dismounted from the saddle and led Black Nell under the tree.
Mindful of the comfort of his favorite, he took from his little bundle,
which he had strapped behind him on the mare's back, a piece of strong
cord, four or five yards in length, which he tied to the bridle, and
wound and tied the other end, for security, over his own wrist; then
throwing himself at full length upon the ground, Black Nell was at
liberty to graze around him, without danger of straying away.
It was a calm scene, and a pleasant. There was no rude sound —
hardly even a chirping insect — to break the sleepy silence of the
place. The atmosphere had a dim, hazy cast, and was impregnated with
overpowering heat. The young man lay there minute after minute, as time
glided away unnoticed; for he was very tired, and his repose was sweet
to him. Occasionally he raised himself and cast a listless look at the
distant landscape, veil'd as it was by the slight mist. At length his
repose was without such interruptions. His eyes closed, and though at
first they open'd languidly again at intervals, after a while they shut
altogether. Could it be that he slept? It was so indeed. Yielding to
the drowsy influences about him, and to his prolong'd weariness of
travel, he had fallen into a deep, sound slumber. Thus he lay; and
Black Nell, the original cause of his departure from his home — by a
singular chance, the companion of his return — quietly cropp'd the
grass at his side.
An hour nearly pass'd away, and yet the young man slept on. The
light and heat were not glaring now; a change had come over earth and
heaven. There were signs of one of those thunderstorms that in our
climate spring up and pass over so quickly and so terribly. Masses of
vapor loom'd up in the horizon, and a dark shadow settled on the woods
and fields. The leaves of the great oak rustled together over the
youth's head. Clouds flitted swiftly in the sky, like bodies of armed
men coming up to battle at the call of their leader's trumpet. A thick
rain-drop fell now and then, while occasionally hoarse mutterings of
thunder sounded in the distance; yet the slumberer was not arous'd. It
was strange that Wild Frank did not awake. Perhaps his ocean life had
taught him to rest undisturbed amid the jarring of elements. Though the
storm was now coming on its fury, he slept like a babe in its cradle.
Black Nell had ceased grazing, and stood by her sleeping master
with ears erect, and her long mane and tail waving in the wind. It
seem'd quite dark, so heavy were the clouds. The blast blew sweepingly,
the lightning flash'd, and the rain fell in torrents. Crash after crash
of thunder seem'd to shake the solid earth. And Black Nell, she stood
now, an image of beautiful terror, with her fore feet thrust out, her
neck arch'd, and her eyes glaring balls of fear. At length, after a
dazzling and lurid glare, there came a peal — a deafening crash — as
if the great axle was rent. God of Spirits! the startled mare sprang
off like a ship in an ocean-storm! Her eyes were blinded with light;
she dashed madly down the hill, and plunge after plunge — far, far
away — swift as an arrow — dragging the hapless body of the youth
In the low, old-fashion'd dwelling of the farmer there was a large
family group. The men and boys had gather'd under shelter at the
approach of the storm; and the subject of their talk was the return of
the long absent son. The mother spoke of him, too, and her eyes
brighten'd with pleasure as she spoke. She made all the little domestic
preparations — cook'd his favorite dishes — and arranged for him his
own bed, in its own old place. As the tempest mounted to its fury they
discuss'd the probability of his getting soak'd by it; and the
provident dame had already selected some dry garments for a change. But
the rain was soon over, and nature smiled again in her invigorated
beauty. The sun shone out as it was dipping in the west. Drops sparkled
on the leaf-tips — coolness and clearness were in the air.
The clattering of a horse's hoofs came to the ears of those who
were gather'd there. It was on the other side of the house that the
wagon road led; and they open'd the door and rush'd in a tumult of glad
anticipations, through the adjoining room to the porch. What a sight it
was that met them there! Black Nell stood a few feet from the door,
with her neck crouch'd down; she drew her breath long and deep, and
vapor rose from every part of her reeking body. And with eyes starting
from their sockets, and mouths agape with stupefying terror, they
beheld on the ground near her a mangled, hideous mass — the rough
semblance of a human form — all batter'd and cut, and bloody. Attach'd
to it was the fatal cord, dabbled over with gore. And as the mother
gazed — for she could not withdraw her eyes — and the appalling truth
came upon her mind, she sank down without shriek or utterance, into a
deep, deathly swoon.
THE BOY LOVER
Listen, and the old will speak a chronicle for the young. Ah,
youth! thou art one day coming to be old, too. And let me tell thee
how thou mayest get a useful lesson. For an hour, dream thyself old.
Realize, in thy thoughts and consciousness, that vigor and strength are
subdued in thy sinews — that the color of the shroud is liken'd in thy
very hairs — that all those leaping desires, luxurious hopes,
beautiful aspirations, and proud confidences, of thy younger life, have
long been buried (a funeral for the better part of thee) in that grave
which must soon close over thy tottering limbs. Look back, then,
through the long track of the past years. How has it been with thee?
Are there bright beacons of happiness enjoy'd, and of good done by the
way? Glimmer gentle rays of what was scatter'd from a holy heart? Have
benevolence, and love, and undeviating honesty left tokens on which thy
eyes can rest sweetly? Is it well with thee, thus? Answerest thou, it
is? Or answerest thou, I see nothing but gloom and shatter'd hours, and
the wreck of good resolves, and a broken heart, filled with sickness,
and troubled among its ruined chambers with the phantoms of many
O, youth! youth! this dream will one day be a reality — a reality,
either of heavenly peace or agonizing sorrow.
And yet not for all is it decreed to attain the neighborhood of the
three-score and ten years — the span of life. I am to speak of one who
died young. Very awkward was his childhood — but most fragile and
sensitive! So delicate a nature may exist in a rough, unnoticed plant!
Let the boy rest; — he was not beautiful, and dropp'd away betimes.
But for the cause — it is a singular story, to which let crusted
worldings pay the tribute of a light laugh — light and empty as their
own hollow hearts.
Love! which with its cankerseed of decay within, has sent young men
and maidens to a long'd-for, but too premature burial. Love! the
child-monarch that Death itself cannot conquer; that has its tokens on
slabs at the head of grass-cover'd tombs — tokens more visible to the
eye of the stranger, yet not so deeply graven as the face and the
remembrances cut upon the heart of the living. Love! the sweet, the
pure, the innocent; yet the causer of fierce hate, of wishes for deadly
revenge, of bloody deeds, and madness, and the horrors of hell. Love!
that wanders over battlefields, turning up mangled human trunks, and
parting back the hair from gory faces, and daring the points of swords
and the thunder of artillery, without a fear or a thought of danger.
Words! words! I begin to see I am, indeed, an old man, and
garrulous! Let me go back — yes, I see it must be many years!
It was at the close of the last century. I was at that time
studying law, the profession my father follow'd. One of his clients was
an elderly widow, a foreigner, who kept a little ale-house, on the
banks of the North River, at about two miles from what is now the
centre of the city. Then the spot was quite out of town and surrounded
by fields and green trees. The widow often invited me to come and pay
her a visit, when I had a leisure afternoon — including also in the
invitation my brother and two other students who were in my father's
office. Matthew, the brother I mention, was a boy of sixteen; he was
troubled with an inward illness — though it had no power over his
temper, which ever retain'd the most admirable placidity and
gentleness. He was cheerful, but never boisterous, and everybody loved
him; his mind seem'd more develop'd than is usual for his age, though
his personal appearance was exceedingly plain. Wheaton and Brown, the
names of the other students, were spirited, clever young fellows, with
most of the traits that those in their position of life generally
possess. The first was as generous and brave as any man I ever knew. He
was very passionate, too, but the whirlwind soon blew over, and left
everything quiet again. Frank Brown was slim, graceful, and handsome.
He profess'd to be fond of sentiment, and used to fall regularly in
love once a month.
The half of every Wednesday we four youths had to ourselves, and
were in the habit of taking a sail, a ride, or a walk together. One of
these afternoons, of a pleasant day in April, the sun shining, and the
air clear, I bethought myself of the widow and her beer — about which
latter article I had made inquiries, and heard it spoken of in terms of
high commendation. I mention'd the matter to Matthew and to my
fellow-students, and we agreed to fill up our holiday by a jaunt to the
ale-house. Accordingly, we set forth, and, after a fine walk, arrived
in glorious spirits at our destination. Ah! how shall I describe the
quiet beauties of the spot, with its long, low piazza looking out upon
the river, and its clean homely tables, and the tankards of real silver
in which the ale was given us, and the flavor of that excellent liquor
itself. There was the widow; and there was a sober, stately old woman,
half companion, half servant, Margery by name; and there was (good God!
my fingers quiver yet as I write the word!) young Ninon, the daughter
of the widow.
O, through the years that live no more, my memory strays back, and
that whole scene comes up before me once again — and the brightest
part of the picture is the strange ethereal beauty of that young girl!
She was apparently about the age of my brother Matthew, and the most
fascinating, artless creature I had ever beheld. She had blue eyes and
light hair, and an expression of childish simplicity which was charming
indeed. I have no doubt that ere half an hour had elapsed from the time
we enter'd the tavern and saw Ninon, every one of the four of us loved
the girl to the very depth of passion.
We neither spent so much money, nor drank as much beer, as we had
intended before starting from home. The widow was very civil, being
pleased to see us, and Margery served our wants with a deal of
politeness — but it was to Ninon that the afternoon's pleasure was
attributable; for though we were strangers, we became acquainted at
once — the manners of the girl, merry as she was, putting entirely out
of view the most distant imputation of indecorum — and the presence of
the widow and Margery, (for we were all in the common room together,
there being no other company,) serving to make us all disembarass'd and
It was not until quite a while after sunset that we started on our
return to the city. We made several attempts to revive the mirth and
lively talk that usually signalized our rambles, but they seem'd forced
and discordant, like laughter in a sick-room. My brother was the only
one who preserved his usual tenor of temper and conduct.
I need hardly say that thenceforward every Wednesday afternoon was
spent at the widow's tavern. Strangely, neither Matthew or my two
friends, or myself, spoke to each other of the sentiment that filled us
in reference to Ninon. Yet we all knew the thoughts and feelings of the
others; and each, perhaps, felt confident that his love alone was
unsuspected by his companions.
The story of the widow was a touching yet simple one. She was by
birth a Swiss. In one of the cantons of her native land, she had grown
up, and married, and lived for a time in happy comfort. A son was born
to her, and a daughter, the beautiful Ninon. By some reverse of
fortune, the father and head of the family had the greater portion of
his possessions swept from him. He struggled for a time against the
evil influence, but it press'd upon him harder and harder. He had heard
of a people in the western world — a new and swarming land — where
the stranger was welcom'd, and peace and the protection of the strong
arm thrown around him. He had not heart to stay and struggle amid the
scenes of his former prosperity, and he determin'd to go and make his
home in that distant republic of the west. So with his wife and
children, and the proceeds of what little property was left, he took
passage for New York. He was never to reach his journey's end. Either
the cares that weigh'd upon his mind, or some other cause, consign'd
him to a sick hammock, from which he only found relief through the
Great Dismisser. He was buried in the sea, and in due time his family
arrived at the American emporium. But there, the son too sicken'd —
died, ere long, and was buried likewise. They would not bury him in the
city, but away — by the solitary banks of the Hudson; on which the
widow soon afterwards took up her abode.
Ninon was too young to feel much grief at these sad occurrences;
and the mother, whatever she might have suffer'd inwardly, had a good
deal of phlegm and patience, and set about making herself and her
remaining child as comfortable as might be. They had still a
respectable sum in cash, and after due deliberation, the widow
purchas'd the little quiet tavern, not far from the grave of her boy;
and of Sundays and holidays she took in considerable money — enough to
make a decent support for them in their humble way of living. French
and Germans visited the house frequently, and quite a number of young
Americans too. Probably the greatest attraction to the latter was the
sweet face of Ninon.
Spring passed, and summer crept in and wasted away, and autumn had
arrived. Every New Yorker knows what delicious weather we have, in
these regions, of the early October days; how calm, clear, and divested
of sultriness, is the air, and how decently nature seems preparing for
her winter sleep.
Thus it was the last Wednesday we started on our accustomed
excursion. Six months had elapsed since our first visit, and, as then,
we were full of the exuberance of young and joyful hearts. Frequent and
hearty were our jokes, by no means particular about the theme or the
method, and long and loud the peals of laughter that rang over the
fields or along the shore.
We took our seats round the same clean, white table, and received
our favorite beverage in the same bright tankards. They were set before
us by the sober Margery, no one else being visible. As frequently
happen'd, we were the only company. Walking and breathing the keen,
fine air had made us dry, and we soon drain'd the foaming vessels, and
call'd for more. I remember well an animated chat we had about some
poems that had just made their appearance from a great British author,
and were creating quite a public stir. There was one, a tale of passion
and despair, which Wheaton had read, and of which he gave us a
transcript. Wild, startling, and dreamy, perhaps it threw over our
minds its peculiar cast.
An hour moved off, and we began to think it strange that neither
Ninon or the widow came into the room. One of us gave a hint to that
effect to Margery; but she made no answer, and went on in her usual way
"The grim old thing," said Wheaton, "if she were in Spain, they'd
make her a premier duenna!"
I ask'd the woman about Ninon and the widow. She seemed disturb'd,
I thought; but, making no reply to the first part of my question, said
that her mistress was in another part of the house, and did not wish to
be with company.
"Then be kind enough, Mrs. Vinegar," resumed Wheaton,
good-naturedly, "be kind enough to go and ask the widow if we can see
Our attendant's face turn'd as pale as ashes, and she precipitately
left the apartment. We laugh'd at her agitation, which Frank Brown
assigned to our merry ridicule.
Quite a quarter of an hour elaps'd before Margery's return. When
she appear'd she told us briefly that the widow had bidden her obey
our behest, and now, if we desired, she would conduct us to the
daughter's presence. There was a singular expression in the woman's
eyes, and the whole affair began to strike us as somewhat odd; but we
arose, and taking our caps, follow'd her as she stepp'd through the
door. Back of the house were some fields, and a path leading into
clumps of trees. At some thirty rods distant from the tavern, nigh one
of those clumps, the larger tree whereof was a willow, Margery stopp'd,
and pausing a minute, while we came up, spoke in tones calm and low:
"Ninon is there!"
She pointed downward with her finger. Great God! There was a grave,
new made, and with the sods loosely join'd, and a rough brown stone at
each extremity! Some earth yet lay upon the grass near by. If we had
look'd, we might have seen the resting-place of the widow's son,
Ninon's brother — for it was close at hand. But amid the whole scene
our eyes took in nothing except that horrible covering of death — the
oven-shaped mound. My sight seemed to waver, my head felt dizzy, and a
feeling of deadly sickness came over me. I heard a stifled exclamation,
and looking round, saw Frank Brown leaning against the nearest tree,
great sweat upon his forehead, and his cheeks bloodless as chalk.
Wheaton gave way to his agony more fully than ever I had known a man
before; he had fallen — sobbing like a child, and wringing his hands.
It is impossible to describe the suddenness and fearfulness of the
sickening truth that came upon us like a stroke of thunder.
Of all of us, my brother Matthew neither shed tears, or turned
pale, or fainted, or exposed any other evidence of inward depth of
pain. His quiet, pleasant voice was indeed a tone lower, but it was
that which recall'd us, after the lapse of many long minutes, to
So the girl had died and been buried. We were told of an illness
that had seized her the very day after our last preceding visit; but we
inquired not into the particulars.
And now come I to the conclusion of my story, and to the most
singular part of it. The evening of the third day afterward, Wheaton,
who had wept scalding tears, and Brown, whose cheeks had recover'd
their color, and myself, that for an hour thought my heart would never
rebound again from the fearful shock — that evening, I say, we three
were seated around a table in another tavern, drinking other beer, and
laughing but a little less cheerfully, and as though we had never known
the widow or her daughter — neither of whom, I venture to affirm, came
into our minds once the whole night, or but to be dismiss'd again,
carelessly, like the remembrance of faces seen in a crowd.
Strange are the contradictions of the things of life! The seventh
day after that dreadful visit saw my brother Matthew — the delicate
one, who, while bold men writhed in torture, had kept the same placid
face, and the same untrembling fingers — him that seventh day saw a
clay-cold corpse, carried to the repose of the churchyard. The shaft,
rankling far down and within, wrought a poison too great for show, and
the youth died.
THE CHILD AND THE PROFLIGATE
Just after sunset, one evening in summer — that pleasant hour when
the air is balmy, the light loses its glare, and all around is imbued
with soothing quiet — on the door-step of a house there sat an elderly
woman waiting the arrival of her son. The house was in a straggling
village some fifty miles from New York city. She who sat on the door
step was a widow; her white cap cover'd locks of gray, and her dress,
though clean, was exceedingly homely. Her house — for the tenement she
occupied was her own — was very little and very old. Trees cluster'd
around it so thickly as almost to hide its color — that blackish gray
color which belongs to old wooden houses that have never been painted;
and to get in it you had to enter a little rickety gate and walk
through a short path, border'd by carrot beds and beets and other
vegetables. The son whom she was expecting was her only child. About a
year before he had been bound apprentice to a rich farmer in the place,
and after finishing his daily task he was in the habit of spending half
an hour at his mother's. On the present occasion the shadows of night
had settled heavily before the youth made his appearance. When he did,
his walk was slow and dragging, and all his motions were languid, as if
from great weariness. He open'd the gate, came through the path, and
sat down by his mother in silence. "You are sullen to-night, Charley,"
said the widow, after a moment's pause, when she found that he return'd
no answer to her greeting.
As she spoke she put her hand fondly on his head; it seem'd moist
as if it had been dipp'd in the water. His shirt, too, was soak'd; and
as she pass'd her fingers down his shoulder she felt a sharp twinge in
her heart, for she knew that moisture to be the hard wrung sweat of
severe toil, exacted from her young child (he was but thirteen years
old) by an unyielding task-master.
"You have work'd hard to-day, my son."
"I've been mowing."
The widow's heart felt another pang.
"Not all day, Charley?" she said, in a low voice; and there was a
slight quiver in it.
"Yes, mother, all day," replied the boy; "Mr. Ellis said he
couldn't afford to hire men, for wages are so high. I've swung the
scythe ever since an hour before sunrise. Feel of my hands."
There were blisters on them like great lumps. Tears started in the
widow's eyes. She dared not trust herself with a reply, though her
heart was bursting with the thought that she could not better his
condition. There was no earthly means of support on which she had
dependence enough to encourage her child in the wish she knew he was
forming — the wish not utter'd for the first time — to be freed from
"Mother," at length said the boy, "I can stand it no longer. I
cannot and will not stay at Mr. Ellis's. Ever since the day I first
went into his house I've been a slave; and if I have to work so much
longer I know I shall run off and go to sea or somewhere else. I'd as
leave be in my grave as there." And the child burst into a passionate
fit of weeping.
His mother was silent, for she was in deep grief herself. After
some minutes had flown, however, she gather'd sufficient
self-possession to speak to her son in a soothing tone, endeavoring to
win him from his sorrows and cheer up his heart. She told him that time
was swift — that in the course of a few years he would be his own
master — that all people have their troubles — with many other ready
arguments which, though they had little effect in calming her own
distress, she hoped would act as a solace to the disturb'd temper of
the boy. And as the half hour to which he was limited had now elaps'd,
she took him by the hand and led him to the gate, to set forth on his
return. The youth seemed pacified, though occasionally one of those
convulsive sighs that remain after a fit of weeping, would break from
his throat. At the gate he threw his arms about his mother's neck; each
press'd a long kiss on the lips of the other, and the youngster bent
his steps towards his master's house.
As her child pass'd out of sight the widow return'd, shut the gate
and enter'd her lonely room. There was no light in the old cottage that
night — the heart of its occupant was dark and cheerless. Love, agony,
and grief, and tears and convulsive wrestlings were there. The thought
of a beloved son condemned to labor — labor that would break down a
man — struggling from day to day under the hard rule of a soulless
gold-worshipper; the knowledge that years must pass thus; the sickening
idea of her own poverty, and of living mainly on the grudged charity of
neighbors — thoughts, too, of former happy days — these rack'd the
widow's heart, and made her bed a sleepless one without repose.
The boy bent his steps to his employer's, as has been said. In his
way down the village street he had to pass a public house, the only one
the place contain'd; and when he came off against it he heard the sound
of a fiddle — drown'd, however, at intervals, by much laughter and
talking. The windows were up, and, the house standing close to the
road, Charles thought it no harm to take a look and see what was going
on within. Half a dozen footsteps brought him to the low casement, on
which he lean'd his elbow, and where he had a full view of the room and
its occupants. In one corner was an old man, known in the village as
Black Dave — he it was whose musical performances had a moment before
drawn Charles's attention to the tavern; and he it was who now exerted
himself in a violent manner to give, with divers flourishes and extra
twangs, a tune very popular among that thick-lipp'd race whose fondness
for melody is so well known. In the middle of the room were five or six
sailors, some of them quite drunk, and others in the earlier stages of
that process, while on benches around were more sailors, and here and
there a person dress'd in landsman's attire. The men in the middle of
the room were dancing; that is, they were going through certain
contortions and shufflings, varied occasionally by exceedingly hearty
stamps upon the sanded floor. In short the whole party were engaged in
a drunken frolic, which was in no respect different from a thousand
other drunken frolics, except, perhaps, that there was less than the
ordinary amount of anger and quarreling. Indeed everyone seem'd in
remarkably good humor.
But what excited the boy's attention more than any other object was
an individual, seated on one of the benches opposite, who, though
evidently enjoying the spree as much as if he were an old hand at such
business, seem'd in every other particular to be far out of his
element. His appearance was youthful. He might have been twenty-one or
two years old. His countenance was intelligent, and had the air of city
life and society. He was dress'd not gaudily, but in every respect
fashionably; his coat being of the finest broadcloth, his linen
delicate and spotless as snow, and his whole aspect that of one whose
counterpart may now and then be seen upon the pave in Broadway of a
fine afternoon. He laugh'd and talk'd with the rest, and it must be
confess'd his jokes — like the most of those that pass'd current there
— were by no means distinguish'd for their refinement or purity. Near
the door was a small table, cover'd with decanters and glasses, some of
which had been used, but were used again indiscriminately, and a box of
very thick and very long cigars.
One of the sailors — and it was he who made the largest share of
the hubbub — had but one eye. His chin and cheeks were cover'd with
huge, bushy whiskers, and altogether he had quite a brutal appearance.
"Come, boys," said this gentleman, "come, let us take a drink. I know
you're all a getting dry;" and he clench'd his invitation with an
This politeness was responded to by a general moving of the company
toward the table holding the before-mention'd decanters and glasses.
Clustering there around, each one help'd himself to a very handsome
portion of that particular liquor which suited his fancy; and
steadiness and accuracy being at that moment by no means distinguishing
traits of the arms and legs of the party, a goodly amount of the fluid
was spill'd upon the floor. This piece of extravagance excited the ire
of the personage who gave the "treat;" and that ire was still further
increas'd when he discover'd two or three loiterers who seem'd disposed
to slight his request to drink. Charles, as we have before mention'd,
was looking in at the window.
"Walk up, boys! walk up! If there be any skulker among us, blast my
eyes if he shan't go down on his marrow bones and taste the liquor we
have spilt! Hallo!" he exclaim'd as he spied Charles; "hallo, you chap
in the window, come here and take a sup."
As he spoke he stepp'd to the open casement, put his brawny hands
under the boy's arms, and lifted him into the room bodily.
"There, my lads," said he, turning to his companions, "there's a
new recruit for you. Not so coarse a one, either," he added as he took
a fair view of the boy, who, though not what is called pretty, was
fresh and manly looking, and large for his age.
"Come, youngster, take a glass," he continued. And he pour'd one
nearly full of strong brandy.
Now Charles was not exactly frighten'd, for he was a lively fellow,
and had often been at the country merry-makings, and at the parties of
the place; but he was certainly rather abash'd at his abrupt
introduction to the midst of strangers. So, putting the glass aside, he
look'd up with a pleasant smile in his new acquaintance's face.
"I've no need for anything now," he said, "but I'm just as much
obliged to you as if I was."
"Poh! man, drink it down," rejoin'd the sailor, "drink it down —
it won't hurt you."
And, by way of showing its excellence, the one-eyed worthy drain'd
it himself to the last drop. Then filling it again, he renew'd his
efforts to make the lad go through the same operation.
"I've no occasion. Besides, my mother has often pray'd me not to
drink, and I promised to obey her."
A little irritated by his continued refusal, the sailor, with a
loud oath, declared that Charles should swallow the brandy, whether he
would or no. Placing one of his tremendous paws on the back of the
boy's head, with the other he thrust the edge of the glass to his lips,
swearing at the same time, that if he shook it so as to spill its
contents the consequences would be of a nature by no means agreeable to
his back and shoulders. Disliking the liquor, and angry at the attempt
to overbear him, the undaunted child lifted his hand and struck the arm
of the sailor with a blow so sudden that the glass fell and was smash'd
to pieces on the floor; while the brandy was about equally divided
between the face of Charles, the clothes of the sailor, and the sand.
By this time the whole of the company had their attention drawn to the
scene. Some of them laugh'd when they saw Charles's undisguised
antipathy to the drink; but they laugh'd still more heartily when he
discomfited the sailor. All of them, however, were content to let the
matter go as chance would have it — all but the young man of the black
coat, who has been spoken of.
What was there in the words which Charles had spoken that carried
the mind of the young man back to former times — to a period when he
was more pure and innocent than now? "My mother has often pray'd me not
to drink!" Ah, how the mist of months roll'd aside, and presented to
his soul's eye the picture of his mother, and a prayer of exactly
similar purport! Why was it, too, that the young man's heart moved with
a feeling of kindness toward the harshly treated child?
Charles stood, his cheek flush'd and his heart throbbing, wiping
the trickling drops from his face with a handkerchief. At first the
sailor, between his drunkenness and his surprise, was much in the
condition of one suddenly awaken'd out of a deep sleep, who cannot call
his consciousness about him. When he saw the state of things, however,
and heard the jeering laugh of his companions, his dull eye lighting up
with anger, fell upon the boy who had withstood him. He seized Charles
with a grip of iron, and with the side of his heavy boot gave him a
sharp and solid kick. He was about repeating the performance — for the
child hung like a rag in his grasp — but all of a sudden his ears
rang, as if pistols were snapp'd close to them; lights of various hues
flicker'd in his eye, (he had but one, it will be remember'd,) and a
strong propelling power caused him to move from his position, and keep
moving until he was brought up by the wall. A blow, a cuff given in
such a scientific manner that the hand from which it proceeded was
evidently no stranger to the pugilistic art, had been suddenly planted
in the ear of the sailor. It was planted by the young man of the black
coat. He had watch'd with interest the proceeding of the sailor and the
boy — two or three times he was on the point of interfering; but when
the kick was given, his rage was uncontrollable. He sprang from his
seat in the attitude of a boxer — struck the sailor in a manner to
cause those unpleasant sensations which have been described — and
would probably have follow'd up the attack, had not Charles, now
thoroughly terrified, clung around his legs and prevented his
The scene was a strange one, and for the time quite a silent one.
The company had started from their seats, and for a moment held
breathless but strain'd positions. In the middle of the room stood the
young man, in his not at all ungraceful attitude — every nerve out,
and his eyes flashing brilliantly. He seem'd rooted like a rock; and
clasping him, with an appearance of confidence in his protection, clung
"You scoundrel!" cried the young man, his voice thick with passion,
"dare to touch the boy again, and I'll thrash you till no sense is left
in your body."
The sailor, now partially recover'd, made some gestures of a
"Come on, drunken brute!" continued the angry youth; "I wish you
would! You've not had half what you deserve!"
Upon sobriety and sense more fully taking their power in the brains
of the one-eyed mariner, however, that worthy determined in his own
mind that it would be most prudent to let the matter drop. Expressing
therefore his conviction to that effect, adding certain remarks to the
purport that he "meant no harm to the lad," that he was surprised at
such a gentleman being angry at "a little piece of fun," and so forth
— he proposed that the company should go on with their jollity just as
if nothing had happen'd. In truth, he of the single eye was not a bad
fellow at heart, after all; the fiery enemy whose advances he had so
often courted that night, had stolen away his good feelings, and set
busy devils at work within him, that might have made his hands do some
dreadful deed, had not the stranger interposed. In a few minutes the
frolic of the party was upon its former footing. The young man sat down
upon one of the benches, with the boy by his side, and while the rest
were loudly laughing and talking, they two convers'd together. The
stranger learn'd from Charles all the particulars of his simple story
— how his father had died years since — how his mother work'd hard
for a bare living — and how he himself, for many dreary months, had
been the servant of a hard-hearted, avaricious master. More and more
interested, drawing the child close to his side, the young man listen'd
to his plainly told history — and thus an hour pass'd away.
It was now past midnight. The young man told Charles that on the
morrow he would take steps to relieve him from his servitude — that
for the present night the landlord would probably give him a lodging at
the inn — and little persuading did the host need for that.
As he retired to sleep, very pleasant thoughts filled the mind of
the young man — thoughts of a worthy action perform'd — thoughts,
too, newly awakened ones, of walking in a steadier and wiser path than
That roof, then, sheltered two beings that night — one of them
innocent and sinless of all wrong — the other — oh, to that other
what evil had not been present, either in action or to his desires!
Who was the stranger? To those that, from ties of relationship or
otherwise, felt an interest in him, the answer to that question was not
pleasant to dwell upon. His name was Langton — parentless — a
dissipated young man — a brawler — one whose too frequent companions
were rowdies, blacklegs, and swindlers. The New York police offices
were not strangers to his countenance. He had been bred to the
profession of medicine; besides, he had a very respectable income, and
his house was in a pleasant street on the west side of the city. Little
of his time, however, did Mr. John Langton spend at his domestic
hearth; and the elderly lady who officiated as his housekeeper was by
no means surprised to have him gone for a week or a month at a time,
and she knowing nothing of his whereabouts.
Living as he did, the young man was an unhappy being. It was not so
much that his associates were below his own capacity — for Langton,
though sensible and well bred, was not highly talented or refined —
but that he lived without any steady purpose, that he had no one to
attract him to his home, that he too easily allow'd himself to be
tempted — which caused his life to be, of late, one continued scene of
dissatisfaction. This dissatisfaction he sought to drive away by the
brandy bottle, and mixing in all kinds of parties where the object was
pleasure. On the present occasion he had left the city a few days
before, and was passing his time at a place near the village where
Charles and his mother lived. He fell in, during the day, with those
who were his companions of the tavern spree; and thus it happen'd that
they were all together. Langton hesitated not to make himself at home
with any associate that suited his fancy.
The next morning the poor widow rose from her sleepless cot; and
from that lucky trait in our nature which makes one extreme follow
another, she set about her toil with a lighten'd heart. Ellis, the
farmer, rose, too, short as the nights were, an hour before day; for
his god was gain, and a prime article of his creed was to get as much
work as possible from every one around him. In the course of the day
Ellis was called upon by young Langton, and never perhaps in his life
was the farmer puzzled more than at the young man's proposal — his
desire to provide for the widow's family, a family that could do him no
pecuniary good, and his willingness to disburse money for that purpose.
The widow, too, was called upon, not only on that day, but the next and
It needs not that I should particularize the subsequent events of
Langton's and the boy's history — how the reformation of the
profligate might be dated to begin from that time — how he gradually
sever'd the guilty ties that had so long gall'd him — how he enjoy'd
his own home again — how the friendship of Charles and himself grew
not slack with time — and how, when in the course of seasons he became
head of a family of his own, he would shudder at the remembrance of his
early dangers and his escapes.
"Another day," utter'd the poet Lingave, as he awoke in the
morning, and turn'd him drowsily on his hard pallet, "another day
comes out, burthen'd with its weight of woes. Of what use is existence
to me? Crush'd down beneath the merciless heel of poverty, and no
promise of hope to cheer me on, what have I in prospect but a life
neglected, and a death of misery?"
The youth paused; but receiving no answer to his questions, thought
proper to continue the peevish soliloquy. "I am a genius, they say,"
and the speaker smiled bitterly, "but genius is not apparel and food.
Why should I exist in the world, unknown, unloved, press'd with cares,
while so many around me have all their souls can desire? I behold the
splendid equipages roll by — I see the respectful bow at the presence
of pride — and I curse the contrast between my own lot, and the
fortune of the rich. The lofty air — the show of dress — the
aristocratic demeanor — the glitter of jewels — dazzle my eyes; and
sharp-tooth'd envy works within me. I hate these haughty and favor'd
ones. Why should my path be so much rougher than theirs? Pitiable,
unfortunate man that I am! to be placed beneath those whom in my heart
I despise — and to be constantly tantalized with the presence of that
wealth I cannot enjoy!" And the poet cover'd his eyes with his hands,
and wept from very passion and fretfulness.
O, Lingave! be more of a man! Have you not the treasures of health
and untainted propensities, which many of those you envy never enjoy?
Are you not their superior in mental power, in liberal views of
mankind, and in comprehensive intellect? And even allowing you the
choice, how would you shudder at changing, in total, conditions with
them! Besides, were you willing to devote all your time and energies,
you could gain property too: squeeze, and toil, and worry, and twist
everything into a matter of profit, and you can become a great man, as
far as money goes to make greatness.
Retreat, then, man of the polish'd soul, from those irritable
complaints against your lot — those longings for wealth and puerile
distinction, not worthy your class. Do justice, philosopher, to your
own powers. While the world runs after its shadows and its bubbles,
(thus commune in your own mind,) we will fold ourselves in our circle
of understanding, and look with an eye of apathy on those things it
considers so mighty and so enviable. Let the proud man pass with his
pompous glance — let the gay flutter in finery — let the foolish
enjoy his folly, and the beautiful move on in his perishing glory; we
will gaze without desire on all their possessions, and all their
pleasures. Our destiny is different from theirs. Not for such as we,
the lowly flights of their crippled wings. We acknowledge no fellowship
with them in ambition. We composedly look down on the paths where they
walk, and pursue our own, without uttering a wish to descend, and be as
they. What is it to us that the mass pay us not that deference which
wealth commands? We desire no applause, save the applause of the good
and discriminating — the choice spirits among men. Our intellect would
be sullied, were the vulgar to approximate to it, by professing to
readily enter in, and praising it. Our pride is a towering, and thrice
When Lingave had given way to his temper some half hour, or
thereabout, he grew more calm, and bethought himself that he was acting
a very silly part. He listen'd a moment to the clatter of the carts,
and the tramp of early passengers on the pave below, as they wended
along to commence their daily toil. It was just sunrise, and the season
was summer. A little canary bird, the only pet poor Lingave could
afford to keep, chirp'd merrily in its cage on the wall. How slight a
circumstance will sometimes change the whole current of our thoughts!
The music of that bird abstracting the mind of the poet but a moment
from his sorrows, gave a chance for his natural buoyancy to act again.
Lingave sprang lightly from his bed, and perform'd his ablutions
and his simple toilet — then hanging the cage on a nail outside the
window, and speaking an endearment to the songster, which brought a
perfect flood of melody in return — he slowly passed through his door,
descended the long narrow turnings of the stairs, and stood in the open
street. Undetermin'd as to any particular destination, he folded his
hands behind him, cast his glance upon the ground, and moved listlessly
Hour after hour the poet walk'd along — up this street and down
that — he reck'd not how or where. And as crowded thoroughfares are
hardly the most fit places for a man to let his fancy soar in the
clouds — many a push and shove and curse did the dreamer get bestow'd
upon him. The booming of the city clock sounded forth the hour twelve
— high noon.
"Ho! Lingave!" cried a voice from an open basement window as the
He stopp'd, and then unwittingly would have walked on still, not
fully awaken'd from his reverie.
"Lingave, I say!" cried the voice again, and the person to whom the
voice belong'd stretch'd his head quite out into the area in front,
"Stop man. Have you forgotten your appointment?"
"Oh! ah!" said the poet, and he smiled unmeaningly, and descending
the steps, went into the office of Ridman, whose call it was that had
startled him in his walk.
Who was Ridman? While the poet is waiting the convenience of that
personage, it may be as well to describe him.
Ridman was a money-maker. He had much penetration, considerable
knowledge of the world, and a disposition to be constantly in the midst
of enterprise, excitement, and stir. His schemes for gaining wealth
were various; he had dipp'd into almost every branch and channel of
business. A slight acquaintance of several years' standing subsisted
between him and the poet. The day previous a boy had call'd with a note
from Ridman to Lingave, desiring the presence of the latter at the
money-maker's room. The poet return'd for answer that he would be
there. This was the engagement which he came near breaking.
Ridman had a smooth tongue. All his ingenuity was needed in the
explanation to his companion of why and wherefore the latter had been
It is not requisite to state specifically the offer made by the man
of wealth to the poet. Ridman, in one of his enterprises, found it
necessary to procure the aid of such a person as Lingave — a writer of
power, a master of elegant diction, of fine taste, in style passionate
yet pure, and of the delicate imagery that belongs to the children of
song. The youth was absolutely startled at the magnificent and
permanent remuneration which was held out to him for a moderate
exercise of his talents.
But the nature of the service required! All the sophistry and art
of Ridman could not veil its repulsiveness. The poet was to labor for
the advancement of what he felt to be unholy — he was to inculcate
what would lower the perfection of man. He promised to give an answer
to the proposal the succeeding day, and left the place.
Now during the many hours there was a war going on in the heart of
the poor poet. He was indeed poor; often, he had no certainty whether
he should be able to procure the next day's meals. And the poet knew
the beauty of truth, and adored, not in the abstract merely, but in
practice, the excellence of upright principles.
Night came. Lingave, wearied, lay upon his pallet again and slept.
The misty veil thrown over him, the spirit of poesy came to his
visions, and stood beside him, and look'd down pleasantly with her
large eyes, which were bright and liquid like the reflection of stars
in a lake.
Virtue, (such imagining, then, seem'd conscious to the soul of the
dreamer,) is ever the sinew of true genius. Together, the two in one,
they are endow'd with immortal strength, and approach loftily to Him
from whom both spring. Yet there are those that having great powers,
bend them to the slavery of wrong. God forgive them! for they surely do
it ignorantly or heedlessly. Oh, could he who lightly tosses around him
the seeds of evil in his writings, or his enduring thoughts, or his
chance words — could he see how, haply, they are to spring up in
distant time and poison the air, and putrefy, and cause to sicken —
would he not shrink back in horror? A bad principle, jestingly spoken
— a falsehood, but of a word — may taint a whole nation! Let the man
to whom the great Master has given the might of mind, beware how he
uses that might. If for the furtherance of bad ends, what can be
expected but that, as the hour of the closing scene draws nigh,
thoughts of harm done, and capacities distorted from their proper aim,
and strength so laid out that men must be worse instead of better,
through the exertion of that strength — will come and swarm like
spectres around him?
"Be and continue poor, young man," so taught one whose counsels
should be graven on the heart of every youth, "while others around you
grow rich by fraud and disloyalty. Be without place and power, while
others beg their way upward. Bear the pain of disappointed hopes, while
others gain the accomplishment of their flattery. Forego the gracious
pressure of a hand, for which others cringe and crawl. Wrap yourself in
your own virtue, and seek a friend and your daily bread. If you have,
in such a course, grown gray with unblench'd honor, bless God and die."
When Lingave awoke the next morning, he despatch'd his answer to
his wealthy friend, and then plodded on as in the days before.
"Lift up!" was ejaculated as a signal! — and click! went the
glasses in the hands of a party of tipsy men, drinking one night at the
bar of one of the middling order of taverns. And many a wild gibe was
utter'd, and many a terrible blasphemy, and many an impure phrase
sounded out the pollution of the hearts of these half-crazed creatures,
as they toss'd down their liquor, and made the walls echo with their
uproar. The first and foremost in recklessness was a girlish-faced,
fair-hair'd fellow of twenty-two or three years. They called him Mike.
He seemed to be look'd upon by the others as a sort of prompter, from
whom they were to take cue. And if the brazen wickedness evinced by him
in a hundred freaks and remarks to his companions, during their stay in
that place, were any test of his capacity — there might hardly be one
more fit to go forward as a guide on the road to destruction. From the
conversation of the party, it appear'd that they had been spending the
early part of the evening in a gambling house.
A second, third and fourth time were the glasses fill'd; and the
effect thereof began to be perceiv'd in a still higher degree of noise
and loquacity among the revellers. One of the serving-men came in at
this moment, and whisper'd the bar-keeper, who went out, and in a
moment return'd again.
"A person," he said, "wish'd to speak with Mr. Michael. He waited
on the walk in front."
The individual whose name was mention'd, made his excuses to the
others, telling them he would be back in a moment, and left the room.
As he shut the door behind him, and stepp'd into the open air, he saw
one of his brothers — his elder by eight or ten years — pacing to and
fro with rapid and uneven steps. As the man turn'd in his walk, and
the glare of the street lamp fell upon his face, the youth,
half-benumb'd as his senses were, was somewhat startled at its paleness
and evident perturbation.
"Come with me!" said the elder brother, hurriedly, "the illness of
our little Jane is worse, and I have been sent for you."
"Poh!" answered the young drunkard, very composedly, "is that all?
I shall be home by-and-by," and he turn'd back again.
"But, brother, she is worse than ever before. Perhaps when you
arrive she may be dead."
The tipsy one paus'd in his retreat, perhaps alarm'd at the
utterance of that dread word, which seldom fails to shoot a chill to
the hearts of mortals. But he soon calm'd himself, and waving his hand
to the other:
"Why, see," said he, "a score of times at least, have I been call'd
away to the last sickness of our good little sister; and each time, it
proves to be nothing worse than some whim of the nurse or the
physician. Three years has the girl been able to live very heartily
under her disease; and I'll be bound she'll stay on the earth three
And as he concluded this wicked and most brutal reply, the speaker
open'd the door and went into the bar-room. But in his intoxication,
during the hour that follow'd, Mike was far from being at ease. At the
end of that hour, the words, "perhaps when you arrive she may be dead,"
were not effaced from his hearing yet, and he started for home. The
elder brother had wended his way back in sorrow.
Let me go before the younger one, awhile, to a room in that home. A
little girl lay there dying. She had been ill a long time; so it was no
sudden thing for her parents, and her brethren and sisters, to be
called for the witness of the death agony. The girl was not what might
be called beautiful. And yet, there is a solemn kind of loveliness that
always surrounds a sick child. The sympathy for the weak and helpless
sufferer, perhaps, increases it in our own ideas. The ashiness and the
moisture on the brow, and the film over the eye-balls — what man can
look upon the sight, and not feel his heart awed within him? Children,
I have sometimes fancied too, increase in beauty as their illness
deepens. Besides the nearest relatives of little Jane, standing round
her bedside, was the family doctor. He had just laid her wrist down
upon the coverlet, and the look he gave the mother, was a look in which
there was no hope.
"My child!" she cried, in uncontrollable agony, "O! my child!"
And the father, and the sons and daughters, were bowed down in
grief, and thick tears rippled between the fingers held before their
Then there was silence awhile. During the hour just by-gone, Jane
had, in her childish way, bestow'd a little gift upon each of her
kindred, as a remembrancer when she should be dead and buried in the
grave. And there was one of these simple tokens which had not reach'd
its destination. She held it in her hand now. It was a very small
much-thumbed book — a religious story for infants, given her by her
mother when she had first learn'd to read.
While they were all keeping this solemn stillness — broken only by
the suppress'd sobs of those who stood and watch'd for the passing away
of the girl's soul — a confusion of some one entering rudely, and
speaking in a turbulent voice, was heard in an adjoining apartment.
Again the voice roughly sounded out; it was the voice of the drunkard
Mike, and the father bade one of his sons go and quiet the intruder.
"If nought else will do," said he sternly, "put him forth by
strength. We want no tipsy brawlers here, to disturb such a scene as
For what moved the sick girl uneasily on her pillow, and raised her
neck, and motion'd to her mother? She would that Mike should be brought
to her side. And it was enjoin'd on him whom the father had bade to
eject the noisy one, that he should tell Mike his sister's request, and
beg him to come to her.
He came. The inebriate — his mind sober'd by the deep solemnity of
the scene — stood there, and leaned over to catch the last accounts of
one who soon was to be with the spirits of heaven. All was the silence
of the deepest night. The dying child held the young man's hand in one
of hers; with the other she slowly lifted the trifling memorial she had
assigned especially for him, aloft in the air. Her arm shook — her
eyes, now becoming glassy with the death-damps, were cast toward her
brother's face. She smiled pleasantly, and as an indistinct gurgle came
from her throat, the uplifted hand fell suddenly into the open palm of
her brother's, depositing the tiny volume there. Little Jane was dead.
From that night, the young man stepped no more in his wild courses,
but was reform'd.
Not many years since — and yet long enough to have been before the
abundance of railroads, and similar speedy modes of conveyance — the
travelers from Amboy village to the metropolis of our republic were
permitted to refresh themselves, and the horses of the stage had a
breathing spell, at a certain old-fashion'd tavern, about half way
between the two places. It was a quaint, comfortable, ancient house,
that tavern. Huge buttonwood trees embower'd it round about, and there
was a long porch in front, the trellis'd work whereof, though old and
moulder'd, had been, and promised still to be for years, held together
by the tangled folds of a grape vine wreath'd about it like a
How clean and fragrant everything was there! How bright the pewter
tankards wherefrom cider or ale went into the parch'd throat of the
thirsty man! How pleasing to look into the expressive eyes of Kate, the
landlord's lovely daughter, who kept everything so clean and bright!
Now the reason why Kate's eyes had become so expressive was, that,
besides their proper and natural office, they stood to the poor girl in
the place of tongue and ears also. Kate had been dumb from her birth.
Everybody loved the helpless creature when she was a child. Gentle,
timid, and affectionate was she, and beautiful as the lilies of which
she loved to cultivate so many every summer in her garden. Her light
hair, and the like-color'd lashes, so long and silky, that droop'd over
her blue eyes of such uncommon size and softtness — her rounded shape,
well set off by a little modest art of dress — her smile — the
graceful ease of her motions, always attracted the admiration of the
strangers who stopped there, and were quite a pride to her parents and
friends. How could it happen that so beautiful and inoffensive a being
should taste, even to its dregs, the bitterest unhappiness? Oh, there
must indeed be a mysterious, unfathomable meaning in the decrees of
Providence which is beyond the comprehension of man; for no one on
earth less deserved or needed `the uses of adversity' than Dumb Kate.
Love, the mighty and lawless passion, came into the sanctuary of the
maid's pure breast, and the dove of peace fled away forever.
One of the persons who had occasion to stop most frequently at the
tavern kept by Dumb Kate's parents was a young man, the son of a
wealthy farmer, who own'd an estate in the neighborhood. He saw Kate,
and was struck with her natural elegance. Though not of thoroughly
wicked propensities, the fascination of so fine a prize made this youth
determine to gain her love, and, if possible, to win her to himself. At
first he hardly dared, even amid the depths of his own soul, to
entertain thoughts of vileness against one so confiding and childlike.
But in a short time such feelings wore away, and he made up his mind to
become the betrayer of poor Kate. He was a good-looking fellow, and
made but too sure of his victim. Kate was lost!
The villain came to New York soon after, and engaged in a business
which prosper'd well, and which has no doubt by this time made him what
is call'd a man of fortune.
Not long did sickness of the heart wear into the life and happiness
of Dumb Kate. One pleasant spring day, the neighbors having been called
by a notice the previous morning, the old churchyard was thrown open,
and a coffin was borne over the early grass that seem'd so delicate
with its light green hue. There was a new made grave, and by its side
the bier was rested — while they paused a moment until holy words had
been said. An idle boy, call'd there by curiosity, saw something lying
on the fresh earth thrown out from the grave, which attracted his
attention. A little blossom, the only one to be seen around, had grown
exactly on the spot where the sexton chose to dig poor Kate's last
resting-place. It was a weak but lovely flower, and now lay where it
had been carelessly toss'd amid the coarse gravel. The boy twirl'd it a
moment in his fingers — the bruis'd fragments gave out a momentary
perfume, and then fell to the edge of the pit, over which the child at
that moment lean'd and gazed in his inquisitiveness. As they dropp'd,
they were wafted to the bottom of the grave. The last look was bestow'd
on the dead girl's face by those who loved her so well in life, and
then she was softly laid away to her sleep beneath that green grass
Yet in the churchyard on the hill is Kate's grave. There stands a
little white stone at the head, and verdure grows richly there; and
gossips, sometimes of a Sabbath afternoon, rambling over that
gathering-place of the gone from earth, stop a while, and con over the
dumb girl's hapless story.
TALK TO AN ART-UNION
(A Brooklyn fragment.)
It is a beautiful truth that all men contain something of the
artist in them. And perhaps it is the case that the greatest artists
live and die, the world and themselves alike ignorant what they
possess. Who would not mourn that an ample palace, of surpassingly
graceful architecture, fill'd with luxuries, and embellish'd with fine
pictures and sculpture, should stand cold and still and vacant, and
never be known or enjoy'd by its owner? Would such a fact as this cause
your sadness? Then be sad. For there is a palace, to which the courts
of the most sumptuous kings are but a frivolous patch, and, though it
is always waiting for them, not one of its owners ever enters there
with any genuine sense of its grandeur and glory.
I think of few heroic actions, which cannot be traced to the
artistical impulse. He who does great deeds, does them from his innate
sensitiveness to moral beauty. Such men are not merely artists, they
are also artistic material. Washington in some great crisis, Lawrence
on the bloody deck of the Chesapeake, Mary Stuart at the block, Kossuth
in captivity, and Mazzini in exile — all great rebels and innovators,
exhibit the highest phases of the artist spirit. The painter, the
sculptor, the poet, express heroic beauty better in description; but
the others are heroic beauty, the best belov'd of art.
Talk not so much, then, young artist, of the great old masters, who
but painted and chisell'd. Study not only their productions. There is
a still higher school for him who would kindle his fire with coal from
the altar of the loftiest and purest art. It is the school of all grand
actions and grand virtues, of heroism, of the death of patriots and
martyrs — of all the mighty deeds written in the pages of history —
deeds of daring, and enthusiasm, devotion, and fortitude.
"Guilty of the body and the blood of Christ."
Of olden time, when it came to pass
That the beautiful god, Jesus, should finish his work on earth,
Then went Judas, and sold the divine youth,
And took pay for his body.
Curs'd was the deed, even before the sweat of the clutching hand
And darkness frown'd upon the seller of the like of God,
Where, as though earth lifted her breast to throw him from her,
and heaven refused him,
He hung in the air, self-slaughter'd.
The cycles, with their long shadows, have stalk'd silently
Since those ancient days — many a pouch enwrapping meanwhile
Its fee, like that paid for the son of Mary.
And still goes one, saying,
"What will ye give me, and I will deliver this man unto you?"
And they make the covenant, and pay the pieces of silver.
Look forth, deliverer,
Look forth, first-born of the dead,
Over the tree-tops of Paradise;
See thyself in yet-continued bonds,
Toilsome and poor, thou bear'st man's form again,
Thou art reviled, scourged, put into prison,
Hunted from the arrogant equality of the rest;
With staves and swords throng the willing servants of authority,
Again they surround thee, mad with devilish spite;
Toward thee stretch the hands of a multitude, like vultures'
The meanest spit in thy face, they smite thee with their palms;
Bruised, bloody, and pinion'd is thy body,
More sorrowful than death is thy soul.
Witness of anguish, brother of slaves,
Not with thy price closed the price of thine image:
And still Iscariot plies his trade.
PAUMANOK. April, 1843.
WOUNDED IN THE HOUSE OF FRIENDS
"And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thy hands?
shall answer, These with which I was wounded in the house of my
— Zechariah, xiii.6
If thou art balk'd, O Freedom,
The victory is not to thy manlier foes;
From the house of friends comes the death stab.
Virginia, mother of greatness,
Blush not for being also mother of slaves;
You might have borne deeper slaves —
Doughfaces, crawlers, lice of humanity —
Terrific screamers of freedom,
Who roar and bawl, and get hot i' the face,
But were they not incapable of august crime,
Would quench the hopes of ages for a drink —
Muck-worms creeping flat to the ground,
A dollar dearer to them than Christ's blessing;
All loves, all hopes, less than the thought of gain,
In life walking in that as in a shroud;
Men whom the throes of heroes,
Great deeds at which the gods might stand appal'd,
The shriek of the drown'd, the appeal of women,
The exulting laugh of untied empires,
Would touch them never in the heart,
But only in the pocket.
Well may you curl your lip;
With all your bondsmen, bless the destiny
Which brings you no such breed as this.
Arise young North!
Our elder blood flows in the veins of cowards:
The gray-hair'd sneak, the blanch'd poltroon,
The feign'd or real shiverer at tongues
That nursing babes need hardly cry the less for —
Are they to be our tokens always?
SAILING THE MISSISSIPPI AT MIDNIGHT
Vast and starless, the pall of heaven
Laps on the trailing pall below;
And forward, forward, in solemn darkness,
As if to the sea of the lost we go.
Now drawn nigh the edge of the river,
Weird-like creatures suddenly rise;
Shapes that fade, disolving outlines
Baffle the gazer's straining eyes.
Towering upward and bending forward,
Wild and wide their arms are thrown,
Ready to pierce with forked fingers
Him who touches their realm upon.
Tide of youth, thus thickly planted,
While in the eddies onward you swim,
Thus on the shore stands a phantom army,
Lining forever the channel's rim.
Steady, helmsman! you guide the immortal;
Many a wreck is beneath you piled,
Many a brave yet unwary sailor
Over these waters has been beguiled.
Nor is it the storm or the scowling midnight,
Cold, or sickness, or fire's dismay —
Nor is it the reef, or treacherous quicksand,
Will peril you most on your twisted way.
But when there comes a voluptuous languor,
Soft the sunshine, silent the air,
Bewitching your craft with safety and sweetness,
Then, young pilot of life, beware.