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´╗┐Title: Sketches from Memory - (From: "The Doliver Romance and Other Pieces: Tales and Sketches")
Author: Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 1804-1864
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Sketches from Memory - (From: "The Doliver Romance and Other Pieces: Tales and Sketches")" ***

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                 THE DOLIVER ROMANCE AND OTHER PIECES

                         TALES AND SKETCHES

                       By Nathaniel Hawthorne


                        SKETCHES FROM MEMORY



CONTENTS:
     I.   The Inland Port.
     II.  Rochester.
     III. A Night Scene.



I. THE INLAND PORT.

It was a bright forenoon, when I set foot on the beach at Burlington,
and took leave of the two boatmen in whose little skiff I had voyaged
since daylight from Peru.  Not that we had come that morning from South
America, but only from the New York shore of Lake Champlain.  The
highlands of the coast behind us stretched north and south, in a double
range of bold, blue peaks, gazing over each other's shoulders at the
Green Mountains of Vermont.

The latter are far the loftiest, and, from the opposite side of the
lake, had displayed a more striking outline.  We were now almost at
their feet, and could see only a sandy beach sweeping beneath a woody
bank, around the semicircular Bay of Burlington.

The painted lighthouse on a small green island, the wharves and
warehouses, with sloops and schooners moored alongside, or at anchor,
or spreading their canvas to the wind, and boats rowing from point to
point, reminded me of some fishing-town on the sea-coast.

But I had no need of tasting the water to convince myself that Lake
Champlain was not all arm of the sea; its quality was evident, both by
its silvery surface, when unruffled, and a faint but unpleasant and
sickly smell, forever steaming up in the sunshine.  One breeze of the
Atlantic with its briny fragrance would be worth more to these inland
people than all the perfumes of Arabia.  On closer inspection the
vessels at the wharves looked hardly seaworthy,--there being a great
lack of tar about the seams and rigging, and perhaps other deficiencies,
quite as much to the purpose.

I observed not a single sailor in the port.  There were men, indeed, in
blue jackets and trousers, but not of the true nautical fashion, such as
dangle before slopshops; others wore tight pantaloons and coats
preponderously long-tailed,--cutting very queer figures at the masthead;
and, in short, these fresh-water fellows had about the same analogy to
the real "old salt" with his tarpaulin, pea-jacket, and sailor-cloth
trousers, as a lake fish to a Newfoundland cod.

Nothing struck me more in Burlington, than the great number of Irish
emigrants.  They have filled the British Provinces to the brim, and
still continue to ascend the St. Lawrence in infinite tribes overflowing
by every outlet into the States.  At Burlington, they swarm in huts and
mean dwellings near the lake, lounge about the wharves, and elbow the
native citizens entirely out of competition in their own line.  Every
species of mere bodily labor is the prerogative of these Irish.  Such is
their multitude in comparison with any possible demand for their
services, that it is difficult to conceive how a third part of them
should earn even a daily glass of whiskey, which is doubtless their
first necessary of life,--daily bread being only the second.

Some were angling in the lake, but had caught only a few perch, which
little fishes, without a miracle, would be nothing among so many.  A
miracle there certainly must have been, and a daily one, for the
subsistence of these wandering hordes.  The men exhibit a lazy strength
and careless merriment, as if they had fed well hitherto, and meant to
feed better hereafter; the women strode about, uncovered in the open
air, with far plumper waists and brawnier limbs as well as bolder faces,
than our shy and slender females; and their progeny, which was
innumerable, had the reddest and the roundest cheeks of any children in
America.

While we stood at the wharf, the bell of a steamboat gave two
preliminary peals, and she dashed away for Plattsburgh, leaving a trail
of smoky breath behind, and breaking the glassy surface of the lake
before her.  Our next movement brought us into a handsome and busy
square, the sides of which were filled up with white houses, brick
stores, a church, a court-house, and a bank.  Some of these edifices had
roofs of tin, in the fashion of Montreal, and glittered in the sun with
cheerful splendor, imparting a lively effect to the whole square.  One
brick building, designated in large letters as the custom-house,
reminded us that this inland village is a port of entry, largely
concerned in foreign trade and holding daily intercourse with the
British empire.  In this border country the Canadian bank-notes
circulate as freely as our own, and British and American coin are
jumbled into the same pocket, the effigies of the King of England being
made to kiss those of the Goddess of Liberty.

Perhaps there was an emblem in the involuntary contact.  There was a
pleasant mixture of people in the square of Burlington, such as cannot
be seen elsewhere, at one view; merchants from Montreal, British
officers from the frontier garrisons, French Canadians, wandering Irish,
Scotchmen of a better class, gentlemen of the South on a pleasure tour,
country squires on business; and a great throng of Green Mountain boys,
with their horse-wagons and ox-teams, true Yankees in aspect, and
looking more superlatively so, by contrast with such a variety of
foreigners.



II. ROCHESTER

The gray but transparent evening rather shaded than obscured the scene,
leaving its stronger features visible, and even improved by the medium
through which I beheld them.  The volume of water is not very great, nor
the roar deep enough to be termed grand, though such praise might have
been appropriate before the good people of Rochester had abstracted a
part of the unprofitable sublimity of the cascade. The Genesee has
contributed so bountifully to their canals and mill-dams, that it
approaches the precipice with diminished pomp, and rushes over it in
foamy streams of various width, leaving a broad face of the rock
insulated and unwashed, between the two main branches of the falling
river.  Still it was an impressive sight, to one who had not seen
Niagara.  I confess, however, that my chief interest arose from a
legend, connected with these falls, which will become poetical in the
lapse of years, and was already so to me as I pictured the catastrophe
out of dusk and solitude.  It was from a platform, raised over the naked
island of the cliff, in the middle of the cataract that Sam Patch took
his last leap, and alighted in the other world.  Strange as it may
appear,--that any uncertainty should rest upon his fate which was
consummated in the sight of thousands,--many will tell you that the
illustrious Patch concealed himself in a cave under the falls, and has
continued to enjoy posthumous renown, without foregoing the comforts of
this present life.  But the poor fellow prized the shout of the
multitude too much not to have claimed it at the instant, had he
survived.  He will not be seen again, unless his ghost, in such a
twilight as when I was there, should emerge from the foam, and vanish
among the shadows that fall from cliff to cliff.

How stern a moral may be drawn from the story of poor Sam Patch!  Why do
we call him a madman or a fool, when he has left his memory around the
falls of the Genesee, more permanently than if the letters of his name
had been hewn into the forehead of the precipice?

Was the leaper of cataracts more mad or foolish than other men who throw
away life, or misspend it in pursuit of empty fame, and seldom so
triumphantly as he?  That which he won is as invaluable as any except
the unsought glory, spreading like the rich perfume of richer fruit from
various and useful deeds.

Thus musing, wise in theory, but practically as great a fool as Sam, I
lifted my eyes and beheld the spires, warehouses, and dwellings of
Rochester, half a mile distant on both sides of the river, indistinctly
cheerful, with the twinkling of many lights amid the fall of the evening.

The town had sprung up like a mushroom, but no presage of decay could be
drawn from its hasty growth.  Its edifices are of dusky brick, and of
stone that will not be grayer in a hundred years than now; its churches
are Gothic; it is impossible to look at its worn pavements and conceive
how lately the forest leaves have been swept away.  The most ancient
town in Massachusetts appears quite like an affair of yesterday,
compared with Rochester.  Its attributes of youth are the activity and
eager life with which it is redundant.  The whole street, sidewalks and
centre, was crowded with pedestrians, horsemen, stage-coaches, gigs,
light wagons, and heavy ox-teams, all hurrying, trotting, rattling, and
rumbling, in a throng that passed continually, but never passed away.
Here, a country wife was selecting a churn from several gayly painted
ones on the sunny sidewalk; there, a farmer was bartering his produce;
and, in two or three places, a crowd of people were showering bids on a
vociferous auctioneer.  I saw a great wagon and an ox-chain knocked off
to a very pretty woman.  Numerous were the lottery offices,--those true
temples of Mammon,--where red and yellow bills offered splendid fortunes
to the world at large, and banners of painted cloth gave notice that the
"lottery draws next Wednesday."  At the ringing of a bell, judges,
jurymen, lawyers, and clients, elbowed each other to the court-house, to
busy themselves with cases that would doubtless illustrate the state of
society, had I the means of reporting them.  The number of public houses
benefited the flow of temporary population; some were farmer's
taverns,--cheap, homely, and comfortable; others were magnificent hotels,
with negro waiters, gentlemanly landlords in black broad-cloth, and
foppish bar-keepers in Broadway coats, with chased gold watches in their
waistcoat-pockets.  I caught one of these fellows quizzing me through an
eye-glass.  The porters were lumbering up the steps with baggage from
the packet boats, while waiters plied the brush on dusty travellers,
who, meanwhile, glanced over the innumerable advertisements in the daily
papers.

In short, everybody seemed to be there, and all had something to do, and
were doing it with all their might, except a party of drunken recruits
for the Western military posts, principally Irish and Scotch, though
they wore Uncle Sam's gray jacket and trousers.  I noticed one other
idle man.  He carried a rifle on his shoulder and a powder-horn across
his breast, and appeared to stare about him with confused wonder, as if,
while he was listening to the wind among the forest boughs, the hum and
bustle of an instantaneous city had surrounded him.



III.

A NIGHT SCENE

The steamboat in which I was passenger for Detroit had put into the
mouth of a small river, where the greater part of the night would be
spent in repairing some damages of the machinery.

As the evening was warm, though cloudy and very dark, I stood on deck,
watching a scene that would not have attracted a second glance in the
daytime, but became picturesque by the magic of strong light and deep
shade.

Some wild Irishmen were replenishing our stock of wood, and had kindled
a great fire on the bank to illuminate their labors.  It was composed of
large logs and dry brushwood, heaped together with careless profusion,
blazing fiercely, spouting showers of sparks into the darkness, and
gleaming wide over Lake Erie,--a beacon for perplexed voyagers leagues
from land.

All around and above the furnace, there was total obscurity.  No trees
or other objects caught and reflected any portion of the brightness,
which thus wasted itself in the immense void of night, as if it quivered
from the expiring embers of the world, after the final conflagration.
But the Irishmen were continually emerging from the dense gloom, passing
through the lurid glow, and vanishing into the gloom on the other side.
Sometimes a whole figure would be made visible, by the shirtsleeves and
light-colored dress; others were but half seen, like imperfect
creatures; many flitted, shadow-like, along the skirts of darkness,
tempting fancy to a vain pursuit; and often, a face alone was reddened
by the fire, and stared strangely distinct, with no traces of a body.
In short these wild Irish, distorted and exaggerated by the blaze, now
lost in deep shadow, now bursting into sudden splendor, and now
struggling between light and darkness, formed a picture which might have
been transferred, almost unaltered, to a tale of the supernatural.  As
they all carried lanterns of wood, and often flung sticks upon the fire,
the least imaginative spectator would at once compare them to devils
condemned to keep alive the flames of their own torments.





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