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Title: Suburban Sketches
Author: Howells, William Dean
Language: English
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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.

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By William Dean Howells

Author Of “Venetian Life,” “Italian Journeys” Etc.
























It was on a morning of the lovely New England May that we left the
horse-car, and, spreading our umbrellas, walked down the street to our
new home in Charlesbridge, through a storm of snow and rain so finely
blent by the influences of this fortunate climate, that no flake knew
itself from its sister drop, or could be better identified by the people
against whom they beat in unison. A vernal gale from the east fanned our
cheeks and pierced our marrow and chilled our blood, while the raw, cold
green of the adventurous grass on the borders of the sopping sidewalks
gave, as it peered through its veil of melting snow and freezing rain,
a peculiar cheerfulness to the landscape. Here and there in the vacant
lots abandoned hoop-skirts defied decay; and near the half-finished
wooden houses, empty mortar-beds, and bits of lath and slate strewn over
the scarred and mutilated ground, added their interest to the scene. A
shaggy drift hung upon the trees before our own house (which had been
built some years earlier), while its swollen eaves wept silently and
incessantly upon the embankments lifting its base several feet above the
common level.

This heavenly weather, which the Pilgrim Fathers, with the idea of
turning their thoughts effectually from earthly pleasures, came so far
to discover, continued with slight amelioration throughout the month of
May and far into June; and it was a matter of constant amazement with
one who had known less austere climates, to behold how vegetable life
struggled with the hostile skies, and, in an atmosphere as chill and
damp as that of a cellar, shot forth the buds and blossoms upon the
pear-trees, called out the sour Puritan courage of the currant-bushes,
taught a reckless native grape-vine to wander and wanton over the
southern side of the fence, and decked the banks with violets as
fearless and as fragile as New England girls; so that about the end of
June, when the heavens relented and the sun blazed out at last, there
was little for him to do but to redden and darken the daring fruits that
had attained almost their full growth without his countenance.

Then, indeed, Charlesbridge appeared to us a kind of Paradise. The wind
blew all day from the southwest, and all day in the grove across the way
the orioles sang to their nestlings. The butcher’s wagon rattled merrily
up to our gate every morning; and if we had kept no other reckoning, we
should have known it was Thursday by the grocer. We were living in the
country with the conveniences and luxuries of the city about us. The
house was almost new and in perfect repair; and, better than all, the
kitchen had as yet given no signs of unrest in those volcanic agencies
which are constantly at work there, and which, with sudden explosion,
make Herculaneums and Pompeiis of so many smiling households. Breakfast,
dinner, and tea came up with illusive regularity, and were all the most
perfect of their kind; and we laughed and feasted in our vain security.
We had out from the city to banquet with us the friends we loved, and
we were inexpressibly proud before them of the Help, who first wrought
miracles of cookery in our honor, and then appeared in a clean white
apron, and the glossiest black hair, to wait upon the table. She was
young, and certainly very pretty; she was as gay as a lark, and was
courted by a young man whose clothes would have been a credit, if they
had not been a reproach, to our lowly basement. She joyfully assented to
the idea of staying with us till she married.

In fact, there was much that was extremely pleasant about the little
place when the warm weather came, and it was not wonderful to us that
Jenny was willing to remain. It was very quiet; we called one another
to the window if a large dog went by our door; and whole days passed
without the movement of any wheels but the butcher’s upon our street,
which flourished in ragweed and butter-cups and daisies, and in
the autumn burned, like the borders of nearly all the streets in
Charlesbridge, with the pallid azure flame of the succory. The
neighborhood was in all things a frontier between city and country.
The horse-cars, the type of such civilization--full of imposture,
discomfort, and sublime possibility--as we yet possess, went by the
head of our street, and might, perhaps, be available to one skilled in
calculating the movements of comets; while two minutes’ walk would take
us into a wood so wild and thick that no roof was visible through the
trees. We learned, like innocent pastoral people of the golden age, to
know the several voices of the cows pastured in the vacant lots, and,
like engine-drivers of the iron age, to distinguish the different
whistles of the locomotives passing on the neighboring railroad. The
trains shook the house as they thundered along, and at night were a kind
of company, while by day we had the society of the innumerable birds.
Now and then, also, the little ragged boys in charge of the cows--which,
tied by long ropes to trees, forever wound themselves tight up against
the trunks, and had to be unwound with great ado of hooting and
hammering--came and peered lustfully through the gate at our ripening
pears. All round us carpenters were at work building new houses; but so
far from troubling us, the strokes of their hammers fell softly upon the
sense, like one’s heart-beats upon one’s own consciousness in the lapse
from all fear of pain under the blessed charm of an anaesthetic.

We played a little at gardening, of course, and planted tomatoes,
which the chickens seemed to like, for they ate them up as fast as
they ripened; and we watched with pride the growth of our Lawton
blackberries, which, after attaining the most stalwart proportions, were
still as bitter as the scrubbiest of their savage brethren, and which,
when by advice left on the vines for a week after they turned black,
were silently gorged by secret and gluttonous flocks of robins and
orioles. As for our grapes, the frost cut them off in the hour of their

So, as I have hinted, we were not surprised that Jenny should be willing
to remain with us, and were as little prepared for her desertion as for
any other change of our moral state. But one day in September she
came to her nominal mistress with tears in her beautiful eyes and
protestations of unexampled devotion upon her tongue, and said that she
was afraid she must leave us. She liked the place, and she never had
worked for any one that was more of a lady, but she had made up her
mind to go into the city. All this, so far, was quite in the manner
of domestics who, in ghost stories, give warning to the occupants of
haunted houses; and Jenny’s mistress listened in suspense for the motive
of her desertion, expecting to hear no less than that it was something
which walked up and down the stairs and dragged iron links after it,
or something that came and groaned at the front door, like populace
dissatisfied with a political candidate. But it was in fact nothing of
this kind; simply, there were no lamps upon our street, and Jenny, after
spending Sunday evening with friends in East Charlesbridge, was always
alarmed, on her return, in walking from the horse-car to our door. The
case was hopeless, and Jenny and our household parted with respect and

We had not before this thought it a grave disadvantage that our street
was unlighted. Our street was not drained nor graded; no municipal cart
ever came to carry away our ashes; there was not a water-butt within
half a mile to save us from fire, nor more than the one thousandth part
of a policeman to protect us from theft. Yet, as I paid a heavy tax, I
somehow felt that we enjoyed the benefits of city government, and never
looked upon Charlesbridge as in any way undesirable for residence.
But when it became necessary to find help in Jenny’s place, the frosty
welcome given to application at the intelligence offices renewed a
painful doubt awakened by her departure. To be sure, the heads of the
offices were polite enough; but when the young housekeeper had stated
her case at the first to which she applied, and the Intelligencer had
called out to the invisible expectants in the adjoining room, “Anny
wan wants to do giner’l housewark in Charlsbrudge?” there came from the
maids invoked so loud, so fierce, so full a “No!” as shook the lady’s
heart with an indescribable shame and dread. The name that, with an
innocent pride in its literary and historical associations, she had
written at the heads of her letters, was suddenly become a matter of
reproach to her; and she was almost tempted to conceal thereafter that
she lived in Charlesbridge, and to pretend that she dwelt upon some
wretched little street in Boston. “You see,” said the head of the
office, “the gairls doesn’t like to live so far away from the city. Now
if it was on’y in the Port....”

This pen is not graphic enough to give the remote reader an idea of the
affront offered to an inhabitant of Old Charlesbridge in these closing
words. Neither am I of sufficiently tragic mood to report here all the
sufferings undergone by an unhappy family in finding servants, or to
tell how the winter was passed with miserable makeshifts. Alas! is it
not the history of a thousand experiences? Any one who looks upon this
page could match it with a tale as full of heartbreak and disaster,
while I conceive that, in hastening to speak of Mrs. Johnson, I approach
a subject of unique interest.

The winter that ensued after Jenny’s departure was the true sister of
the bitter and shrewish spring of the same year. But indeed it is always
with a secret shiver that one must think of winter in our regrettable
climate. It is a terrible potency, robbing us of half our lives, and
threatening or desolating the moiety left us with rheumatisms and
catarrhs. There is a much vaster sum of enjoyment possible to man in the
more generous latitudes; and I have sometimes doubted whether even the
energy characteristic of ours is altogether to be praised, seeing that
it has its spring not so much in pure aspiration as in the instinct of
self-preservation. Egyptian, Greek, Roman energy was an inner impulse;
but ours is too often the sting of cold, the spur of famine. We
must endure our winter, but let us not be guilty of the hypocrisy
of pretending that we like it. Let us caress it with no more vain
compliments, but use it with something of its own rude and savage

I say, our last Irish girl went with the last snow, and on one of those
midsummer-like days that sometimes fall in early April to our yet bleak
and desolate zone, our hearts sang of Africa and golden joys. A Libyan
longing took us, and we would have chosen, if we could, to bear a strand
of grotesque beads, or a handful of brazen gauds, and traffic them for
some sable maid with crisped locks, whom, uncoffling from the captive
train beside the desert, we should make to do our general housework
forever, through the right of lawful purchase. But we knew that this was
impossible, and that, if we desired colored help, we must seek it at the
intelligence office, which is in one of those streets chiefly inhabited
by the orphaned children and grandchildren of slavery. To tell the truth
these orphans do not seem to grieve much for their bereavement, but lead
a life of joyous and rather indolent oblivion in their quarter of the
city. They are often to be seen sauntering up and down the street by
which the Charlesbridge cars arrive,--the young with a harmless swagger,
and the old with the generic limp which our Autocrat has already noted
as attending advanced years in their race. They seem the natural
human interest of a street so largely devoted to old clothes; and the
thoughtful may see a felicity in their presence where the pawnbrokers’
windows display the forfeited pledges of improvidence, and subtly remind
us that we have yet to redeem a whole race, pawned in our needy and
reckless national youth, and still held against us by the Uncle of
Injustice, who is also the Father of Lies. How gayly are the young
ladies of this race attired, as they trip up and down the side walks,
and in and out through the pendent garments at the shop doors! They
are the black pansies and marigolds and dark-blooded dahlias among
womankind. They try to assume something of our colder race’s demeanor,
but even the passer on the horse-car can see that it is not native with
them, and is better pleased when they forget us, and ungenteelly laugh
in encountering friends, letting their white teeth glitter through the
generous lips that open to their ears. In the streets branching upwards
from this avenue, very little colored men and maids play with broken or
enfeebled toys, or sport on the wooden pavements of the entrances to the
inner courts. Now and then a colored soldier or sailor--looking strange
in his uniform, even after the custom of several years--emerges from
those passages; or, more rarely, a black gentleman, stricken in years,
and cased in shining broadcloth, walks solidly down the brick sidewalk,
cane in hand,--a vision of serene self-complacency, and so plainly the
expression of virtuous public sentiment that the great colored louts,
innocent enough till then in their idleness, are taken with a sudden
sense of depravity, and loaf guiltily up against the house-walls. At
the same moment, perhaps, a young damsel, amorously scuffling with an
admirer through one of the low open windows, suspends the strife,
and bids him, “Go along now, do!” More rarely yet than the gentleman
described, one may see a white girl among the dark neighbors, whose
frowzy head is uncovered, and whose sleeves are rolled up to her elbows,
and who, though no doubt quite at home, looks as strange there as that
pale anomaly which may sometimes be seen among a crew of blackbirds.

An air not so much of decay as of unthrift, and yet hardly of unthrift,
seems to prevail in the neighborhood, which has none of the aggressive
and impudent squalor of an Irish quarter, and none of the surly
wickedness of a low American street. A gayety not born of the things
that bring its serious joy to the true New England heart--a ragged
gayety, which comes of summer in the blood, and not in the pocket or the
conscience, and which affects the countenance and the whole demeanor,
setting the feet to some inward music, and at times bursting into a
line of song or a child-like and irresponsible laugh--gives tone to
the visible life, and wakens a very friendly spirit in the passer, who
somehow thinks there of a milder climate, and is half persuaded that
the orange-peel on the sidewalks came from fruit grown in the soft
atmosphere of those back courts.

It was in this quarter, then, that we heard of Mrs. Johnson; and it was
from a colored boarding-house there that she came out to Charlesbridge
to look at us, bringing her daughter of twelve years with her. She was
a matron of mature age and portly figure, with a complexion like coffee
soothed with the richest cream; and her manners were so full of a
certain tranquillity and grace, that she charmed away all out will to
ask for references. It was only her barbaric laughter and her lawless
eye that betrayed how slightly her New England birth and breeding
covered her ancestral traits, and bridged the gulf of a thousand years
of civilization that lay between her race and ours. But in fact, she was
doubly estranged by descent; for, as we learned later, a sylvan wildness
mixed with that of the desert in her veins: her grandfather was an
Indian, and her ancestors on this side had probably sold their lands for
the same value in trinkets that bought the original African pair on the
other side.

The first day that Mrs. Johnson descended into our kitchen, she conjured
from the malicious disorder in which it had been left by the flitting
Irish kobold a dinner that revealed the inspirations of genius, and
was quite different from a dinner of mere routine and laborious talent.
Something original and authentic mingled with the accustomed flavors;
and, though vague reminiscences of canal-boat travel and woodland
camps arose from the relish of certain of the dishes, there was yet the
assurance of such power in the preparation of the whole, that we
knew her to be merely running over the chords of our appetite with
preliminary savors, as a musician acquaints his touch with the keys
of an unfamiliar piano before breaking into brilliant and triumphant
execution. Within a week she had mastered her instrument; and thereafter
there was no faltering in her performances, which she varied constantly,
through inspiration or from suggestion. She was so quick to receive new
ideas in her art, that, when the Roman statuary who stayed a few weeks
with us explained the mystery of various purely Latin dishes, she caught
their principle at once; and visions of the great white cathedral,
the Coliseum, and the “dome of Brunelleschi” floated before us in the
exhalations of the Milanese _risotto_, Roman _stufadino_, and Florentine
_stracotto_ that smoked upon our board. But, after all, it was in
puddings that Mrs. Johnson chiefly excelled. She was one of those
cooks--rare as men of genius in literature--who love their own dishes;
and she had, in her personally child-like simplicity of taste, and the
inherited appetites of her savage forefathers, a dominant passion
for sweets. So far as we could learn, she subsisted principally upon
puddings and tea. Through the same primitive instincts, no doubt, she
loved praise. She openly exulted in our artless flatteries of her skill;
she waited jealously at the head of the kitchen stairs to hear what was
said of her work, especially if there were guests; and she was never too
weary to attempt emprises of cookery.

While engaged in these, she wore a species of sightly handkerchief like
a turban upon her head and about her person those mystical swathings in
which old ladies of the African race delight. But she most pleasured our
sense of beauty and moral fitness when, after the last pan was washed
and the last pot was scraped, she lighted a potent pipe, and, taking her
stand at the kitchen door, laded the soft evening air with its pungent
odors. If we surprised her at these supreme moments, she took the pipe
from her lips, and put it behind her, with a low mellow chuckle, and
a look of half-defiant consciousness; never guessing that none of her
merits took us half so much as the cheerful vice which she only feigned
to conceal.

Some things she could not do so perfectly as cooking, because of her
failing eyesight; and we persuaded her that spectacles would both
become and befriend a lady of her years, and so bought her a pair of
steel-bowed glasses. She wore them in some great emergencies at first,
but had clearly no pride in them. Before long she laid them aside
altogether, and they had passed from our thoughts, when one day we heard
her mellow note of laughter and her daughter’s harsher cackle outside
our door, and, opening it, beheld Mrs. Johnson in gold-bowed spectacles
of massive frame. We then learned that their purchase was in fulfillment
of a vow made long ago, in the life-time of Mr. Johnson, that, if ever
she wore glasses, they should be gold-bowed; and I hope the manes of the
dead were half as happy in these votive spectacles as the simple soul
that offered them.

She and her late partner were the parents of eleven children, some of
whom were dead, and some of whom were wanderers in unknown parts. During
his life-time she had kept a little shop in her native town; and it was
only within a few years that she had gone into service. She cherished a
natural haughtiness of spirit, and resented control, although disposed
to do all she could of her own motion. Being told to say when she wanted
an afternoon, she explained that when she wanted an afternoon she always
took it without asking, but always planned so as not to discommode the
ladies with whom she lived. These, she said, had numbered twenty-seven
within three years, which made us doubt the success of her system in all
cases, though she merely held out the fact as an assurance of her faith
in the future, and a proof of the ease with which places were to be
found. She contended, moreover, that a lady who had for thirty years
had a house of her own, was in nowise bound to ask permission to receive
visits from friends where she might be living, but that they ought
freely to come and go like other guests. In this spirit she once invited
her son-in-law, Professor Jones of Providence, to dine with her; and
her defied mistress, on entering the dining-room, found the Professor
at pudding and tea there,--an impressively respectable figure in black
clothes, with a black face rendered yet more effective by a pair of
green goggles. It appeared that this dark professor was a light of
phrenology in Rhode Island, and that he was believed to have uncommon
virtue in his science by reason of being blind as well as black.

I am loath to confess that Mrs. Johnson had not a flattering opinion
of the Caucasian race in all respects. In fact, she had very good
philosophical and Scriptural reasons for looking upon us as an upstart
people of new blood, who had come into their whiteness by no creditable
or pleasant process. The late Mr. Johnson, who had died in the West
Indies, whither he voyaged for his health in quality of cook upon a
Down-East schooner, was a man of letters, and had written a book to
show the superiority of the black over the white branches of the
human family. In this he held that, as all islands have been at their
discovery found peopled by blacks, we must needs believe that humanity
was first created of that color. Mrs. Johnson could not show us her
husband’s work (a sole copy in the library of an English gentleman at
Port au Prince is not to be bought for money), but she often developed
its arguments to the lady of the house; and one day, with a great show
of reluctance, and many protests that no personal slight was meant, let
fall the fact that Mr. Johnson believed the white race descended from
Gehazi the leper, upon whom the leprosy of Naaman fell when the latter
returned by Divine favor to his original blackness. “And he went out
from his presence a leper as white as snow,” said Mrs. Johnson,
quoting irrefutable Scripture. “Leprosy, leprosy,” she added
thoughtfully,--“nothing but leprosy bleached you out.”

It seems to me much in her praise that she did not exult in our taint
and degradation, as some white philosophers used to do in the opposite
idea that a part of the human family were cursed to lasting blackness
and slavery in Ham and his children, but even told us of a remarkable
approach to whiteness in many of her own offspring. In a kindred spirit
of charity, no doubt, she refused ever to attend church with people of
her elder and wholesomer blood. When she went to church, she said, she
always went to a white church, though while with us I am bound to say
she never went to any. She professed to read her Bible in her bedroom on
Sundays; but we suspected, from certain sounds and odors which used
to steal out of this sanctuary, that her piety more commonly found
expression in dozing and smoking.

I would not make a wanton jest here of Mrs. Johnson’s anxiety to claim
honor for the African color, while denying this color in many of her
own family. It afforded a glimpse of the pain which all her people must
endure, however proudly they hide it or light-heartedly forget it, from
the despite and contumely to which they are guiltlessly born; and when I
thought how irreparable was this disgrace and calamity of a black skin,
and how irreparable it must be for ages yet, in this world where every
other shame and all manner of wilful guilt and wickedness may hope
for covert and pardon, I had little heart to laugh. Indeed, it was so
pathetic to hear this poor old soul talk of her dead and lost ones,
and try, in spite of all Mr. Johnson’s theories and her own arrogant
generalizations, to establish their whiteness, that we must have been
very cruel and silly people to turn her sacred fables even into matter
of question. I have no doubt that her Antoinette Anastasia and her
Thomas Jefferson Wilberforce--it is impossible to give a full idea
of the splendor and scope of the baptismal names in Mrs. Johnson’s
family--have as light skins and as golden hair in heaven as her reverend
maternal fancy painted for them in our world. There, certainly,
they would not be subject to tanning, which had ruined the delicate
complexion, and had knotted into black woolly tangles the once wavy
blonde locks of our little maid-servant Naomi; and I would fain believe
that Toussaint Washington Johnson, who ran away to sea so many years
ago, has found some fortunate zone where his hair and skin keep the same
sunny and rosy tints they wore to his mother’s eyes in infancy. But I
have no means of knowing this, or of telling whether he was the prodigy
of intellect that he was declared to be. Naomi could no more be taken in
proof, of the one assertion than of the other. When she came to us, it
was agreed that she should go to school; but she overruled her mother
in this as in everything else, and never went. Except Sunday-school
lessons, she had no other instruction than that her mistress gave her in
the evenings, when a heavy day’s play and the natural influences of the
hour conspired with original causes to render her powerless before words
of one syllable.

The first week of her service she was obedient and faithful to her
duties; but, relaxing in the atmosphere of a house which seems to
demoralize all menials, she shortly fell into disorderly ways of lying
in wait for callers out of doors, and, when people rang, of running up
the front steps, and letting them in from the outside. As the season
expanded, and the fine weather became confirmed, she modified even this
form of service, and spent her time in the fields, appearing at
the house only when nature importunately craved molasses. She had a
parrot-like quickness, so far as music was concerned, and learned from
the Roman statuary to make the groves and half-finished houses resound,

  “Camicia rossa,
   Ove t’ ascondi?
   T’ appella Italia,--
   Tu non respondi!”

She taught the Garibaldi song, moreover, to all the neighboring
children, so that I sometimes wondered if our street were not about to
march upon Rome in a body.

In her untamable disobedience, Naomi alone betrayed her sylvan blood,
for she was in all other respects negro and not Indian. But it was of
her aboriginal ancestry that Mrs. Johnson chiefly boasted,--when not
engaged in argument to maintain the superiority of the African race.
She loved to descant upon it as the cause and explanation of her own
arrogant habit of feeling; and she seemed indeed to have inherited
something of the Indian’s hauteur along with the Ethiop’s supple cunning
and abundant amiability. She gave many instances in which her pride had
met and overcome the insolence of employers, and the kindly old creature
was by no means singular in her pride of being reputed proud.

She could never have been a woman of strong logical faculties, but she
had in some things a very surprising and awful astuteness. She seldom
introduced any purpose directly, but bore all about it and then suddenly
sprung it upon her unprepared antagonist. At other times she obscurely
hinted a reason, and left a conclusion to be inferred; as when she
warded off reproach for some delinquency by saying in a general way that
she had lived with ladies who used to come scolding into the kitchen
after they had taken their bitters. “Quality ladies took their bitters
regular,” she added, to remove any sting of personality from her remark;
for, from many things she had let fall, we knew that she did not regard
us as quality. On the contrary, she often tried to overbear us with the
gentility of her former places; and would tell the lady over whom
she reigned, that she had lived with folks worth their three and
four hundred thousand dollars, who never complained as she did of the
ironing. Yet she had a sufficient regard for the literary occupations
of the family, Mr. Johnson having been an author. She even professed
to have herself written a book, which was still in manuscript, and
preserved somewhere among her best clothes.

It was well, on many accounts, to be in contact with a mind so original
and suggestive as Mrs. Johnson’s. We loved to trace its intricate yet
often transparent operations, and were perhaps too fond of explaining
its peculiarities by facts of ancestry,--of finding hints of the Powwow
or the Grand Custom in each grotesque development. We were conscious
of something warmer in this old soul than in ourselves, and something
wilder, and we chose to think it the tropic and the untracked forest.
She had scarcely any being apart from her affection; she had no
morality, but was good because she neither hated nor envied; and she
might have been a saint far more easily than far more civilized people.

There was that also in her sinuous yet malleable nature, so full of
guile and so full of goodness, that reminded us pleasantly of lowly folk
in elder lands, where relaxing oppressions have lifted the restraints of
fear between master and servant, without disturbing the familiarity of
their relation. She advised freely with us upon all household matters,
and took a motherly interest in whatever concerned us. She could be
flattered or caressed into almost any service, but no threat or command
could move her. When she erred, she never acknowledged her wrong in
words, but handsomely expressed her regrets in a pudding, or sent up her
apologies in a favorite dish secretly prepared. We grew so well used to
this form of exculpation, that, whenever Mrs. Johnson took an afternoon
at an inconvenient season, we knew that for a week afterwards we should
be feasted like princes. She owned frankly that she loved us, that she
never had done half so much for people before, and that she never had
been nearly so well suited in any other place; and for a brief and happy
time we thought that we never should part.

One day, however, our dividing destiny appeared in the basement, and was
presented to us as Hippolyto Thucydides, the son of Mrs. Johnson,
who had just arrived on a visit to his mother from the State of New
Hampshire. He was a heavy and loutish youth, standing upon the borders
of boyhood, and looking forward to the future with a vacant and listless
eye. I mean that this was his figurative attitude; his actual manner, as
he lolled upon a chair beside the kitchen window, was so eccentric, that
we felt a little uncertain how to regard him, and Mrs. Johnson openly
described him as peculiar. He was so deeply tanned by the fervid suns
of the New Hampshire winter, and his hair had so far suffered from
the example of the sheep lately under his charge, that he could not be
classed by any stretch of compassion with the blonde and straight-haired
members of Mrs. Johnson’s family.

He remained with us all the first day until late in the afternoon, when
his mother took him out to get him a boarding-house. Then he departed
in the van of her and Naomi, pausing at the gate to collect his spirits,
and, after he had sufficiently animated himself by clapping his palms
together, starting off down the street at a hand-gallop, to the manifest
terror of the cows in the pastures, and the confusion of the less
demonstrative people of our household. Other characteristic traits
appeared in Hippolyto Thucydides within no very long period of time, and
he ran away from his lodgings so often during the summer that he might
be said to board round among the outlying corn-fields and turnip-patches
of Charlesbridge. As a check upon this habit, Mrs. Johnson seemed to
have invited him to spend his whole time in our basement; for whenever
we went below we found him there, balanced--perhaps in homage to us,
and perhaps as a token of extreme sensibility in himself--upon the low
window-sill, the bottoms of his boots touching the floor inside, and his
face buried in the grass without.

We could formulate no very tenable objection to all this, and yet
the presence of Thucydides in our kitchen unaccountably oppressed our
imaginations. We beheld him all over the house, a monstrous eidolon,
balanced upon every window-sill; and he certainly attracted unpleasant
notice to our place, no less by his furtive and hang-dog manner
of arrival than by the bold displays with which he celebrated his
departures. We hinted this to Mrs. Johnson, but she could not enter into
our feeling. Indeed, all the wild poetry of her maternal and primitive
nature seemed to cast itself about this hapless boy; and if we had
listened to her we should have believed there was no one so agreeable in
society, or so quick-witted in affairs, as Hippolyto, when he chose. She
used to rehearse us long epics concerning his industry, his courage, and
his talent; and she put fine speeches in his mouth with no more regard
to the truth than if she had been a historian, and not a poet. Perhaps
she believed that he really said and did the things she attributed to
him: it is the destiny of those who repeatedly tell great things either
of themselves or others; and I think we may readily forgive the illusion
to her zeal and fondness. In fact, she was not a wise woman, and she
spoiled her children as if she had been a rich one.

At last, when we said positively that Thucydides should come to us no
more, and then qualified the prohibition by allowing him to come every
Sunday, she answered that she never would hurt the child’s feelings by
telling him not to come where his mother was; that people who did not
love her children did not love her; and that, if Hippy went, she went.
We thought it a master-stroke of firmness to rejoin that Hippolyto must
go in any event; but I am bound to own that he did not go, and that his
mother stayed, and so fed us with every cunning propitiatory dainty,
that we must have been Pagans to renew our threat. In fact, we begged
Mrs. Johnson to go into the country with us, and she, after long
reluctation on Hippy’s account, consented, agreeing to send him away to
friends during her absence.

We made every preparation, and on the eve of our departure Mrs. Johnson
went into the city to engage her son’s passage to Bangor, while we
awaited her return in untroubled security.

But she did not appear till midnight, and then responded with but a sad
“Well, sah!” to the cheerful “Well, Mrs. Johnson!” that greeted her.

“All right, Mrs. Johnson?”

Mrs. Johnson made a strange noise, half chuckle and half death-rattle,
in her throat. “All wrong, sah. Hippy’s off again; and I’ve been all
over the city after him.”

“Then you can’t go with us in the morning?”

“How _can_ I, sah?”

Mrs. Johnson went sadly out of the room. Then she came back to the door
again, and, opening it, uttered, for the first time in our service,
words of apology and regret: “I hope I ha’n’t put you out any. I
_wanted_ to go with you, but I ought to _knowed_ I couldn’t. All is, I
loved you too much.”


Vagabonds the world would no doubt call many of my doorstep
acquaintance, and I do not attempt to defend them altogether against
the world, which paints but black and white and in general terms. Yet I
would fain veil what is only half-truth under another name, for I know
that the service of their Gay Science is not one of such disgraceful
ease as we associate with ideas of vagrancy, though I must own that they
lead the life they do because they love it. They always protest that
nothing but their ignorance of our tongue prevents them from practicing
some mechanical trade. “What work could be harder,” they ask, “than
carrying this organ about all day?” but while I answer with honesty that
nothing can be more irksome, I feel that they only pretend a disgust
with it, and that they really like organ-grinding, if for no other
reason than that they are the children of the summer, and it takes them
into the beloved open weather. One of my friends, at least, who in the
warmer months is to all appearance a blithesome troubadour, living

  “A merry life in sun and shade,”

as a coal-heaver in winter; and though this more honorable and useful
occupation is doubtless open to him the whole year round, yet he does
not devote himself to it, but prefers with the expanding spring to lay
aside his grimy basket, and, shouldering his organ, to quit the dismal
wharves and carts and cellars, and to wander forth into the suburbs,
with his lazy, soft-eyed boy at his heels, who does nothing with his
tambourine but take up a collection, and who, meeting me the other day
in a chance passage of Ferry Street, knew me, and gave me so much of his
father’s personal history.

It was winter even there in Ferry Street, in which so many Italians live
that one might think to find it under a softer sky and in a gentler air,
and which I had always figured in a wide unlikeness to all other streets
in Boston,--with houses stuccoed outside, and with gratings at their
ground-floor windows; with mouldering archways between the buildings,
and at the corners feeble lamps glimmering before pictures of the
Madonna; with weather-beaten shutters flapping overhead, and many
balconies from which hung the linen swathings of young infants, and
love-making maidens furtively lured the velvet-jacketed, leisurely youth
below: a place haunted by windy voices of blessing and cursing, with the
perpetual clack of wooden-heeled shoes upon the stones, and what perfume
from the blossom of vines and almond-trees, mingling with less delicate
smells, the travelled reader pleases to imagine. I do not say that I
found Ferry Street actually different from this vision in most respects;
but as for the vines and almond-trees, they were not in bloom at the
moment of my encounter with the little tambourine-boy. As we stood and
talked, the snow fell as heavily and thickly around us as elsewhere in
Boston. With a vague pain,--the envy of a race toward another born to a
happier clime,--I heard from him that his whole family was going back to
Italy in a month. The father had at last got together money enough, and
the mother, who had long been an invalid, must be taken home; and, so
far as I know, the population of Ferry Street exists but in the hope of
a return, soon or late, to the native or the ancestral land.

More than one of my doorstep acquaintance, in fact, seemed to have no
other stock in trade than this fond desire, and to thrive with it in our
sympathetic community. It is scarcely possible but the reader has met
the widow of Giovanni Cascamatto, a Vesuvian lunatic who has long set
fire to their home on the slopes of the volcano, and perished in
the flames. She was our first Italian acquaintance in Charlesbridge,
presenting herself with a little subscription-book which she sent in
for inspection, with a printed certificate to the facts of her history
signed with the somewhat conventionally Saxon names of William Tompkins
and John Johnson. These gentlemen set forth, in terms vaguer than can be
reproduced, that her object in coming to America was to get money to go
back to Italy; and the whole document had so fictitious an air that it
made us doubt even the nationality of the bearer; but we were put to
shame by the decent joy she manifested in an Italian salutation. There
was no longer a question of imposture in anybody’s mind; we gladly
paid tribute to her poetic fiction, and she thanked us with a tranquil
courtesy that placed the obligation where it belonged. As she turned to
go with many good wishes, we pressed her to have some dinner, but
she answered with a compliment insurpassably flattering, she had just
dined--in another palace. The truth is, there is not a single palace on
Benicia Street, and our little box of pine and paper would hardly have
passed for a palace on the stage, where these things are often contrived
with great simplicity; but as we had made a little Italy together, she
touched it with the exquisite politeness of her race, and it became
for the instant a lordly mansion, standing on the Chiaja, or the Via
Nuovissima, or the Canalazzo.

I say this woman seemed glad to be greeted in Italian, but not, so far
as I could see, surprised; and altogether the most amazing thing about
my doorstep acquaintance of her nation is, that they are never surprised
to be spoken to in their own tongue, or, if they are, never show it.
A chestnut-roaster, who has sold me twice the chestnuts the same money
would have bought of him in English, has not otherwise recognized the
fact that Tuscan is not the dialect of Charlesbridge, and the mortifying
nonchalance with which my advances have always been received has long
since persuaded me that to the grinder at the gate it is not remarkable
that a man should open the door of his wooden house on Benicia Street,
and welcome him in his native language. After the first shock of this
indifference is past, it is not to be questioned but it flatters with
an illusion, which a stare of amazement would forbid, reducing the
encounter to a vulgar reality at once, and I could almost believe it
in those wily and amiable folk to intend the sweeter effect of their
unconcern, which tacitly implies that there is no other tongue in the
world but Italian, and which makes all the earth and air Italian for the
time. Nothing else could have been the purpose of that image-dealer whom
I saw on a summer’s day lying at the foot of one of our meeting-houses,
and doing his best to make it a cathedral, and really giving a sentiment
of medieval art to the noble sculptures of the facade which the
carpenters had just nailed up, freshly painted and newly repaired. This
poet was stretched upon his back, eating, in that convenient posture,
his dinner out of an earthen pot, plucking the viand from it, whatever
it was, with his thumb and fore-finger, and dropping it piecemeal into
his mouth. When the passer asked him “Where are you from?” he held a
morsel in air long enough to answer “Da Lucca, signore,” and then let it
fall into his throat, and sank deeper into a reverie in which that crude
accent even must have sounded like a gossip’s or a kinsman’s voice, but
never otherwise moved muscle, nor looked to see who passed or lingered.
There could have been little else in his circumstances to remind him of
home, and if he was really in the sort of day-dream attributed to him,
he was wise not to look about him. I have not myself been in Lucca,
but I conceive that its piazza is not like our square, with a pump
and horse-trough in the midst; but that it has probably a fountain and
statuary, though not possibly so magnificent an elm towering above the
bronze or marble groups as spreads its boughs of benison over our pump
and the horse-car switchman, loitering near it to set the switch for the
arriving cars, or lift the brimming buckets to the smoking nostrils of
the horses, while out from the stable comes clanging and banging with
a fresh team that famous African who has turned white, or, if he is
off duty, one of his brethren who has not yet begun to turn.
Figure, besides, an expressman watering his horse at the trough, a
provision-cart backed up against the curb in front of one of the stores,
various people looking from the car-office windows, and a conductor
appearing at the door long enough to call out, “Ready for Boston!”--and
you have a scene of such gayety as Lucca could never have witnessed in
her piazza at high noon on a summer’s day. Even our Campo Santo, if the
Lucchese had cared to look round the corner of the meeting-house at its
moss-grown head stones, could have had little to remind him of home,
though it has antiquity and a proper quaintness. But not for him, not
for them of his clime and faith, is the pathos of those simple memorial
slates with their winged skulls, changing upon many later stones, as if
by the softening of creeds and customs, to cherub’s heads,--not for him
is the pang I feel because of those who died, in our country’s youth
exiles or exiles’ children, heirs of the wilderness and toil and
hardship. Could they rise from their restful beds, and look on this
wandering Italian with his plaster statuettes of Apollo, and Canovan
dancers and deities, they would hold his wares little better than Romish
saints and idolatries, and would scarcely have the sentimental interest
in him felt by the modern citizen of Charlesbridge; but I think that
even they must have respected that Lombard scissors-grinder who used to
come to us, and put an edge to all the cutlery in the house.

He has since gone back to Milan, whence he came eighteen years ago, and
whither he has returned,--as he told me one acute day in the fall, when
all the winter hinted itself, and the painted leaves shuddered earthward
in the grove across the way,--to enjoy a little climate before he died
(_per goder un po’ di dima prima di morire_). Our climate was the only
thing he had against us; in every other respect he was a New-Englander,
even to the early stages of consumption. He told me the story of his
whole life, and of how in his adventurous youth he had left Milan
and sojourned some years in Naples, vainly seeking his fortune there.
Afterwards he went to Greece, and set up his ancestral business of
greengrocer in Athens, faring there no better, but rather worse than in
Naples, because of the deeper wickedness of the Athenians, who cheated
him right and left, and whose laws gave him no redress. The Neapolitans
were bad enough, he said, making a wry face, but the Greeks!--and he
spat the Greeks out in the grass. At last, after much misfortune
in Europe, he bethought him of coming to America, and he had never
regretted it, but for the climate. You spent a good deal here,--nearly
all you earned,--but then a poor man was a man, and the people were
honest. It was wonderful to him that they all knew how to read and
write, and he viewed with inexpressible scorn those Irish who came to
this country, and were so little sensible of the benefits it conferred
upon them. Boston he believed the best city in America, and “Tell me,”
 said he, “is there such a thing anywhere else in the world as that
Public Library?” He, a poor man, and almost unknown, had taken books
from it to his own room, and was master to do so whenever he liked. He
had thus been enabled to read Botta’s history of the United States, an
enormous compliment both to the country and the work which I doubt ever
to have been paid before; and he knew more about Washington than I did,
and desired to know more than I could tell him of the financial question
among us. So we came to national politics, and then to European affairs.
“It appears that Garibaldi will not go to Rome this year,” remarks
my scissors-grinder, who is very red in his sympathies. “The Emperor
forbids! Well, patience! And that blessed Pope, what does he want, that
Pope? He will be king find priest both, he will wear two pairs of shoes
at once!” I must confess that no other of my door-step acquaintance had
so clear an idea as this one of the difference between things here and
at home. To the minds of most we seemed divided here as there into rich
and poor,--_signori, persone eivili_, and _povera gente_,--and their
thoughts about us did not go beyond a speculation as to our individual
willingness or ability to pay for organ-grinding. But this Lombard was
worthy of his adopted country, and I forgive him the frank expression
of a doubt that one day occurred to him, when offered a glass of Italian
wine. He held it daintily between him and the sun for a smiling
moment, and then said, as if our wine must needs be as ungenuine as
our Italian,--was perhaps some expression from the surrounding
currant-bushes, harsh as that from the Northern tongues which could
never give his language the true life and tonic charm,--“But I suppose
this wine is not made of grapes, signor?” Yet he was a very courteous
old man, elaborate in greeting and leave-taking, and with a quicker
sense than usual. It was accounted delicacy in him, that, when he had
bidden us a final adieu, he should never come near us again, though
the date of his departure was postponed some weeks, and we heard him
tinkling down the street, and stopping at the neighbors’ houses. He
was a keen-faced, thoughtful-looking man; and he wore a blouse of blue
cotton, from the pocket of which always dangled the leaves of some wild
salad culled from our wasteful vacant lots or prodigal waysides.

[Illustration: “But I suppose this wine is not made of grapes, signor?”]

Altogether different in character was that Triestine, who came one
evening to be helped home at the close of a very disastrous career
in Mexico. He Was a person of innumerable bows, and fluttered his
bright-colored compliments about, till it appeared that never before
had such amiable people been asked charity by such a worthy and generous
sufferer. In Trieste he had been a journalist, and it was evident enough
from his speech that he was of a good education. He was vain of his
Italian accent, which was peculiarly good for his heterogeneously
peopled native city; and he made a show of that marvelous facility of
the Triestines in languages, by taking me down French books, Spanish
books, German books, and reading from them all with the properest
accent. Yet with this boyish pride and self-satisfaction there was mixed
a tone of bitter and worldly cynicism, a belief in fortune as the sole
providence. As nearly as I could make out, he was a Johnson man in
American politics; upon the Mexican question he was independent,
disdaining French and Mexicans alike. He was with the former from
the first, and had continued in the service of Maximilian after their
withdrawal, till the execution of that prince made Mexico no place
for adventurous merit. He was now going back to his native country, an
ungrateful land enough, which had ill treated him long ago, but to
which he nevertheless returned in a perfect gayety of temper. What a
light-hearted rogue he was,--with such merry eyes, and such a pleasant
smile shaping his neatly trimmed beard and mustache! After he had
supped, and he Stood with us at the door taking leave, something
happened to be said of Italian songs, whereupon this blithe exile, whom
the compassion of strangers was enabling to go home after many years of
unprofitable toil and danger to a country that had loved him not, fell
to caroling a Venetian barcarole, and went sweetly away in its cadence.
I bore him company as far as the gate of another Italian-speaking
signor, and was there bidden adieu with great effusion, so that I forgot
till he had left me to charge him not to be in fear of the house-dog,
which barked but did not bite. In calling this after him, I had the
misfortune to blunder in my verb. A man of another nation--perhaps
another man of his own nation--would have cared rather for what I said
than how I said it; but he, as if too zealous for the honor of his
beautiful language to endure a hurt to it even in that moment of grief,
lifting his hat, and bowing for the last time, responded with a “Morde,
non morsica, signore!” and passed in under the pines, and next day to

There is a little old Genoese lady comes to sell us pins, needles,
thread, tape, and the like _roba_, whom I regard as leading quite an
ideal life in some respects. Her traffic is limited to a certain number
of families who speak more or less Italian; and her days, so far as
they are concerned, must be passed in an atmosphere of sympathy and
kindliness. The truth is, we Northern and New World folk cannot help but
cast a little romance about whoever comes to us from Italy, whether we
have actually known the beauty and charm of that land or not. Then this
old lady is in herself a very gentle and lovable kind of person, with
a tender mother-face, which is also the face of a child. A smile plays
always upon her wrinkled visage, and her quick and restless eyes are
full of friendliness. There is never much stuff in her basket, however,
and it is something of a mystery how she manages to live from it. None
but an Italian could, I am sure; and her experience must test the full
virtue of the national genius for cheap salads and much-extenuated
soup-meat. I do not know whether it is native in her, or whether it is a
grace acquired from long dealing with those kindly-hearted customers
of hers in Charlesbridge, but she is of a most munificent spirit, and
returns every smallest benefit with some present from her basket. She
makes me ashamed of things I have written about the sordidness of her
race, but I shall vainly seek to atone for them by open-handedness to
her. She will give favor for favor; she will not even count the money
she receives; our bargaining is a contest of the courtliest civilities,
ending in many an “Adieu!” “To meet again!” “Remain well!” and
“Finally!” not surpassed if rivaled in any Italian street. In her
ineffectual way, she brings us news of her different customers, breaking
up their stout Saxon names into tinkling polysyllables which suggest
them only to the practiced sense, and is perfectly patient and contented
if we mistake one for another. She loves them all, but she pities them
as living in a terrible climate; and doubtless in her heart she purposes
one day to go back to Italy, there to die. In the mean time she is
very cheerful; she, too, has had her troubles,--what troubles I do not
remember, but those that come by sickness and by death, and that really
seem no sorrows until they come to us,--yet she never complains. It is
hard to make a living, and the house-rent alone is six dollars a month;
but still one lives, and does not fare so ill either. As it does not
seem to be in her to dislike any one, it must be out of a harmless
guile, felt to be comforting to servant-ridden householders, that she
always speaks of “those Irish,” her neighbors, with a bated breath, a
shaken head, a hand lifted to the cheek, and an averted countenance.

Swarthiest of the organ-grinding tribe is he who peers up at my window
out of infinitesimal black eyes, perceives me, louts low, and for
form’s sake grinds me out a tune before he begins to talk. As we
parley together, say it is eleven o’clock in the forenoon, and a sober
tranquillity reigns upon the dust and nodding weeds of Benicia Street.
At that hour the organ-grinder and I are the only persons of our sex
in the whole suburban population; all other husbands and fathers having
eaten their breakfasts at seven o’clock, and stood up in the early
horse-cars to Boston, whence they will return, with aching backs and
quivering calves, half-pendant by leathern straps from the roofs of the
same luxurious conveyances, in the evening. The Italian might go and
grind his organ upon the front stoop of any one of a hundred French-roof
houses around, and there would be no arm within strong enough to thrust
him thence; but he is a gentleman in his way, and, as he prettily
explains, he never stops to play except where the window smiles on
him: a frowning lattice he will pass in silence. I behold in him a
disappointed man,--a man broken in health, and of a liver baked by long
sojourn in a tropical clime. In large and dim outline, made all the
dimmer by his dialect, he sketches me the story of his life; how in his
youth he ran away from the Milanese for love of a girl in France, who,
dying, left him with so little purpose in the world that, after working
at his trade of plasterer for some years in Lyons, he listened to a
certain gentleman going out upon government service to a French colony
in South America. This gentleman wanted a man-servant, and he said to
my organ-grinder, “Go with me and I make your fortune.” So he, who cared
not whither he went, went, and found himself in the tropics. It was a
hard life he led there; and of the wages that had seemed so great in
France, he paid nearly half to his laundress alone, being forced to be
neat in his master’s house. The service was not so irksome in-doors, but
it was the hunting beasts in the forest all day that broke his patience
at last.

“Beasts in the forest?” I ask, forgetful of the familiar sense of
_bestie_, and figuring cougars at least by the word.

“Yes, those little beasts for the naturalists,--flies, bugs,
beetles,--Heaven knows what.”

“But this brought you money?”

“It brought my master money, but me aches and pains as many as you will,
and at last the fever. When that was burnt out, I made up my mind to
ask for more pay, and, not getting it, to quit that service. I think
the signor would have given it,--but the signora! So I left, empty as I
came, and was cook on a vessel to New York.”

This was the black and white of the man’s story. I lose the color and
atmosphere which his manner as well as his words bestowed upon it. He
told it in a cheerful, impersonal kind of way as the romance of a poor
devil which had interested him, and might possibly amuse me, leaving
out no touch of character in his portrait of the fat, selfish
master,--yielding enough, however, but for his grasping wife, who, with
all her avarice and greed, he yet confessed to be very handsome. By the
wave of a hand he housed them in a tropic residence, dim, cool, close
shut, kept by servants in white linen moving with mute slippered feet
over stone floors; and by another gesture he indicated the fierce thorny
growths of the forest in which he hunted those vivid insects,--the
luxuriant savannas, the gigantic ferns and palms, the hush and shining
desolation, the presence of the invisible fever and death. There was a
touch, too, of inexpressible sadness in his half-ignorant mention of
the exiles at Cayenne, who were forbidden the wide ocean of escape about
them by those swift gunboats keeping their coasts and swooping down upon
every craft that left the shore. He himself had seen one such capture,
and he made me see it, and the mortal despair of the fugitives, standing
upright in their boat with the idle oars in their unconscious hands,
while the corvette swept toward them.

For all his misfortunes, he was not cast down. He had that lightness of
temper which seems proper to most northern Italians, whereas those from
the south are usually dark-mooded, sad-faced men. Nothing surpasses for
unstudied misanthropy of expression the visages of different Neapolitan
harpers who have visited us; but they have some right to their dejected
countenances as being of a yet half-civilized stock, and as real artists
and men of genius. Nearly all wandering violinists, as well as harpers,
are of their race, and they are of every age, from that of mere
children to men in their prime. They are very rarely old, as many of
the organ-grinders are; they are not so handsome as the Italians of the
north, though they have invariably fine eyes. They arrive in twos and
threes; the violinist briefly tunes his fiddle, and the harper unslings
his instrument, and, with faces of profound gloom, they go through their
repertory,--pieces from the great composers, airs from the opera, not
unmingled with such efforts of Anglo-Saxon genius as Champagne Charley
and Captain Jenks of the Horse Marines, which, like the language of
Shakespeare and Milton, hold us and our English cousins in tender bonds
of mutual affection. Beyond the fact that they come “dal Basilicat’,” or
“dal Principat’,” one gets very little out of these Neapolitans, though
I dare say they are not so surly at heart as they look. Money does not
brighten them to the eye, but yet it touches them, and they are good
in playing or leaving off to him that pays. Long time two of them stood
between the gateway firs on a pleasant summer’s afternoon and twanged
and scraped their harmonious strings, till all the idle boys of the
neighborhood gathered about them, listening with a grave and still
delight. It was a most serious company: the Neapolitans, with their
cloudy brows, rapt in their music; and the Yankee children, with their
impassive faces, warily guarding against the faintest expression of
enjoyment; and when at last the minstrels played a brisk measure,
and the music began to work in the blood of the boys, and one of them
shuffling his reluctant feet upon the gravel, broke into a sudden and
resistless dance, the spectacle became too sad for contemplation. The
boy danced only from the hips down; no expression of his face gave the
levity sanction, nor did any of his comrades: they beheld him with a
silent fascination, but none was infected by the solemn indecorum; and
when the legs and music ceased their play together, no comment was made,
and the dancer turned unheated away. A chance passer asked for what he
called the Gearybaldeye Hymn, but the Neapolitans apparently did not
know what this was.

My doorstep acquaintance were not all of one race; now and then an alien
to the common Italian tribe appeared,--an Irish soldier, on his way to
Salem, and willing to show me more of his mutilation than I cared to
buy the sight of for twenty-five cents; and more rarely yet an American,
also formerly of the army, but with something besides his wretchedness
to sell. On the hottest day of last summer such a one rang the bell, and
was discovered on the threshold wiping with his poor sole hand the sweat
that stood upon his forehead. There was still enough of the independent
citizen in his maimed and emaciated person to inspire him with
deliberation and a show of that indifference with which we Americans
like to encounter each other; but his voice was rather faint when he
asked if I supposed we wanted any starch to-day.

“Yes, certainly,” answered what heart there was within, taking note
willfully, but I hope not wantonly, what an absurdly limp figure he was
for a peddler of starch,--“certainly from you, brave fellow;” and the
package being taken from his basket, the man turned to go away, so very
wearily, that a cheap philanthropy protested: “For shame! ask him to sit
down in-doors and drink a glass of water.”

“No,” answered the poor fellow, when this indignant voice had been
obeyed, and he had been taken at a disadvantage, and as it were
surprised into the confession, “my family hadn’t any breakfast this
morning, and I’ve got to hurry back to them.”

“Haven’t _you_ had any breakfast?”

“Well, I wa’n’t rightly hungry when I left the house.”

“Here, now,” popped in the virtue before named, “is an opportunity to
discharge the debt we all owe to the brave fellows who gave us back our
country. Make it beer.”

So it was made beer and bread and cold meat, and, after a little
pressing, the honest soul consented to the refreshment. He sat down in a
cool doorway and began to eat and to tell of the fight before Vicksburg.
And if you have never seen a one-armed soldier making a meal, I can
assure you the sight is a pathetic one, and is rendered none the
cheerfuller by his memories of the fights that mutilated him. This man
had no very susceptible audience, but before he was carried off the
field, shot through the body, and in the arm and foot, he had sold every
package of starch in his basket. I am ashamed to say this now, for I
suspect that a man with one arm, who indulged himself in going about
under that broiling sun of July, peddling starch, was very probably an
impostor. He computed a good day’s profits of seventy-five cents, and
when asked if that was not very little for the support of a sick wife
and three children, he answered with a quaint effort at impressiveness,
and with a trick, as I imagined, from the manner of the regimental
chaplain, “You’ve done your duty, my friend, and more’n your duty. If
every one did their duty like that, we should get along.” So he took
leave, and shambled out into the furnace-heat, the sun beating upon his
pale face, and his linen coat hugging him close, but with his basket
lighter, and I hope his heart also. At any rate, this was the sentiment
which cheap philanthropy offered in self-gratulation, as he passed out
of sight: “There! you are quits with those maimed soldiers at last, and
you have a country which you have paid for with cold victuals as they
with blood.”

We have been a good deal visited by one disbanded volunteer, not to the
naked eye maimed, nor apparently suffering from any lingering illness,
yet who bears, as he tells me, a secret disabling wound in his side from
a spent shell, and who is certainly a prey to the most acute form
of shiftlessness. I do not recall with exactness the date of our
acquaintance, but it was one of those pleasant August afternoons when
a dinner eaten in peace fills the digester with a millennial tenderness
for the race too rarely felt in the nineteenth century. At such a moment
it is a more natural action to loosen than to tighten the purse-strings,
and when a very neatly dressed young man presented himself at the gate,
and, in a note of indescribable plaintiveness, asked if I had any little
job for him to do that he might pay for a night’s lodging, I looked
about the small domain with a vague longing to find some part of it in
disrepair, and experienced a moment’s absurd relief when he hinted that
he would be willing to accept fifty cents in pledge of future service.
Yet this was not the right principle: some work, real or apparent, must
be done for the money, and the veteran was told that he might weed the
strawberry bed, though, as matters then stood, it was clean enough for a
strawberry bed that never bore anything. The veteran was neatly dressed,
as I have said: his coat, which was good, was buttoned to the throat
for reasons that shall be sacred against curiosity, and he had on a
perfectly clean paper collar; he was a handsome young fellow, with
regular features, and a solicitously kept imperial and mustache; his
hair, when he lifted his hat, appeared elegantly oiled and brushed.
I did not hope from this figure that the work done would be worth the
money paid, and, as nearly as I can compute, the weeds he took from that
bed cost me a cent apiece, to say nothing of a cup of tea given him in
grace at the end of his labors.

My acquaintance was, as the reader will be glad to learn, a native
American, though it is to be regretted, for the sake of facts which his
case went far to establish, that he was not a New-Englander by birth.
The most that could be claimed was, that he came to Boston from Delaware
when very young, and that there on that brine-washed granite he had
grown as perfect a flower of helplessness and indolence, as fine a fruit
of maturing civilization, as ever expanded or ripened in Latin lands.
He lived, not only a protest in flesh and blood against the tendency of
democracy to exclude mere beauty from our system, but a refutation
of those Old World observers, who deny to our vulgar and bustling
communities the refining and elevating grace of Repose. There was
something very curious and original in his character, from which the
sentiment of shame was absent, but which was not lacking in the fine
instincts of personal cleanliness, of dress, of style. There was nothing
of the rowdy in him; he was gentle as an Italian noble in his manners:
what other traits they may have had in common, I do not know; perhaps an
amiable habit of illusion. He was always going to bring me his discharge
papers, but he never did, though he came often and had many a pleasant
night’s sleep at my cost. If sometimes he did a little work, he spent
great part of the time contracted to me in the kitchen, where it was
understood, quite upon his own agency, that his wages included board. At
other times, he called for money too late in the evening to work it out
that day, and it has happened that a new second girl, deceived by
his genteel appearance in the uncertain light, has shown him into the
parlor, where I have found him to his and my own great amusement, as
the gentleman who wanted to see me. Nothing else seemed to raise his
ordinarily dejected spirits so much. We all know how pleasant it is to
laugh at people behind their backs; but this veteran afforded me at a
very low rate the luxury of a fellow-being whom one might laugh at to
his face as much as one liked.

Yet with all his shamelessness, his pensiveness, his elegance, I felt
that somehow our national triumph was not complete in him,--that there
were yet more finished forms of self-abasement in the Old World, till
one day I looked out of the window and saw at a little distance my
veteran digging a cellar for an Irishman. I own that the spectacle gave
me a shock of pleasure, and that I ran down to have a nearer view of
what human eyes have seldom, if ever, beheld,--an American, pure blood,
handling the pick, the shovel, and the wheelbarrow, while an Irishman
directed his labors. Upon inspection, it appeared that none of the trees
grew with their roots in the air, in recognition of this great reversal
of the natural law; all the French-roof houses stood right side up. The
phenomenon may become more common in future, unless the American
race accomplishes its destiny of dying out before the more populatory
foreigner, but as yet it graced the veteran with an exquisite and signal
distinction. He, however, seemed to feel unpleasantly the anomaly of his
case, and opened the conversation by saying that he should not work at
that job to-morrow, it hurt his side; and went on to complain of the
inhumanity of Americans to Americans. “Why,” said he, “they’d rather
give out their jobs to a nigger than to one of their own kind. I was
beatin’ carpets for a gentleman on the Avenue, and the first thing I
know he give most of ‘em to a nigger. I beat seven of ‘em in one day,
and got two dollars; and the nigger beat ‘em by the piece, and he got a
dollar an’ a half apiece. My luck!”

Here the Irishman glanced at his hireling, and the rueful veteran
hastened to pile up another wheelbarrow with earth. If ever we come to
reverse positions generally with our Irish brethren, there is no doubt
but they will get more work out of us than we do from them at present.

It was shortly after this that the veteran offered to do second girl’s
work in my house if I would take him. The place was not vacant; and as
the summer was now drawing to a close, and I feared to be left with
him on my hands for the winter, it seemed well to speak to him upon
the subject of economy. The next time he called, I had not about me the
exact sum for a night’s lodging,--fifty cents, namely--and asked him
if he thought a dollar would do He smiled sadly, as if he did not like
jesting upon such a very serious subject, but said he allowed to work it
out, and took it.

“Now, I hope you won’t think I am interfering with your affairs,” said
his benefactor, “but I really think you are a very poor financier.
According to your own account, you have been going on from year to year
for a long time, trusting to luck for a night’s lodging. Sometimes I
suppose you have to sleep out-of-doors.”

“No, never!” answered the veteran, with something like scorn. “I never
sleep out-doors. I wouldn’t do it.”

“Well, at any rate, some one has to pay for your lodging. Don’t you
think you’d come cheaper to your friends, if, instead of going to a
hotel every night, you’d take a room somewhere, and pay for it by the

“I’ve thought of that. If I could get a good bed, I’d try it awhile
anyhow. You see the hotels have raised. I used to get a lodgin’ and a
nice breakfast for a half a dollar, but now it is as much as you can do
to get a lodgin’ for the money, and it’s just as dear in the Port as
it is in the city. I’ve tried hotels pretty much everywhere, and one’s
about as bad as another.”

If he had been a travelled Englishman writing a book, he could not have
spoken of hotels with greater disdain.

“You see, the trouble with me is, I ain’t got any relations around here.
Now,” he added, with the life and eagerness of an inspiration, “if I had
a mother and sister livin’ down at the Port, say, I wouldn’t go hunting
about for these mean little jobs everywheres. I’d just lay round home,
and wait till something come up big. What I want is a home.”

At the instigation of a malignant spirit I asked the homeless orphan,
“Why don’t you get married, then?”

He gave me another smile, sadder, fainter, sweeter than before, and
said: “When would you like to see me again, so I could work out this

A sudden and unreasonable disgust for the character which had given me
so much entertainment succeeded to my past delight. I felt, moreover,
that I had bought the right to use some frankness with the veteran, and
I said to him: “Do you know now, I shouldn’t care if I _never_ saw you

I can only conjecture that he took the confidence in good part, for he
did not appear again after that.


Walking for walking’s sake I do not like. The diversion appears to
me one of the most factitious of modern enjoyments; and I cannot help
looking upon those who pace their five miles in the teeth of a north
wind, and profess to come home all the livelier and better for it,
as guilty of a venial hypocrisy. It is in nature that after such an
exercise the bones should ache and the flesh tremble; and I suspect that
these harmless pretenders are all the while paying a secret penalty
for their bravado. With a pleasant end in view, or with cheerful
companionship, walking is far from being the worst thing in life; though
doubtless a truly candid person must confess that he would rather
ride under the same circumstances. Yet it is certain that some sort
of recreation is necessary after a day spent within doors; and one is
really obliged nowadays to take a little walk instead of medicine; for
one’s doctor is sure to have a mania on the subject, and there is no
more getting pills or powders out of him for a slight indigestion than
if they had all been shot away at the rebels during the war. For this
reason I sometimes go upon a pedestrian tour, which is of no great
extent in itself, and which I moreover modify by keeping always within
sound of the horse-car bells, or easy reach of some steam-car station.

I fear that I should find these rambles dull, but that their utter lack
of interest amuses me. I will be honest with the reader, though, and any
Master Pliable is free to forsake me at this point; for I cannot promise
to be really livelier than my walk. There is a Slough of Despond in full
view, and not a Delectable Mountain to be seen, unless you choose so
to call the high lands about Waltham, which we shall behold dark blue
against the western sky presently. As I sally forth upon Benicia Street,
the whole suburb of Charlesbridge stretches about me,--a vast space upon
which I can embroider any fancy I like as I saunter along. I have no
associations with it, or memories of it, and, at some seasons, I might
wander for days in the most frequented parts of it, and meet hardly any
one I know. It is not, however, to these parts that I commonly turn,
but northward, up a street upon which a flight of French-roof houses
suddenly settled a year or two since, with families in them, and many
outward signs of permanence, though their precipitate arrival might
cast some doubt upon this. I have to admire their uniform neatness and
prettiness, and I look at their dormer-windows with the envy of one
to whose weak sentimentality dormer-windows long appeared the supreme
architectural happiness. But, for all my admiration of the houses, I
find a variety that is pleasanter in the landscape, when I reach, beyond
them, a little bridge which appears to span a small stream. It unites
banks lined with a growth of trees and briers nodding their heads above
the neighboring levels, and suggesting a quiet water-course, though in
fact it is the Fitchburg Railroad that purls between them, with rippling
freight and passenger trains and ever-gurgling locomotives. The banks
take the earliest green of spring upon their southward slope, and on a
Sunday morning of May, when the bells are lamenting the Sabbaths of the
past, I find their sunny tranquillity sufficient to give me a slight
heart-ache for I know not what. If I descend them and follow the
railroad westward half a mile, I come to vast brick-yards, which are
not in themselves exciting to the imagination, and which yet, from an
irresistible association of ideas, remind me of Egypt, and are forever
newly forsaken of those who made bricks without straw; so that I have no
trouble in erecting temples and dynastic tombs out of the kilns; while
the mills for grinding the clay serve me very well for those sad-voiced
_sakias_ or wheel-pumps which the Howadji Curtis heard wailing at their
work of drawing water from the Nile. A little farther on I come to the
boarding-house built at the railroad side for the French Canadians who
have by this time succeeded the Hebrews in the toil of the brick-yards,
and who, as they loiter in windy-voiced, good-humored groups about the
doors of their lodgings, insist upon bringing before me the town of
St. Michel at the mouth of the great Mont Cenis tunnel, where so
many peasant folk like them are always amiably quarreling before the
_cabarets_ when the diligence comes and goes. Somewhere, there must be a
gendarme with a cocked hat and a sword on, standing with folded arms to
represent the Empire and Peace among that rural population; if I
looked in-doors, I am sure I should see the neatest of landladies and
landladies’ daughters and nieces in high black silk caps, bearing hither
and thither smoking bowls of _bouillon_ and _café-au-lait_. Well, it
takes as little to make one happy as miserable, thank Heaven! and I
derive a cheerfulness from this scene which quite atones to me for the
fleeting desolation suffered from the sunny verdure on the railroad
bank. With repaired spirits I take my way up through the brick-yards
towards the Irish settlement on the north, passing under the long sheds
that shelter the kilns. The ashes lie cold about the mouths of most,
and the bricks are burnt to the proper complexion; in others these are
freshly arranged over flues in which the fire has not been kindled; but
in whatever state I see them, I am reminded of brick-kilns of boyhood.
They were then such palaces of enchantment as any architect should now
vainly attempt to rival with bricks upon the most desirable corner
lot of the Back Bay, and were the homes of men truly to be envied: men
privileged to stay up all night; to sleep, as it were, out of doors; to
hear the wild geese as they flew over in the darkness; to be waking in
time to shoot the early ducks that visited the neighboring ponds; to
roast corn upon the ends of sticks; to tell and to listen to stories
that never ended, save in some sudden impulse to rise and dance a happy
hoe-down in the ruddy light of the kiln-fires. If by day they were seen
to have the redness of eyes of men that looked upon the whiskey when
it was yellow and gave its color in the flask; if now and then the
fragments of a broken bottle strewed the scene of their vigils, and
a head broken to match appeared among those good comrades, the boyish
imagination was not shocked by these things, but accepted them merely as
the symbols of a free virile life. Some such life no doubt is still to
be found in the Dublin to which I am come by the time my repertory of
associations with brick-kilns is exhausted, but, oddly enough, I no
longer care to encounter it.

It is perhaps in a pious recognition of our mortality that Dublin is
built around the Irish grave-yard. Most of its windows look out upon
the sepulchral monuments and the pretty constant arrival of the funeral
trains with their long lines of carriages bringing to the celebration of
the sad ultimate rites those gay companies of Irish mourners. I suppose
that the spectacle of such obsequies is not at all depressing to the
inhabitants of Dublin; but that, on the contrary, it must beget in them
a feeling which, if not resignation to death, is, at least, a sort of
sub-acute cheerfulness in his presence. None but a Dubliner, however,
would have been greatly animated by a scene which I witnessed during
a stroll through this cemetery one afternoon of early spring. The fact
that a marble slab or shaft more or less sculptured, and inscribed with
words more or less helpless, is the utmost that we can give to one whom
once we could caress with every tenderness of speech and touch, and
that, after all, the memorial we raise is rather to our own grief, and
is a decency, a mere conventionality,--this is a dreadful fact on
which the heart breaks itself with such a pang, that it always seems
a desolation never recognized, an anguish never felt before. Whilst I
stood revolving this thought in my mind, and reading the Irish names
upon the stones and the black head-boards,--the latter adorned with
pictures of angels, once gilt, but now weather-worn down to the yellow
paint,--a wail of intolerable pathos filled the air: “O my darling, O my
darling! O--O--O!” with sobs and groans and sighs; and, looking about, I
saw two women, one standing upright beside another that had cast herself
upon a grave, and lay clasping it with her comfortless arms, uttering
these cries. The grave was a year old at least, but the grief seemed of
yesterday or of that morning. At times the friend that stood beside
the prostrate woman stooped and spoke a soothing word to her, while she
wailed out her woe; and in the midst some little ribald Irish boys came
scuffling and quarreling up the pathway, singing snatches of an obscene
song; and when both the wailing and the singing had died away, an old
woman, decently clad, and with her many-wrinkled face softened by the
old-fashioned frill running round the inside of her cap, dropped down
upon her knees beside a very old grave, and clasped her hands in a
silent prayer above it.

[Illustration: “Looking about, I saw two women.”]

If I had beheld all this in some village _campo santo_ in Italy, I
should have been much more vividly impressed by it, as an aesthetical
observer; whereas I was now merely touched as a human being, and had
little desire to turn the scene to literary account. I could not help
feeling that it wanted the atmosphere of sentimental association, the
whole background was a blank or worse than a blank. Yet I have not
been able to hide from myself so much as I would like certain points of
resemblance between our Irish and the poorer classes of Italians. The
likeness is one of the first things that strikes an American in Italy,
and I am always reminded of it in Dublin. So much of the local life
appears upon the street; there is so much gossip from house to house,
and the talk is always such a resonant clamoring; the women, bareheaded,
or with a shawl folded over the head and caught beneath the chin with
the hand, have such a contented down-at-heel aspect, shuffling from door
to door, or lounging, arms akimbo, among the cats and poultry at their
own thresholds, that one beholding it all might well fancy himself upon
some Italian _calle_ or _vicolo_. Of course the illusion does not hold
good on a Sunday, when the Dubliners are coming home from church in
their best,--their extraordinary best bonnets and their prodigious silk
hats. It does not hold good in any way or at any time, except upon the
surface, for there is beneath all this resemblance the difference that
must exist between a race immemorially civilized and one which has
lately emerged from barbarism “after six centuries of oppression.” You
are likely to find a polite pagan under the mask of the modern Italian
you feel pretty sure that any of his race would with a little washing
and skillful manipulation, _restore_, like a neglected painting,
into something genuinely graceful and pleasing; but if one of these
Yankeefied Celts were scraped, it is but too possible that you might
find a kern, a Whiteboy, or a Pikeman. The chance of discovering
a scholar or a saint of the period when Ireland was the centre of
learning, and the favorite seat of the Church, is scarcely one in three.

Among the houses fronting on the main street of Dublin, every other
one--I speak in all moderation--is a grocery, if I may judge by a tin
case of corn-balls, a jar of candy, and a card of shirt-buttons, with an
under layer of primers and ballads, in the windows. You descend from the
street by several steps into these haunts, which are contrived to secure
the greatest possible dampness and darkness; and if you have made an
errand inside, you doubtless find a lady before the counter in the act
of putting down a guilty-looking tumbler with one hand, while she
neatly wipes her mouth on the back of the other. She has that effect,
observable in all tippling women of low degree, of having no upper
garment on but a shawl, which hangs about her in statuesque folds and
lines. She slinks out directly, but the lady behind the counter gives
you good evening with

  “The affectation of a bright-eyed ease,”

intended to deceive if you chance to be a State constable in disguise,
and to propitiate if you are a veritable customer: “Who was that woman,
lamenting so, over in the grave-yard?” “O, I don’t know, sir,” answered
the lady, making change for the price of a ballad. “Some Irish folks.
They ginerally cries that way.”

In yet earlier spring walks through Dublin, I found a depth of mud
appalling even to one who had lived three years in Charlesbridge. The
streets were passable only to pedestrians skilled in shifting themselves
along the sides of fences and alert to take advantage of every
projecting doorstep. There were no dry places, except in front of the
groceries, where the ground was beaten hard by the broad feet of loafing
geese and the coming and going of admirably small children making
purchases there. The number of the little ones was quite as remarkable
as their size, and ought to have been even more interesting, if, as
sometimes appears probable, such increase shall--together with the
well-known ambition of Dubliners to rule the land--one day make an end
of us poor Yankees as a dominant plurality.

The town was somewhat tainted with our architectural respectability,
unless the newness of some of the buildings gave illusion of this; and,
though the streets of Dublin were not at all cared for, and though every
house on the main thoroughfare stood upon the brink of a slough, without
yard, or any attempt at garden or shrubbery, there were many cottages in
the less aristocratic quarters inclosed in palings, and embowered in
the usual suburban pear-trees and currant-bushes. These, indeed, were
dwellings of an elder sort, and had clearly been inherited from a
population now as extinct in that region as the Pequots, and they were
not always carefully cherished. On the border of the hamlet is to be
seen an old farm-house of the poorer sort, built about the beginning of
this century, and now thickly peopled by Dubliners. Its gate is thrown
down, and the great wild-grown lilac hedge, no longer protected by a
fence, shows skirts bedabbled by the familiarity of lawless poultry, as
little like the steady-habited poultry of other times, as the people of
the house are like the former inmates, long since dead or gone West. I
offer the poor place a sentiment of regret as I pass, thinking of
its better days. I think of its decorous, hard-working, cleanly,
school-going, church-attending life, which was full of the pleasure of
duty done, and was not without its own quaint beauty and grace. What
long Sabbaths were kept in that old house, what scanty holidays!
Yet from this and such as this came the dominion of the whole wild
continent, the freedom of a race, the greatness of the greatest people.
It may be that I regretted a little too exultantly, and that out of
this particular house came only peddling of innumerable clocks and
multitudinous tin-ware. But as yet, it is pretty certain that the
general character of the population has not gained by the change. What
is in the future, let the prophets say; any one can see that something
not quite agreeable is in the present; something that takes the wrong
side, as by instinct, in politics; something that mainly helps to prop
up tottering priestcraft among us; something that one thinks of with
dismay as destined to control so largely the civil and religious
interests of the country. This, however, is only the aggregate aspect.
Mrs. Clannahan’s kitchen, as it may be seen by the desperate philosopher
when he goes to engage her for the spring house-cleaning, is a strong
argument against his fears. If Mrs. Clannahan, lately of an Irish cabin,
can show a kitchen so capably appointed and so neatly kept as that, the
country may yet be an inch or two from the brink of ruin, and the race
which we trust as little as we love may turn out no more spendthrift
than most heirs. It is encouraging, moreover, when any people can
flatter themselves upon a superior prosperity and virtue, and we may
take heart from the fact that the French Canadians, many of whom have
lodgings in Dublin, are not well seen by the higher classes of the
citizens there. Mrs. Clannahan, whose house stands over against the main
gate of the grave-yard, and who may, therefore, be considered as moving
in the best Dublin society, hints, that though good Catholics, the
French are not thought perfectly honest,--“things have been missed”
 since they came to blight with their crimes and vices the once
happy seat of integrity. It is amusing to find Dublin fearful of the
encroachment of the French, as we, in our turn, dread the advance of the
Irish. We must make a jest of our own alarms, and even smile--since we
cannot help ourselves--at the spiritual desolation occasioned by the
settlement of an Irish family in one of our suburban neighborhoods. The
householders view with fear and jealousy the erection of any dwelling of
less than a stated cost, as portending a possible advent of Irish; and
when the calamitous race actually appears, a mortal pang strikes to the
bottom of every pocket. Values tremble throughout that neighborhood, to
which the new-comers communicate a species of moral dry-rot. None but
the Irish will build near the Irish; and the infection of fear spreads
to the elder Yankee homes about, and the owners prepare to abandon
them,--not always, however, let us hope, without turning, at the expense
of the invaders, a Parthian penny in their flight. In my walk from
Dublin to North Charlesbridge, I saw more than one token of the
encroachment of the Celtic army, which had here and there invested a
Yankee house with besieging shanties on every side, and thus given
to its essential and otherwise quite hopeless ugliness a touch of the
poetry that attends failing fortunes, and hallows decayed gentility of
however poor a sort originally. The fortunes of such a house are, of
course, not to be retrieved. Where the Celt sets his foot, there the
Yankee (and it is perhaps wholesome if not agreeable to know that the
Irish citizen whom we do not always honor as our equal in civilization
loves to speak of us scornfully as Yankees) rarely, if ever, returns.
The place remains to the intruder and his heirs forever. We gracefully
retire before him even in politics, as the metropolis--if it is the
metropolis--can witness; and we wait with an anxious curiosity the
encounter of the Irish and the Chinese, now rapidly approaching each
other from opposite shores of the continent. Shall we be crushed in the
collision of these superior races? Every intelligence-office will soon
be ringing with the cries of combat, and all our kitchens strewn with
pig-tails and bark chignons. As yet we have gay hopes of our Buddhistic
brethren; but how will it be when they begin to quarter the Dragon upon
the Stars and Stripes, and buy up all the best sites for temples, and
burn their joss-sticks, as it were, under our very noses? Our grasp upon
the great problem grows a little lax, perhaps? Is it true that, when
we look so anxiously for help from others, the virtue has gone out of
ourselves? I should hope not.

As I leave Dublin, the houses grow larger and handsomer; and as I
draw near the Avenue, the Mansard-roofs look down upon me with their
dormer-windows, and welcome me back to the American community. There are
fences about all the houses, inclosing ampler and ampler dooryards; the
children, which had swarmed in the thriftless and unenlightened purlieus
of Dublin, diminish in number and finally disappear; the chickens have
vanished; and I hear--I hear the pensive music of the horse-car bells,
which in some alien land, I am sure, would be as pathetic to me as the
Ranz des Vaches to the Swiss or the bagpipes to the Highlander: in the
desert, where the traveller seems to hear the familiar bells of his
far-off church, this tinkle would haunt the absolute silence, and recall
the exile’s fancy to Charlesbridge; and perhaps in the mocking mirage
he would behold an airy horse-car track, and a phantasmagoric horse-car
moving slowly along the edge of the horizon, with spectral passengers
closely packed inside and overflowing either platform.

But before I reach the Avenue, Dublin calls to me yet again, in the
figure of an old, old man, wearing the clothes of other times, and a
sort of ancestral round hat. In the act of striking a match he asks me
the time of day, and, applying the fire to his pipe, he returns me his
thanks in a volume of words and smoke. What a wrinkled and unshorn old
man! Can age and neglect do so much for any of us? This ruinous person
was associated with a hand-cart as decrepit as himself, but not nearly
so cheerful; for though he spoke up briskly with a spirit uttered from
far within the wrinkles and the stubble, the cart had preceded him with
a very lugubrious creak. It groaned, in fact, under a load of tin cans,
and I was to learn from the old man that there was, and had been, in his
person, for thirteen years, such a thing in the world as a peddler
of buttermilk, and that these cans were now filled with that pleasant
drink. They did not invite me to prove their contents, being cans that
apparently passed their vacant moments in stables and even manure-heaps,
and that looked somehow emulous of that old man’s stubble and wrinkles.
I bought nothing, but I left the old peddler well content, seated upon
a thill of his cart, smoking tranquilly, and filling the keen spring
evening air with fumes which it dispersed abroad, and made to itself a
pleasant incense of.

I left him a whole epoch behind, as I entered the Avenue and lounged
homeward along the stately street. Above the station it is far more
picturesque than it is below, and the magnificent elms that shadow
it might well have looked, in their saplinghood, upon the British
straggling down the country road from the Concord fight; and there
are some ancient houses yet standing that must have been filled with
exultation at the same spectacle. Poor old revolutionaries! they would
never have believed that their descendants would come to love the
English as we do.

The season has advanced rapidly during my progress from Dublin to the
Avenue; and by the time I reach the famous old tavern, not far from the
station, it is a Sunday morning of early summer, and the yellow sunlight
falls upon a body of good comrades who are grooming a marvelous
number of piebald steeds about the stable-doors. By token of these
beasts--which always look so much more like works of art than of
nature--I know that there is to be a circus somewhere very soon; and the
gay bills pasted all over the stable-front tell me that there are to be
two performances at the Port on the morrow. The grooms talk nothing and
joke nothing but horse at their labor; and their life seems such a low,
ignorant, happy life, that the secret nomad lurking in every respectable
and stationary personality stirs within me and struggles to strike hands
of fellowship with them. They lead a sort of pastoral existence in
our age of railroads; they wander over the continent with their great
caravan, and everywhere pursue the summer from South to North and from
North to South again; in the mild forenoons they groom their herds,
and in the afternoons they doze under their wagons, indifferent to
the tumult of the crowd within and without the mighty canvas near
them,--doze face downwards on the bruised, sweet-smelling grass; and
in the starry midnight rise and strike their tents, and set forth again
over the still country roads, to take the next village on the morrow
with the blaze and splendor of their “Grand Entree.” The triumphal
chariot in which the musicians are borne at the head of the procession
is composed, as I perceive by the bills, of four colossal gilt swans,
set tail to tail, with lifted wings and curving necks; but the chariot,
as I behold it beside the stable, is mysteriously draped in white
canvas, through which its gilding glitters only here and there. And does
it move thus shrouded in the company’s wanderings from place to place,
and is the precious spottiness of the piebalds then hidden under envious
drapery? O happy grooms,--not clean as to shirts, nor especially neat in
your conversation, but displaying a Wealth of art in India-ink upon
your manly chests and the swelling muscles of your arms, and speaking
in every movement your freedom from all conventional gyves and shackles,
_“seid umschlungen!”_--in spirit; for the rest, you are rather too damp,
and seem to have applied your sudsy sponges too impartially to your
own trousers and the horses’ legs to receive an actual embrace from a
_dilettante_ vagabond.

The old tavern is old only comparatively; but in our new and changeful
life it is already quaint. It is very long, and low-studded in either
story, with a row of windows in the roof, and a great porch, furnished
with benches, running the whole length of the ground-floor. Perhaps
because they take the dust of the street too freely, or because the
guests find it more social and comfortable to gather in-doors in the
wide, low-ceiled office, the benches are not worn, nor particularly
whittled. The room has the desolate air characteristic of offices which
have once been bar-rooms; but no doubt, on a winter’s night, there is
talk worth listening to there, of flocks, and herds and horse-trades,
from the drovers and cattle-market men who patronize the tavern; and
the artistic temperament, at least, could feel no regret if that
sepulchrally penitent bar-room then developed a secret capacity for
the wickedness that once boldly glittered behind the counter in rows of

The house was formerly renowned for its suppers, of which all that
was learned or gifted in the old college town of Charlesbridge used to
partake; and I have heard lips which breathe the loftiest song and the
sweetest humor--let alone being “dewy with the Greek of Plato”--smacked
regretfully over the memory of those suppers’ roast and broiled. No such
suppers, they say, are cooked in the world any more; and I am somehow
made to feel that their passing away is connected with the decay of good

I hope it may be very long before the predestined French-roof villa
occupies the tavern’s site, and turns into lawns and gardens its
wide-spreading cattle-pens, and removes the great barn that now
shows its broad, low gable to the street. This is yet older and
quainter-looking than the tavern itself; it is mighty capacious, and
gives a still profounder impression of vastness with its shed, of which
the roof slopes southward down almost to a man’s height from the ground,
and shelters a row of mangers, running back half the length of the
stable, and serving in former times for the baiting of such beasts
as could not be provided for within. But the halcyon days of the
cattle-market are past (though you may still see the white horns tossing
above the fences of the pens, when a newly arrived herd lands from the
train to be driven afoot to Brighton), and the place looks now so empty
and forsaken, spite of the circus baggage-wagons, that it were hard to
believe these mangers could ever have been in request, but for the fact
that they are all gnawed, down to the quick as it were, by generations
of horses--vanished forever on the deserted highways of the
past--impatient for their oats or hungering for more.

The day must come, of course, when the mangers will all be taken from
the stable-shed, and exposed for sale at that wonderful second-hand shop
which stands over against the tavern. I am no more surprised than one
in a dream, to find it a week-day afternoon by the time I have crossed
thither from the circus-men grooming their piebalds. It is an enchanted
place to me, and I am a frequent and unprofitable customer there, buying
only just enough to make good my footing with the custodian of its
marvels, who is, of course, too true an American to show any desire to
sell. Without, on either side of the doorway, I am pretty sure to find,
among other articles of furniture, a mahogany and hair-cloth sofa, a
family portrait, a landscape painting, a bath-tub, and a flower-stand,
with now and then the variety of a boat and a dog-house; while under an
adjoining shed is heaped a mass of miscellaneous movables, of a heavier
sort, and fearlessly left there night and day, being on all accounts
undesirable to steal. The door of the shop rings a bell in opening, and
ushers the customer into a room which Chaos herself might have planned
in one of her happier moments. Carpets, blankets, shawls, pictures,
mirrors, rocking-chairs, and blue overalls hang from the ceiling, and
devious pathways wind amidst piles of ready-made clothing, show-cases
filled with every sort of knick-knack and half hidden under heaps of
hats and boots and shoes, bookcases, secretaries, chests of drawers,
mattresses, lounges, and bedsteads, to the stairway of a loft similarly
appointed, and to a back room overflowing with glassware and crockery.
These things are not all second-hand, but they are all old and equally
pathetic. The melancholy of ruinous auction sales, of changing tastes
or changing fashions, clings to them, whether they are things that have
never had a home and have been on sale ever since they were made, or
things that have been associated with every phase of human life.

Among other objects, certain large glass vases, ornamented by the
polite art of potichomanie, have long appealed to my fancy, wherein they
capriciously allied themselves to the history of aging single women in
lonely New England village houses,--pathetic sisters lingering upon the
neutral ground between the faded hopes of marriage and the yet unrisen
prospects of consumption. The work implies an imperfect yet real love of
beauty, the leisure for it a degree of pecuniary ease: the thoughts of
the sisters rise above the pickling and preserving that occupied their
heartier and happier mother; they are in fact in that aesthetic, social,
and intellectual mean, in which single women are thought soonest to
wither and decline. With a little more power, and in our later era, they
would be writing stories full of ambitious, unintelligible, self-devoted
and sudden collapsing young girls and amazing doctors; but as they are,
and in their time, they must do what they can. A sentimentalist
may discern on these vases not only the gay designs with which they
ornamented them, but their own dim faces looking wan from the windows of
some huge old homestead, a world too wide for the shrunken family. All
April long the door-yard trees crouch and shudder in the sour east, all
June they rain canker-worms upon the roof, and then in autumn choke the
eaves with a fall of tattered and hectic foliage. From the window the
fading sisters gaze upon the unnatural liveliness of the summer streets
through which the summer boarders are driving, or upon the death-white
drifts of the intolerable winter. Their father, the captain, is dead;
he died with the Calcutta trade, having survived their mother, and left
them a hopeless competency and yonder bamboo chairs; their only brother
is in California; one, though she loved, had never a lover; her sister’s
betrothed married West, whither he went to make a home for her,--and
ah! is it vases for the desolate parlor mantel they decorate, or funeral
urns? And when in time, they being gone, the Californian brother sends
to sell out at auction the old place with the household and kitchen
furniture, is it withered rose-leaves or ashes that the purchaser finds
in these jars?

They are empty now; and I wonder how came they here? How came the
show-case of Dr. Merrifield, Surgeon-Chiropodist here? How came here yon
Italian painting?--a poor, silly, little affected Madonna, simpering
at me from her dingy gilt frame till I buy her, a great bargain, at a
dollar. From what country church or family oratory, in what revolution,
or stress of private fortunes,--then from what various cabinets of
antiquities, in what dear Vicenza, or Ferrara, or Mantua, earnest
thou, O Madonna? Whose likeness are you, poor girl, with your everyday
prettiness of brows and chin, and your Raphaelesque crick in the neck?
I think I know a part of your story. You were once the property of that
ruined advocate, whose sensibilities would sometimes consent that a
_valet de place_ of uncommon delicacy should bring to his ancestral
palace some singularly meritorious foreigner desirous of purchasing from
his rare collection,--a collection of rubbish scarcely to be equaled
elsewhere in Italy. You hung in that family-room, reached after passage
through stately vestibules and grand stairways; and O, I would be
cheated to the bone, if only I might look out again from some such
windows as were there, upon some such damp, mouldy, broken-statued,
ruinous, enchanted garden as lay below! In that room sat the advocate’s
mother and hunchback sister, with their smoky _scaldini_ and their
snuffy priest; and there the wife of the foreigner, self-elected the
taste of his party, inflicted the pang courted by the advocate, and
asked if you were for sale. And then the ruined advocate clasped his
hands, rubbed them, set his head heart-brokenly on one side, took you
down, heaved a sigh, shrugged his shoulders, and sold you--you! a family
heirloom! Well, at least you are old, and you represent to me acres of
dim, religious canvas in that beloved land; and here is the dollar now
asked for you: I could not have bought you for so little at home.

The Madonna is neighbored by several paintings, if the kind called
Grecian for a reason never revealed by the inventor of an art as old as
potichomanie itself. It was an art by which ordinary lithographs were
given a ghastly transparency, and a tone as disagreeable as chromos; and
I doubt if it could have been known to the Greeks in their best age.
But I remember very well when it passed over whole neighborhoods in
some parts of this country, wasting the time of many young women, and
disfiguring parlor walls with the fruit of their accomplishment. It was
always taught by Professors, a class of learned young men who acquired
their title by abandoning the plough and anvil, and, in a suit of
ready-made clothing, travelling about the country with portfolios under
their arms. It was an experience to make loafers for life of them: and
I fancy the girls who learnt their art never afterwards made so good
butter and cheese.

  “Non-ragioniam di lor, ma guarda e passa.”

Besides the Grecian paintings there are some mezzotints; full length
pictures of presidents and statesmen, chiefly General Jackson, Henry
Clay, and Daniel Webster, which have hung their day in the offices
or parlors of country politicians. They are all statesmanlike and
presidential in attitude; and I know that if the mighty Webster’s lips
had language, he would take his hand out of his waistcoat front, and say
to his fellow mezzotints: “Venerable men! you have come down to us from
a former generation, bringing your household furniture and miscellaneous
trumpery of all kinds with you.”

Some old-fashioned entry lanterns divide my interest with certain old
willow chairs of an hour-glass pattern, which never stood upright,
probably, and have now all a confirmed droop to one side, as from
having been fallen heavily asleep in, upon breezy porches, of hot summer
afternoons. In the windows are small vases of alabaster, fly-specked
Parian and plaster figures, and dolls with stiff wooden limbs and
papier-maché heads, a sort of dolls no longer to be bought in these
days of modish, blue-eyed blondes of biscuit and sturdy india-rubber
brunettes. The show-case is full of an incredible variety, as photograph
albums, fishing-hooks, socks, suspenders, steel pens, cutlery of all
sorts, and curious old colored prints of Adelaide, and Kate, and Ellen.
A rocking-horse is stabled near amid pendent lengths of second-hand
carpeting, hat-racks, and mirrors; and standing cheek-by-jowl with
painted washstands and bureaus are some plaster statues, aptly colored
and varnished to represent bronze.

There is nothing here but has a marked character of its own, some
distinct yet intangible trait acquired from former circumstances; and
doubtless all these things have that lurking likeness to former owners
which clothes and furniture are apt to take on from long association,
and which we should instantly recognize could they be confronted with
their late proprietors. It seems, in very imaginative moments, as if the
strange assemblage of incongruities must have a consciousness of these
latent resemblances, which the individual pieces betray when their
present keeper turns the key upon them, and abandons them to themselves
at night; and I have sometimes fancied such an effect in the late
twilight, when I have wandered into their resting-place, and have beheld
them in the unnatural glare of a kerosene lamp burning before a brightly
polished reflector, and casting every manner of grotesque shadow upon
the floor and walls. But this may have been an illusion; at any rate I
am satisfied that the bargain-driving capacity of the storekeeper is not
in the least affected by a weird quality in his wares; though they have
not failed to impart to him something of their own desultory character.
He sometimes leaves a neighbor in charge when he goes to meals, and
then, if I enter, I am watchfully followed about from corner to corner,
and from room to room, lest I pocket a mattress or slip a book-case
under my coat. The storekeeper himself never watches me; perhaps
he knows that it is a purely professional interest I take in the
collection; that I am in the trade and have a secondhand shop of my
own, full of poetical rubbish, and every sort of literary odds and
ends, picked up at random, and all cast higgledy-piggledy into the same
chaotic receptacle. His customers are as little like ordinary shoppers
as he is like common tradesmen. They are in part the Canadians who work
in the brickyards, and it is surprising to find how much business can
be transacted, and how many sharp bargains struck without the help of a
common language. I am in the belief, which may be erroneous, that nobody
is wronged in these trades. The taciturn storekeeper, who regards his
customers with a stare of solemn amusement as Critturs born by some
extraordinary vicissitude of nature to the use of a language that
practically amounts to deafness and dumbness, never suffers his
philosophical interest in them to affect his commercial efficiency;
he drops them now and then a curt English phrase, or expressive Yankee
idiom; he knows very well when they mean to buy and when they do
not; and they equally wary and equally silent, unswayed by the glib
allurements of a salesman, judge of price and quality for themselves,
make their solitary offer, and stand or fall by it.

I am seldom able to conclude a pedestrian tour without a glance at the
wonderful interior of this cheap store, and I know all its contents
familiarly. I recognize wares that have now been on sale there for
years; I miss at first glance such accustomed objects as have been
parted with between my frequent visits, and hail with pleasure the
additions to that extraordinary variety. I can hardly, I suppose,
expect the reader to sympathize with the joy I felt the other night, in
discovering among the latter an adventurous and universally applicable
sign-board advertising This House and Lot for Sale, and, intertwined
with the cast-off suspenders which long garlanded a coffee-mill pendent
from the roof, a newly added second-hand india-rubber ear-trumpet. Here
and there, however, I hope a finer soul will relish, as I do, the poetry
of thus buying and offering for sale the very most recondite, as well
as the commonest articles of commerce, in the faith that one day the
predestined purchaser will appear and carry off the article appointed
him from the beginning of time. This faith is all the more touching,
because the collector cannot expect to live until the whole stock is
disposed of, and because, in the order of nature, much must at last fall
to rein unbought, unless the reporter’s Devouring Element appears and
gives a sudden tragical turn to the poem.

It is the whistle of a train drawing up at the neighboring station that
calls me away from the second-hand store; for I never find myself able
to resist the hackneyed prodigy of such an arrival. It cannot cease
to be impressive. I stand beside the track while the familiar monster
writhes up to the station and disgorges its passengers,--suburbanly
packaged, and bundled, and bagged, and even when empty-handed somehow
proclaiming the jaded character of men that hurry their work all day
to catch the evening train out, and their dreams all night to catch the
morning train in,--and then I climb the station-stairs, and “hang with
grooms and porters on the bridge,” that I may not lose my ever-repeated
sensation of having the train pass under my feet, and of seeing it rush
away westward to the pretty blue hills beyond,--hills not too big for
a man born in a plain-country to love. Twisting and trembling along the
track, it dwindles rapidly in the perspective, and is presently out of
sight. It has left the city and the suburbs behind, and has sought the
woods and meadows; but Nature never in the least accepts it, and rarely
makes its path a part of her landscape’s loveliness. The train passes
alien through all her moods and aspects; the wounds made in her face by
the road’s sharp cuts and excavations are slowest of all wounds to heal,
and the iron rails remain to the last as shackles upon her. Yet when
the rails are removed, as has happened with a non-paying track in
Charlesbridge, the road inspires a real tenderness in her. Then she
bids it take or the grace that belongs to all ruin; the grass creeps
stealthily over the scarified sides of the embankments; the golden-rod,
and the purple-topped iron-weed, and the lady’s-slipper, spring up in
the hollows on either side, and--I am still thinking of that deserted
railroad which runs through Charlesbridge--hide with their leafage the
empty tomato-cans and broken bottles and old boots on the ash-heaps
dumped there; Nature sets her velvety willows a waving near, and lower
than their airy tops plans a vista of trees arching above the track,
which is as wild and pretty and illusive a vista as the sunset ever
cared to look through and gild a board fence beyond.

Most of our people come from Boston on the horse-cars, and it is only
the dwellers on the Avenue and the neighboring streets whom hurrying
homeward I follow away from the steam-car station. The Avenue is
our handsomest street; and if it were in the cosmopolitan citizen of
Charlesbridge to feel any local interest, I should be proud of it.
As matters are, I perceive its beauty, and I often reflect, with a
pardonable satisfaction, that it is not only handsome, but probably the
very dullest street in the world. It is magnificently long and broad,
and is flanked nearly the whole way from the station to the colleges by
pine palaces rising from spacious lawns, or from the green of trees or
the brightness of gardens. The splendor is all very new, but newness is
not a fault that much affects architectural beauty, while it is the only
one that time is certain to repair: and I find an honest and unceasing
pleasure in the graceful lines of those palaces, which is not surpassed
even by my appreciation of the vast quiet and monotony of the street
itself. Commonly, when I emerge upon it from the grassy-bordered,
succory-blossomed walks of Benicia Street, I behold, looking northward,
a monumental horse-car standing--it appears for ages, if I wish to take
it for Boston--at the head of Pliny Street; and looking southward I see
that other emblem of suburban life, an express-wagon, fading rapidly
in the distance. Haply the top of a buggy nods round the bend under the
elms near the station; and, if fortune is so lavish, a lady appears from
a side street, and, while tarrying for the car, thrusts the point of her
sun-umbrella into the sandy sidewalk. This is the mid-afternoon
effect of the Avenue; but later in the day, and well into the dusk, it
remembers its former gayety as a trotting-course,--with here and there
a spider-wagon, a twinkling-footed mare, and a guttural driver. On
market-days its superb breadth is taken up by flocks of bleating sheep,
and a pastoral tone is thus given to its tranquillity; anon a herd of
beef-cattle appears under the elms; or a drove of pigs, many pausing,
inquisitive of the gutters, and quarrelsome as if they were the heirs of
prosperity instead of doom, is slowly urged on toward the shambles. In
the spring or the autumn, the Avenue is exceptionally enlivened by the
progress of a brace or so of students who, in training for one of the
University Courses of base-ball or boating, trot slowly and earnestly
along the sidewalk, fists up, elbows down, mouths shut, and a sense of
immense responsibility visible in their faces.

The summer is waning with the day as I turn from the Avenue into Benicia
Street. This is the hour when the fly cedes to the mosquito, as the
Tuscan poet says, and, as one may add, the frying grasshopper yields to
the shrilly cricket in noisiness. The embrowning air rings with the
sad music made by these innumerable little violinists, hid in all the
gardens round, and the pedestrian feels a sinking of the spirits not
to be accounted for upon the theory that the street is duller than the
Avenue, for it really is not so.

Quick now, the cheerful lamps of kerosene!--without their light, the
cry of those crickets, dominated for an instant, but not stilled, by the
bellowing of a near-passing locomotive, and the baying of a distant dog,
were too much. If it were the last autumn that ever was to be, it could
not be heralded with notes of dismaller effect. This is in fact the hour
of supreme trial everywhere, and doubtless no one but a newly-accepted
lover can be happy at twilight. In the city, even, it is oppressive; in
the country it is desolate; in the suburbs it is a miracle that it
is ever lived through. The night-winds have not risen yet to stir the
languid foliage of the sidewalk maples; the lamps are not yet lighted,
to take away the gloom from the blank, staring windows of the houses
near; it is too late for letters, too early for a book. In town your
fancy would turn to the theatres; in the country you would occupy
yourself with cares of poultry or of stock: in the suburbs you can but
sit upon your threshold, and fight the predatory mosquito.


At a former period the writer of this had the fortune to serve
his country in an Italian city whose great claim upon the world’s
sentimental interest is the fact that--

  “The sea is in her broad, her narrow streets
   Ebbing and flowing,”

and that she has no ways whatever for hoofs or wheels. In his quality
of United States official, he was naturally called upon for information
concerning the estates of Italians believed to have emigrated early in
the century to Buenos Ayres, and was commissioned to learn why certain
persons in Mexico and Brazil, and the parts of Peru, had not, if they
were still living, written home to their friends. On the other hand, he
was intrusted with business nearly as pertinent and hopeful by some of
his own countrymen, and it was not quite with surprise that he one
day received a neatly lithographed circular with his name and address
written in it, signed by a famous projector of such enterprises, asking
him to cooperate for the introduction of horse-railroads in Venice.
The obstacles to the scheme were of such a nature that it seemed hardly
worth while even to reply to the circular; but the proposal was one
of those bold flights of imagination which forever lift objects out of
vulgar association. It has cast an enduring, poetic charm even about the
horse-car in my mind, and I naturally look for many unprosaic aspects of
humanity there. I have an acquaintance who insists that it is the place
above all others suited to see life in every striking phase. He pretends
to have witnessed there the reunion of friends who had not met in many
years, the embrace, figurative of course, of long lost brothers,
the reconciliation of lovers; I do not know but also some scenes
of love-making, and acceptance or rejection. But my friend is an
imaginative man, and may make himself romances. I myself profess to have
beheld for the most part only mysteries; and I think it not the least
of these that, riding on the same cars day after day, one finds so many
strange faces with so little variety. Whether or not that dull, jarring
motion shakes inward and settles about the centres of mental life the
sprightliness that should inform the visage, I do not know; but it is
certain that the emptiness of the average passenger’s countenance is
something wonderful, considered with reference to Nature’s abhorrence of
a vacuum, and the intellectual repute which Boston enjoys among envious
New-Yorkers. It is seldom that a journey out of our cold metropolis is
enlivened by a mystery so positive in character as the young lady
in black, who alighted at a most ordinary little street in Old
Charlesbridge, and heightened her effect by going into a French-roof
house there that had no more right than a dry goods box to receive a
mystery. She was tall, and her lovely arms showed through the black
gauze of her dress with an exquisite roundness and _morbidezza_. Upon
her beautiful wrists she had heavy bracelets of dead gold, fashioned
after some Etruscan device; and from her dainty ears hung great hoops of
the same metal and design, which had the singular privilege of touching,
now and then, her white columnar neck. A massive chain or necklace, also
Etruscan, and also gold, rose and fell at her throat, and on one
little ungloved hand glittered a multitude of rings. This hand was very
expressive, and took a principal part in the talk which the lady held
with her companion, and was as alert and quick as if trained in the
gesticulation of Southern or Latin life somewhere. Her features, on the
contrary, were rather insipid, being too small and fine; but they were
redeemed by the liquid splendor of her beautiful eyes, and the mortal
pallor of her complexion. She was altogether so startling an apparition,
that all of us jaded, commonplace spectres turned and fastened our
weary, lack-lustre eyes upon her looks, with an utter inability to
remove them. There was one fat, unctuous person seated opposite, to whom
his interest was a torture, for he would have gone to sleep except for
her remarkable presence: as it was, his heavy eyelids fell half-way
shut, and drooped there at an agonizing angle, while his eyes remained
immovably fixed upon that strange, death-white face. How it could have
come of that colorlessness,--whether through long sickness or long
residence in a tropical climate,--was a question that perplexed another
of the passengers, who would have expected to hear the lady speak any
language in the world rather than English; and to whom her companion or
attendant was hardly less than herself a mystery,--being a dragon-like,
elderish female, clearly a Yankee by birth, but apparently of many
years’ absence from home. The propriety of extracting these people from
the horse-cars and transferring them bodily to the first chapter of a
romance was a thing about which there could be no manner of doubt, and
nothing prevented the abduction but the unexpected voluntary exit of the
pale lady. As she passed out everybody else awoke as from a dream, or as
if freed from a potent fascination. It is part of the mystery that
this lady should never have reappeared in that theatre of life, the
horse-car; but I cannot regret having never seen her more; she was so
inestimably precious to wonder that it would have been a kind of loss to
learn anything about her.

[Illustration: “The young lady in black, who alighted at a most ordinary
little street.”]

On the other hand, I should be glad if two young men who once presented
themselves as mysteries upon the same stage could be so distinctly and
sharply identified that all mankind should recognize them at the day of
judgment. They were not so remarkable in the nature as in the degree of
their offense; for the mystery that any man should keep his seat in a
horse-car and let a woman stand is but too sadly common. They say
that this, public unkindness to the sex has come about through the
ingratitude of women, who have failed to return thanks for places
offered them, and that it is a just and noble revenge we take upon
them. There might be something advanced in favor of the idea that we
law-making men, who do not oblige the companies to provide seats for
every one, deserve no thanks from voteless, helpless women when we offer
them places; nay, that we ought to be glad if they do not reproach us
for making that a personal favor which ought to be a common right. I
would prefer, on the whole, to believe that this selfishness is not a
concerted act on our part, but a flower of advanced civilization; it is
a ripe fruit in European countries, and it is more noticeable in Boston
than anywhere else in America. It is, in fact, one of the points of our
high polish which people from the interior say first strikes them on
coming among us; for they declare--no doubt too modestly--that in their
Boeotian wilds our Athenian habit is almost unknown. Yet it would not
be fair to credit our whole population with it. I have seen a laborer
or artisan rise from his place, and offer it to a lady, while a dozen
well-dressed men kept theirs; and I know several conservative young
gentlemen, who are still so old-fashioned as always to respect the
weakness and weariness of women. One of them, I hear, has settled it
in his own mind that if the family cook appears in a car where he is
seated, he must rise and give her his place. This, perhaps, is a trifle
idealistic; but it is magnificent, it is princely. From his difficult
height, we decline--through ranks that sacrifice themselves for women
with bundles or children in arms, for old ladies, or for very young and
pretty ones--to the men who give no odds to the most helpless creature
alive. These are the men who do not act upon the promptings of human
nature like the laborer, and who do not refine upon their duty like my
young gentlemen, and make it their privilege to befriend the idea of
womanhood; they are men who have paid for their seats and are going to
keep them. They have been at work, very probably, all day, and no
doubt they are tired; they look so, and try hard not to look ashamed of
publicly considering themselves before a sex which is born tired, and
from which our climate and customs have drained so much health that
society sometimes seems little better than a hospital for invalid woman,
where every courtesy is likely to be a mercy done to a sufferer. Yet
the two young men of whom I began to speak were not apparently of this
class, and let us hope they were foreigners,--say Englishmen, since we
hate Englishmen the most. They were the only men seated, in a car full
of people; and when four or five ladies came in and occupied the aisle
before them, they might have been puzzled which to offer their places
to, if one of the ladies had not plainly been infirm. They settled the
question--if there was any in their minds--by remaining seated, while
the lady in front of them swung uneasily to and fro with the car, and
appeared ready to sink at their feet. In another moment she had actually
done so; and, too weary to rise, she continued to crouch upon the floor
of the car for the course of a mile, the young men resolutely keeping
their places, and not rising till they were ready to leave the car. It
was a horrible scene, and incredible,--that well-dressed woman sitting
on the floor, and those two well-dressed men keeping their places; it
was as much out of keeping with our smug respectabilities as a hanging,
and was a spectacle so paralyzing that public opinion took no action
concerning it. A shabby person, standing upon the platform outside,
swore about it, between expectorations: even the conductor’s heart
was touched; and he said he had seen a good many hard things aboard
horse-cars, but that was a little the hardest; he had never expected to
come to that. These were simple people enough, and could not interest me
a great deal, but I should have liked to have a glimpse of the complex
minds of those young men, and I should still like to know something of
the previous life that could have made their behavior possible to them.
They ought to make public the philosophic methods by which they reached
that pass of unshamable selfishness. The information would be useful to
a race which knows the sweetness of self-indulgence, and would fain know
the art of so drugging or besotting the sensibilities that it shall no
feel disgraced by any sort of meanness. They might really have much
to say for themselves; as, that the lady, being conscious she could no
longer keep her feet, had no right to crouch at theirs, and put them to
so severe a test; or that, having suffered her to sink there, they fell
no further in the ignorant public opinion by suffering her to continue

But I doubt if that other young man could say anything for himself, who,
when a pale, trembling woman was about to drop into the vacant place at
his side, stretched his arm across it with, “This seat’s engaged,” till
a robust young fellow, his friend, appeared, and took it and kept it
all the way out from Boston. The commission of such a tragical wrong,
involving a violation of common usage as well as the infliction of a
positive cruelty, would embitter the life of an ordinary man, if any
ordinary man were capable of it; but let us trust that nature has
provided fortitude of every kind for the offender, and that he is not
wrung by keener remorse than most would feel for a petty larceny. I dare
say he would be eager at the first opportunity to rebuke the ingratitude
of women who do not thank their benefactors for giving them seats. It
seems a little odd, by the way, and perhaps it is through the peculiar
blessing of Providence, that, since men have determined by a savage
egotism to teach the offending sex manners, their own comfort should
be in the infliction of the penalty, and that it should be as much a
pleasure as a duty to keep one’s place.

Perhaps when the ladies come to vote, they will abate, with other
nuisances, the whole business of overloaded public conveyances. In the
mean time the kindness of women to each other is a notable feature of
all horse-car journeys. It is touching to see the smiling eagerness with
which the poor things gather close their volumed skirts and make room
for a weary sister, the tender looks of compassion which they bend upon
the sufferers obliged to stand, the sweetness with which they rise, if
they are young and strong, to offer their place to any infirm or heavily
burdened person of their sex.

But a journey to Boston is not entirely an experience of bitterness.
On the contrary, there are many things besides the mutual amiability of
these beautiful martyrs which relieve its tedium and horrors. A whole
car-full of people, brought into the closest contact with one another,
yet in the absence of introductions never exchanging a word, each being
so sufficient to himself as to need no social stimulus whatever, is
certainly an impressive and stately spectacle. It is a beautiful day,
say; but far be it from me to intimate as much to my neighbor, who
plainly would rather die than thus commit himself with me, and who, in
fact, would well-nigh strike me speechless with surprise if he did so.
If there is any necessity for communication, as with the conductor, we
essay first to express ourselves by gesture, and then utter our desires
with a certain hollow and remote effect, which is not otherwise to be
described. I have sometimes tried to speak above my breath, when, being
about to leave the car, I have made a virtue of offering my place to
the prettiest young woman standing, but I have found it impossible; the
_genius loci_, whatever it was, suppressed me, and I have gasped out my
sham politeness as in a courteous nightmare. The silencing influence
is quite successfully resisted by none but the tipsy people who
occasionally ride out with us, and call up a smile, sad as a gleam of
winter sunshine, to our faces by their artless prattle. I remember
one eventful afternoon that we were all but moved to laughter by the
gayeties of such a one, who, even after he had ceased to talk, continued
to amuse us by falling asleep, and reposing himself against the shoulder
of the lady next him. Perhaps it is in acknowledgment of the agreeable
variety they contribute to horse-car life, that the conductor treats his
inebriate passengers with such unfailing tenderness and forbearance.
I have never seen them molested, though I have noticed them in the
indulgence of many eccentricities, and happened once even to see one
of them sit down in a lady’s lap. But that was on the night of Saint
Patrick’s day. Generally all avoidable indecorums are rare in the
horse-cars, though during the late forenoon and early afternoon, in the
period of lighter travel, I have found curious figures there:--among
others, two old women, in the old-clothes business, one of whom was
dressed, not very fortunately, in a gown with short sleeves, and
inferentially a low neck; a mender of umbrellas, with many unwholesome
whity-brown wrecks of umbrellas about him; a peddler of soap, who
offered cakes of it to his fellow-passengers at a discount, apparently
for friendship’s sake; and a certain gentleman with a pock-marked face,
and a beard dyed an unscrupulous purple, who sang himself a hymn all the
way to Boston, and who gave me no sufficient reason for thinking him a
sea-captain. Not far from the end of the Long Bridge, there is apt to be
a number of colored ladies waiting to get into the car, or to get out
of it,--usually one solemn mother in Ethiopia, and two or three mirthful
daughters, who find it hard to suppress a sense of adventure, and to
keep in the laughter that struggles out through their glittering
teeth and eyes, and who place each other at a disadvantage by divers
accidental and intentional bumps and blows. If they are to get out, the
old lady is not certain of the place where, and, after making the car
stop, and parleying with the conductor, returns to her seat, and is
mutely held up to public scorn by one taciturn wink of the conductor’s

Among horse-car types, I am almost ashamed to note one so common and
observable as that middle-aged lady who gets aboard and will not see the
one vacant seat left, but stands tottering at the door, blind and
deaf to all the modest beckonings and benevolent gasps of her
fellow-passengers. An air as of better days clings about her; she seems
a person who has known sickness and sorrow; but so far from pitying her,
you view her with inexpressible rancor, for it is plain that she
ought to sit down, and that she will not. But for a point of honor the
conductor would show her the vacant place; this forbidding, however, how
can he? There she stands and sniffs drearily when you glance at her, as
you must from time to time, and no wild turkey caught in a trap was ever
more incapable of looking down than this middle-aged (shall I say also
unmarried?) lady.

Of course every one knows the ladies and gentlemen who sit
cater-cornered, and who will not move up; and equally familiar is
that large and ponderous person, who, feigning to sit down beside you,
practically sits down upon you, and is not incommoded by having your
knee under him. He implies by this brutal conduct that you are taking up
more space than belongs to you, and that you are justly made an example

I had the pleasure one day to meet on the horse-car an advocate of one
of the great reforms of the day. He held a green bag upon his knees, and
without any notice passed from a question of crops to a discussion of
suffrage for the negro, and so to womanhood suffrage. “Let the women
vote,” said he,--“let ‘em vote if they want to. _I_ don’t care. Fact is,
I should like to see ‘em do it the first time. They’re excitable,
you know; they’re excitable;” and he enforced his analysis of female
character by thrusting his elbow sharply into my side. “Now, there’s
my wife; I’d like to see her vote. Be fun, I tell you. And the
girls,--Lord, the girls! Circus wouldn’t be anywhere.” Enchanted with
the picture which he appeared to have conjured up for himself, he
laughed with the utmost relish, and then patting the green bag in his
lap, which plainly contained a violin, “You see,” he went on, “I go
out playing for dancing-parties. Work all day at my trade,--I’m a
carpenter,--and play in the evening. Take my little old ten dollars a
night. And _I_ notice the women a good deal; and _I_ tell you they’re
_all_ excitable, and _I sh’d_ like to see ‘em vote. Vote right and vote
often,--that’s the ticket, eh?” This friend of womanhood suffrage--whose
attitude of curiosity and expectation seemed to me representative of
that of a great many thinkers on the subject--no doubt was otherwise a
reformer, and held that the coming man would not drink wine--if he could
find whiskey. At least I should have said so, guessing from the odors he
breathed along with his liberal sentiments.

Something of the character of a college-town is observable nearly always
in the presence of the students, who confound certain traditional ideas
of students by their quietude of costume and manner, and whom Padua or
Heidelberg would hardly know, but who nevertheless betray that they are
banded to--

  “Scorn delights and live laborious days,”

by a uniformity in the cut of their trousers, or a clannishness of cane
or scarf, or a talk of boats and base-ball held among themselves. One
cannot see them without pleasure and kindness; and it is no wonder that
their young-lady acquaintances brighten so to recognize them on the
horse-cars. There is much good fortune in the world, but none
better than being an undergraduate twenty years old, hale, handsome,
fashionably dressed, with the whole promise of life before: it’s a state
of things to disarm even envy. With so much youth forever in her heart,
it must be hard for our Charlesbridge to grow old: the generations arise
and pass away but in her veins is still this tide of warm blood, century
in and century out, so much the same from one age to another that it
would be hardy to say it was not still one youthfulness. There is a
print of the village as it was a cycle since, showing the oldest of
the college buildings and upon the street in front a scholar in his
scholar’s-cap and gown, giving his arm to a very stylish girl of that
period, who is dressed wonderfully like the girl of ours, so that but
for the student’s antique formality of costume, one might believe that
he was handing her out to take the horse-car. There is no horse-car in
the picture,--that is the only real difference between then and now in
our Charlesbridge, perennially young and gay. Have there not ever been
here the same grand ambitions, the same high hopes,--and is not the
unbroken succession of youth in these?

As for other life on the horse-car, it shows to little or no effect,
as I have said. You can, of course, detect certain classes; as, in the
morning the business-men going in, to their counters or their desks, and
in the afternoon the shoppers coming out, laden with paper parcels. But
I think no one can truly claim to know the regular from the occasional
passengers by any greater cheerfulness in the faces of the latter. The
horse-car will suffer no such inequality as this, but reduces us all to
the same level of melancholy. It would be but a very unworthy kind of
art which should seek to describe people by such merely external traits
as a habit of carrying baskets or large travelling-bags in the car; and
the present muse scorns it, but is not above speaking of the frequent
presence of those lovely young girls in which Boston and the suburban
towns abound, and who, whether they appear with rolls of music in their
hands, or books from the circulating-libraries, or pretty parcels or
hand-bags, would brighten even the horse-car if fresh young looks
and gay and brilliant costumes could do so much. But they only add
perplexity to the anomaly, which was already sufficiently trying with
its contrasts of splendor and shabbiness, and such intimate association
of velvets and patches as you see in the churches of Catholic countries,
but nowhere else in the world except in our “coaches of the sovereign

In winter, the journey to or from Boston cannot appear otherwise than
very dreary to the fondest imagination. Coming out, nothing can look
more arctic and forlorn than the river, double-shrouded in ice and snow,
or sadder than the contrast offered to the same prospect in summer. Then
all is laughing, and it is a joy in every nerve to ride out over the
Long Bridge at high tide, and, looking southward, to see the wide
crinkle and glitter of that beautiful expanse of water, which laps on
one hand the granite quays of the city, and on the other washes among
the reeds and wild grasses of the salt-meadows. A ship coming slowly
up the channel, or a dingy tug violently darting athwart it, gives an
additional pleasure to the eye, and adds something dreamy or vivid
to the beauty of the scene. It is hard to say at what hour of the
summer’s-day the prospect is loveliest; and I am certainly not going to
speak of the sunset as the least of its delights. When this exquisite
spectacle is presented, the horse-car passenger, happy to cling with one
foot to the rear platform-steps, looks out over the shoulder next him
into fairy-land. Crimson and purple the bay stretches westward till its
waves darken into the grassy levels, where, here and there, a hay-rick
shows perfectly black against the light. Afar off, southeastward and
westward, the uplands wear a tinge of tenderest blue; and in the nearer
distance, on the low shores of the river, hover the white plumes of
arriving and departing trains. The windows of the stately houses that
overlook the water take the sunset from it evanescently, and begin to
chill and darken before the crimson burns out of the sky. The windows
are, in fact, best after nightfall, when they are brilliantly lighted
from within; and when, if it is a dark, warm night, and the briny
fragrance comes up strong from the falling tide, the lights reflected
far down in the still water, bring a dream, as I have heard travelled
Bostonians say, of Venice and her magical effects in the same kind. But
for me the beauty of the scene needs the help of no such association;
I am content with it for what it is. I enjoy also the hints of spring
which one gets in riding over the Long Bridge at low tide in the first
open days. Then there is not only a vernal beating of carpets on the
piers of the drawbridge, but the piles and walls left bare by the
receding water show green patches of sea-weeds and mosses, and flatter
the willing eye with a dim hint of summer. This reeking and saturated
herbage--which always seems to me, in contrast with dry land growths,
what the water-logged life of seafaring folk is to that which we happier
men lead on shore,--taking so kindly the deceitful warmth and brightness
of the sun, has then a charm which it loses when summer really comes;
nor does one, later, have so keen an interest in the men wading about in
the shallows below the bridge, who, as in the distance they stoop over
to gather whatever shell-fish they seek, make a very fair show of being
some ungainlier sort of storks, and are as near as we can hope to come
to the spring-prophesying storks of song and story. A sentiment of
the drowsiness that goes before the awakening of the year, and is so
different from the drowsiness that precedes the great autumnal slumber,
is in the air, but is gone when we leave the river behind, and strike
into the straggling village beyond.

I maintain that Boston, as one approaches it and passingly takes in
the line of Bunker Hill Monument, soaring preëminent among the
emulous foundry-chimneys of the sister city, is fine enough to need
no comparison with other fine sights. Thanks to the mansard curves and
dormer-windows of the newer houses, there is a singularly picturesque
variety among the roofs that stretch along the bay, and rise one above
another on the city’s three hills, grouping themselves about the State
House, and surmounted by its India-rubber dome. But, after all, does
human weakness crave some legendary charm, some grace of uncertain
antiquity, in the picturesqueness it sees? I own that the future, to
which we are often referred for the “stuff that dreams are made of,” is
more difficult for the fancy than the past, that the airy amplitude of
its possibilities is somewhat chilly, and that we naturally long for the
snug quarters of old, made warm by many generations of life. Besides,
Europe spoils us ingenuous Americans, and flatters our sentimentality
into ruinous extravagances. Looking at her many-storied former times,
we forget our own past, neat, compact, and convenient for the poorest
memory to dwell in. Yet an American not infected with the discontent of
travel could hardly approach this superb city without feeling something
of the coveted pleasure in her, without a reverie of her Puritan and
Revolutionary times, and the great names and deeds of her heroic annals.
I think, however, we were well to be rid of this yearning for a native
American antiquity; for in its indulgence one cannot but regard
himself and his contemporaries as cumberers of the ground, delaying
the consummation of that hoary past which will be so fascinating to
a semi-Chinese posterity, and will be, ages hence, the inspiration of
Pigeon-English poetry and romance. Let us make much of our two
hundred and fifty years, and cherish the present as our golden age. We
healthy-minded people in the horse-cars are loath to lose a moment
of it, and are aggrieved that the draw of the bridge should be up,
naturally looking on what is constantly liable to happen as an especial
malice of the fates. All the drivers of the vehicles that clog the draw
on either side have a like sense of personal injury; and apparently it
would go hard with the captain of that leisurely vessel below if he were
delivered into our hands. But this impatience and anger are entirely

We are really the most patient people in the world, especially as
regards any incorporated, non-political oppressions. A lively Gaul, who
travelled among us some thirty years ago, found that, in the absence
of political control, we gratified the human instinct of obedience by
submitting to small tyrannies unknown abroad, and were subject to the
steamboat-captain, the hotel-clerk, the stage-driver, and the waiter,
who all bullied us fearlessly; but though some vestiges of this bondage
remain, it is probably passing away. The abusive Frenchman’s assertion
would not at least hold good concerning the horse-car conductors, who,
in spite of a lingering preference for touching or punching passengers
for their fare instead of asking for it, are commonly mild-mannered and
good-tempered, and disposed to molest us as little as possible. I have
even received from one of them a mark of such kindly familiarity as the
offer of a check which he held between his lips, and thrust out his face
to give me, both his hands being otherwise occupied; and their lives are
in nowise such luxurious careers as we should expect in public despots.
The oppression of the horse-car passenger is not from them, and the
passenger himself is finally to blame for it. When the draw closes at
last, and we rumble forward into the city street, a certain stir of
expectation is felt among us. The long and eventful journey is nearly
ended, and now we who are to get out of the cars can philosophically
amuse ourselves with the passions and sufferings of those who are to
return in our places. You must choose the time between five and six
o’clock in the afternoon, if you would make this grand study of the
national character in its perfection. Then the spectacle offered in any
arriving horse-car will serve your purpose. At nearly every corner of
the street up which it climbs stands an experienced suburban, who darts
out upon the car, and seizes a vacant place in it. Presently all the
places are taken, and before we reach Temple Street, where helpless
groups of women are gathered to avail themselves of the first seats
vacated, an alert citizen is stationed before each passenger who is to
retire at the summons, “Please pass out forrad.” When this is heard in
Bowdoin Square, we rise and push forward, knuckling one another’s backs
in our eagerness, and perhaps glancing behind us at the tumult within.
Not only are all our places occupied, but the aisle is left full of
passengers precariously supporting themselves by the straps in the roof.
The rear platform is stormed and carried by a party with bundles; the
driver is instantly surrounded by another detachment; and as the car
moves away from the office, the platform steps are filled.

“Is it possible,” I asked myself, when I had written as far as this in
the present noble history, “that I am not exaggerating? It can’t be
that this and the other enormities I have been describing are of daily
occurrence in Boston. Let me go verify, at least, my picture of the
evening horse-car.” So I take my way to Bowdoin Square, and in the
conscientious spirit of modern inquiry, I get aboard the first car that
comes up. Like every other car, it is meant to seat twenty passengers.
It does this, and besides it carries in the aisle and on the platform
forty passengers standing. The air is what you may imagine, if you know
that not only is the place so indecently crowded, but that in the centre
of the car are two adopted citizens, far gone in drink, who have the
aspect and the smell of having passed the day in an ash-heap. These
citizens being quite helpless themselves, are supported by the public,
and repose in singular comfort upon all the passengers near them; I,
myself, contribute an aching back to the common charity, and a genteelly
dressed young lady takes one of them from time to time on her knee. But
they are comparatively an ornament to society till the conductor objects
to the amount they offer him for fare; for after that they wish to fight
him during the journey, and invite him at short intervals to step out
and be shown what manner of men they are. The conductor passes it off
for a joke, and so it is, and a very good one.

In that unhappy mass it would be an audacious spirit who should say
of any particular arm or leg, “It is mine,” and all the breath is in
common. Nothing, it would seem, could add to our misery; but we discover
our error when the conductor squeezes a tortuous path through us, and
collects the money for our transportation. I never can tell, during the
performance of this feat, whether he or the passengers are more to be

The people who are thus indecorously huddled and jammed together,
without regard to age or sex, otherwise lead lives of at least comfort,
and a good half of them cherish themselves in every physical way with
unparalleled zeal. They are handsomely clothed; they are delicately neat
in linen; they eat well, or, if not well, as well as their cooks
will let them, and at all events expensively; they house in dwellings
appointed in a manner undreamt of elsewhere in the world,--dwellings
wherein furnaces make a summer-heat, where fountains of hot and cold
water flow at a touch, where light is created or quenched by the turning
of a key, where all is luxurious upholstery, and magical ministry to
real or fancied needs. They carry the same tastes with them to their
places of business; and when they “attend divine service,” it is with
the understanding that God is to receive them in a richly carpeted
house, deliciously warmed and perfectly ventilated, where they may
adore Him at their ease upon cushioned seats,--secured seats. Yet these
spoiled children of comfort, when they ride to or from business or
church, fail to assert rights that the benighted Cockney, who never
heard of our plumbing and registers, or even the oppressed Parisian,
who is believed not to change his linen from one revolution to another,
having paid for, enjoys. When they enter the “full” horse-car, they find
themselves in a place inexorable as the grave to their greenbacks, where
not only is their adventitious consequence stripped from them, but the
courtesies of life are impossible, the inherent dignity of the person is
denied, and they are reduced below the level of the most uncomfortable
nations of the Old World. The philosopher accustomed to draw consolation
from the sufferings of his richer fellow-men, and to infer an overruling
Providence from their disgraces, might well bless Heaven for the
spectacle of such degradation, if his thanksgiving were not prevented
by his knowledge that this is quite voluntary. And now consider that
on every car leaving the city at this time the scene is much the same;
reflect that the horror is enacting, not only in Boston, but in New
York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, St. Louis, Chicago, Cincinnati,--wherever
the horse-car, that tinkles well-nigh round the Continent, is known;
remember that the same victims are thus daily sacrificed, without an
effort to right themselves: and then you will begin to realize--dimly
and imperfectly, of course--the unfathomable meekness of the American
character. The “full” horse-car is a prodigy whose likeness is
absolutely unknown elsewhere, since the Neapolitan gig went out; and I
suppose it will be incredible to the future in our own country. When I
see such a horse-car as I have sketched move away from its station, I
feel that it is something not only emblematic and interpretative,
but monumental; and I know that when art becomes truly national, the
overloaded horse-car will be celebrated in painting and sculpture. And
in after ages, when the oblique-eyed, swarthy American of that time,
pausing before some commemorative bronze or historical picture of our
epoch, contemplates this stupendous spectacle of human endurance, I hope
he will be able to philosophize more satisfactorily than we can now,
concerning the mystery of our strength as a nation and our weakness as a



They were not a large family, and their pursuits and habits were very
simple; yet the summer was lapsing toward the first pathos of autumn
before they found themselves all in such case as to be able to take the
day’s pleasure they had planned so long. They had agreed often and often
that nothing could be more charming than an excursion down the Harbor,
either to Gloucester, or to Nahant, or to Nantasket Beach, or to Hull
and Hingham, or to any point within the fatal bound beyond which is
seasickness. They had studied the steamboat advertisements, day after
day, for a long time, without making up their minds which of these
charming excursions would be the most delightful; and when they had at
last fixed upon one and chosen some day for it, that day was sure to be
heralded by a long train of obstacles, or it dawned upon weather that
was simply impossible. Besides, in the suburbs, you are apt to sleep
late, unless the solitary ice-wagon of the neighborhood makes a very
uncommon rumbling in going by; and I believe that the excursion was
several times postponed by the tardy return of the pleasurers from
dreamland, which, after all, is not the worst resort, or the least
interesting--or profitable, for the matter of that. But at last the
great day came,--a blameless Thursday alike removed from the cares of
washing and ironing days, and from the fatigues with which every week
closes. One of the family chose deliberately to stay at home; but
the severest scrutiny could not detect a hindrance in the health
or circumstances of any of the rest, and the weather was delicious.
Everything, in fact, was so fair and so full of promise, that they could
almost fancy a calamity of some sort hanging over its perfection, and
possibly bred of it; for I suppose that we never have anything made
perfectly easy for us without a certain reluctance and foreboding.
That morning they all got up so early that they had time to waste over
breakfast before taking the 7.30 train for Boston; and they naturally
wasted so much of it that they reached the station only in season for
the 8.00. But there is a difference between reaching the station and
quietly taking the cars, especially if one of your company has been left
at home, hoping to cut across and take the cars at a station which they
reach some minutes later, and you, the head of the party, are obliged,
at a loss of breath and personal comfort and dignity, to run down to
that station and see that the belated member has arrived there, and then
hurry back to your own, and embody the rest, with their accompanying
hand-bags and wraps and sun-umbrellas, into some compact shape for
removal into the cars, during the very scant minute that the train stops
at Charlesbridge. Then when you are all aboard, and the tardy member has
been duly taken up at the next station, and you would be glad to spend
the time in looking about on the familiar variety of life which every
car presents in every train on every road in this vast American world,
you are oppressed and distracted by the cares which must attend the
pleasure-seeker, and which the more thickly beset him the more deeply he
plunges into enjoyment.

I can learn very little from the note-book of the friend whose
adventures I am relating in regard to the scenery of Somerville, and the
region generally through which the railroad passes between Charlesbridge
and Boston; but so much knowledge of it may be safely assumed on the
part of the reader as to relieve me of the grave responsibility of
describing it. Still, I may say that it is not unpicturesque, and that
I have a pleasure, which I hope the reader shares, in anything like salt
meadows and all spaces subject to the tide, whether flooded by it or
left bare with their saturated grasses by its going down. I think, also,
there is something fine in the many-roofed, many-chimneyed highlands of
Chelsea (if it is Chelsea), as you draw near the railroad bridge, and
there is a pretty stone church on a hill-side there which has the good
fortune, so rare with modern architecture and so common with the old, of
seeming a natural outgrowth of the spot where it stands, and which is
as purely an object of aesthetic interest to me, who know nothing of
its sect or doctrine, as any church in a picture could be; and there is,
also, the Marine Hospital on the heights (if it is the Marine Hospital),
from which I hope the inmates can behold the ocean, and exult in
whatever misery keeps them ashore.

But let me not so hasten over this part of my friend’s journey as to
omit all mention of the amphibious Irish houses which stand about on
the low lands along the railroad-sides, and which you half expect to see
plunge into the tidal mud of the neighborhood, with a series of hoarse
croaks, as the train approaches. Perhaps twenty-four trains pass those
houses every twenty-four hours, and it is a wonder that the inhabitants
keep their interest in them, or have leisure to bestow upon any of
them. Yet, as you dash along so bravely, you can see that you arrest
the occupations of all these villagers as by a kind of enchantment; the
children pause and turn their heads toward you from their mud-pies (to
the production of which there is literally no limit in that region);
the matron rests one parboiled hand on her hip, letting the other still
linger listlessly upon the wash-board, while she lifts her eyes from
the suds to look at you; the boys, who all summer long are forever just
going into the water or just coming out of it, cease their buttoning or
unbuttoning; the baby, which has been run after and caught and suitably
posed, turns its anguished eyes upon you, where also falls the mother’s
gaze, while her descending palm is arrested in mid air. I forbear to
comment upon the surprising populousness of these villages, where, in
obedience to all the laws of health, the inhabitants ought to be wasting
miserably away, but where they flourish in spite of them. Even Accident
here seems to be robbed of half her malevolence; and that baby (who
will presently be chastised with terrific uproar) passes an infancy of
intrepid enjoyment amidst the local perils, and is no more affected
by the engines and the cars than by so many fretful hens with their
attendant broods of chickens.

[Illustration: “That sweet young blonde, who arrives by most trains.”]

When sometimes I long for the excitement and variety of travel, which,
for no merit of mine, I knew in other days, I reproach myself, and
silence all my repinings with some such question as, Where could you
find more variety or greater excitement than abounds in and near the
Fitchburg Depot when a train arrives? And to tell the truth, there
is something very inspiring in the fine eagerness with which all the
passengers rise as soon as the locomotive begins to slow, and huddle
forward to the door, in their impatience to get out; while the
suppressed vehemence of the hackmen is also thrilling in its way, not
to mention the instant clamor of the baggage-men as they read and
repeat the numbers of the checks in strident tones. It would be ever so
interesting to depict all these people, but it would require volumes for
the work, and I reluctantly let them all pass out without a word,--all
but that sweet young blonde who arrives by most trains, and who, putting
up her eye-glass with a ravishing air, bewitchingly peers round among
the bearded faces, with little tender looks of hope and trepidation, for
the face which she wants, and which presently bursts through the circle
of strange visages. The owner of the face then hurries forward to meet
that sweet blonde, who gives him a little drooping hand as if it were a
delicate flower she laid in his; there is a brief mutual hesitation
long enough merely for an electrical thrill to run from heart to
heart through the clasping hands, and then he stoops toward her, and
distractingly kisses her. And I say that there is no law of conscience
or propriety worthy the name of law--barbarity, absurdity, call it
rather--to prevent any one from availing himself of that providential
near-sightedness, and beatifying himself upon those lips,--nothing to
prevent it but that young fellow, whom one might not, of course, care to

Among the people who now rush forward and heap themselves into the
two horse-cars and one omnibus, placed before the depot by a wise
forethought for the public comfort to accommodate the train-load of
two hundred passengers, I always note a type that is both pleasing
and interesting to me. It is a lady just passing middle life; from her
kindly eyes the envious crow, whose footprints are just traceable at
their corners, has not yet drunk the brightness, but she looks just a
thought sadly, if very serenely, from them. I know nothing in the world
of her; I may have seen her twice or a hundred times, but I must always
be making bits of romances about her. That is she in faultless gray,
with the neat leather bag in her lap, and a bouquet of the first
autumnal blooms perched in her shapely hands which are prettily yet
substantially gloved in some sort of gauntlets. She can be easy and
dignified, my dear middle-aged heroine, even in one of our horse-cars,
where people are for the most part packed like cattle in a pen. She
shows no trace of dust or fatigue from the thirty or forty miles which I
choose to fancy she has ridden from the handsome elm-shaded New England
town of five or ten thousand people, where I choose to think she lives.
From a vague horticultural association with those gauntlets, as well
as from the autumnal blooms, I take it she loves flowers, and gardens a
good deal with her own hands, and keeps house-plants in the winter, and
of course a canary. Her dress, neither rich nor vulgar, makes me believe
her fortunes modest and not recent; her gentle face has just so much
intellectual character as it is good to see in a woman’s face; I suspect
that she reads pretty regularly the new poems and histories, and I know
that she is the life and soul of the local book-club. Is she married, or
widowed, or one of the superfluous forty thousand? That is what I never
can tell. But I think that most probably she is married, and that her
husband is very much in business, and does not share so much as he
respects her tastes. I have no particular reason for thinking that she
has no children now, and that the sorrow for the one she lost so long
ago has become only a pensive silence, which, however, a long summer
twilight can yet deepen to tears.... Upon my word! Am I then one to give
way to this sort of thing? Madam, I ask pardon. I have no right to be
sentimentalizing you. Yet your face is one to make people dream kind
things of you, and I cannot keep my reveries away from it.

But in the mean time I neglect the momentous history which I have
proposed to write, and leave my day’s pleasurers to fade into the
background of a fantastic portrait. The truth is, I cannot look without
pain upon the discomforts which they suffer at this stage of their
joyous enterprise. At the best, the portables of such a party are apt
to be grievous embarrassments: a package of shawls and parasols and
umbrellas and India-rubbers, however neatly made up at first, quickly
degenerates into a shapeless mass, which has finally to be carried with
as great tenderness as an ailing child; and the lunch is pretty sure to
overflow the hand-bags and to eddy about you in paper parcels; while the
bottle of claret, that bulges the side of one of the bags, and

  “That will show itself without,”

defying your attempts to look as it were cold tea, gives a crushing
touch of disreputability to the whole affair. Add to this the fact that
but half the party have seats, and that the others have to sway and
totter about the car in that sudden contact with all varieties of
fellow-men, to which we are accustomed in the cars, and you must allow
that these poor merrymakers have reasons enough to rejoice when this
part of their day’s pleasure is over. They are so plainly bent upon a
sail down the Harbor, that before they leave the car they become
objects of public interest, and are at last made to give some account of

“Going for a sail, I presume?” says a person hitherto in conversation
with the conductor. “Well, I wouldn’t mind a sail myself to-day.”

“Yes,” answers the head of the party, “going to Gloucester.”

“Guess not,” says, very coldly and decidedly, one of the passengers,
who is reading that morning’s “Advertiser;” and when the subject of this
surmise looks at him for explanations, he adds, “The City Council has
chartered the boat for to-day.”

Upon this the excursionists fall into great dismay and bitterness, and
upbraid the City Council, and wonder why last night’s “Transcript” said
nothing about its oppressive action, and generally bewail their fate.
But at last they resolve to go somewhere, and, being set down, they make
up their warring minds upon Nahant, for the Nahant boat leaves the wharf
nearest them; and so they hurry away to India Wharf, amidst barrels and
bales and boxes and hacks and trucks, with interminable string-teams
passing before them at every crossing.

“At any rate,” says the leader of the expedition, “we shall see the
Gardens of Maolis,--those enchanted gardens which have fairly been
advertised into my dreams, and where I’ve been told,” he continues,
with an effort to make the prospect an attractive one, yet not without
a sense of the meagreness of the materials, “they have a grotto and a
wooden bull.”

Of course, there is no reason in nature why a wooden bull should be
more pleasing than a flesh-and-blood bull, but it seems to encourage the
company, and they set off again with renewed speed, and at last
reach India Wharf in time to see the Nahant steamer packed full of
excursionists, with a crowd of people still waiting to go aboard. It
does not look inviting, and they hesitate. In a minute or two their
spirits sink so low, that if they should see the wooden bull step out of
a grotto on the deck of the steamer the spectacle could not revive them.
At that instant they think, with a surprising singleness, of Nantasket
Beach, and the bright colors in which the Gardens of Maolis but now
appeared fade away, and they seem to see themselves sauntering along the
beautiful shore, while the white-crested breakers crash upon the sand,
and run up

  “In tender-curving lines of creamy spray,”

quite to the feet of that lotus-eating party.

“Nahant is all rocks,” says the leader to Aunt Melissa, who hears
him with a sweet and tranquil patience, and who would enjoy or suffer
anything with the same expression; “and as you’ve never yet seen the
open sea, it’s fortunate that we go to Nantasket, for, of course, a
beach is more characteristic. But now the object is to get there. The
boat will be starting in a few moments, and I doubt whether we can walk
it. How far is it,” he asks, turning toward a respectable-looking man,
“to Liverpool Wharf?”

“Well, it’s consid’able ways,” says the man, smiling.

“Then we must take a hack,” says the pleasurer to his party. “Come on.”

“I’ve got a hack,” observes the man, in a casual way, as if the fact
might possibly interest.

“O, you have, have you? Well, then, put us into it, and drive to
Liverpool Wharf; and hurry.”

Either the distance was less than the hackman fancied, or else he drove
thither with unheard-of speed, for two minutes later he set them down on
Liverpool Wharf. But swiftly as they had come the steamer had been even
more prompt, and she now turned toward them a beautiful wake, as she
pushed farther and farther out into the harbor.

The hackman took his two dollars for his four passengers, and was
rapidly mounting his box,--probably to avoid idle reproaches. “Wait!”
 said the chief pleasurer. Then, “When does the next boat leave?” he
asked of the agent, who had emerged with a compassionate face from the
waiting-rooms on the wharf.

“At half past two.”

“And it’s now five minutes past nine,” moaned the merrymakers.

“Why, I’ll tell you what you can do,” said the agent; “you can go to
Hingham by the Old Colony cars, and so come back by the Hull and Hingham

“That’s it!” chorused his listeners, “we’ll go;” and “Now,” said their
spokesman to the driver, “I dare say you didn’t know that Liverpool
Wharf was so near; but I don’t think you’ve earned your money, and you
ought to take us on to the Old Colony Depot for half-fares at the most.”

The driver looked pained, as if some small tatters and shreds of
conscience were flapping uncomfortably about his otherwise dismantled
spirit. Then he seemed to think of his wife and family, for he put on
the air of a man who had already made great sacrifices, and “I couldn’t,
really, I couldn’t afford it,” said he; and as the victims turned from
him in disgust, he chirruped to his horses and drove off.

“Well,” said the pleasurers, “we won’t give it up. We will have our
day’s pleasure after all. But what _can_ we do to kill five hours and
a half? It’s miles away from everything, and, besides, there’s nothing
even if we were there.” At this image of their remoteness and the
inherent desolation of Boston they could not suppress some sighs, and in
the mean time Aunt Melissa stepped into the waiting-room, which opened
on the farther side upon the water, and sat contentedly down on one of
the benches; the rest, from sheer vacuity and irresolution, followed,
and thus, without debate, it was settled that they should wait there
till the boat left. The agent, who was a kind man, did what he could to
alleviate the situation: he gave them each the advertisement of his line
of boats, neatly printed upon a card, and then he went away.

All this prospect of waiting would do well enough for the ladies of the
party, but there is an impatience in the masculine fibre which does
not brook the notion of such prolonged repose; and the leader of the
excursion presently pretended an important errand up town,--nothing
less, in fact, than to buy a tumbler out of which to drink their claret
on the beach. A holiday is never like any other day to the man who takes
it, and a festive halo seemed to enwrap the excursionist as he pushed on
through the busy streets in the cool shadow of the vast granite
palaces wherein the genius of business loves to house itself in this
money-making land, and inhaled the odors of great heaps of leather and
spices and dry goods as he passed the open doorways,--odors that mixed
pleasantly with the smell of the freshly watered streets. When
he stepped into a crockery store to make his purchase a sense of
pleasure-taking did not fail him, and he fell naturally into talk with
the clerk about the weather and such pastoral topics. Even when he
reached the establishment where his own business days were passed some
glamour seemed to be cast upon familiar objects. To the disenchanted eye
all things were as they were on all other dullish days of summer,
even to the accustomed bore leaning up against his favorite desk and
transfixing his habitual victim with his usual theme. Yet to the gaze of
this pleasure-taker all was subtly changed, and he shook hands right
and left as he entered, to the marked surprise of the objects of his
effusion. He had merely come to get some newspapers to help pass away
the long moments on the wharf, and when he had found these, he hurried
back thither to hear what had happened during his absence.

It seemed that there had hardly ever been such an eventful period in the
lives of the family before, and he listened to a minute account of it
from Cousin Lucy. “You know, Frank,” says she, “that Sallie’s one idea
in life is to keep the baby from getting the whooping-cough, and I
declare that these premises have done nothing but reëcho with the most
dolorous whoops ever since you’ve been gone, so that at times, in my
fear that Sallie would think I’d been careless about the boy, I’ve been
ready to throw myself into the water, and nothing’s prevented me but the
doubt whether it wouldn’t be better to throw in the whoopers instead.”

At this moment a pale little girl, with a face wan and sad through all
its dirt, came and stood in the doorway nearest the baby, and in another
instant she had burst into a whoop so terrific that, if she had meant
to have his scalp next it could not have been more dreadful. Then she
subsided into a deep and pathetic quiet, with that air peculiar to
the victims of her disorder of having done nothing noticeable. But her
outburst had set at work the mysterious machinery of half a dozen other
whooping-coughers lurking about the building, and all unseen they wound
themselves up with appalling rapidity, and in the utter silence which
followed left one to think they had died at the climax.

“Why, it’s a perfect whooping-cough factory, this place,” cries Cousin
Lucy in a desperation. “Go away, do, please, from the baby, you poor
little dreadful object you,” she continues, turning upon the only
visible operative in the establishment. “Here, take this,” and she
bribes her with a bit of sponge-cake, on which the child runs lightly
off along the edge of the wharf. “That’s been another of their projects
for driving me wild,” says Cousin Lucy,--“trying to take their own lives
in a hundred ways before my face and eyes. Why _will_ their mothers let
them come here to play?”

Really, they were very melancholy little figures, and might have gone
near to make one sad, even if they had not been constantly imperilling
their lives. Thanks to its being summer-time, it did not much
matter about the scantiness of their clothing, but their squalor
was depressing, it seemed, even to themselves, for they were a
mournful-looking set of children, and in their dangerous sports trifled
silently and almost gloomily with death. There were none of them above
eight or nine years of age, and most of them had the care of smaller
brothers, or even babes in arms, whom they were thus early inuring to
the perils of the situation. The boys were dressed in pantaloons and
shirts which no excess of rolling up in the legs and arms could make
small enough, and the incorrigible too-bigness of which rendered the
favorite amusements still more hazardous from their liability to trip
and entangle the wearers. The little girls had on each a solitary
garment, which hung about her gaunt person with antique severity of
outline; while the babies were multitudinously swathed in whatever
fragments of dress could be tied or pinned or plastered on. Their faces
were strikingly and almost ingeniously dirty, and their distractions
among the coal-heaps and cord-wood constantly added to the variety and
advantage of these effects.

“Why do their mothers let them come here?” muses Frank aloud. “Why,
because it’s so safe, Cousin Lucy. At home, you know, they’d have to be
playing upon the sills of fourth-floor windows, and here they’re out
of the way and can’t hurt themselves. Why, Cousin Lucy, this is their
park,--their Public Garden, their Bois de Boulogne, their Cascine. And
look at their gloomy little faces! Aren’t they taking their pleasure in
the spirit of the very highest fashion? I was at Newport last summer,
and saw the famous driving on the Avenue in those pony phaetons,
dog-carts, and tubs, and three-story carriages with a pair of footmen
perching like storks upon each gable, and I assure you that all those
ornate and costly phantasms (it seems to me now like a sad, sweet
vision) had just the expression of these poor children. We’re taking
a day’s pleasure ourselves, cousin, but nobody would know it from our
looks. And has nothing but whooping-cough happened since I’ve been

“Yes, we seem to be so cut off from every-day associations that I’ve
imagined myself a sort of tourist, and I’ve been to that Catholic church
over yonder, in hopes of seeing the Murillos and Raphaels--but I found
it locked up, and so I trudged back without a sight of the masterpieces.
But what’s the reason that all the shops hereabouts have nothing but
luxuries for sale? The windows are perfect tropics of oranges, and
lemons, and belated bananas, and tobacco, and peanuts.”

“Well, the poor really seem to use more of those luxuries than anybody
else. I don’t blame them. I shouldn’t care for the necessaries of life
myself, if I found them so hard to get.”

“When I came back here,” says Cousin Lucy, without heeding these
flippant and heartless words, “I found an old gentleman who has
something to do with the boats, and he sat down, as if it were a part of
his business, and told me nearly the whole history of his life. Isn’t
it nice of them, keeping an Autobiographer? It makes the time pass so
swiftly when you’re waiting. This old gentleman was born--who’d ever
think it?--up there in Pearl Street, where those pitiless big granite
stores are now; and, I don’t know why, but the idea of any human baby
being born in Pearl Street seemed to me one of the saddest things I’d
ever heard of.”

Here Cousin Lucy went to the rescue of the nurse and the baby, who had
got into one of their periodical difficulties, and her interlocutor
turned to Aunt Melissa.

“I think, Franklin,” says Aunt Melissa, “that it was wrong to let that
nurse come and bring the baby.”

“Yes, I know, Aunty, you have those old-established ideas, and they’re
very right,” answers her nephew; “but just consider how much she enjoys
it, and how vastly the baby adds to the pleasure of this charming

Aunt Melissa made no reply, but sat thoughtfully out upon the bay. “I
presume you think the excursion is a failure,” she said, after a while;
“but I’ve been enjoying every minute of the time here. Of course, I’ve
never seen the open sea, and I don’t know about it, but I feel here just
as if I were spending a day at the seaside.”

“Well,” said her nephew, “I shouldn’t call this exactly a
watering-place. It lacks the splendor and gayety of Newport, in a
certain degree, and it hasn’t the illustrious seclusion of Nahant. The
surf isn’t very fine, nor the beach particularly adapted to bathing; and
yet, I must confess, the outlook from here is as lovely as anything one
need have.”

And to tell the truth, it was very pretty and interesting. The landward
environment was as commonplace and mean as it could be: a yardful of
dismal sheds for coal and lumber, and shanties for offices, with each
office its safe and its desk, its whittled arm-chair and its spittoon,
its fly that shooed not, but buzzed desperately against the grimy pane,
which, if it had really had that boasted microscopic eye, it never would
have mistaken for the unblemished daylight. Outside of this yard was the
usual wharfish neighborhood, with its turmoil of trucks and carts and
fleet express-wagons, its building up and pulling down, its discomfort
and clamor of every sort, and its shops for the sale, not only of those
luxuries which Lucy had mentioned, but of such domestic refreshments as
lemon-pie and hulled-corn.

When, however, you turned your thoughts and eyes away from this aspect
of it, and looked out upon the water, the neighborhood gloriously
retrieved itself. There its poverty and vulgarity ceased; there its
beauty and grace abounded. A light breeze ruffled the face of the bay,
and the innumerable little sail-boats that dotted it took the sun and
wind upon their wings, which they dipped almost into the sparkle of the
water, and flew lightly hither and thither like gulls that loved the
brine too well to rise wholly from it; larger ships, farther or nearer,
puffed or shrank their sails as they came and went on the errands
of commerce, but always moved as if bent upon some dreamy affair of
pleasure; the steamboats that shot vehemently across their tranquil
courses seemed only gayer and vivider visions, but not more substantial;
yonder, a black sea-going steamer passed out between the far-off
islands, and at last left in the sky above those reveries of
fortification, a whiff of sombre smoke, dark and unreal as a memory
of battle; to the right, on some line of railroad, long-plumed trains
arrived and departed like pictures passed through the slide of a
magic-lantern; even a pile-driver, at work in the same direction, seemed
to have no malice in the blows which, after a loud clucking, it dealt
the pile, and one understood that it was mere conventional violence like
that of a Punch to his baby.

“Why, what a lotus-eating life this is!” said Frank, at last. “Aunt
Melissa, I don’t wonder you think it’s like the seaside. It’s a great
deal better than the seaside. And now, just as we’ve entered into the
spirit of it, the time’s up for the ‘Rose Standish’ to come and bear
us from its delights. When will the boat be in?” he asked of the
Autobiographer, whom Lucy had pointed out to him.

“Well, she’s _ben_ in half an hour, now. There she lays, just outside
the ‘John Romer.’”

There, to be sure, she lay, and those pleasure-takers had been so lost
in the rapture of waiting and the beauty of the scene as never to have
noticed her arrival.


It is noticeable how many people there are in the world that seem bent
always upon the same purpose of amusement or business as one’s self.
If you keep quietly about your accustomed affairs, there are all your
neighbors and acquaintance hard at it too; if you go on a journey,
choose what train you will, the cars are filled with travellers in your
direction. You take a day’s pleasure, and everybody abandons his usual
occupation to crowd upon your boat, whether it is to Gloucester, or
Nahant, or to Nantasket Beach you go. It is very hard to believe that,
from whatever channel of life you abstract yourself, still the great sum
of it presses forward as before: that business is carried on though you
are idle, that men amuse themselves though you toil, that every train is
as crowded as that you travel on, that the theatre or the church fills
its boxes or pews without you perfectly well. I suppose it would not be
quite agreeable to believe all this; the opposite illusion is far more
flattering; for if each one of us did not take the world with him now at
every turn, should he not have to leave it behind him when he died? And
that, it must be owned, would not be agreeable, nor is the fact quite
conceivable, though ever so many myriads in so many million years have
proved it.

When our friends first went aboard the “Rose Standish” that day they
were almost the sole passengers, and they had a feeling of ownership
and privacy which was pleasant enough in its way, but which they lost
afterwards; though to lose it was also pleasant, for enjoyment no more
likes to be solitary than sin does, which is notoriously gregarious, and
I dare say would hardly exist if it could not be committed in company.
The preacher, indeed, little knows the comfortable sensation we have in
being called fellow-sinners, and what an effective shield for his guilt
each makes of his neighbor’s hard-heartedness.

Cousin Frank never felt how strange was a lonely transgression till
that day, when in the silence of the little cabin he took the bottle of
claret from the handbag, and prepared to moisten the family lunch with
it. “I think, Aunt Melissa,” he said, “we had better lunch now, for it’s
a quarter past two, and we shall not get to the beach before four. Let’s
improvise a beach of these chairs, and that water-urn yonder can stand
for the breakers. Now, this is truly like Newport and Nahant,” he added,
after the little arrangement was complete; and he was about to strip
away the bottle’s jacket of brown paper, when a lady much wrapped up
came in, and, reclining upon one of the opposite seats, began to take
them all in with a severe serenity of gaze that made them feel for a
moment like a party of low foreigners,--like a set of German atheists,
say. Frank kept on the bottle’s paper jacket, and as the single tumbler
of the party circled from mouth to mouth, each of them tried to give the
honest drink the false air of a medicinal potion of some sort; and to
see Aunt Melissa sipping it, no one could have put his hand on his heart
and sworn it was not elderberry wine, at the worst. In spite of these
efforts, they all knew that they had suffered a hopeless loss of repute;
yet after the loss was confessed, I am not sure that they were not the
gayer and happier through this “freedom of a broken law.” At any rate,
the lunch passed off very merrily, and when they had put back the
fragments of the feast into the bags, they went forward to the bow of
the boat, to get good places for seeing the various people as they came
aboard, and for an outlook upon the bay when the boat should start.

I suppose that these were not very remarkable people, and that nothing
but the indomitable interest our friends took in the human race could
have enabled them to feel any concern in their companions. It was,
no doubt, just such a company as goes down to Nantasket Beach every
pleasant day in summer. Certain ones among them were distinguishable as
sojourners at the beach, by an air of familiarity with the business of
getting there, an indifference to the prospect, and an indefinable touch
of superiority. These read their newspapers in quiet corners, or, if
they were not of the newspaper sex, made themselves comfortable in the
cabins, and looked about them at the other passengers with looks of
lazy surprise, and just a hint of scorn for their interest in the boat’s
departure. Our day’s pleasurers took it that the lady whose steady gaze
had reduced them, when at lunch, to such a low ebb of shabbiness, was a
regular boarder, at the least, in one of the beach hotels. A few other
passengers were, like themselves, mere idlers for a day, and were eager
to see all that the boat or the voyage offered of novelty. There were
clerks and men who had book-keeping written in a neat mercantile hand
upon their faces, and who had evidently been given that afternoon for
a breathing-time; and there were strangers who were going down to the
beach for the sake of the charming view of the harbor which the trip
afforded. Here and there were people who were not to be classed with any
certainty,--as a pale young man, handsome in his undesirable way, who
looked like a steamboat pantry boy not yet risen to be bar-tender, but
rapidly rising, and who sat carefully balanced upon the railing of the
boat, chatting with two young girls, who heard his broad sallies with
continual snickers, and interchanged saucy comments with that prompt
up-and-coming manner which is so large a part of non-humorous humor, as
Mr. Lowell calls it, and now and then pulled and pushed each other. It
was a scene worth study, for in no other country could anything so bad
have been without being vastly worse; but here it was evident that there
was nothing worse than you saw; and, indeed, these persons formed a
sort of relief to the other passengers, who were nearly all monotonously
well-behaved. Amongst a few there seemed to be acquaintance, but the far
greater part were unknown to one another, and there were no words wasted
by any one. I believe the English traveller who has taxed our nation
with inquisitiveness for half a century is at last beginning to find
out that we do not ask questions because we have the still more vicious
custom of not opening our mouths at all when with strangers.

It was a good hour after our friends got aboard before the boat left her
moorings, and then it was not without some secret dreads of sea-sickness
that Aunt Melissa saw the seething brine widen between her and the
familiar wharf-house, where she now seemed to have spent so large a
part of her life. But the multitude of really charming and interesting
objects that presently fell under her eye soon distracted her from those
gloomy thoughts.

There is always a shabbiness about the wharves of seaports; but I must
own that as soon as you get a reasonable distance from them in Boston,
they turn wholly beautiful. They no longer present that imposing array
of mighty ships which they could show in the days of Consul Plancus,
when the commerce of the world sought chiefly our port, yet the docks
are still filled with the modester kinds of shipping, and if there is
not that wilderness of spars and rigging which you see at New York, let
us believe that there is an aspect of selection and refinement in
the scene, so that one should describe it, not as a forest, but, less
conventionally, as a gentleman’s park of masts. The steamships of many
coastwise freight lines gloom, with their black, capacious hulks,
among the lighter sailing-craft, and among the white, green-shuttered
passenger-boats; and behind them those desperate and grimy sheds assume
a picturesqueness, their sagging roofs and crooked gables harmonizing
agreeably with the shipping; and then growing up from all, rises the
mellow-tinted brick-built city, roof, and spire, and dome,--a fair
and noble sight, indeed, and one not surpassed for a certain quiet and
cleanly beauty by any that I know.

Our friends lingered long upon this pretty prospect, and, as inland
people of light heart and easy fancy will, the ladies made imagined
voyages in each of the more notable vessels they passed,--all cheap and
safe trips, occupying half a second apiece. Then they came forward to
the bow, that they might not lose any part of the harbor’s beauty and
variety, and informed themselves of the names of each of the fortressed
islands as they passed, and forgot them, being passed, so that to this
day Aunt Melissa has the Fort Warren rebel prisoners languishing in Fort
Independence. But they made sure of the air of soft repose that hung
about each, of that exquisite military neatness which distinguishes
them, and which went to Aunt Melissa’s housekeeping heart, of the green,
thick turf covering the escarpments, of the great guns loafing on the
crests of the ramparts and looking out over the water sleepily, of the
sentries pacing slowly up and down with their gleaming muskets.

“I never see one of those fellows,” says Cousin Frank, “without setting
him to the music of that saddest and subtlest of Heine’s poems. You know
it, Lucy;” and he repeats:--

  “Mein Herz, mein Herz is traurig,
     Doch lustig leuchtet der Mai;
   Ich stehe gelehnt an der Linde,
     Hoch auf der alten Bastei.

       *       *       *       *       *

  “Am alten grauen Thurme
     Ein Schilderhäuschen steht;
   Ein rothgeröckter Bursche
     Dort auf und nieder geht.

  “Er spielt mit seiner Flinte,
     Sie funkelt im Sonnenroth,
   Er präsentirt, und schultert,--
     Ich wollt’, er schösse mich todt.”

“O!” says Cousin Lucy, either because the poignant melancholy of the
sentiment has suddenly pierced her, or because she does not quite
understand the German,--you never can tell about women. While Frank
smiles down upon her in this amiable doubt, their party is approached by
the tipsy man who has been making the excursion so merry for the other
passengers, in spite of the fact that there is very much to make one sad
in him. He is an old man, sweltering in rusty black, a two days’ gray
beard, and a narrow-brimmed, livid silk hat, set well back upon the nape
of his neck. He explains to our friends, as he does to every one whose
acquaintance he makes, that he was in former days a seafaring man, and
that he has brought his two little grandsons here to show them something
about a ship; and the poor old soul helplessly saturates his phrase with
the rankest profanity. The boys are somewhat amused by their grandsire’s
state, being no doubt familiar with it, but a very grim-looking old lady
who sits against the pilot-house, and keeps a sharp eye upon all three,
and who is also doubtless familiar with the unhappy spectacle, seems not
to find it a joke. Her stout matronly umbrella trembles in her hand when
her husband draws near, and her eye flashes; but he gives her as wide a
berth as he can, returning her glare with a propitiatory drunken smile
and a wink to the passengers to let them into the fun. In fact, he is
full of humor in his tipsy way, and one after another falls the prey of
his free sarcasm, which does not spare the boat or any feature of the
excursion. He holds for a long time, by swiftly successive stories of
his seafaring days, a very quiet gentleman, who dares neither laugh too
loudly nor show indifference for fear of rousing that terrible wit at
his expense, and finds his account in looking down at his boots.

“Well, sir,” says the deplorable old sinner, “we was forty days out from
Liverpool, with a cargo of salt and iron, and we got caught on the Banks
in a calm. ‘Cap’n,’ says I,--I ‘us sec’n’ mate,--‘‘s they any man aboard
this ship knows how to pray?’ ‘No,’ says the cap’n; ‘blast yer prayers!’
‘Well,’ says I, ‘cap’n, I’m no hand at all to pray, but I’m goin’ to see
if prayin’ won’t git us out ‘n this.’ And I down on my knees, and I made
a first-class prayer; and a breeze sprung up in a minute and carried us
smack into Boston.”

At this bit of truculent burlesque the quiet man made a bold push, and
walked away with a somewhat sickened face, and as no one now intervened
between them, the inebriate laid a familiar hand upon Cousin Frank’s
collar, and said with a wink at his late listener: “Looks like a
lerigious man, don’t he? I guess I give him a good dose, if he _does_
think himself the head-deacon of this boat.” And he went on to state his
ideas of religion, from which it seemed that he was a person of the most
advanced thinking, and believed in nothing worth mentioning.

It is perhaps no worse for an Infidel to be drunk than a Christian, but
my friend found this tipsy blasphemer’s case so revolting, that he
went to the hand-bag, took out the empty claret-bottle, and seeking a
solitary corner of the boat, cast the bottle into the water, and felt
a thrill of uncommon self-approval as this scapegoat of all the wine
at his grocer’s bobbed off upon the little waves. “Besides, it saves
carrying the bottle home,” he thought, not without a half-conscious
reserve, that if his penitence were ever too much for him, he could
easily abandon it. And without the reflection that the gate is always
open behind him, who could consent to enter upon any course of perfect
behavior? If good resolutions could not be broken, who would ever have
the courage to form them? Would it not be intolerable to be made as good
as we ought to be? Then, admirable reader, thank Heaven even for your
lapses, since it is so wholesome and saving to be well ashamed of
yourself, from time to time.

“What an outrage,” said Cousin Frank, in the glow of virtue, as he
rejoined the ladies, “that that tipsy rascal should be allowed to go on
with his ribaldry. He seems to pervade the whole boat, and to subject
everybody to his sway. He’s a perfect despot to us helpless sober
people,--I wouldn’t openly disagree with him on any account. We ought
to send a Round Robin to the captain, and ask him to put that religious
liberal in irons during the rest of the voyage.”

In the mean time, however, the object of his indignation had used up
all the conversible material in that part of the boat, and had deviously
started for the other end. The elderly woman with the umbrella rose and
followed him, somewhat wearily, and with a sadness that appeared more in
her movement than in her face; and as the two went down the cabin, did
the comical affair look, after all, something like tragedy? My reader,
who expects a little novelty in tragedy, and not these stale and common
effects, will never think so.

“You’ll not pretend, Frank,” says Lucy, “that in such an intellectual
place as Boston a crowd as large as this can be got together, and no
distinguished literary people in it. I know there are some notables
aboard: do point them out to me. Pretty near everybody has a literary

“Why, that’s what we call our Boston look, Cousin Lucy. You needn’t have
written anything to have it,--it’s as general as tubercular consumption,
and is the effect of our universal culture and habits of reading. I
heard a New-Yorker say once that if you went into a corner grocery in
Boston to buy a codfish, the man would ask you how you liked ‘Lucille,’
whilst he was tying it up. No, no; you mustn’t be taken in by that
literary look; I’m afraid the real literary men don’t always have it.
But I _do_ see a literary man aboard yonder,” he added, craning his neck
to one side, and then furtively pointing,--“the most literary man I ever
knew, one of the most literary men that ever lived. His whole existence
is really bound up in books; he never talks of anything else, and never
thinks of anything else, I believe. Look at him,--what kind and
pleasant eyes he’s got! There, he sees me!” cries Cousin Frank, with a
pleasurable excitement. “How d’ye do?” he calls out.

“O Cousin Frank, introduce us,” sighs Lucy.

“Not I! He wouldn’t thank me. He doesn’t care for pretty girls outside
of books; he’d be afraid of ‘em; he’s the bashfullest man alive, and
all his heroines are fifty years old, at the least. But before I go any
further, tell me solemnly, Lucy, you’re not interviewing me? You’re not
going to write it to a New York newspaper? No? Well, I think it’s best
to ask, always. Our friend there--he’s everybody’s friend, if you mean
nobody’s enemy, by that, not even his own--is really what I say,--the
most literary man I ever knew. He loves all epochs and phases of
literature, but his passion is the Charles Lamb period and all Lamb’s
friends. He loves them as if they were living men; and Lamb would have
loved him if he could have known him. He speaks rapidly, and rather
indistinctly, and when you meet him and say Good day, and you suppose
he answers with something about the weather, ten to one he’s asking
you what you think of Hazlitt’s essays on Shakespeare, or Leigh Hunt’s
Italian Poets, or Lamb’s roast pig, or Barry Cornwall’s songs. He
couldn’t get by a bookstall without stopping--for half an hour, at any
rate. He knows just when all the new books in town are to be published,
and when each bookseller is to get his invoice of old English books.
He has no particular address, but if you leave your card for him at any
bookstore in Boston, he’s sure to get it within two days; and in the
summer-time you’re apt to meet him on these excursions. Of course, he
writes about books, and very tastefully and modestly; there’s hardly any
of the brand-new immortal English poets, who die off so rapidly, but has
had a good word from him; but his heart is with the older fellows, from
Chaucer down; and, after the Charles Lamb epoch, I don’t know whether
he loves better the Elizabethan age or that of Queen Anne. Think of him
making me stop the other day at a bookstall, and read through an essay
out of the “Spectator!” I did it all for love of him, though money
couldn’t have persuaded me that I had time; and I’m always telling him
lies, and pretending to be as well acquainted as he is with authors
I hardly know by name,--he seems so fondly to expect it. He’s really
almost a disembodied spirit as concerns most mundane interests--his soul
is in literature, as a lover’s in his mistress’s beauty; and in the next
world, where, as the Swedenborgians believe, spirits seen at a distance
appear like the things they most resemble in disposition, as doves,
hawks, goats, lambs, swine, and so on, I’m sure that I shall see
his true and kindly soul in the guise of a noble old Folio, quaintly
lettered across his back in old English text, _Tom. I._”

While our friends talked and looked about them, a sudden change had come
over the brightness and warmth of the day; the blue heaven had turned a
chilly gray, and the water looked harsh and cold. Now, too, they noted
that they were drawing near a wooden pier built into the water, and that
they had been winding about in a crooked channel between muddy shallows,
and that their course was overrun with long, disheveled sea-weed. The
shawls had been unstrapped, and the ladies made comfortable in them.

“Ho for the beach!” cried Cousin Frank, with a vehement show of
enthusiasm. “Now, then, Aunt Melissa, prepare for the great enjoyment of
the day. In a few moments we shall be of the elves

      ‘That on the sand with printless foot
  Do chase the ebbing Neptune, and do fly him
  When he comes back.’

Come! we shall have three hours on the beach, and that will bring us
well into the cool of the evening, and we can return by the last boat.”

“As to the cool of the evening,” said Aunt Melissa, “I don’t know. It’s
quite cool enough for comfort at present, and I’m sure that anything
more wouldn’t be wholesome. What’s become of our beautiful weather?” she
asked, deeply plotting to gain time.

“It’s one of our Boston peculiarities, not to say merits,” answered
Frank, “which you must have noticed already, that we can get rid of a
fine day sooner than any other region. While you’re saying how lovely
it is, a subtle change is wrought, and under skies still blue and a sun
still warm the keen spirit of the east wind pierces every nerve, and
all the fine weather within you is chilled and extinguished. The gray
atmosphere follows, but the day first languishes in yourself. But for
this, life in Boston would be insupportably perfect, if this is indeed a
drawback. You’d find Bostonians to defend it, I dare say. But this isn’t
a regular east wind to-day; it’s merely our nearness to the sea.”

“I think, Franklin,” said Aunt Melissa, “that we won’t go down to the
beach this afternoon,” as if she had been there yesterday, and would go
to-morrow. “It’s too late in the day; and it wouldn’t be good for the
child, I’m sure.”

“Well, aunty, it was you determined us to wait for the boat, and it’s
your right to say whether we shall leave it or not. I’m very willing
not to go ashore. I always find that, after working up to an object
with great effort, it’s surpassingly sweet to leave it unaccomplished
at last. Then it remains forever in the region of the ideal, amongst the
songs that never were sung, the pictures that never were painted. Why,
in fact, should we force this pleasure? We’ve eaten our lunch, we’ve
lost the warm heart of the day; why should we poorly drag over to that
damp and sullen beach, where we should find three hours very long, when
by going back now we can keep intact that glorious image of a day by the
sea which we’ve been cherishing all summer? You’re right, Aunt Melissa;
we won’t go ashore; we will stay here, and respect our illusions.”

At heart, perhaps, Lucy did not quite like this retreat; it was not in
harmony with the youthful spirit of her sex, but she reflected that she
could come again,--O beneficent cheat of Another Time, how much thou
sparest us in our over-worked, over-enjoyed world!--she was very
comfortable where she was, in a seat commanding a perfect view for the
return trip; and she submitted without a murmur. Besides, now that the
boat had drawn up to the pier, and discharged part of her passengers,
and was waiting to take on others, Lucy was interested in a mass of
fluttering dresses and wide-rimmed straw hats that drew down toward
the “Rose Standish,” and gracefully thronged the pier, and prettily
hesitated about, and finally came aboard with laughter and little false
cries of terror, attended through all by the New England disproportion
of that sex which is so foolish when it is silly. It was a large picnic
party which had been spending the day upon the beach, as each of the
ladies showed in her face, where, if the roses upon her cheeks were
somewhat obscured by the imbrowning seaside sun, a bright pink had been
compensatingly bestowed upon the point of her nose. A mysterious quiet
fell upon them all when they were got aboard and had taken conspicuous
places, which was accounted for presently when a loud shout was heard
from the shore, and a man beside an ambulant photographic machine was
seen wildly waving his hat. It is impossible to resist a temptation of
this kind, and our party all yielded, and posed themselves in striking
and characteristic attitudes,--even Aunt Melissa sharing the ambition to
appear in a picture which she should never see, and the nurse coming
out strong from the abeyance in which she had been held, and lifting the
baby high into the air for a good likeness. The frantic gesticulator on
the shore gave an impressive wave with both hands, took the cap from the
instrument, turned his back, as photographers always do, with that air
of hiding their tears, for the brief space that seems so long, and then
clapped on the cap again, while a great sigh of relief went up from the
whole boat-load of passengers. They were taken.

But the interval had been a luckless one for the “Rose Standish,” and
when she stirred her wheels, clouds of mud rose to the top of the water,
and there was no responsive movement of the boat. She was aground in the
falling tide.

“There seems a pretty fair prospect of our spending some time here,
after all,” said Frank, while the ladies, who had reluctantly given up
the idea of staying, were now in a quiver of impatience to be off. The
picnic was shifted from side to side; the engine groaned and tugged,
Captain Miles Standish and his crew bestirred themselves vigorously, and
at last the boat swung loose, and strode down the sea-weedy channels;
while our friends, who had already done the great sights of the
harbor, now settled themselves to the enjoyment of its minor traits and
beauties. Here and there they passed small parties on the shore, which,
with their yachts anchored near, or their boats drawn up from the water,
were cooking an out-door meal by a fire that burned bright red upon the
sands in the late afternoon air. In such cases, people willingly indulge
themselves in saluting whatever craft goes by, and the ladies of these
small picnics, as they sat round the fires, kept up a great waving
of handkerchiefs, and sometimes cheered the “Rose Standish,” though
I believe the Bostonians are ordinarily not a demonstrative race. Of
course the large picnic on board fluttered multitudinous handkerchiefs
in response, both to these people ashore and to those who hailed them
from vessels which they met. They did not refuse the politeness even
to the passengers on a rival boat when she passed them, though at heart
they must have felt some natural pangs at being passed. The water was
peopled everywhere by all sorts of sail lagging slowly homeward in
the light evening breeze; and on some of the larger vessels there were
family groups to be seen, and a graceful smoke, suggestive of supper,
curled from the cook’s galley. I suppose these ships were chiefly
coasting craft, of one kind or another, come from the Provinces at
farthest; but to the ignorance and the fancy of our friends, they
arrived from all remote and romantic parts of the world,--from India,
from China, and from the South Seas, with cargoes of spices and gums and
tropical fruits; and I see no reason why one should ever deny himself
the easy pleasure they felt in painting the unknown in such lively hues.
The truth is, a strange ship, if you will let her, always brings you
precious freight, always arrives from Wonderland under the command of
Captain Sinbad. How like a beautiful sprite she looks afar off, as if
she came from some finer and fairer world than ours! Nay, we will not go
out to meet her; we will not go on board; Captain Sinbad shall bring us
the invoice of gold-dust, slaves, and rocs’ eggs to-night, and we will
have some of the eggs for breakfast; or if he never comes, are we
not just as rich? But I think these friends of ours got a yet keener
pleasure out of the spectacle of a large and stately ship, that with all
sails spread moved silently and steadily out toward the open sea. It is
yet grander and sweeter to sail toward the unknown than to come from it;
and every vessel that leaves port has this destination, and will bear
you thither if you will.

  “It may be that the gulf shall wash us down;
   It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
   And see the great Achilles, whom we knew,”

absently murmured Lucy, looking on this beautiful apparition.

“But I can’t help thinking of Ulysses’ cabin-boy, yonder,” said Cousin
Frank, after a pause; “can you, Aunt Melissa?”

“I don’t understand what you’re talking about Franklin,” answered Aunt
Melissa, somewhat severely.

“Why, I mean that there is a poor wretch of a boy on board there, who’s
run away, and whose heart must be aching just now at the thought of the
home he has left. I hope Ulysses will be good to him, and not swear at
him for a day or two, or knock him about with a belaying-pin. Just about
this time his mother, up in the country, is getting ready his supper,
and wondering what’s become of him, and torturing herself with hopes
that break one by one; and to-night when she goes up to his empty room,
having tried to persuade herself that the truant’s come back and climbed
in at the window”--“Why, Franklin, this isn’t true, is it?” asks Aunt

“Well, no, let’s pray Heaven it isn’t, in this case. It’s been true
often enough to be false for once.”

“What a great, ugly, black object a ship is!” said Cousin Lucy.

Slowly the city rose up against the distance, sharpening all its
outlines, and filling in all its familiar details,--like a fact which
one dreams is a dream, and which, as the mists of sleep break away,
shows itself for reality.

The air grows closer and warmer,--it is the breath of the hot and
toil-worn land.

The boat makes her way up through the shipping, seeks her landing, and
presently rubs herself affectionately against the wharf. The passengers
quickly disperse themselves upon shore, dismissed each with an
appropriate sarcasm by the tipsy man, who has had the means of keeping
himself drunk throughout, and who now looks to the discharge of the
boat’s cargo.

As our friends leave the wharf-house behind them, and straggle uneasily,
and very conscious of sunburn, up the now silent length of Pearl Street
to seek the nearest horse-cars, they are aware of a curious fidgeting
of the nurse, who flies from one side of the pavement to the other and
violently shifts the baby from one arm to the other.

“What’s the matter?” asks Frank; but before the nurse can answer, “Thim
little divils,” he perceives that the whooping-coughers of the morning
have taken the occasion to renew a pleasant acquaintance, and are
surrounding the baby and nurse with an atmosphere of whooping-cough.

“I say, friends! we can’t stand this, you know,” says the anxious
father. “We must part some time, and this is a favorable moment. Now
I’ll give you all this, if you don’t come another step!” and he empties
out to them, from the hand-bags he carries, the fragments of lunch which
the frugal mind of Aunt Melissa had caused her to store there. Upon
these the whooping-coughers hurl themselves in a body, and are soon left
round the corner. Yet they would have been no disgrace to our party,
whose appearance was now most disreputable: Frank and Lucy stalked
ahead, with shawls dragging from their arms, the former loaded down
with hand-bags and the latter with India-rubbers; Aunt Melissa came next
under a burden of bloated umbrellas; the nurse last, with her hat awry,
and the baby a caricature of its morning trimness, in her embrace. A
day’s pleasure is so demoralizing, that no party can stand it, and come
out neat and orderly.

[Illustration: “Frank and Lucy stalked ahead, with shawls dragging from
their arms.”]

“Cousin Frank,” asked Lucy, awfully, “what if we should meet the
Mayflowers now?”--the Mayflowers being a very ancient and noble Boston
family whose acquaintance was the great pride and terror of our friends’

“I should cut them dead,” said Frank, and scarcely spoke again till his
party dragged slowly up the steps of their minute suburban villa.

At the door his wife met them with a troubled and anxious face.

“Calamities?” asked Frank, desperately.

“O, calamities upon calamities! We’ve got a lost child in the kitchen,”
 answered Mrs. Sallie.

“O good heavens!” cried her husband. “Adieu, my dreams of repose, so
desirable after the quantity of active enjoyment I’ve had! Well, where
is the lost child?”


“Where is the lost child?” repeats Frank, desperately. “Where have you
got him?”

“In the kitchen.”

“Why in the kitchen?”

“How’s baby?” demands Mrs. Sallie, with the incoherent suddenness of
her sex, and running halfway down the steps to meet the nurse. “Um, um,
um-m-m-m,” sounds, which may stand for smothered kisses of rapture and
thanksgiving that baby is not a lost child. “Has he been good, Lucy?
Take him off and give him some cocoa, Mrs. O’Gonegal,” she adds in her
business-like way, and with a little push to the combined nurse and
baby, while Lucy answers, “O beautiful!” and from that moment, being
warned through all her being by something in the other’s tone, casts
aside the matronly manner which she has worn during the day, and lapses
into the comfortable irresponsibility of young-ladyhood.

“What kind of a time did you have?”

“Splendid!” answers Lucy. “Delightful, _I_ think,” she adds, as if she
thought others might not think so.

“I suppose you found Gloucester a quaint old place.”

“O,” says Frank, “we didn’t go to Gloucester; we found that the City
Fathers had chartered the boat for the day, so we thought we’d go to

“Then you’ve seen your favorite Gardens of Maolis! What in the world
_are_ they like?”

“Well; we didn’t see the Gardens of Maolis; the Nahant boat was so
crowded that we couldn’t think of going on her, and so we decided we’d
drive over to the Liverpool Wharf and go down to Nantasket Beach.”

“That was nice. I’m so glad on Aunt Melissa’s account. It’s much better
to see the ocean from a long beach than from those Nahant rocks.”

“That’s what _I_ said. But, you know, when we got to the wharf the boat
had just left.”

“You _don’t_ mean it! Well, then, what under the canopy _did_ you do?”

“Why, we sat down in the wharf-house, and waited from nine o’clock till
half-past two for the next boat.”

“Well, I’m glad you didn’t back out, at any rate. You did show pluck,
you poor things! I hope you enjoyed the beach after you _did_ get

“Why,” says Frank, looking down, “we never got there.”

“Never got there!” gasps Mrs. Sallie. “Didn’t you go down on the
afternoon boat?”


“Why didn’t you get to the beach, then?”

“We didn’t go ashore.”

“Well, that’s _like_ you, Frank.”

“It’s a great deal more like Aunt Melissa,” answers Frank. “The air felt
so raw and chilly by the time we reached the pier, that she declared the
baby would perish if it was taken to the beach. Besides, nothing would
persuade her that Nantasket Beach was at all different from Liverpool

“Never mind, never mind!” says Mrs. Sallie. “I don’t wish to hear
anything more. That’s your idea of a day’s pleasure, is it? I call it
a day’s disgrace, a day’s miserable giving-up. There, go in, go in;
I’m ashamed of you all. Don’t let the neighbors see you, for pity’s
sake.--We keep him in the kitchen,” she continues, recurring to Frank’s
long-unanswered question concerning the lost child, “because he prefers
it as being the room nearest to the closet where the cookies are. He’s
taken advantage of our sympathies to refuse everything but cookies.”

“I suppose that’s one of the rights of lost childhood,” comments Frank,
languidly; “there’s no law that can compel him to touch even cracker.”

“Well, you’d better go down and see what _you_ can make of him. He’s
driven _us_ all wild.”

So Frank descends to the region now redolent of the preparing tea, and
finds upon a chair, in the middle of the kitchen floor, a very forlorn
little figure of a boy, mutely munching a sweet-cake, while now and then
a tear steals down his cheeks and moistens the grimy traces of former
tears. He and baby are, in the mean time regarding each other with a
steadfast glare, the cook and the nurse supporting baby in this rite of

“Well, my little man,” says his host, “how did you get here?”

The little man, perhaps because he is heartily sick of the question, is
somewhat slow to answer that there was a fire; and that he ran after the
steamer; and a girl found him and brought him up here.

“And that’s all the blessed thing you can get out of him,” says cook;
and the lost boy looks as if he felt cook to be perfectly right.

In spite of the well-meant endeavors of the household to wash him and
brush him, he is still a dreadfully travel-stained little boy, and he
is powdered in every secret crease and wrinkle by that dust of old
Charlesbridge, of which we always speak with an air of affected disgust,
and a feeling of ill-concealed pride in an abomination so strikingly
and peculiarly our own. He looks very much as if he had been following
fire-engines about the streets of our learned and pulverous suburb ever
since he could walk, and he certainly seems to feel himself in trouble
to a certain degree; but there is easily imaginable in his bearing
a conviction that after all the chief care is with others, and that,
though unhappy, he is not responsible. The principal victim of his
sorrows is also penetrated by this opinion, and after gazing forlornly
upon him for a while, asks mechanically, “What’s your name?”

“Freddy,” is the laconic answer.

“Freddy--?” trying with an artful inflection to lead him on to his

“Freddy,” decidedly and conclusively.

“O, bless me! What’s the name of the street your papa lives on?”

This problem is far too deep for Freddy, and he takes a bite of
sweet-cake in sign that he does not think of solving it. Frank looks at
him gloomily for a moment, and then determines that he can grapple with
the difficulty more successfully after he has had tea. “Send up the
supper, Bridget. I think, my dear,” he says, after they have sat down,
“we’d better all question our lost child when we’ve finished.”

So, when they have finished, they have him up in the sitting-room, and
the inquisition begins.

“Now, Freddy,” his host says, with a cheerful air of lifelong friendship
and confidence, “you know that everybody has got two names. Of course
your first name is Freddy, and it’s a very pretty name. Well, I want you
to think real hard, and then tell me what your other name is, so I can
take you back to your mamma.”

At this allusion the child looks round on the circle of eager and
compassionate faces, and begins to shed tears and to wring all hearts.

“What’s your name?” asks Frank, cheerfully,--“your _other_ name, you

“Freddy,” sobbed the forlorn creature.

“O good heaven! this’ll never do,” groaned the chief inquisitor. “Now,
Freddy, try not to cry. What is your papa’s name,--Mr.--?” with the
leading inflection as before.

“Papa,” says Freddy.

[Illustration: “They skirmish about him with every sort of query.”]

“O, that’ll never do! Not Mr. Papa?”

“Yes,” persists Freddy.

“But, Freddy,” interposes Mrs. Sallie, as her husband falls back
baffled, “when ladies come to see your mamma, what do they call her?
Mrs.--?” adopting Frank’s alluring inflection.

“Mrs. Mamma,” answers Freddy, confirmed in his error by this course; and
a secret dismay possesses his questioners. They skirmish about him with
every sort of query; they try to entrap him into some kind of revelation
by apparently irrelevant remarks; they plan ambuscades and surprises;
but Freddy looks vigilantly round upon them, and guards his personal
history from every approach, and seems in every way so to have the best
of it, that it is almost exasperating.

“Kindness has proved futile,” observes Frank, “and I think we ought as a
last resort, before yielding ourselves to despair, to use intimidation.
Now, Fred,” he says, with sudden and terrible severity, “what’s your
father’s name?”

The hapless little soul is really moved to an effort of memory by this,
and blubbers out something that proves in the end to resemble the family
name, though for the present it is merely a puzzle of unintelligible

“Blackman?” cries Aunt Melissa, catching desperately at these sounds.

On this, all the man and brother is roused in Freddy’s bosom, and he
roars fiercely, “No! he ain’t a black man! He’s white!”

“I give it up,” says Frank, who has been looking for his hat. “I’m
afraid we can’t make anything out of him; and I’ll have to go and report
the case to the police. But, put him to bed, do, Sallie; he’s dropping
with sleep.”

So he went out, of course supported morally by a sense of duty, but I am
afraid also by a sense of adventure in some degree. It is not every day
that, in so quiet a place as Charlesbridge, you can have a lost child
cast upon your sympathies; and I believe that when an appeal is not
really agonizing, we like so well to have our sympathies touched, we
favorites of the prosperous commonplace, that most of us would enter
eagerly into a pathetic case of this kind, even after a day’s pleasure.
Such was certainly the mood of my friend, and he unconsciously prepared
himself for an equal interest on the part of the police; but this was
an error. The police heard his statement with all proper attention,
and wrote it in full upon the station-slate, but they showed no feeling
whatever, and behaved as if they valued a lost child no more than a
child snug at home in his own crib. They said that no doubt his parents
would be asking at the police-stations for him during the night, and,
as if my friend would otherwise have thought of putting him into the
street, they suggested that he should just keep the lost child till he
was sent for. Modestly enough Frank proposed that they should make some
inquiry for his parents, and was answered by the question whether they
could take a man off his beat for that purpose; and remembering that
beats in Charlesbridge were of such vastness that during his whole
residence there he had never yet seen a policeman on his street, he was
obliged to own to himself that his proposal was absurd. He felt the need
of reinstating himself by something more sensible, and so he said he
thought he would go down to the Port and leave word at the station
there; and the police tacitly assenting to this he went.

I who have sometimes hinted that the Square is not a centre of gayety,
or a scene of the greatest activity by day, feel it right to say that
it has some modest charms of its own on a summer’s night, about the hour
when Frank passed through it, when the post-office has just been shut,
and when the different groups that haunt the place in front of the
closing shops have dwindled to the loungers fit though few who will keep
it well into the night, and may there be found, by the passenger on the
last horse-car out from Boston, wrapt in a kind of social silence,
and honorably attended by the policeman whose favored beat is in
that neighborhood. They seem a feature of the bygone village life of
Charlesbridge, and accord pleasantly with the town-pump and the public
horse-trough, and the noble elm that by night droops its boughs so
pensively, and probably dreams of its happy younger days when there were
no canker-worms in the world. Sometimes this choice company sits on the
curbing that goes round the terrace at the elm-tree’s foot, and then I
envy every soul in it,--so tranquil it seems, so cool, so careless, so
morrowless. I cannot see the faces of that luxurious society, but there
I imagine is the local albino, and a certain blind man, who resorts
thither much by day, and makes a strange kind of jest of his own, with
a flicker of humor upon his sightless face, and a faith that others less
unkindly treated by nature will be able to see the point apparently not
always discernible to himself. Late at night I have a fancy that the
darkness puts him on an equality with other wits, and that he enjoys his
own brilliancy as well as any one.

At the Port station Frank was pleased and soothed by the tranquil air of
the policeman, who sat in his shirt-sleeves outside the door, and seemed
to announce, by his attitude of final disoccupation, that crimes and
misdemeanors were no more. This officer at once showed a desirable
interest in the case. He put on his blue coat that he might listen
to the whole story in a proper figure, and then he took down the main
points on the slate, and said that they would send word round to the
other stations in the city, and the boy’s parents could hardly help
hearing of him that night.

Returned home, Frank gave his news, and then he and Mrs. Sallie went up
to look at the lost child as he slept. The sumptuous diet to which he
had confined himself from the first seemed to agree with him perfectly,
for he slept unbrokenly, and apparently without a consciousness of his
woes. On a chair lay his clothes, in a dusty little pathetic heap; they
were well-kept clothes, except for the wrong his wanderings had done
them, and they showed a motherly care here and there, which it was not
easy to look at with composure. The spectators of his sleep both thought
of the curious chance that had thrown this little one into their charge,
and considered that he was almost as completely a gift of the Unknown
as if he had been following a steamer in another planet, and had thence
dropped into their yard. His helplessness in accounting for himself was
as affecting as that of the sublimest metaphysician; and no learned man,
no superior intellect, no subtle inquirer among us lost children of the
divine, forgotten home, could have been less able to say how or whence
he came to be just where he found himself. We wander away and away; the
dust of the road-side gathers upon us; and when some strange shelter
receives us, we lie down to our sleep, inarticulate, and haunted with
dreams of memory, or the memory of dreams, knowing scarcely more of the
past than of the future.

“What a strange world!” sighed Mrs. Sallie; and then, as this was a
mood far too speculative for her, she recalled herself to practical life
suddenly. “If we should have to adopt this child, Frank”--“Why, bless
my soul, we’re not obliged to adopt him! Even a lost child can’t demand

“We shall adopt him, if they don’t come for him. And now, I want to
know” (Mrs. Sallie spoke as if the adoption had been effected) “whether
we shall give him our name, or some other?”

“Well, I don’t know. It’s the first child I’ve ever adopted,” said Frank
“and upon my word, I can’t say whether you have to give him a new name
or not. In fact, if I’d thought of this affair of a name, I’d never have
adopted him. It’s the greatest part of the burden, and if his father
will only come for him, I’ll give him up without a murmur.”

In the interval that followed the proposal of this alarming difficulty,
and while he sat and waited vaguely for whatever should be going
to happen next, Frank was not able to repress a sense of personal
resentment towards the little vagrant sleeping so carelessly there,
though at the bottom of his heart there was all imaginable tenderness
for him. In the fantastic character which, to his weariness, the day’s
pleasure took on, it seemed an extraordinary unkindness of fate that
this lost child should have been kept in reserve for him after all
the rest; and he had so small consciousness of bestowing shelter and
charity, and so profound a feeling of having himself been turned out of
house and home by some surprising and potent agency, that if the lost
child had been a regiment of Fenians billeted upon him, it could not
have oppressed him more. While he remained perplexed in this perverse
sentiment of invasion and dispossession, “Hark!” said Mrs. Sallie,
“what’s that?”

It was a noise of dragging and shuffling on the walk in front of the
house, and a low, hoarse whispering.

“I don’t know,” said Frank, “but from the kind of pleasure I’ve got
out of it so far, I should say that this holiday was capable of an
earthquake before midnight.”


They listened, as they must, and heard the outer darkness rehearse
a raucous dialogue between an unseen Bill and Jim, who were the more
terrible to the imagination from being so realistically named, and who
seemed to have in charge some nameless third person, a mute actor in the
invisible scene. There was doubt, which he uttered, in the mind of Jim,
whether they could get this silent comrade along much farther without
carrying him; and there was a growling assent from Bill that he _was_
pretty far gone, that was a fact, and that maybe Jim _had_ better go for
the wagon; then there were quick, retreating steps; and then there was
a profound silence, in which the audience of this strange drama sat
thrilled and speechless. The effect was not less dreadful when there
rose a dull sound, as of a helpless body rubbing against the fence, and
at last lowered heavily to the ground.

“O!” cried Mrs. Sallie. “Do go out and help. He’s dying!”

But even as she spoke the noise of wheels was heard. A wagon stopped
before the door; there came a tugging and lifting, with a sound as of
crunching gravel, and then a “There!” of great relief.

“Frank!” said Mrs. Sallie very solemnly, “if you don’t go out and help
those men, I’ll never forgive you.”

Really, the drama had grown very impressive; it was a mystery, to say
the least; and so it must remain forever, for when Frank, infected at
last by Mrs. Sallie’s faith in tragedy, opened the door and offered his
tardy services, the wagon was driven rapidly away without reply. They
never learned what it had all been; and I think that if one actually
honors mysteries, it is best not to look into them. How much finer,
after all, if you have such a thing as this happen before your door at
midnight, not to throw any light upon it! Then your probable tipsy man
cannot be proved other than a tragical presence, which you can match
with any inscrutable creation of fiction; and if you should ever come to
write a romance, as one is very liable to do in this age, there is your
unknown, a figure of strange and fearful interest, made to your hand,
and capable of being used, in or out of the body, with a very gloomy

While our friends yet trembled with this sensation, quick steps ascended
to their door, and then followed a sharp, anxious tug at the bell.

“Ah!” cried Frank, prophetically, “here’s the father of our adopted
son;” and he opened the door.

The gentleman who appeared there could scarcely frame the question to
which Frank replied so cheerfully: “O yes; he’s here, and snug in bed,
and fast asleep. Come up-stairs and look at him. Better let him be
till morning, and then come after him,” he added, as they looked down a
moment on the little sleeper.

“O no, I couldn’t,” said the father, _con expressione_; and then he told
how he had heard of this child’s whereabouts at the Port station, and
had hurried to get him, and how his mother did not know he was found
yet, and was almost wild about him. They had no idea how he had got
lost, and his own blind story was the only tale of his adventure that
ever became known.

By this time his father had got the child partly awake, and the two men
were dressing him in men’s clumsy fashion; and finally they gave it up,
and rolled him in a shawl. The father lifted the slight burden, and two
small arms fell about his neck. The weary child slept again.

“How has he behaved?” asked the father.

“Like a little hero,” said Frank, “but he’s been a cormorant for
cookies. I think it right to tell you, in case he shouldn’t be very
brilliant to-morrow, that he wouldn’t eat a bit of anything else.”

The father said he was the life of their house; and Frank said he knew
how that was,--that he had a life of the house of his own; and then the
father thanked him very simply and touchingly, and with the decent New
England self-restraint, which is doubtless so much better than any sort
of effusion. “Say good-night to the gentleman, Freddy,” he said at the
door; and Freddy with closed eyes murmured a good-night from far within
the land of dreams, and then was borne away to the house out of which
the life had wandered with his little feet.

“I don’t know, Sallie,” said Frank, when he had given all the eagerly
demanded particulars about the child’s father,--“I don’t know whether I
should want many such holidays as this, in the course of the summer.
On the whole, I think I’d better overwork myself and not take any
relaxation, if I mean to live long. And yet I’m not sure that the day’s
been altogether a failure, though all our purposes of enjoyment have
miscarried. I didn’t plan to find a lost child here, when I got home,
and I’m afraid I haven’t had always the most Christian feeling towards
him; but he’s really the saving grace of the affair; and if this were a
little comedy I had been playing, I should turn him to account with the
jaded audience, and advancing to the foot-lights, should say, with my
hand on my waistcoat, and a neat bow, that although every hope of the
day had been disappointed, and nothing I had meant to do had been done,
yet the man who had ended at midnight by restoring a lost child to the
arms of its father, must own that, in spite of adverse fortune, he had
enjoyed A Day’s Pleasure.”

[Illustration: “A gaunt figure of forlorn and curious smartness.”]


It was long past the twilight hour, which has been already mentioned as
so oppressive in suburban places, and it was even too late for visitors,
when a resident, whom I shall briefly describe as a Contributor to the
magazines, was startled by a ring at his door. As any thoughtful person
would have done upon the like occasion, he ran over his acquaintance in
his mind, speculating whether it were such or such a one, and dismissing
the whole list of improbabilities, before he laid down the book he
was reading, and answered the bell. When at last he did this, he was
rewarded by the apparition of an utter stranger on his threshold,--a
gaunt figure of forlorn and curious smartness towering far above him,
that jerked him a nod of the head, and asked if Mr. Hapford lived there.
The face which the lamp-light revealed was remarkable for a harsh
two days’ growth of beard, and a single bloodshot eye; yet it was not
otherwise a sinister countenance, and there was something in the strange
presence that appealed and touched. The contributor, revolving the facts
vaguely in his mind, was not sure, after all, that it was not the man’s
clothes rather than his expression that softened him toward the rugged
visage: they were so tragically cheap, and the misery of helpless
needlewomen, and the poverty and ignorance of the purchaser, were so
apparent in their shabby newness, of which they appeared still conscious
enough to have led the way to the very window, in the Semitic quarter of
the city, where they had lain ticketed, “This nobby suit for $15.”

But the stranger’s manner put both his face and his clothes out of mind,
and claimed a deeper interest when, being answered that the person
for whom he asked did not live there, he set his bristling lips hard
together, and sighed heavily.

“They told me,” he said, in a hopeless way, “that he lived on this
street, and I’ve been to every other house. I’m very anxious to find
him, Cap’n,”--the contributor, of course, had no claim to the title with
which he was thus decorated,--“for I’ve a daughter living with him,
and I want to see her; I’ve just got home from a two years’ voyage,
and”--there was a struggle of the Adam’s-apple in the man’s gaunt
throat--“I find she’s about all there is left of my family.”

How complex is every human motive! This contributor had been lately
thinking, whenever he turned the pages of some foolish traveller,--some
empty prattler of Southern or Eastern lands, where all sensation was
long ago exhausted, and the oxygen has perished from every sentiment,
so has it been breathed and breathed again,--that nowadays the wise
adventurer sat down beside his own register and waited for incidents
to seek him out. It seemed to him that the cultivation of a patient and
receptive spirit was the sole condition needed to insure the occurrence
of all manner of surprising facts within the range of one’s own personal
knowledge; that not only the Greeks were at our doors, but the fairies
and the genii, and all the people of romance, who had but to be
hospitably treated in order to develop the deepest interest of fiction,
and to become the characters of plots so ingenious that the most cunning
invention were poor beside them. I myself am not so confident of this,
and would rather trust Mr. Charles Reade, say, for my amusement than any
chance combination of events. But I should be afraid to say how much
his pride in the character of the stranger’s sorrows, as proof of the
correctness of his theory, prevailed with the contributor to ask him
to come in and sit down; though I hope that some abstract impulse
of humanity, some compassionate and unselfish care for the man’s
misfortunes as misfortunes, was not wholly wanting. Indeed, the helpless
simplicity with which he had confided his case might have touched
a harder heart. “Thank you,” said the poor fellow, after a moment’s
hesitation. “I believe I will come in. I’ve been on foot all day, and
after such a long voyage it makes a man dreadfully sore to walk about
so much. Perhaps you can think of a Mr. Hapford living somewhere in the

He sat down, and, after a pondering silence, in which he had remained
with his head fallen upon his breast, “My name is Jonathan Tinker,”
 he said, with the unaffected air which had already impressed the
contributor, and as if he felt that some form of introduction was
necessary, “and the girl that I want to find is Julia Tinker.” Then
he added, resuming the eventful personal history which the listener
exulted, while he regretted, to hear: “You see, I shipped first to
Liverpool, and there I heard from my family; and then I shipped again
for Hong-Kong, and after that I never heard a word: I seemed to miss
the letters everywhere. This morning, at four o’clock, I left my ship as
soon as she had hauled into the dock, and hurried up home. The house was
shut, and not a soul in it; and I didn’t know what to do, and I sat down
on the doorstep to wait till the neighbors woke up, to ask them what had
become of my family. And the first one come out he told me my wife had
been dead a year and a half, and the baby I’d never seen, with her;
and one of my boys was dead; and he didn’t know where the rest of the
children was, but he’d heard two of the little ones was with a family in
the city.”

The man mentioned these things with the half-apologetic air observable
in a certain kind of Americans when some accident obliges them to
confess the infirmity of the natural feelings. They do not ask your
sympathy, and you offer it quite at your own risk, with a chance of
having it thrown back upon your hands. The contributor assumed the risk
so far as to say, “Pretty rough!” when the stranger caused; and perhaps
these homely words were best suited to reach the homely heart. The man’s
quavering lips closed hard again, a kind of spasm passed over his dark
face, and then two very small drops of brine shone upon his weather-worn
cheeks. This demonstration, into which he had been surprised, seemed to
stand for the passion of tears into which the emotional races fall
at such times. He opened his lips with a kind of dry click, and went
on:--“I hunted about the whole forenoon in the city, and at last I found
the children. I’d been gone so long they didn’t know me, and somehow
I thought the people they were with weren’t over-glad I’d turned up.
Finally the oldest child told me that Julia was living with a Mr.
Hapford on this street, and I started out here to-night to look her up.
If I can find her, I’m all right. I can get the family together, then,
and start new.”

“It seems rather odd,” mused the listener aloud, “that the neighbors let
them break up so, and that they should all scatter as they did.”

“Well, it ain’t so curious as it seems, Cap’n. There was money for them
at the owners’, all the time; I’d left part of my wages when I sailed;
but they didn’t know how to get at it, and what could a parcel of
children do? Julia’s a good girl, and when I find her I’m all right.”

The writer could only repeat that there was no Mr. Hapford living on
that street, and never had been, so far as he knew. Yet there might be
such a person in the neighborhood; and they would go out together, and
ask at some of the houses about. But the stranger must first take a
glass of wine; for he looked used up.

The sailor awkwardly but civilly enough protested that he did not want
to give so much trouble, but took the glass, and, as he put it to his
lips, said formally, as if it were a toast or a kind of grace, “I hope
I may have the opportunity of returning the compliment.” The contributor
thanked him; though, as he thought of all the circumstances of the case,
and considered the cost at which the stranger had come to enjoy his
politeness, he felt little eagerness to secure the return of the
compliment at the same price, and added, with the consequence of another
set phrase, “Not at all.” But the thought had made him the more anxious
to befriend the luckless soul fortune had cast in his way; and so the
two sallied out together, and rang door-bells wherever lights were
still seen burning in the windows, and asked the astonished people who
answered their summons whether any Mr. Hapford were known to live in the

And although the search for this gentleman proved vain, the contributor
could not feel that an expedition which set familiar objects in such
novel light? was altogether a failure. He entered so intimately into the
cares and anxieties of his _protege,_ that at times he felt himself
in some inexplicable sort a shipmate of Jonathan Tinker, and almost
personally a partner of his calamities. The estrangement of all things
which takes place, within doors and without, about midnight may have
helped to cast this doubt upon his identity;--he seemed to be visiting
now for the first time the streets and neighborhoods nearest his own,
and his feet stumbled over the accustomed walks. In his quality
of houseless wanderer, and--so far as appeared to others--possibly
worthless vagabond, he also got a new and instructive effect upon the
faces which, in his real character, he knew so well by their looks of
neighborly greeting; and it is his belief that the first hospitable
prompting of the human heart is to shut the door in the eyes of homeless
strangers who present themselves after eleven o’clock. By that time the
servants are all abed, and the gentleman of the house answers the bell,
and looks out with a loath and bewildered face, which gradually changes
to one of suspicion, and of wonder as to what those fellows can possibly
want of _him,_ till at last the prevailing expression is one of contrite
desire to atone for the first reluctance by any sort of service. The
contributor professes to have observed these changing phases in the
visages of those whom he that night called from their dreams, or
arrested in the act of going to bed; and he drew the conclusion--very
proper for his imaginable connection with the garroting and other
adventurous brotherhoods--that the most flattering moment for knocking
on the head people who answer a late ring at night is either in their
first selfish bewilderment, or their final self-abandonment to their
better impulses. It does not seem to have occurred to him that he would
himself have been a much more favorable subject for the predatory arts
that any of his neighbors, if his shipmate, the unknown companion of his
researches for Mr. Hapford, had been at all so minded. But the faith
of the gaunt giant upon which he reposed was good, and the contributor
continued to wander about with him in perfect safety. Not a soul among
those they asked had ever heard of a Mr. Hapford,--far less of a Julia
Tinker living with him. But they all listened to the contributor’s
explanation with interest and eventual sympathy; and in truth,--briefly
told, with a word now and then thrown in by Jonathan Tinker, who kept at
the bottom of the steps, showing like a gloomy spectre in the night,
or, in his grotesque length and gauntness, like the other’s shadow
cast there by the lamplight,--it was a story which could hardly fail to
awaken pity.

At last, after ringing several bells where there were no lights, in
the mere wantonness of good-will, and going away before they could be
answered (it would be entertaining to know what dreams they caused the
sleepers within), there seemed to be nothing for it but to give up the
search till morning, and go to the main street and wait for the last
horse-car to the city.

There, seated upon the curbstone, Jonathan Tinker, being plied with a
few leading questions, told in hints and scraps the story of his hard
life, which was at present that of a second mate, and had been that of
a cabin-boy and of a seaman before the mast. The second mate’s place he
held to be the hardest aboard ship. You got only a few dollars more than
the men, and you did not rank with the officers; you took your meals
alone, and in every thing you belonged by yourself. The men did not
respect you, and sometimes the captain abused you awfully before the
passengers. The hardest captain that Jonathan Tinker ever sailed with
was Captain Gooding of the Cape. It had got to be so that no man would
ship second mate under Captain Gooding; and Jonathan Tinker was with him
only one voyage. When he had been home awhile, he saw an advertisement
for a second mate, and he went round to the owners’. They had kept it
secret who the captain was; but there was Captain Gooding in the owners’
office. “Why, here’s the man, now, that I want for a second mate,” said
he, when Jonathan Tinker entered; “he knows me.”--“Captain Gooding, I
know you ‘most too well to want to sail under you,” answered Jonathan.
“I might go if I hadn’t been with you one voyage too many already.”

“And then the men!” said Jonathan, “the men coming aboard drunk, and
having to be pounded sober! And the hardest of the fight falls on the
second mate! Why, there isn’t an inch of me that hasn’t been cut over or
smashed into a jell. I’ve had three ribs broken; I’ve got a scar from a
knife on my cheek; and I’ve been stabbed bad enough, half a dozen times,
to lay me up.”

Here he gave a sort of desperate laugh, as if the notion of so much
misery and such various mutilation were too grotesque not to be amusing.
“Well, what can you do?” he went on. “If you don’t strike, the men think
you’re afraid of them; and so you have to begin hard and go on hard.
I always tell a man, ‘Now, my man, I always begin with a man the way
I mean to keep on. You do your duty and you’re all right. But if you
don’t’--Well, the men ain’t Americans any more,--Dutch, Spaniards,
Chinese, Portuguee,--and it ain’t like abusing a white man.”

Jonathan Tinker was plainly part of the horrible tyranny which we all
know exists on shipboard; and his listener respected him the more that,
though he had heart enough to be ashamed of it, he was too honest not to
own it.

Why did he still follow the sea? Because he did not know what else to
do. When he was younger, he used to love it, but now he hated it. Yet
there was not a prettier life in the world if you got to be captain. He
used to hope for that once, but not now; though he _thought_ he could
navigate a ship. Only let him get his family together again, and he
would--yes, he would--try to do something ashore.

No car had yet come in sight, and so the contributor suggested that they
should walk to the car-office, and look in the “Directory,” which is
kept there, for the name of Hapford, in search of whom it had already
been arranged that they should renew their acquaintance on the
morrow. Jonathan Tinker, when they had reached the office, heard with
constitutional phlegm that the name of the Hapford, for whom he inquired
was not in the “Directory.” “Never mind,” said the other; “come round
to my house in the morning. We’ll find him yet.” So they parted with a
shake of the hand, the second mate saying that he believed he should go
down to the vessel and sleep aboard,--if he could sleep,--and murmuring
at the last moment the hope of returning the compliment, while the other
walked homeward, weary as to the flesh, but, in spite of his sympathy
for Jonathan Tinker, very elate in spirit. The truth is,--and however
disgraceful to human nature, let the truth still be told,--he had
recurred to his primal satisfaction in the man as calamity capable of
being used for such and such literary ends, and, while he pitied
him, rejoiced in him as an episode of real life quite as striking and
complete as anything in fiction. It was literature made to his hand.
Nothing could be better, he mused; and once more he passed the details
of the story in review, and beheld all those pictures which the poor
fellow’s artless words had so vividly conjured up: he saw him leaping
ashore in the gray summer dawn as soon as the ship hauled into the
dock, and making his way, with his vague sea-legs unaccustomed to the
pavements, up through the silent and empty city streets; he imagined
the tumult of fear and hope which the sight of the man’s home must have
caused in him, and the benumbing shock of finding it blind and deaf
to all his appeals; he saw him sitting down upon what had been his
own threshold, and waiting in a sort of bewildered patience till the
neighbors should be awake, while the noises of the streets gradually
arose, and the wheels began to rattle over the stones, and the milk-man
and the ice-man came and went, and the waiting figure began to be stared
at, and to challenge the curiosity of the passing policeman; he fancied
the opening of the neighbor’s door, and the slow, cold understanding of
the case; the manner, whatever it was, in which the sailor was told that
one year before his wife had died, with her babe, and that his children
were scattered, none knew where. As the contributor dwelt pityingly upon
these things, but at the same time estimated their aesthetic value one
by one, he drew near the head of his street, and found himself a few
paces behind a boy slouching onward through the night, to whom he called
out, adventurously, and with no real hope of information,--“Do you
happen to know anybody on this street by the name of Hapford?”

“Why no, not in this town,” said the boy; but he added that there was
a street of the same name in a neighboring suburb, and that there was a
Hapford living on it.

“By Jove!” thought the contributor, “this is more like literature
than ever;” and he hardly knew whether to be more provoked at his own
stupidity in not thinking of a street of the same name in the next
village, or delighted at the element of fatality which the fact
introduced into the story; for Tinker, according to his own account,
must have landed from the cars a few rods from the very door he was
seeking, and so walked farther and farther from it every moment. He
thought the case so curious, that he laid it briefly before the boy,
who, however he might have been inwardly affected, was sufficiently true
to the national traditions not to make the smallest conceivable outward
sign of concern in it.

At home, however, the contributor related his adventures and the story
of Tinker’s life, adding the fact that he had just found out where Mr.
Hapford lived. “It was the only touch wanting,” said he; “the whole
thing is now perfect.”

“It’s _too_ perfect,” was answered from a sad enthusiasm. “Don’t speak
of it! I can’t take it in.”

“But the question is,” said the contributor, penitently taking himself
to task for forgetting the hero of these excellent misfortunes in his
delight at their perfection, “how am I to sleep to-night, thinking
of that poor soul’s suspense and uncertainty? Never mind,--I’ll be up
early, and run over and make sure that it is Tinker’s Hapford, before he
gets out here, and have a pleasant surprise for him. Would it not be a
justifiable _coup de théâtre_ to fetch his daughter here, and let her
answer his ring at the door when he comes in the morning?”

This plan was discouraged. “No, no; let them meet in their own way. Just
take him to Hapford’s house and leave him.”

“Very well. But he’s too good a character to lose sight of. He’s got to
come back here and tell us what he intends to do.”

The birds, next morning, not having had the second mate on their minds
either as an unhappy man or a most fortunate episode, but having slept
long and soundly, were singing in a very sprightly way in the way-side
trees; and the sweetness of their notes made the contributor’s heart
light as he climbed the hill and rang at Mr. Hapford’s door.

The door was opened by a young girl of fifteen or sixteen, whom he knew
at a glance for the second mate’s daughter, but of whom, for form’s
sake, he asked if there were a girl named Julia Tinker living there.

“My name’s Julia Tinker,” answered the maid, who had rather a
disappointing face.

“Well,” said the contributor, “your father’s got back from his Hong-Kong

“Hong-Kong voyage?” echoed the girl, with a stare of helpless inquiry,
but no other visible emotion.

“Yes. He had never heard of your mother’s death. He came home yesterday
morning, and was looking for you all day.”

Julia Tinker remained open-mouthed but mute; and the other was puzzled
at the want of feeling shown, which he could not account for even as a
national trait. “Perhaps there’s some mistake,” he said.

“There must be,” answered Julia: “my father hasn’t been to sea for
a good many years. _My_ father,” she added, with a diffidence
indescribably mingled with a sense of distinction,--“_my_ father’s in
State’s Prison. What kind of looking man was this?”

The contributor mechanically described him.

Julia Tinker broke into a loud, hoarse laugh. “Yes, it’s him, sure
enough.” And then, as if the joke were too good to keep: “Miss Hapford,
Miss Hapford, father’s got out. Do come here!” she called into a back

When Mrs. Hapford appeared, Julia fell back, and, having deftly caught
a fly on the door-post, occupied herself in plucking it to pieces, while
she listened to the conversation of the others.

“It’s all true enough,” said Mrs. Hapford, when the writer had recounted
the moving story of Jonathan Tinker, “so far as the death of his wife
and baby goes. But he hasn’t been to sea for a good many years, and he
must have just come out of State’s Prison, where he was put for bigamy.
There’s always two sides to a story, you know; but they say it broke his
first wife’s heart, and she died. His friends don’t want him to find his
children, and this girl especially.”

“He’s found his children in the city,” said the contributor, gloomily,
being at a loss what to do or say, in view of the wreck of his romance.

“O, he’s found ‘em has he?” cried Julia, with heightened amusement.
“Then he’ll have me next, if I don’t pack and go.”

“I’m very, very sorry,” said the contributor, secretly resolved never to
do another good deed, no matter how temptingly the opportunity presented
itself. “But you may depend he won’t find out from _me_ where you are.
Of course I had no earthly reason for supposing his story was not true.”

“Of course,” said kind-hearted Mrs. Hapford, mingling a drop of honey
with the gall in the contributor’s soul, “you only did your duty.”

And indeed, as he turned away he did not feel altogether without
compensation. However Jonathan Tinker had fallen in his esteem as a
man, he had even risen as literature. The episode which had appeared so
perfect in its pathetic phases did not seem less finished as a farce;
and this person, to whom all things of every-day life presented
themselves in periods more or less rounded, and capable of use as facts
or illustrations, could not but rejoice in these new incidents, as
dramatically fashioned as the rest. It occurred to him that, wrought
into a story, even better use might be made of the facts now than
before, for they had developed questions of character and of human
nature which could not fail to interest. The more he pondered upon
his acquaintance with Jonathan Tinker, the more fascinating the erring
mariner became, in his complex truth and falsehood, his delicately
blending shades of artifice and _naïveté._ He must, it was felt, have
believed to a certain point in his own inventions: nay, starting with
that groundwork of truth,--the fact that his wife was really dead, and
that he had not seen his family for two years,--why should he not place
implicit faith in all the fictions reared upon it? It was probable
that he felt a real sorrow for her loss, and that he found a fantastic
consolation in depicting the circumstances of her death so that they
should look like his inevitable misfortunes rather than his faults. He
might well have repented his offense during those two years of prison;
and why should he not now cast their dreariness and shame out of his
memory, and replace them with the freedom and adventure of a two years’
voyage to China,--so probable, in all respects, that the fact should
appear an impossible nightmare? In the experiences of his life he had
abundant material to furnish forth the facts of such a voyage, and in
the weariness and lassitude that should follow a day’s walking equally
after a two years’ voyage and two years’ imprisonment, he had as much
physical proof in favor of one hypothesis as the other. It was doubtless
true, also, as he said, that he had gone to his house at dawn, and sat
down on the threshold of his ruined home; and perhaps he felt the desire
he had expressed to see his daughter, with a purpose of beginning life
anew; and it may have cost him a veritable pang when he found that his
little ones did not know him. All the sentiments of the situation
were such as might persuade a lively fancy of the truth of its
own inventions; and as he heard these continually repeated by the
contributor in their search for Mr. Hapford, they must have acquired an
objective force and repute scarcely to be resisted. At the same time,
there were touches of nature throughout Jonathan Tinker’s narrative
which could not fail to take the faith of another. The contributor, in
reviewing it, thought it particularly charming that his mariner had not
overdrawn himself, or attempted to paint his character otherwise than as
it probably was; that he had shown his ideas and practices of life to be
those of a second mate, nor more nor less, without the gloss of regret
or the pretenses to refinement that might be pleasing to the supposed
philanthropist with whom he had fallen in. Captain Gooding was of course
a true portrait; and there was nothing in Jonathan Tinker’s statement of
the relations of a second mate to his superiors and his inferiors which
did not agree perfectly with what the contributor had just read in “Two
Years before the Mast,”--a book which had possibly cast its glamour upon
the adventure. He admired also the just and perfectly characteristic air
of grief in the bereaved husband and father,--those occasional escapes
from the sense of loss into a brief hilarity and forgetfulness, and
those relapses into the hovering gloom, which every one has observed
in this poor, crazy human nature when oppressed by sorrow, and which
it would have been hard to simulate. But, above all, he exulted in that
supreme stroke of the imagination given by the second mate when, at
parting, he said he believed he would go down and sleep on board the
vessel. In view of this, the State’s Prison theory almost appeared a
malign and foolish scandal.

Yet even if this theory were correct, was the second mate wholly
answerable for beginning his life again with the imposture he had
practiced? The contributor had either so fallen in love with the
literary advantages of his forlorn deceiver that he would see no
moral obliquity in him, or he had touched a subtler verity at last in
pondering the affair. It seemed now no longer a farce, but had a pathos
which, though very different from that of its first aspect, was hardly
less tragical. Knowing with what coldness, or, at the best, uncandor, he
(representing Society in its attitude toward convicted Error) would have
met the fact had it been owned to him at first, he had not virtue enough
to condemn the illusory stranger, who must have been helpless to make at
once evident any repentance he felt or good purpose he cherished. Was it
not one of the saddest consequences of the man’s past,--a dark necessity
of misdoing,--that, even with the best will in the world to retrieve
himself, his first endeavor must involve a wrong? Might he not, indeed,
be considered a martyr, in some sort, to his own admirable impulses?
I can see clearly enough where the contributor was astray in this
reasoning, but I can also understand how one accustomed to value
realities only as they resembled fables should be won with such pensive
sophistry; and I can certainly sympathize with his feeling that the
mariner’s failure to reappear according to appointment added its final
and most agreeable charm to the whole affair, and completed the mystery
from which the man emerged and which swallowed him up again.


On that loveliest autumn morning, the swollen tide had spread over
all the russet levels, and gleamed in the sunlight a mile away. As the
contributor moved onward down the street, luminous on either hand
with crimsoning and yellowing maples, he was so filled with the tender
serenity of the scene, as not to be troubled by the spectacle of small
Irish houses standing miserably about on the flats ankle deep, as it
were, in little pools of the tide, or to be aware at first, of a strange
stir of people upon the streets: a fluttering to and fro and lively
encounter and separation of groups of bareheaded women, a flying of
children through the broken fences of the neighborhood, and across the
vacant lots on which the insulted sign-boards forbade them to trespass;
a sluggish movement of men through all, and a pause of different
vehicles along the sidewalks. When a sense of these facts had penetrated
his enjoyment, he asked a matron whose snowy arms, freshly taken from
the wash-tub, were folded across a mighty chest, “What is the matter?”

“A girl drowned herself, sir-r-r, over there on the flats, last
Saturday, and they’re looking for her.”

“It was the best thing she could do,” said another matron grimly.

Upon this answer that literary soul fell at once to patching himself
up a romantic story for the suicide, after the pitiful fashion of this
fiction-ridden age, when we must relate everything we see to something
we have read. He was the less to blame for it, because he could not help
it; but certainly he is not to be praised for his associations with the
tragic fact brought to his notice. Nothing could have been more trite
or obvious, and he felt his intellectual poverty so keenly that he might
almost have believed his discomfort a sympathy for the girl who had
drowned herself last Saturday. But of course, this could not be, for
he had but lately been thinking what a very tiresome figure to the
imagination the Fallen Woman had become. As a fact of Christian
civilization, she was a spectacle to wring one’s heart, he owned; but
he wished she were well out of the romances, and it really seemed a
fatality that she should be the principal personage of this little
scene. The preparation for it, whatever it was to be, was so deliberate,
and the reality had so slight relation to the French roofs and modern
improvements of the comfortable Charlesbridge which he knew, that he
could not consider himself other than as a spectator awaiting some
entertainment, with a faint inclination to be critical.

In the mean time there passed through the motley crowd, not so much a
cry as a sensation of “They’ve found her, they’ve found her!” and then
the one terrible picturesque fact, “She was standing upright!”

Upon this there was wilder and wilder clamor among the people, dropping
by degrees and almost dying away, before a flight of boys came down
the street with the tidings, “They are bringing her--bringing her in a

The contributor knew that she whom they were bringing in the wagon, had
had the poetry of love to her dismal and otherwise squalid death;
but the history was of fancy, not of fact in his mind. Of course, he
reflected, her lot must have been obscure and hard; the aspect of those
concerned about her death implied that. But of her hopes and her fears,
who could tell him anything? To be sure he could imagine the lovers, and
how they first met, and where, and who he was that was doomed to work
her shame and death; but here his fancy came upon something coarse and
common: a man of her own race and grade, handsome after that manner of
beauty which is so much more hateful than ugliness is; or, worse still,
another kind of man whose deceit must have been subtler and wickeder;
but whatever the person, a presence defiant of sympathy or even
interest, and simply horrible. Then there were the details of the
affair, in great degree common to all love affairs, and not varying so
widely in any condition of life; for the passion which is so rich and
infinite to those within its charm, is apt to seem a little tedious
and monotonous in its character, and poor in resources to the cold

Then, finally, there was the crazy purpose and its fulfillment: the
headlong plunge from bank or bridge; the eddy, and the bubbles on the
current that calmed itself above the suicide; the tide that rose and
stretched itself abroad in the sunshine, carrying hither and thither the
burden with which it knew not what to do; the arrest, as by some ghastly
caprice of fate, of the dead girl, in that upright posture, in which she
should meet the quest for her, as it were defiantly.

And now they were bringing her in a wagon.

Involuntarily all stood aside, and waited till the funeral car, which
they saw, should come up toward them through the long vista of the
maple-shaded street, a noiseless riot stirring the legs and arms of the
boys into frantic demonstration, while the women remained quiet with
arms folded or akimbo. Before and behind the wagon, driven slowly,
went a guard of ragged urchins, while on the raised seat above sat
two Americans, unperturbed by anything, and concerned merely with the
business of the affair.

The vehicle was a grocer’s cart which had perhaps been pressed into the
service; and inevitably the contributor thought of Zenobia, and of
Miles Coverdale’s belief that if she could have foreboded all the
_post-mortem_ ugliness and grotesqueness of suicide, she never would
have drowned herself. This girl, too, had doubtless had her own ideas
of the effect that her death was to make, her conviction that it was to
wring one heart, at least, and to strike awe and pity to every other;
and her woman’s soul must have been shocked from death could she have
known in what a ghastly comedy the body she put off was to play a part.

In the bottom of the cart lay something long and straight and terrible,
covered with a red shawl that drooped over the end of the wagon; and
on this thing were piled the baskets in which the grocers had delivered
their orders for sugar and flour, and coffee and tea. As the cart jolted
through their lines, the boys could no longer be restrained; they broke
out with wild yells, and danced madly about it, while the red shawl
hanging from the rigid feet nodded to their frantic mirth; and the sun
dropped its light through the maples and shone bright upon the flooded


I believe I have no good reason for including among these suburban
sketches my recollections of the Peace Jubilee, celebrated by a monster
musical entertainment at Boston, in June, 1869; and I do not know if it
will serve as excuse for their intrusion to say that the exhibition was
not urban in character, and that I attended it in a feeling of curiosity
and amusement which the Bostonians did not seem to feel, and which I
suspect was a strictly suburban if not rural sentiment.

I thought, on that Tuesday morning, as our horse-car drew near the Long
Bridge, and we saw the Coliseum spectral through the rain, that Boston
was going to show people representing other parts of the country her
Notion of weather. I looked forward to a forenoon of clammy warmth, and
an afternoon of clammy cold and of east wind, with a misty nightfall
soaking men to the bones. But the day really turned out well enough; it
was showery, but not shrewish, and it smiled pleasantly at sunset, as if
content with the opening ceremonies of the Great Peace Jubilee.

The city, as we entered it, gave due token of excitement, and we felt
the celebration even in the air, which had a holiday quality very
different from that of ordinary workday air. The crowds filled the
decorous streets, and the trim pathways of the Common and the Public
Garden, and flowed in an orderly course towards the vast edifice on the
Back Bay, presenting the interesting points which always distinguish a
crowd come to town from a city crowd. You get so used to the Boston face
and the Boston dress, that a coat from New York or a visage from Chicago
is at once conspicuous to you; and in these people there was not only
this strangeness, but the different oddities that lurk in out-of-way
corners of society everywhere had started suddenly into notice.
Long-haired men, popularly supposed to have perished with the
institution of slavery, appeared before me, and men with various causes
and manias looking from their wild eyes confronted each other, let alone
such charlatans as had clothed themselves quaintly or grotesquely to add
a charm to the virtue of whatever nostrum they peddled. It was, however,
for the most part, a remarkably well-dressed crowd; and therein it
probably differed more than in any other respect from the crowd which a
holiday would have assembled in former times. There was little rusticity
to be noted anywhere, and the uncouthness which has already disappeared
from the national face seemed to be passing from the national wardrobe.
Nearly all the visitors seemed to be Americans, but neither the Yankee
type nor the Hoosier was to be found. They were apparently very happy,
too; the ancestral solemnity of the race that amuses itself sadly was
not to be seen in them, and, if they were not making it a duty to be
gay, they were really taking their pleasure in a cheerful spirit.

There was, in fact, something in the sight of the Coliseum, as we
approached it, which was a sufficient cause of elation to whoever is
buoyed up by the flutter of bright flags, and the movement in and about
holiday booths, as I think we all are apt to be. One may not have the
stomach of happier days for the swing or the whirligig; he may not
drink soda-water intemperately; pop-corn may not tempt him, nor
tropical fruits allure; but he beholds them without gloom,--nay, a grin
inevitably lights up his countenance at the sight of a great show of
these amusements and refreshments. And any Bostonian might have
felt proud that morning that his city did not hide the light of her
mercantile merit under a bushel, but blazoned it about on the booths and
walls in every variety of printed and painted advertisement. To the mere
aesthetic observer, these vast placards gave the delight of brilliant
color, and blended prettily enough in effect with the flags; and at
first glance I received quite as much pleasure from the frescoes that
advised me where to buy my summer clothing, as from any bunting I saw.

I had the good fortune on the morning of this first Jubilee day to view
the interior of the Coliseum when there was scarcely anybody there,--a
trifle of ten thousand singers at one end, and a few thousand other
people scattered about over the wide expanses of parquet and galleries.
The decorations within, as without, were a pleasure to the eyes that
love gayety of color; and the interior was certainly magnificent, with
those long lines of white and blue drapery roofing the balconies, the
slim, lofty columns festooned with flags and drooping banners, the arms
of the States decking the fronts of the galleries, and the arabesques of
painted muslin everywhere. I do not know that my taste concerned itself
with the decorations, or that I have any taste in such things; but I
testify that these tints and draperies gave no small part of the
comfort of being where all things conspired for one’s pleasure. The airy
amplitude of the building, the perfect order and the perfect freedom
of movement, the ease of access and exit, the completeness of the
arrangements that in the afternoon gave all of us thirty thousand
spectators a chance to behold the great spectacle as well as to hear
the music, were felt, I am sure, as personal favors by every one. These
minor particulars, in fact, served greatly to assist you in identifying
yourself, when the vast hive swarmed with humanity, and you became a
mere sentient atom of the mass.

It was rumored in the morning that the ceremonies were to begin with
prayer by a hundred ministers, but I missed this striking feature of the
exhibition, for I did not arrive in the afternoon till the last speech
was being made by a gentleman whom I saw gesticulating effectively, and
whom I suppose to have been intelligible to a matter of twenty thousand
people in his vicinity, but who was to me, of the remote, outlying
thirty thousand, a voice merely. One word only I caught, and I report
it here that posterity may know as much as we thirty thousand
contemporaries did of


. . . . . . . (_sensation_.) . . . . . . . . . . (_cheers_.). . . .
refinement . . . . . . . . . . (_great applause_.)

I do not know if I shall be able to give an idea of the immensity of
this scene; but if such a reader as has the dimensions of the Coliseum
accurately fixed in his mind will, in imagination, densely hide all that
interminable array of benching in the parquet and the galleries and
the slopes at either end of the edifice with human heads, showing here
crowns, there occiputs, and yonder faces, he will perhaps have some
notion of the spectacle as we beheld it from the northern hill-side.
Some thousands of heads nearest were recognizable as attached by the
usual neck to the customary human body, but for the rest, we seemed
to have entered a world of cherubim. Especially did the multitudinous
singers seated far opposite encourage this illusion; and their
fluttering fans and handkerchiefs wonderfully mocked the movement of
those cravat-like pinions which the fancy attributed to them. They rose
or sank at the wave of the director’s baton; and still looked like an
innumerable flock of cherubs drifting over some slope of Paradise, or
settling upon it,--if cherubs _can_ settle.

[Illustration: “The spectacle as we beheld it.”]

The immensity was quite as striking to the mind as to the eye, and an
absolute democracy was appreciable in it. Not only did all artificial
distinctions cease, but those of nature were practically obliterated,
and you felt for once the full meaning of unanimity. No one was at a
disadvantage; one was as wise, as good, as handsome as another. In most
public assemblages, the foolish eye roves in search of the vanity of
female beauty, and rests upon some lovely visage, or pretty figure;
but here it seemed to matter nothing whether ladies were well or
ill-looking; and one might have been perfectly ascetic without
self-denial. A blue eye or a black,--what of it? A mass of blonde or
chestnut hair, this sort of walking-dress or that,--you might note the
difference casually in a few hundred around you; but a sense of those
myriads of other eyes and chignons and walking-dresses absorbed the
impression in an instant, and left a dim, strange sense of loss, as if
all women had suddenly become Woman. For the time, one would have been
preposterously conceited to have felt his littleness in that crowd; you
never thought of yourself in an individual capacity at all. It was as
if you were a private in an army, or a very ordinary billow of the sea,
feeling the battle or the storm, in a collective sort of way, but unable
to distinguish your sensations from those of the mass. If a rafter had
fallen and crushed you and your unimportant row of people, you could
scarcely have regarded it as a personal calamity, but might have found
it disagreeable as a shock to that great body of humanity. Recall, then,
how astonished you were to be recognized by some one, and to have your
hand shaken in your individual character of Smith. “Smith? My dear
What’s-your-name, I am for the present the fifty-thousandth part of an
enormous emotion!”

It was as difficult to distribute the various facts of the whole effect,
as to identify one’s self. I had only a public and general consciousness
of the delight given by the harmony of hues in the parquet below; and
concerning the orchestra I had at first no distinct impression save of
the three hundred and thirty violin-bows held erect like standing wheat
at one motion of the director’s wand, and then falling as if with the
next he swept them down. Afterwards files of men with horns, and other
files of men with drums and cymbals, discovered themselves; while far
above all, certain laborious figures pumped or ground with incessant
obeisance at the apparatus supplying the organ with wind.

What helped, more than anything else, to restore you your dispersed and
wandering individuality was the singing of Parepa-Rosa, as she triumphed
over the harmonious rivalry of the orchestra. There was something in
the generous amplitude and robust cheerfulness of this great artist that
accorded well with the ideal of the occasion; she was in herself a great
musical festival; and one felt, as she floated down the stage with
her far-spreading white draperies, and swept the audience a colossal
courtesy, that here was the embodied genius of the Jubilee. I do not
trust myself to speak particularly of her singing, for I have the
natural modesty of people who know nothing about music, and I have not
at command the phraseology of those who pretend to understand it; but I
say that her voice filled the whole edifice with delicious melody, that
it soothed and composed and utterly enchanted, that, though two hundred
violins accompanied her, the greater sweetness of her note prevailed
over all, like a mighty will commanding many. What a sublime ovation for
her when a hundred thousand hands thundered their acclaim! A victorious
general, an accepted lover, a successful young author,--these know a
measure of bliss, I dare say; but in one throb, the singer’s heart, as
it leaps in exultation at the loud delight of her applausive thousands,
must out-enjoy them all. Let me lay these poor little artificial flowers
of rhetoric at the feet of the divine singer, as a faint token of
gratitude and eloquent intention.

When Parepa (or Prepper, as I have heard her name popularly pronounced)
had sung, the revived consciousness of an individual life rose in
rebellion against the oppression of that dominant vastness. In fact,
human nature can stand only so much of any one thing. To a certain
degree you accept and conceive of facts truthfully, but beyond this a
mere fantasticality rules; and having got enough of grandeur, the senses
played themselves false. That array of fluttering and tuning people on
the southern slope began to look minute, like the myriad heads assembled
in the infinitesimal photograph which you view through one of those
little half-inch lorgnettes; and you had the satisfaction of knowing
that to any lovely infinitesimality yonder you showed no bigger than
a carpet-tack. The whole performance now seemed to be worked by those
tireless figures pumping at the organ, in obedience to signals from
a very alert figure on the platform below. The choral and orchestral
thousands sang and piped and played; and at a given point in the _scena_
from Verdi, a hundred fairies in red shirts marched down through the
sombre mass of puppets and beat upon as many invisible anvils.

This was the stroke of anti-climax; and the droll sound of those anvils,
so far above all the voices and instruments in its pitch, thoroughly
disillusioned you and restored you finally to your proper entity and
proportions. It was the great error of the great Jubilee, and where
almost everything else was noble and impressive,--where the direction
was faultless, and the singing and instrumentation as perfectly
controlled as if they were the result of one volition,--this
anvil-beating was alone ignoble and discordant,--trivial and huge
merely. Not even the artillery accompaniment, in which the cannon were
made to pronounce words of two syllables, was so bad.

The dimensions of this sketch bear so little proportion to those of the
Jubilee, that I must perforce leave most of its features unnoticed; but
I wish to express the sense of enjoyment which prevailed (whenever the
anvils were not beaten) over every other feeling, even over wonder. To
the ear as to the eye it was a delight, and it was an assured success in
the popular affections from the performance of the first piece. For
my own part, if one pleasurable sensation, besides that received from
Parepa’s singing, distinguished itself from the rest, it was that given
by the performance of the exquisite Coronation March from Meyerbeer’s
“Prophet;” but I say this under protest of the pleasure taken in
the choral rendering of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Closely allying
themselves to these great raptures were the minor joys of wandering
freely about from point to point, of receiving fresh sensations from
the varying lights and aspects in which the novel scene presented itself
with its strange fascinations, and of noting, half consciously, the
incessant movement of the crowd as it revealed itself in changing
effects of color. Then the gay tumult of the fifteen minutes of
intermission between the parts, when all rose with a _susurrus_ of
innumerable silks, and the thousands of pretty singers fluttered
about, and gossiped tremulously and delightedly over the glory of the
performance, revealing themselves as charming feminine personalities,
each with her share in the difficulty and the achievement, each with
her pique or pride, and each her something to tell her friend of the
conduct, agreeable or displeasing, of some particular him! Even the
quick dispersion of the mass at the close was a marvel of orderliness
and grace, as the melting and separating parts, falling asunder,
radiated from the centre, and flowed and rippled rapidly away, and left
the great hall empty and bare at last.

And as you emerged from the building, what bizarre and perverse feeling
was that you knew? Something as if all-out-doors were cramped and
small, and it were better to return to the freedom and amplitude of the

On the second day, much that was wonderful in a first experience of the
festival was gone; but though the novelty had passed away, the cause for
wonder was even greater. If on the first day the crowd was immense, it
was now something which the imperfect state of the language will not
permit me to describe; perhaps _awful_ will serve the purpose as well as
any other word now in use. As you looked round, from the centre of the
building, on that restless, fanning, fluttering multitude, to right and
left and north and south, all comparisons and similitudes abandoned you.
If you were to write of the scene, you felt that your effort, at the
best, must be a meagre sketch, suggesting something to those who had
seen the fact, but conveying no intelligible impression of it to any
one else. The galleries swarmed, the vast slopes were packed, in the
pampa-like parquet even the aisles were half filled with chairs, while
a cloud of placeless wanderers moved ceaselessly on the borders of the
mass under the balconies.

When that common-looking, uncommon little man whom we have called to
rule over us entered the house, and walked quietly down to his seat in
the centre of it, a wild, inarticulate clamor, like no other noise in
the world, swelled from every side, till General Grant rose and showed
himself, when it grew louder than ever, and then gradully subsided into
silence. Then a voice, which might be uttering some mortal alarm,
broke repeatedly across the stillness from one of the balconies, and a
thousand glasses were leveled in that direction, while everywhere else
the mass hushed itself with a mute sense of peril. The capacity of such
an assemblage for self-destruction was, in fact, but too evident. From
fire, in an edifice of which the sides could be knocked out in a moment,
there could have been little danger; the fabric’s strength had been
perfectly tested the day before, and its fall was not to be apprehended;
but we had ourselves greatly to dread. A panic could have been caused by
any mad or wanton person, in which thousands might have been instantly
trampled to death; and it seemed long till that foolish voice was
stilled, and the house lapsed back into tranquillity, and the enjoyment
of the music. In the performance I recall nothing disagreeable, nothing
that to my ignorance seemed imperfect, though I leave it to the wise in
music to say how far the great concert was a success. I saw a flourish
of the director’s wand, and I heard the voices or the instruments,
or both, respond, and I knew by my programme that I was enjoying an
unprecedented quantity of Haydn or Handel or Meyerbeer or Rossini or
Mozart, afforded with an unquestionable precision and promptness; but I
own that I liked better to stroll about the three-acre house, and that
for me the music was, at best, only one of the joys of the festival.

There was good hearing outside for those that desired to listen to the
music, with seats to let in the surrounding tents and booths; and there
was unlimited seeing for the mere looker-on. At least fifty thousand
people seemed to have come to the Jubilee with no other purpose than
to gaze upon the outside of the building. The crowd was incomparably
greater than that of the day before; all the main thoroughfares of the
city roared with a tide of feet that swept through the side streets, and
swelled aimlessly up the places, and eddied there, and poured out again
over the pavements. The carriage-ways were packed with every sort of
vehicle, with foot-passengers crowded from the sidewalks, and with
the fragments of the military parade in honor of the President, with
infantry, with straggling cavalrymen, with artillery. All the paths of
the Common and the Garden were filled, and near the Coliseum the throngs
densified on every side into an almost impenetrable mass, that made the
doors of the building difficult to approach and at times inaccessible.

The crowd differed from that of the first day chiefly in size. There
were more country faces and country garbs to be seen, though it was
still, on the whole, a regular-featured and well-dressed crowd, with
still very few but American visages. It seemed to be also a very
frugal-minded crowd, and to spend little upon the refreshments and
amusements provided for it. In these, oddly enough, there was nothing
of the march of mind to be observed; they Were the refreshments and
amusements of a former generation. I think it would not be extravagant
to say that there were tons of pie for sale in a multitude of booths,
with lemonade, soda-water, and ice-cream in proportion; but I doubt if
there was a ton of pie sold, and towards the last the venerable pastry
was quite covered with dust. Neither did people seem to care much for
oranges or bananas or peanuts, or even pop-corn,--five cents a package
and a prize in each package. Many booths stood unlet, and in others the
pulverous ladies and gentlemen, their proprietors, were in the enjoyment
of a leisure which would have been elegant if it had not been forced.
There was one shanty, not otherwise distinguished from the rest,
in which French soups were declared to be for sale; but these alien
pottages seemed to be no more favored than the most poisonous of our
national viands. But perhaps they were not French soups, or perhaps
the vicinage of the shanty was not such as to impress a belief in their
genuineness upon people who like French soups. Let us not be too easily
disheartened by the popular neglect of them. If the daring reformer who
inscribed French soups upon his sign will reappear ten years hence, we
shall all flock to his standard. Slavery is abolished; pie must follow.
Doubtless in the year 1900, the managers of a Jubilee would even let the
refreshment-rooms within their Coliseum to a cook who would offer the
public something not so much worse than the worst that could be found in
the vilest shanty restaurant on the ground. At the Jubilee, of which
I am writing, the unhappy person who went into the Coliseum rooms to
refresh himself was offered for coffee a salty and unctuous wash, in
one of those thick cups which are supposed to be proof against the hard
usage of “guests” and scullions in humble eating-houses, and which are
always so indescribably nicked and cracked, and had pushed towards him
a bowl of veteran sugar, and a tin spoon that had never been cleaned in
the world, while a young person stood by, and watched him, asking, “Have
you paid for that coffee?”

The side-shows and the other amusements seemed to have addressed
themselves to the crowd with the same mistaken notion of its character
and requirements; though I confess that I witnessed their neglect with
regret, whether from a feeling that they were at least harmless, or an
unconscious sympathy with any quite idle and unprofitable thing. Those
rotary, legless horses, on which children love to ride in a perpetual
sickening circle,--the type of all our effort,--were nearly always
mounted; but those other whirligigs, or whatever the dreadful circles
with their swinging seats are called, were often so empty that they must
have been distressing, from their want of balance, to the muscles as
well as the spirits of their proprietors. The society of monsters was
also generally shunned, and a cow with five legs gave milk from the
top of her back to an audience of not more than six persons. The public
apathy had visibly wrought upon the temper of the gentleman who lectured
upon this gifted animal, and he took inquiries in an ironical manner
that contrasted disadvantageously with the philosophical serenity of the
person who had a weighing-machine outside, and whom I saw sitting in the
chair and weighing himself by the hour, with an expression of profound
enjoyment. Perhaps a man of less bulk could not have entered so keenly
into that simple pleasure.

There was a large tent on the grounds for dramatical entertainments,
with six performances a day, into which I was lured by a profusion of
high-colored posters, and some such announcement, as that the beautiful
serio-comic danseuse and world-renowned cloggist, Mile. Brown, would
appear. About a dozen people were assembled within, and we waited a
half-hour beyond the time announced for the curtain to rise, during
which the spectacle of a young man in black broadcloth, eating a
cocoa-nut with his pen-knife, had a strange and painful fascination. At
the end of this half-hour, our number was increased to eighteen, when
the orchestra appeared,--a snare-drummer and two buglers. These took
their place at the back of the tent; the buglers, who were Germans, blew
seriously and industriously at their horns; but the native-born citizen,
who played the drum, beat it very much at random, and in the mean time
smoked a cigar, while his humorous friend kept time upon his shoulders
by striking him there with a cane. How long this might have lasted, I
cannot tell; but, after another delay, I suddenly bethought me whether
it were not better not to see Mile. Brown, after all? I rose, and
stole softly out behind the rhythmic back of the drummer; and the
world-renowned cloggist is to me at this moment only a beautiful
dream,--an airy shape fashioned upon a hint supplied by the engraver of
the posters.

What, then, did the public desire, if it would not smile upon the
swings, or monsters, or dramatic amusements that had pleased so long?
Was the music, as it floated out from the Coliseum, a sufficient
delight? Or did the crowd, averse to the shows provided for it, crave
something higher and more intellectual,--like, for example, a course
of the Lowell Lectures? Its general expression had changed: it had no
longer that entire gayety of the first day, but had taken on something
of the sarcastic pathos with which we Americans bear most oppressive and
fatiguing things as a good joke. The dust was blown about in clouds; and
here and there, sitting upon the vacant steps that led up and down
among the booths, were dejected and motionless men and women, passively
gathering dust, and apparently awaiting burial under the accumulating
sand,--the mute, melancholy sphinxes of the Jubilee, with their unsolved
riddle, “Why did we come?” At intervals, the heavens shook out fierce,
sudden showers of rain, that scattered the surging masses, and sent them
flying impotently hither and thither for shelter where no shelter was,
only to gather again, and move aimlessly and comfortlessly to and fro,
like a lost child.

So the multitude roared within and without the Coliseum as I turned
homeward; and yet I found it wandering with weary feet through the
Garden, and the Common, and all the streets, and it dragged its
innumerable aching legs with me to the railroad station, and, entering
the train, stood up on them,--having paid for the tickets with which the
companies professed to sell seats.

How still and cool and fresh it was at our suburban station, when
the train, speeding away with a sardonic yell over the misery of the
passengers yet standing up in it, left us to walk across the quiet
fields and pleasant lanes to Benicia Street, through groups of little
idyllic Irish boys playing base-ball, with milch-goats here and there
pastorally cropping the herbage!

In this pleasant seclusion I let all Bunker Hill Day thunder by, with
its cannons, and processions, and speeches, and patriotic musical
uproar, hearing only through my open window the note of the birds
singing in a leafy coliseum across the street, and making very fair
music without an anvil among them. “Ah, signer!” said one of my doorstep
acquaintance, who came next morning and played me Captain Jenks,--the
new air he has had added to his instrument,--“never in my life, neither
at Torino, nor at Milano, nor even at Genoa, never did I see such
a crowd or hear such a noise, as at that Colosseo yesterday. The
carriages, the horses, the feet! And the dust, O Dio mio! All those
millions of people were as white as so many millers!”

On the afternoon of the fourth day the city looked quite like the mill
in which these millers had been grinding; and even those unpromisingly
elegant streets of the Back Bay showed mansions powdered with dust
enough for sentiment to strike root in, and so soften them with its
tender green against the time when they shall be ruinous and sentiment
shall swallow them up. The crowd had perceptibly diminished, but it was
still great, and on the Common it was allured by a greater variety
of recreations and bargains than I had yet seen there. There were, of
course, all sorts of useful and instructive amusements,--at least a
half-dozen telescopes, and as many galvanic batteries, with numerous
patented inventions; and I fancied that most of the peddlers and
charlatans addressed themselves to a utilitarian spirit supposed to
exist in us. A man that sold whistles capable of reproducing exactly the
notes of the mocking-bird and the guinea-pig set forth the durability of
the invention. “Now, you see this whistle, gentlemen. It is rubber, all
rubber; and rubber, you know, enters into the composition of a great
many valuable articles. This whistle, then, is entirely of rubber,--no
worthless or flimsy material that drops to pieces the moment you put
it to your lips,”--as if it were not utterly desirable that it should.
“Now, I’ll give you the mocking-bird, gentlemen, and then I’ll give you
the guinea-pig, upon this pure _India_-rubber whistle.” And he did so
with a great animation,--this young man with a perfectly intelligent and
very handsome face. “Try your strength, and renovate your system!” cried
the proprietor of a piston padded at one end and working into a cylinder
when you struck it a blow with your fist; and the owners of lung-testing
machines called upon you from every side to try their consumption
cure; while the galvanic-battery men sat still and mutely appealed with
inscriptions attached to their cap-visors declaring that electricity
taken from their batteries would rid you of every ache and pain known
to suffering humanity. Yet they were themselves as a class in a state
of sad physical disrepair, and one of them was the visible prey of
rheumatism which he might have sent flying from his joints with a single
shock. The only person whom I saw improving his health with the
battery was a rosy-faced school-boy, who was taking ten cents’ worth
of electricity; and I hope it did not disagree with his pop-corn and

Farther on was a picturesque group of street-musicians,--violinists
and harpers; a brother and four sisters, by their looks,--who afforded
almost the only unpractical amusement to be enjoyed on the Common,
though not far from them was a blind old negro, playing upon an
accordion, and singing to it in the faintest and thinnest of black
voices, who could hardly have profited any listener. No one appeared to
mind him, till a jolly Jack-tar with both arms cut off, but dressed in
full sailor’s togs, lurched heavily towards him. This mariner had got
quite a good effect of sea-legs by some means, and looked rather drunker
than a man with both arms ought to be; but he was very affectionate,
and, putting his face close to the other’s, at once entered into talk
with the blind man, forming with him a picture curiously pathetic
and grotesque. He was the only tipsy person I saw during the Jubilee
days,--if he was tipsy, for after all they may have been real sea-legs
he had on.

If the throng upon the streets was thinner, it was greater in the
Coliseum than on the second day; and matters had settled there into
regular working order. The limits of individual liberty had been better
ascertained; there was no longer any movement in the aisles, but a
constant passing to and fro, between the pieces, in the promenades. The
house presented, as before, that appearance in which reality forsook
it, and it became merely an amazing picture. The audience supported the
notion of its unreality by having exactly the character of the former
audiences, and impressed you, despite its restlessness and incessant
agitation, with the feeling that it had remained there from the first
day, and would always continue there; and it was only in wandering upon
its borders through the promenades, that you regained possession of
facts concerning it. In no other way was its vastness more observable
than in the perfect indifference of persons one to another. Each found
himself, as it were, in a solitude; and, sequestered in that wilderness
of strangers, each was freed of his bashfulness and trepidation. Young
people lounged at ease upon the floors, about the windows, on the upper
promenades; and in this seclusion I saw such betrayals of tenderness as
melt the heart of the traveller on our desolate railway trains,--Fellows
moving to and fro or standing, careless of other eyes, with their arms
around the waists of their Girls. These were, of course, people who
had only attained a certain grade of civilization, and were not
characteristic of the crowd, or, indeed, worthy of notice except as
expressions of its unconsciousness. I fancied that I saw a number of
their class outside listening to the address of the agent of a patent
liniment, proclaimed to be an unfailing specific for neuralgia and
headache,--if used in the right spirit. “For,” said the orator, “we like
to cure people who treat us and our medicine with respect. Folks say,
‘What is there about that man?--some magnetism or electricity.’ And the
other day at New Britain, Connecticut, a young man he come up to the
carriage, sneering like, and he tried the cure, and it didn’t have the
least effect upon him.” There seemed reason in this, and it produced a
visible sensation in the Fellows and Girls, who grinned sheepishly at
each other.

Why will the young man with long hair force himself at this point into
a history, which is striving to devote itself to graver interests? There
he stood with the other people, gazing up at the gay line of streamers
on the summit of the Coliseum, and taking in the Anvil Chorus with the
rest,--a young man well-enough dressed, and of a pretty sensible face,
with his long black locks falling from under his cylinder hat, and
covering his shoulders. What awful spell was on him, obliging him to
make that figure before his fellow-creatures? He had nothing to sell;
he was not, apparently, an advertisement of any kind. Was he in the
performance of a vow? Was he in his right mind? For shame! a person may
wear his hair long if he will. But why not, then, in a top-knot? This
young man’s long hair was not in keeping with his frock-coat and his
cylinder hat, and he had not at all the excuse of the old gentleman
who sold salve in the costume of Washington’s time; one could not take
pleasure in him as in the negro advertiser, who paraded the grounds in
a costume compounded of a consular _chapeau bras_ and a fox-hunter’s
top-boots--the American diplomatic uniform of the future--and offered
every one a printed billet; he had not even the attraction of the
cabalistic herald of Hunkidori. Who was he? what was he? why was he?
The mind played forever around these questions in a maze of hopeless

Had all those quacks and peddlers been bawling ever since Tuesday to
the same listeners? Had all those swings and whirligigs incessantly
performed their rounds? The cow that gave milk from the top of her back,
had she never changed her small circle of admirers, or ceased her flow?
And the gentleman who sat in the chair of his own balance, how much did
he weigh by this time? One could scarcely rid one’s self of the illusion
of perpetuity concerning these things, and I could not believe that,
if I went back to the Coliseum grounds at any future time, I should not
behold all that vast machinery in motion.

It was curious to see, amid this holiday turmoil men pursuing the
ordinary business of their lives, and one was strangely rescued and
consoled by the spectacle of the Irish hod-carriers, and the bricklayers
at work on a first-class swell-front residence in the very heart of the
city of tents and booths. Even the locomotive, being associated with
quieter days and scenes, appealed, as it whistled to and fro upon the
Providence Railroad, to some soft bucolic sentiment in the listener, and
sending its note, ordinarily so discordant, across that human uproar,
seemed to “babble of green fields.” And at last it wooed us away, and
the Jubilee was again swallowed up by night.

There was yet another Jubilee Day, on the morning of which the thousands
of public-school children clustered in gauzy pink and white in the place
of the mighty chorus, while the Coliseum swarmed once more with people
who listened to those shrill, sweet pipes blending in unison; but I
leave the reader to imagine what he will about it. A week later, after
all was over, I was minded to walk down towards the Coliseum, and behold
it in its desertion. The city streets were restored to their wonted
summer-afternoon tranquillity; the Public Garden presented its customary
phases of two people sitting under a tree and talking intimately
together on some theme of common interest,--“Bees, bees, was it your
hydromel?”--of the swans sailing in full view upon the little lake of
half a dozen idlers hanging upon the bridge to look at them; of
children gayly dotting the paths here and there; and, to heighten the
peacefulness of the effect, a pretty, pale invalid lady sat, half in
shade and half in sun, reading in an easy-chair. Far down the broad
avenue a single horse-car tinkled slowly; on the steps of one of the
mansions charming little girls stood in a picturesque group full of the
bright color which abounds in the lovely dresses of this time. As I drew
near the Coliseum, I could perceive the desolation which had fallen
upon the festival scene; the white tents were gone; the place where the
world-renowned cloggist gave her serio-comic dances was as lonely and
silent as the site of Carthage; in the middle distance two men were
dismantling a motionless whirligig; the hut for the sale of French soups
was closed; farther away, a solitary policeman moved gloomily across the
deserted spaces, showing his dark-blue figure against the sky. The vast
fabric of the Coliseum reared itself, hushed and deserted within and
without; and a boy in his shirt-sleeves pressed his nose against one
of the painted window-panes in the vain effort to behold the nothing
inside. But sadder than this loneliness surrounding the Coliseum, sadder
than the festooned and knotted banners that drooped funereally upon its
facade, was the fact that some of those luckless refreshment-saloons
were still open, displaying viands as little edible now as carnival
_confetti_. It was as if the proprietors, in an unavailing remorse, had
condemned themselves to spend the rest of their days there, and, slowly
consuming their own cake and pop-corn, washed down with their own
soda-water and lemonade, to perish of dyspepsia and despair.


Any study of suburban life would be very imperfect without some glance
at that larger part of it which is spent in the painful pursuit
of pleasures such as are offered at the ordinary places of public
amusement; and for this reason I excuse myself for rehearsing certain
impressions here which are not more directly suburban, to say the least,
than those recounted in the foregoing chapter.

It became, shortly after life in Charlesbridge began, a question whether
any entertainment that Boston could offer were worth the trouble of
going to it, or, still worse, coming from it; for if it was misery to
hurry from tea to catch the inward horse-car at the head of the street,
what sullen lexicon will afford a name for the experience of getting
home again by the last car out from the city? You have watched the clock
much more closely than the stage during the last act, and have left your
play incomplete by its final marriage or death, and have rushed up to
Bowdoin Square, where you achieve a standing place in the car, and,
utterly spent as you are with the enjoyment of the evening, you endure
for the next hour all that is horrible in riding or walking. At the end
of this time you declare that you will never go to the theatre again;
and after years of suffering you come at last to keep your word.

While yet, however, in the state of formation as regards this
resolution, I went frequently to the theatre--or school of morals,
as its friends have humorously called it. I will not say whether any
desired amelioration took place or not in my own morals through the
agency of the stage; but if not enlightened and refined by everything I
saw there, I sometimes was certainly very much surprised. Now that I go
no more, or very, very rarely, I avail myself of the resulting
leisure to set down, for the instruction of posterity, some account of
performances I witnessed in the years 1868-69, which I am persuaded will
grow all the more curious, if not incredible, with the lapse of time.

There is this satisfaction in living, namely, that whatever we do will
one day wear an air of picturesqueness and romance, and will win the
fancy of people coming after us. This stupid and commonplace present
shall yet appear the fascinating past; and is it not a pleasure to think
how our rogues of descendants--who are to enjoy us aesthetically--will
be taken in with us, when they read, in the files of old newspapers,
of the quantity of entertainment offered us at the theatres during the
years mentioned, and judge us by it? I imagine them two hundred years
hence looking back at us, and sighing, “Ah! there was a touch of the
old Greek life in those Athenians! How they loved the drama in the
jolly Boston of that day! That was the golden age of the theatre: in the
winter of 1868-69, they had dramatic performances in seven places, of
every degree of excellence, and the managers coined money.” As we always
figure our ancestors going to and from church, they will probably figure
us thronging the doors of theatres, and no doubt there will be some
historical gossiper among them to sketch a Boston audience in 1869, with
all our famous poets and politicians grouped together in the orchestra
seats, and several now dead introduced with the pleasant inaccuracy and
uncertainty of historical gossipers. “On this night, when the beautiful
Tostée reappeared, the whole house rose to greet her. If Mr. Alcott was
on one of his winter visits to Boston, no doubt he stepped in from the
Marlborough House,--it was a famous temperance hotel, then in the height
of its repute,--not only to welcome back the great actress, but to enjoy
a chat between the acts with his many friends. Here, doubtless, was seen
the broad forehead of Webster; there the courtly Everett, conversing in
studied tones with the gifted So-and-so. Did not the lovely Such-a-one
grace the evening with her presence? The brilliant and versatile Edmund
Kirke was dead; but the humorous Artemas Ward and his friend Nasby
may have attracted many eyes, having come hither at the close of their
lectures, to testify their love of the beautiful in nature and art;
while, perhaps, Mr. Sumner, in the intervals of state cares, relaxed
into the enjoyment,” etc. “Vous voyez bien le tableau!”

That far-off posterity, learning that all our theatres are filled every
night, will never understand but we were a theatre-going people in the
sense that it is the highest fashion to be seen at the play; and yet we
are sensible that it is not so, and that the Boston which makes itself
known in civilization--in letters, politics, reform--goes as little to
the theatre as fashionable Boston.

The stage is not an Institution with us, I should say; yet it affords
recreation to a very large and increasing number of persons, and while
it would be easy to over-estimate its influence for good or evil even
with these, there is no doubt that the stage, if not the drama, is
popular. Fortunately an inquiry like this into a now waning taste
in theatricals concerns the fact rather than the effect of the taste
otherwise the task might become indefinitely hard alike for writer and
for reader. No one can lay his hand on his heart, and declare that he
is the worse for having seen “La Belle Hélène,” for example, or say more
than that it is a thing which ought not to be seen by any one else; yet
I suppose there is no one ready to deny that “La Belle Hélène” was the
motive of those performances that have most pleased the most
people during recent years. There was something fascinating in the
circumstances and auspices under which the united Irma and Tostée
troupes appeared in Boston--_opéra bouffe_ led gayly forward by _finance
bouffe_, and suggesting Erie shares by its watered music and morals; but
there is no doubt that Tostée’s grand reception was owing mainly to the
personal favor which she enjoyed here and which we do not vouchsafe to
every one. Ristori did not win it; we did our duty by her, following her
carefully with the libretto, and in her most intense effects turning the
leaves of a thousand pamphlets with a rustle that must have shattered
every delicate nerve in her; but we were always cold to her greatness.
It was not for Tosteés singing, which was but a little thing in itself;
it was not for her beauty, for that was no more than a reminiscence, if
it was not always an illusion; was it because she rendered the spirit of
M. Offenbach’s operas so perfectly, that we liked her so much? “Ah, that
movement!” cried an enthusiast, “that swing, that--that--wriggle!” She
was undoubtedly a great actress, full of subtle surprises, and with
an audacious appearance of unconsciousness in those exigencies where
consciousness would summon the police--or should; she was so near, yet
so far from, the worst that could be intended; in tones, in gestures, in
attitudes, she was to the libretto just as the music was, now making
it appear insolently and unjustly coarse, now feebly inadequate in its
explicit immodesty.

To see this famous lady in “La Grande Duchesse” or “La Belle Hélène” was
an experience never to be forgotten, and certainly not to be described.
The former opera has undoubtedly its proper and blameless charm. There
is something pretty and arch in the notion of the Duchess’s falling
in love with the impregnably faithful and innocent Fritz; and the
extravagance of the whole, with the satire upon the typical little
German court, is delightful. But “La Belle Helene” is a wittier play
than “La Grande Duchesse,” and it is the vividest expression of the
spirit of _opéra bouffe_. It is full of such lively mockeries as that of
Helen when she gazes upon the picture of Leda and the Swan: “J’aime á
me recueiller devant ce tableau de famille! Mon père, ma mère, les voici
tous les deux! O mon père, tourne vers ton enfant un bec favorable!”--or
of Paris when he represses the zeal of Calchas, who desires to present
him at once to Helen: “Soit! mais sans lui dire qui je suis;--je désire
garder le plus strict incognito, jusq’au moment où la situation sera
favorable á un coup de théâtre.” But it must be owned that our audiences
seemed not to take much pleasure in these and other witticisms, though
they obliged Mademoiselle Tostée to sing “Un Mari sage” three times,
with all those actions and postures which seem incredible the moment
they have ceased. They possibly understood this song no better than the
strokes of wit, and encored it merely for the music’s sake. The effect
was, nevertheless, unfortunate, and calculated to give those French
ladies but a bad opinion of our morals. How could they comprehend that
the taste was, like themselves, imported, and that its indulgence here
did not characterize us? It was only in appearance that, while we did
not enjoy the wit we delighted in the coarseness. And how coarse this
travesty of the old fable mainly is! That priest Calchas, with his
unspeakable snicker his avarice, his infidelity, his hypocrisy, is alone
infamy enough to provoke the destruction of a city. Then that scene
interrupted by Menelaus! It is indisputably witty, and since all those
people are so purely creatures of fable, and dwell so entirely in an
unmoral atmosphere, it appears as absurd to blame it as the murders in
a pantomime. To be sure there is something about murder, some inherent
grace or refinement perhaps, that makes its actual representation upon
the stage more tolerable than the most diffident suggestion of adultery.
Not that “La Belle Hélène” is open to the reproach of over-delicacy
in this scene, or any other, for the matter of that, though there is a
strain of real poetry in the conception of this whole episode of
Helen’s intention to pass all Paris’s love-making off upon herself for a
dream,--poetry such as might have been inspired by a muse that had
taken too much nectar. There is excellent character, also, as well
as caricature in the drama; not only Calchas is admirably done, but
Agamemnon, and Achilles, and Helen, and Menelaus, “pas un mari ordinaire
... un mari épique,”--and the burlesque is good of its kind. It is
artistic, as it seems French dramatic effort must almost necessarily
be. It could scarcely be called the fault of the _opéra bouffe_ that the
English burlesque should have come of its success; nor could the public
blame it for the great favor the burlesque won in those far-off winters,
if indeed the public wishes to bestow blame for this. No one, however,
could see one of these curious travesties without being reminded, in
an awkward way, of the _morale_ of the _opéra bouffe_, and of the
_personnel_--as I may say--of “The Black Crook,” “The White Fawn,” and
the “Devil’s Auction.” There was the same intention of merriment at the
cost of what may be called the marital prejudices, though it cannot be
claimed that the wit was the same as in “La Belle Hélène;” there was the
same physical unreserve as in the ballets of a former season; while in
its dramatic form the burlesque discovered very marked parental traits.

This English burlesque, this child of M. Offenbach’s genius, and the now
somewhat faded spectacular muse, flourished at the time of which I write
in three of our seven theatres for months,--five, from the highest to
the lowest being in turn open to it,--and had begun, in a tentative way,
to invade the deserted stage even so long ago as the previous summer;
and I have sometimes flattered myself that it was my fortune to witness
the first exhibition of its most characteristic feature in a theatre
into which I wandered one sultry night because it was the nearest
theatre. They were giving a play called “The Three Fast Men,” which had
a moral of such powerful virtue that it ought to have reformed everybody
in the neighborhood. Three ladies being in love with the three fast men,
and resolved to win them back to regular hours and the paths of
sobriety by every device of the female heart, dress themselves in men’s
clothes,--such is the subtlety of the female heart in the bosoms of
modern young ladies of fashion,--and follow their lovers about from
one haunt of dissipation to another and become themselves exemplarily
vicious,--drunkards, gamblers, and the like. The first lady, who was a
star in her lowly orbit, was very great in all her different _rôles_,
appearing now as a sailor with the hornpipe of his calling, now as an
organ-grinder, and now as a dissolute young gentleman,--whatever was the
exigency of good morals. The dramatist seemed to have had an eye to
her peculiar capabilities, and to have expressly invented edifying
characters and situations that her talents might enforce them. The
second young lady had also a personal didactic gift, rivaling, and
even surpassing in some respects, that of the star; and was very rowdy
indeed. In due time the devoted conduct of the young ladies has its just
effect: the three fast men begin to reflect upon the folly of their wild
courses; and at this point the dramatist delivers his great stroke. The
first lady gives a _soirée dansante et chantante_, and the three fast
men have invitations. The guests seat themselves, as at a fashionable
party, in a semicircle, and the gayety of the evening begins with
conundrums and playing upon the banjo; the gentlemen are in their
morning-coats, and the ladies in a display of hosiery which is now no
longer surprising, and which need not have been mentioned at all except
for the fact that, in the case of the first lady, it seemed not to have
been freshly put on for that party. In this instance an element comical
beyond intention was present, in three young gentlemen, an amateur
musical trio, who had kindly consented to sing their favorite song of
“The Rolling Zuyder Zee,” as they now kindly did, with flushed faces,
unmanageable hands, and much repetition of

  The ro-o-o-o-
  The ro-o-o-o-
  The ro-o-o-o-ll-
  Ing Zuyder Zee,
  Zuyder Zee,
  Zuyder Zee-e-e!

Then the turn of the three guardian angels of the fast men being
come again they get up and dance each one a breakdown which seems to
establish their lovers (now at last in the secret of the generous ruse
played upon them) firmly in their resolution to lead a better life. They
are in nowise shaken from it by the displeasure which soon shows itself
in the manner of the first and second ladies. The former is greatest in
the so-called Protean parts of the play, and is obscured somewhat by the
dancing of the latter; but she has a daughter who now comes on and sings
a song. The pensive occasion, the favorable mood of the audience, the
sympathetic attitude of the players, invite her to sing “The Maiden’s
Prayer,” and so we have “The Maiden’s Prayer.” We may be a low set,
and the song may be affected and insipid enough, but the purity of its
intention touches, and the little girl is vehemently applauded. She is
such a pretty child with her innocent face, and her artless white dress,
and blue ribbons to her waist and hair, that we will have her back
again; whereupon she runs out upon the stage, strikes up a rowdy, rowdy
air, dances a shocking little dance, and vanishes from the dismayed
vision, leaving us a considerably lower set than we were at first, and
glad of our lowness. This is the second lady’s own ground, however, and
now she comes out--in a way that banishes far from our fickle minds
all thoughts of the first lady and her mistaken child--with a medley of
singing and dancing, a bit of breakdown, of cancan, of jig, a bit of
“Le Sabre de mon Père,” and of all memorable slang songs, given with
the most grotesque and clownish spirit that ever inspired a woman. Each
member of the company follows in his or her _pas seul_, and then they
all dance together to the plain confusion of the amateur trio, whose
eyes roll like so many Zuyder Zees, as they sit lonely and motionless in
the midst. All stiffness and formality are overcome. The evening party
in fact disappears entirely, and we are suffered to see the artists
in their moments of social relaxation sitting as it were around the
theatrical fireside. They appear to forget us altogether; they exchange
winks, and nods, and jests of quite personal application; they call each
other by name, by their Christian names, their nicknames. It is not
an evening party, it is a family party, and the suggestion of home
enjoyment completes the reformation of the three fast men. We see them
marry the three fast women before we leave the house.

On another occasion, two suburban friends of the drama beheld a more
explicit precursor of the coming burlesque at one of the minor theatres
last summer. The great actress whom they had come to see on another
scene was ill, and in their disappointment they embraced the hope of
entertainment offered them at the smaller playhouse. The drama itself
was neither here nor there as to intent, but the public appetite or the
manager’s conception of it--for I am by no means sure that this whole
business was not a misunderstanding--had exacted that the actresses
should appear in so much stocking, and so little else, that it was
a horror to look upon them. There was no such exigency of dialogue,
situation, or character as asked the indecorum, and the effect upon the
unprepared spectator was all the more stupefying from the fact that most
of the ladies were not dancers, and had not countenances that consorted
with impropriety. Their faces had merely the conventional Yankee
sharpness and wanness of feature, and such difference of air and
character as should say for one and another, shop-girl, shoe-binder,
seamstress; and it seemed an absurdity and an injustice to refer to them
in any way the disclosures of the ruthlessly scant drapery. A grotesque
fancy would sport with their identity: “Did not this or that one write
poetry for her local newspaper?” so much she looked the average culture
and crudeness, and when such a one, coldly yielding to the manager’s
ideas of the public taste, stretched herself on a green baize bank with
her feet towards us, or did a similar grossness, it was hard to keep
from crying aloud in protest, that she need not do it; that nobody
really expected or wanted it of her. Nobody? Alas! there were people
there--poor souls who had the appearance of coming every night--who
plainly did expect it, and who were loud in their applauses of the chief
actress. This was a young person of a powerful physical expression,
quite unlike the rest,--who were dyspeptic and consumptive in the range
of their charms,--and she triumphed and wantoned through the scenes with
a fierce excess of animal vigor. She was all stocking, as one may
say, being habited to represent a prince; she had a raucous voice, an
insolent twist of the mouth, and a terrible trick of defying her enemies
by standing erect, chin up, hand on hip, and right foot advanced,
patting the floor. It was impossible, even in the orchestra seats, to
look at her in this attitude and not shrink before her; and on the stage
she visibly tyrannized over the invalid sisterhood with her full-blown
fascinations. These unhappy girls personated, with a pathetic effect not
to be described, such arch and fantastic creations of the poet’s mind
as Bewitchingcreature and Exquisitelittlepet, and the play was a kind
of fairy burlesque in rhyme, of the most melancholy stupidity that
ever was. Yet there was something very comical in the conditions of its
performance, and in the possibility that public and manager were
playing at cross-purposes. There we were in the pit, an assemblage of
hard-working Yankees of decently moral lives and simple traditions,
country-bred many of us and of plebeian stock and training, vulgar
enough perhaps, but probably not depraved, and, excepting the first
lady’s friends, certainly not educated to the critical enjoyment of such
spectacles; and there on the stage were those mistaken women, in
such sad variety of boniness and flabbiness as I have tried to hint,
addressing their pitiable exposure to a supposed vileness in us, and
wrenching from all original intent the innocent dullness of the
drama, which for the most part could have been as well played in
walking-dresses, to say the least.

The scene was not less amusing, as regarded the audiences, the ensuing
winter, when the English burlesque troupes which London sent us,
arrived; but it was not quite so pathetic as regarded the performers. Of
their beauty and their abandon, the historical gossiper, whom I descry
far down the future, waiting to refer to me as “A scandalous writer
of the period,” shall learn very little to his purpose of warming his
sketch with a color from mine. But I hope I may describe these ladies
as very pretty, very blonde, and very unscrupulously clever, and still
disappoint the historical gossiper. They seemed in all cases to be
English; no Yankee faces, voices, or accents were to be detected
among them. Where they were associated with people of another race,
as happened with one troupe, the advantage of beauty was upon the
Anglo-Saxon side, while that of some small shreds of propriety was with
the Latins. These appeared at times almost modest, perhaps because
they were the conventional _ballerine_, and wore the old-fashioned
ballet-skirt with its volumed gauze,--a coyness which the Englishry had
greatly modified, through an exigency of the burlesque,--perhaps because
indecorum seems, like blasphemy and untruth, somehow more graceful and
becoming in southern than in northern races.

As for the burlesques themselves, they were nothing, the performers
personally everything. M. Offenbach had opened Lemprière’s Dictionary
to the authors with “La Belle Hélène,” and there, was commonly a flimsy
raveling of parodied myth, that held together the different dances and
songs, though sometimes it was a novel or an opera burlesqued; but there
was always a song and always a dance for each lady, song and dance being
equally slangy, and depending for their effect mainly upon the natural
or simulated personal charms of the performer.

It was also an indispensable condition of the burlesque’s success, that
the characters should be reversed in their representation,--that the
men’s _rôles_ should be played by women, and that at least one female
part should be done by a man. It must be owned that the fun all came
from this character, the ladies being too much occupied with the more
serious business of bewitching us with their pretty figures to be very
amusing; whereas this wholesome man and brother, with his blonde wig,
his _panier_, his dainty feminine simperings and languishings, his
falsetto tones, and his general air of extreme fashion, was always
exceedingly droll. He was the saving grace of these stupid plays; and
I cannot help thinking that the _cancan_, as danced, in “Ivanhoe,” by
Isaac of York and the masculine Rebecca, was a moral spectacle; it
was the _cancan_ made forever absurd and harmless. But otherwise, the
burlesques were as little cheerful as profitable. The playwrights who
had adapted them to the American stage--for they were all of English
authorship--had been good enough to throw in some political allusions
which were supposed to be effective with us, but which it was sad to see
received with apathy. It was conceivable from a certain air with which
the actors delivered these, that they were in the habit of stirring
London audiences greatly with like strokes of satire; but except
where Rebecca offered a bottle of Medford rum to Cedric the Saxon, who
appeared in the figure of ex-President Johnson, they had no effect upon
us. We were cold, very cold, to suggestions of Mr. Reverdy Johnson’s now
historical speech-making and dining; General Butler’s spoons moved us
just a little; at the name of Grant we roared and stamped, of course,
though in a perfectly mechanical fashion, and without thought of any
meaning offered us; those lovely women might have coupled the hero’s
name with whatever insult they chose, and still his name would have made
us cheer them. We seemed not to care for points that were intended
to flatter us nationally. I am not aware that anybody signified
consciousness when the burlesque supported our side of the Alabama
controversy, or acknowledged the self-devotion with which a threat that
England should be made to pay was delivered by these English performers.
With an equal impassiveness we greeted allusions to Erie shares and to
the late Mr. Fiske.

The burlesque chiefly betrayed its descent from the spectacular ballet
in its undressing; but that ballet, while it demanded personal exposure,
had something very observable in its scenic splendors, and all that
marching and processioning in it was rather pretty; while in the
burlesque there seemed nothing of innocent intent. No matter what the
plot, it led always to a final great scene of breakdown,--which was
doubtless most impressive in that particular burlesque where this scene
represented the infernal world, and the ladies gave the dances of the
country with a happy conception of the deportment of lost souls. There,
after some vague and inconsequent dialogue, the wit springing from a
perennial source of humor (not to specify the violation of the seventh
commandment), the dancing commenced, each performer beginning with the
Walk-round of the negro minstrels, rendering its grotesqueness with a
wonderful frankness of movement, and then plunging into the mysteries
of her dance with a kind of infuriate grace and a fierce delight very
curious to look upon. I am aware of the historical gossiper still on the
alert for me, and I dare not say how sketchily these ladies were dressed
or indeed, more than that they were dressed to resemble circus-riders
of the other sex, but as to their own deceived nobody,--possibly did not
intend deceit. One of them was so good a player that it seemed needless
for her to go so far as she did in the dance; but she spared herself
nothing, and it remained for her merely stalwart friends to surpass her,
if possible. This inspired each who succeeded her to wantoner excesses,
to wilder insolences of hose, to fiercer bravadoes of corsage; while
those not dancing responded to the sentiment of the music by singing
shrill glees in tune with it, clapping their hands, and patting Juba, as
the act is called,--a peculiarly graceful and modest thing in woman. The
frenzy grew with every moment, and, as in another Vision of Sin,--

 “Then they started from their places,
     Moved with violence, changed in hue,
   Caught each other with wild grimaces,
     Half-invisible to the view,
   Wheeling with precipitate paces
     To the melody, till they flew,
   Hair, and eyes, and limbs, and faces
   Twisted hard in fierce embraces,
   Like to Furies, like to Graces,”--

with an occasional exchange of cuffs and kicks perfectly human. The
spectator found now himself and now the scene incredible, and indeed
they were hardly conceivable in relation to each other. A melancholy
sense of the absurdity, of the incongruity, of the whole absorbed at
last even a sense of the indecency. The audience was much the same in
appearance as other audiences, witnessing like displays at the other
theatres, and did not differ greatly from the usual theatrical house.
Not so much fashion smiled upon the efforts of these young ladies, as
upon the _cancan_ of the Signorina Morlacchi a winter earlier; but there
was a most fair appearance of honest-looking, handsomely dressed men
and women; and you could pick out, all over the parquet, faces of one
descent from the deaconship, which you wondered were not afraid
to behold one another there. The truth is, we spectators, like the
performers themselves, lacked that tradition of error, of transgression,
which casts its romance about the people of a lighter race. We had not
yet set off one corner of the Common for a Jardin Mabille; we had not
even the concert-cellars of the gay and elegant New Yorker; and nothing,
really, had happened in Boston to educate us to this new taste in
theatricals, since the fair Quakers felt moved to testify in the streets
and churches against our spiritual nakedness. Yet it was to be noted
with regret that our innocence, our respectability, had no restraining
influence upon the performance; and the fatuity of the hope cherished
by some courageous people, that the presence of virtuous persons would
reform the stage, was but too painfully evident. The doubt whether they
were not nearer right who have denounced the theatre as essentially and
incorrigibly bad would force itself upon the mind, though there was a
little comfort in the thought that, if virtue had been actually allowed
to frown upon these burlesques, the burlesques might have been abashed
into propriety. The caressing arm of the law was cast very tenderly
about the performers, and in the only case where a spectator presumed
to hiss,--it was at a _pas seul_ of the indescribable,--a policeman
descended upon him, and with the succor of two friends of the free
ballet, rent him from his place, and triumphed forth with him. Here was
an end of ungenial criticism; we all applauded zealously after that.

The peculiar character of the drama to which they devoted themselves had
produced, in these ladies, some effects doubtless more interesting than
profitable to observe. One of them, whose unhappiness it was to take
the part of _soubrette_ in the Laughable Commedietta preceding the
burlesque, was so ill at ease in drapery, so full of awkward jerks and
twitches, that she seemed quite another being when she came on later
as a radiant young gentleman in pink silk hose, and nothing of feminine
modesty in her dress excepting the very low corsage. A strange and
compassionable satisfaction beamed from her face; it was evident that
this sad business was the poor thing’s _forte_. In another company was a
lady who had conquered all the easy attitudes of young men of the second
or third fashion, and who must have been at something of a loss to
identify herself when personating a woman off the stage. But Nature
asserted herself in a way that gave a curious and scarcely explicable
shock in the case of that dancer whose impudent song required the action
of fondling a child, and who rendered the passage with an instinctive
tenderness and grace, all the more pathetic for the profaning boldness
of her super masculine dress or undress. Commonly, however, the members
of these burlesque troupes, though they were not like men, were in most
things as unlike women, and seemed creatures of a kind of alien sex,
parodying both. It was certainly a shocking thing to look at them with
their horrible prettiness, their archness in which was no charm, their
grace which put to shame. Yet whoever beheld these burlesque sisters,
must have fallen into perplexing question in his own mind as to whose
was the wrong involved. It was not the fault of the public--all of us
felt that: was it the fault of the hard-working sisterhood, bred to this
as to any other business, and not necessarily conscious of the
indecorum which pains my reader,--obliged to please somehow, and aiming,
doubtless, at nothing but applause? “La Belle Hélène” suggests the only
reasonable explanation: _“C’est la fatalité_.”


I would not willingly repose upon the friendship of a man whose local
attachments are weak. I should not demand of my intimate that he have a
yearning for the homes of his ancestors, or even the scenes of his own
boyhood; that is not in American nature; on the contrary, he is but a
poor creature who does not hate the village where he was born; yet a
sentiment for the place where one has lived two or three years, the
hotel where one has spent a week, the sleeping car in which one has
ridden from Albany to Buffalo,--so much I should think it well to exact
from my friend in proof of that sensibility and constancy without which
true friendship does not exist. So much I am ready to yield on my
own part to a friend’s demand, and I profess to have all the possible
regrets for Benicia Street, now I have left it. Over its deficiencies
I cast a veil of decent oblivion, and shall always try to look upon its
worthy and consoling aspects, which were far the more numerous. It was
never otherwise, I imagine, than an ideal region in very great measure;
and if the reader whom I have sometimes seemed to direct thither,
should seek it out, he would hardly find my Benicia Street by the city
sign-board. Yet this is not wholly because it was an ideal locality, but
because much of its reality has now become merely historical, a portion
of the tragical poetry of the past. Many of the vacant lots abutting
upon Benicia and the intersecting streets flourished up, during the four
years we knew it, into fresh-painted wooden houses, and the time came
to be when one might have looked in vain for the abandoned hoop-skirts
which used to decorate the desirable building-sites. The lessening
pasturage also reduced the herds which formerly fed in the vicinity, and
at last we caught the tinkle of the cow-bells only as the cattle were
driven past to remoter meadows. And one autumn afternoon two laborers,
hired by the city, came and threw up an earthwork on the opposite side
of the street, which they said was a sidewalk, and would add to
the value of property in the neighborhood. Not being dressed with
coal-ashes, however, during the winter, the sidewalk vanished next
summer under a growth of rag-weed, and hid the increased values with
it, and it is now an even question whether this monument of municipal
grandeur will finally be held by Art or resumed by Nature,--who indeed
has a perpetual motherly longing for her own, and may be seen in all
outlying and suburban places, pathetically striving to steal back any
neglected bits of ground and conceal them under her skirts of tattered
and shabby verdure. But whatever is the event of this contest, and
whatever the other changes wrought in the locality, it has not yet been
quite stripped of the characteristic charms which first took our hearts,
and which have been duly celebrated in these pages.

When the new house was chosen, we made preparations to leave the old
one, but preparations so gradual, that, if we had cared much more than
we did, we might have suffered greatly by the prolongation of the
agony. We proposed to ourselves to escape the miseries of moving by
transferring the contents of one room at a time, and if we did not laugh
incredulously at people who said we had better have it over at once and
be done with it, it was because we respected their feelings, and not
because we believed them. We took up one carpet after another; one wall
after another we stripped of its pictures; we sent away all the books
to begin with; and by this subtle and ingenious process, we reduced
ourselves to the discomfort of living in no house at all, as it were,
and of being at home in neither one place nor the other. Yet the logic
of our scheme remained perfect; and I do not regret its failure in
practice, for if we had been ever so loath to quit the old house, its
inhospitable barrenness would finally have hurried us forth. In fact,
does not life itself in some such fashion dismantle its tenement until
it is at last forced out of the uninhabitable place? Are not the poor
little comforts and pleasures and ornaments removed one by one, till
life, if it would be saved, must go too? We took a lesson from the
teachings of mortality, which are so rarely heeded, and we lingered over
our moving. We made the process so gradual, indeed, that I do not feel
myself all gone yet from the familiar work-room, and for aught I can
say, I still write there; and as to the guest-chamber, it is so densely
peopled by those it has lodged that it will never quite be emptied of
them. Friends also are yet in the habit of calling in the parlor, and
talking with us; and will the children never come off the stairs? Does
life, our high exemplar, leave so much behind as we did? Is this what
fills the world with ghosts?

In the getting ready to go, nothing hurt half so much as the sight of
the little girl packing her doll’s things for removal. The trousseaux
of all those elegant creatures, the wooden, the waxen, the biscuit, the
india-rubber, were carefully assorted, and arranged in various small
drawers and boxes; their house was thoughtfully put in order and locked
for transportation; their innumerable broken sets of dishes were packed
in paper and set out upon the floor, a heart-breaking little basketful.
Nothing real in this world is so affecting as some image of reality,
and this travesty of our own flitting was almost intolerable. I will not
pretend to sentiment about anything else, for everything else had in it
the element of self-support belonging to all actual afflictions. When
the day of moving finally came, and the furniture wagon, which ought to
have been only a shade less dreadful to us than a hearse, drew up at our
door, our hearts were of a Neronian hardness.

“Were I Diogenes,” says wrathful Charles Lamb in one of his letters, “I
would not move out of a kilderkin into a hogshead, though the first had
nothing but small beer in it, and the second reeked claret.” I fancy
this loathing of the transitionary state came in great part from the
rude and elemental nature of the means of moving in Lamb’s day. In
our own time, in Charlesbridge at least, everything is so perfectly
contrived, that it is in some ways a pleasant excitement to move; though
I do not commend the diversion to any but people of entire leisure, for
it cannot be denied that it is, at any rate, an interruption to work.
But little is broken, little is defaced, nothing is heedlessly outraged
or put to shame. Of course there are in every house certain objects of
comfort and even ornament which in a state of repose derive a sort of
dignity from being cracked, or scratched, or organically debilitated,
and give an idea of ancestral possession and of long descent to the
actual owner; and you must not hope that this venerable quality will
survive their public exposure upon the furniture wagon. There it
instantly perishes, like the consequence of some country notable huddled
and hustled about in the graceless and ignorant tumult of a great city.
To tell the truth, the number of things that turn shabby under the
ordeal of moving strikes a pang of unaccustomed poverty to the
heart which, loving all manner of makeshifts, is rich even in its
dilapidations. For the time you feel degraded by the spectacle of that
forlornness, and if you are a man of spirit, you try to sneak out of
association with it in the mind of the passer-by; you keep scrupulously
in-doors, or if a fancied exigency obliges you to go back and forth
between the old house and the new, you seek obscure by-ways remote from
the great street down which the wagon flaunts your ruin and decay,
and time your arrivals and departures so as to have the air of merely
dropping in at either place. This consoles you; but it deceives no one;
for the man who is moving is unmistakably stamped with transition.

Yet the momentary eclipse of these things is not the worst. It _is_
momentary; for if you will but plant them in kindly corners and
favorable exposures of the new house, a mould of respectability will
gradually overspread them again, and they will once more account for
their presence by the air of having been a long time in the family; but
there is danger that in the first moments of mortification you will be
tempted to replace them with new and costly articles. Even the best of
the old things are nothing to boast of in the hard, unpitying light
to which they are exposed, and a difficult and indocile spirit of
extravagance is evoked in the least profuse. Because of this fact alone
I should not commend the diversion of moving save to people of very
ample means as well as perfect leisure; there are more reasons than the
misery of flitting why the dweller in the kilderkin should not covet the
hogshead reeking of claret.

But the grosser misery of moving is, as I have hinted, vastly mitigated
by modern science, and what remains of it one may use himself to with
no tremendous effort. I have found that in the dentist’s chair,--that
ironically luxurious seat, cushioned in satirical suggestion of
impossible repose,--after a certain initial period of clawing, filing,
scraping, and punching, one’s nerves accommodate themselves to the
torment, and one takes almost an objective interest in the operation of
tooth-filling; and in like manner after two or three wagon-loads of your
household stuff have passed down the public street, and all your morbid
associations with them have been desecrated, you begin almost to like
it. Yet I cannot regard this abandon as a perfectly healthy emotion, and
I do not counsel my reader to mount himself upon the wagon and ride to
and fro even once, for afterwards the remembrance of such an excess will
grieve him.

Of course, I meant to imply by this that moving sometimes comes to an
end, though it is not easy to believe so while moving. The time really
arrives when you sit down in your new house, and amid whatever disorder
take your first meal there. This meal is pretty sure to be that gloomy
tea, that loathly repast of butter and toast, and some kind of cake,
with which the soul of the early-dining American is daily cast down
between the hours of six and seven in the evening; and instinctively
you compare it with the last meal you took in your old house, seeking in
vain to decide whether this is more dispiriting than that. At any rate
that was not at all the meal which the last meal in any house which
has been a home ought to be in fact, and is in books. It was hurriedly
cooked; it was served upon fugitive and irregular crockery; and it was
eaten in deplorable disorder, with the professional movers waiting
for the table outside the dining-room. It ought to have been an act of
serious devotion; it was nothing but an expiation. It should have been a
solemn commemoration of all past dinners in the place, an invocation to
their pleasant apparitions. But I, for my part, could not recall these
at all, though now I think of them with the requisite pathos, and I
know they were perfectly worthy of remembrance. I salute mournfully
the companies that have sat down at dinner there, for they are sadly
scattered now; some beyond seas, some beyond the narrow gulf, so
impassably deeper to our longing and tenderness than the seas. But
more sadly still I hail the host himself, and desire to know of him if
literature was not somehow a gayer science in those days, and if his
peculiar kind of drolling had not rather more heart in it then. In an
odd, not quite expressible fashion, something of him seems dispersed
abroad and perished in the guests he loved. I trust, of course, that all
will be restored to him when he turns--as every man past thirty feels he
may when he likes, and has the time--and resumes his youth. Or if this
feeling is only a part of the great tacit promise of eternity, I am all
the more certain of his getting back his losses.

I say that now these apposite reflections occur to me with a sufficient
ease, but that upon the true occasion for them they were absent.
So, too, at the first meal in the new house, there was none of
that desirable sense of setting up a family altar, but a calamitous
impression of irretrievable upheaval, in honor of which sackcloth and
ashes seemed the only wear. Yet even the next day the Lares and Penates
had regained something of their wonted cheerfulness, and life had begun
again with the first breakfast. In fact, I found myself already so
firmly established that, meeting the furniture cart which had moved me
the day before, I had the face to ask the driver whom they were turning
out of house and home, as if my own flitting were a memory of the
far-off past.

Not that I think the professional mover expects to be addressed in a
joking mood. I have a fancy that he cultivates a serious spirit himself,
in which he finds it easy to sympathize with any melancholy on the part
of the moving family. There is a slight flavor of undertaking in his
manner, which is nevertheless full of a subdued firmness very consoling
and supporting; though the life that he leads must be a troubled and
uncheerful one, trying alike to the muscles and the nerves. How often
must he have been charged by anxious and fluttered ladies to be very
careful of that basket of china, and those vases! How often must he have
been vexed by the ignorant terrors of gentlemen asking if he thinks
that the library-table, poised upon the top of his load, will hold!
His planning is not infallible, and when he breaks something uncommonly
precious, what does a man of his sensibility do? Is the demolition of
old homes really distressing to him, or is he inwardly buoyed up by
hopes of other and better homes for the people he moves? Can there
be any ideal of moving? Does he, perhaps, feel a pride in an artfully
constructed load, and has he something like an artist’s pang in
unloading it? Is there a choice in families to be moved, and are some
worse or better than others? Next to the lawyer and the doctor, it
appears to me that the professional mover holds the most confidential
relations towards his fellow-men. He is let into all manner of little
domestic secrets and subterfuges; I dare say he knows where half the
people in town keep their skeleton, and what manner of skeleton it
is. As for me, when I saw him making towards a certain closet door, I
planted myself firmly against it. He smiled intelligence; he knew the
skeleton was there, and that it would be carried to the new house after

I began by saying that I should wish my friend to have some sort of
local attachment; but I suppose it must be owned that this sentiment,
like pity, and the modern love-passion, is a thing so largely produced
by culture that nature seems to have little or nothing to do with it.
The first men were homeless wanderers; the patriarchs dwelt in tents,
and shifted their place to follow the pasturage, without a sigh; and for
children--the pre-historic, the antique people, of our day--moving is a
rapture. The last dinner in the old house, the first tea in the new, so
doleful to their elders, are partaken of by them with joyous riot. Their
shrill trebles echo gleefully from the naked walls and floors; they race
up and down the carpetless stairs; they menace the dislocated mirrors
and crockery; through all the chambers of desolation they frolic with
a gayety indomitable save by bodily exhaustion. If the reader is of a
moving family,--and so he is as he is an American,--he can recall
the zest he found during childhood in the moving which had for his
elders--poor victims of a factitious and conventional sentiment!--only
the salt and bitterness of tears. His spirits never fell till the
carpets were down; no sorrow touched him till order returned; if Heaven
so blessed him that his bed was made upon the floor for one night,
the angels visited his dreams. Why, then, is the mature soul, however
sincere and humble, not only grieved but mortified by flitting? Why
cannot one move without feeling the great public eye fixed in pitying
contempt upon him? This sense of abasement seems to be something quite
inseparable from the act, which is often laudable, and in every way wise
and desirable; and he whom it has afflicted is the first to turn,
after his own establishment, and look with scornful compassion upon the
overflowing furniture wagon as it passes. But I imagine that Abraham’s
neighbors, when he struck his tent, and packed his parlor and kitchen
furniture upon his camels, and started off with Mrs. Sarah to seek a new
camping-ground, did not smile at the procession, or find it worthy of
ridicule or lament. Nor did Abraham, once settled, and reposing in the
cool of the evening at the door of his tent, gaze sarcastically upon the
moving of any of his brother patriarchs.

To some such philosophical serenity we shall also return, I suppose,
when we have wisely theorized life in our climate, and shall all have
become nomads once more, following June and October up and down and
across the continent, and not suffering the full malice of the winter
and summer anywhere. But as yet, the derision that attaches to moving
attends even the goer-out of town, and the man of many trunks and a
retinue of linen-suited womankind is a pitiable and despicable object
to all the other passengers at the railroad station and on the steamboat

This is but one of many ways in which mere tradition oppresses us. I
protest that as moving is now managed in Charlesbridge, there is hardly
any reason why the master or mistress of the household should put hand
to anything; but it is a tradition that they shall dress themselves in
their worst, as for heavy work, and shall go about very shabby for
at least a day before and a day after the transition. It is a kind of
sacrifice, I suppose, to a venerable ideal; and I would never be the
first to omit it. In others I observe that this vacant and ceremonious
zeal is in proportion to an incapacity to do anything that happens
really to be required; and I believe that the truly sage person would
devote moving-day to paying visits of ceremony in his finest clothes.

[Illustration: “Vacant and ceremonious zeal.”]

As to the house which one has left, I think it would be preferable to
have it occupied as soon as possible after one’s flitting. Pilgrimages
to the dismantled shrine are certainly to be avoided by the friend of
cheerfulness. A day’s absence and emptiness wholly change its character,
though the familiarity continues, with a ghastly difference, as in the
beloved face that the life has left. It is not at all the vacant house
it was when you came first to look at it: for then hopes peopled it, and
now memories. In that golden prime you had long been boarding, and
any place in which you could keep house seemed utterly desirable. How
distinctly you recall that wet day, or that fair day, on which you went
through it and decided that this should be the guest chamber and that
the family room, and what could be done with the little back attic in
a pinch! The children could play in the dining-room; and to be sure the
parlor was rather small if you wanted to have company; but then, who
would ever want to give a party? and besides, the pump in the kitchen
was a compensation for anything. How lightly the dumb waiter ran up and

 “Qual piuma al vento!”

you sang, in very glad-heartedness. Then estimates of the number of
yards of carpeting; and how you could easily save the cost from the
difference between boarding and house-keeping. Adieu, Mrs. Brown!
henceforth let your “desirable apartments, _en suite_ or single,
furnished or unfurnished, to gentlemen only!”--this married pair is
about to escape forever from your extortions.

Well, if the years passed without making us sadder, should we be much
the wiser for their going? Now you know, little couple, that there are
extortions in this wicked world beside Mrs. Brown’s; and some other
things. But if you go into the empty house that was lately your home,
you will not, I believe, be haunted by these sordid disappointments, for
the place should evoke other regrets and meditations. Truly, though the
great fear has not come upon you here, in this room you may have known
moments when it seemed very near, and when the quick, fevered breathings
of the little one timed your own heart-beats. To that door, with many
other missives of joy and pain, came haply the dispatch which hurried
you off to face your greatest sorrow--came by night, like a voice of
God, speaking and warning, and making all your work idle and your aims
foolish. These walls have answered, how many times, to your laughter;
they have had friendly ears for the trouble that seemed to grow by
utterance. You have sat upon the threshold so many summer days; so many
winter mornings you have seen the snows drifted high about it; so often
your step has been light and heavy upon it. There is the study, where
your magnificent performances were planned, and your exceeding small
performances were achieved; hither you hurried with the first criticism
of your first book, and read it with the rapture that nothing but
a love-letter and a favorable review can awaken. Out there is the
well-known humble prospect, that was commonly but a vista into
dreamland; on the other hand is the pretty grove,--its leaves now a
little painted with the autumn, and faltering to their fall.

Yes, the place must always be sacred, but painfully sacred; and I say
again one should not go near it unless as a penance. If the reader will
suffer me the confidence, I will own that there is always a pang in the
past which is more than any pleasure it can give, and I believe that
he, if he were perfectly honest,--as Heaven forbid I or any one should
be,--would also confess as much. There is no house to which one would
return, having left it, though it were the hogshead out of which one had
moved into a kilderkin; for those associations whose perishing leaves
us free, and preserves to us what little youth we have, were otherwise
perpetuated to our burden and bondage. Let some one else, who has also
escaped from his past, have your old house; he will find it new and
untroubled by memories, while you, under another roof, enjoy a present
that borders only upon the future.

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