Infomotions, Inc.Prue and I / Curtis, George William, 1824-1892



Author: Curtis, George William, 1824-1892
Title: Prue and I
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
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Title: Prue and I

Author: George William Curtis

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PRUE AND I.

BY

GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS.

"Knitters in the sun."
_Twelfth Night._



A WORD TO THE GENTLE READER.

An old book-keeper, who wears a white cravat and black trowsers in the
morning, who rarely goes to the opera, and never dines out, is clearly
a person of no fashion and of no superior sources of information. His
only journey is from his house to his office; his only satisfaction is
in doing his duty; his only happiness is in his Prue and his children.

What romance can such a life have? What stories can such a man tell?

Yet I think, sometimes, when I look up from the parquet at the opera,
and see Aurelia smiling in the boxes, and holding her court of love,
and youth, and beauty, that the historians have not told of a fairer
queen, nor the travellers seen devouter homage. And when I rememember
that it was in misty England that quaint old George Herbert Sang of
the--

  "Sweet day so cool, so calm, so bright--
    The bridal of the earth and sky,"

I am sure that I see days as lovely in our clearer air, and do not
believe that Italian sunsets have a more gorgeous purple or a softer
gold.

So, as the circle of my little life revolves, I console myself with
believing, what I cannot help believing, that a man need not be a
vagabond to enjoy the sweetest charm of travel, but that all countries
and all times repeat themselves in his experience. This is an old
philosophy, I am told, and much favored by those who have travelled;
and I cannot but be glad that my faith has such a fine name and such
competent witnesses. I am assured, however, upon the other hand, that
such a faith is only imagination. But, if that be true, imagination is
as good as many voyages--and how much cheaper!--a consideration which
an old book-keeper can never afford to forget.

I have not found, in my experience, that travellers always bring back
with them the sunshine of Italy or the elegance of Greece. They tell
us that there are such things, and that they have seen them; but,
perhaps, they saw them, as the apples in the garden of the Hesperides
were sometimes seen--over the wall. I prefer the fruit which I can buy
in the market to that which a man tells me he saw in Sicily, but of
which there is no flavor in his story. Others, like Moses Primrose,
bring us a gross of such spectacles as we prefer not to see; so that I
begin to suspect a man must have Italy and Greece in his heart and
mind, if he would ever see them with his eyes.

I know that this may be only a device of that compassionate
imagination designed to comfort me, who shall never take but one other
journey than my daily beat. Yet there have been wise men who taught
that all scenes are but pictures upon the mind; and if I can see them
as I walk the street that leads to my office, or sit at the
office-window looking into the court, or take a little trip down the
bay or up the river, why are not my pictures as pleasant and as
profitable as those which men travel for years, at great cost of time,
and trouble, and money, to behold?

For my part, I do not believe that any man can see softer skies than I
see in Prue's eyes; nor hear sweeter music than I hear in Prue's
voice; nor find a more heaven-lighted temple than I know Prue's mind
to be. And when I wish to please myself with a lovely image of peace
and contentment, I do not think of the plain of Sharon, nor of the
valley of Enna, nor of Arcadia, nor of Claude's pictures; but, feeling
that the fairest fortune of my life is the right to be named with her,
I whisper gently, to myself, with a smile--for it seems as if my very
heart smiled within me, when I think of her--"Prue and I."



CONTENTS.

  I. DINNER-TIME
 II. MY CHATEAUX
III. SEA FROM SHORE
 IV. TITBOTTOM'S SPECTACLES
  V. A CRUISE IN THE FLYING DUTCHMAN
 VI. FAMILY PORTRAITS
VII. OUR COUSIN THE CURATE



DINNER-TIME.

  "Within this hour it will be dinner-time;
  I'll view the manners of the town,
  Peruse the traders, gaze upon the buildings."
  _Comedy of Errors_.


In the warm afternoons of the early summer, it is my pleasure to
stroll about Washington Square and along the Fifth Avenue, at the hour
when the diners-out are hurrying to the tables of the wealthy and
refined. I gaze with placid delight upon the cheerful expanse of white
waistcoat that illumes those streets at that hour, and mark the
variety of emotions that swell beneath all that purity. A man going
out to dine has a singular cheerfulness of aspect.  Except for his
gloves, which fit so well, and which he has carefully buttoned, that
he may not make an awkward pause in the hall of his friend's house, I
am sure he would search his pocket for a cent to give the wan beggar
at the corner. It is impossible just now, my dear woman; but God bless
you!

It is pleasant to consider that simple suit of black.  If my man be
young and only lately cognizant of the rigors of the social law, he is
a little nervous at being seen in his dress suit--body coat and black
trowsers--before sunset. For in the last days of May the light lingers
long over the freshly leaved trees in the Square, and lies warm along
the Avenue. All winter the sun has not been permitted to see
dress-coats.  They come out only with the stars, and fade with ghosts,
before the dawn. Except, haply, they be brought homeward before
breakfast in an early twilight of hackney-coach. Now, in the budding
and bursting summer, the sun takes his revenge, and looks aslant over
the tree-tops and the chimneys upon the most unimpeachable garments. A
cat may look upon a king.

I know my man at a distance. If I am chatting with the nursery maids
around the fountain, I see him upon the broad walk of Washington
Square, and detect him by the freshness of his movement his springy
gait. Then the white waistcoat flashes in the sun.

"Go on, happy youth," I exclaim aloud, to the great alarm of the
nursery maids, who suppose me to be an innocent insane person suffered
to go at large, unattended,--"go on, and be happy with fellow
waistcoats over fragrant wines."

It is hard to describe the pleasure in this amiable spectacle of a man
going out to dine. I, who am a quiet family man, and take a quiet
family cut at four o'clock; or, when I am detained down town by a
false quantity in my figures, who run into Delmonico's and seek
comfort in a cutlet, am rarely invited to dinner and have few white
waistcoats.  Indeed, my dear Prue tells me that I have but one in the
world, and I often want to confront my eager young friends as they
bound along, and ask abruptly, "What do you think of a man whom one
white waistcoat suffices?"

By the time I have eaten my modest repast, it is the hour for the
diners-out to appear. If the day is unusually soft and sunny, I hurry
my simple meal a little, that I may not lose any of my favorite
spectacle.  Then I saunter out. If you met me you would see that I am
also clad in black. But black is my natural color, so that it begets
no false theories concerning my intentions. Nobody, meeting me in full
black, supposes that I am going to dine out. That sombre hue is
professional with me. It belongs to book-keepers as to clergymen,
physicians, and undertakers. We wear it because we follow solemn
callings. Saving men's bodies and souls, or keeping the machinery of
business well wound, are such sad professions that it is becoming to
drape dolefully those who adopt them.

I wear a white cravat, too, but nobody supposes that it is in any
danger of being stained by Lafitte.  It is a limp cravat with a craven
tie. It has none of the dazzling dash of the white that my young
friends sport, or, I should say, sported; for the white cravat is now
abandoned to the sombre professions of which I spoke. My young friends
suspect that the flunkeys of the British nobleman wear such ties, and
they have, therefore, discarded them.  I am sorry to remark, also, an
uneasiness, if not downright skepticism, about the white waistcoat.
Will it extend to shirts, I ask myself with sorrow.

But there is something pleasanter to contemplate during these quiet
strolls of mine, than the men who are going to dine out, and that is,
the women. They roll in carriages to the happy houses which they shall
honor, and I strain my eyes in at the carriage window to see their
cheerful faces as they pass. I have already dined; upon beef and
cabbage, probably, if it is boiled day. I I am not expected at the
table to which Aurelia is hastening, yet no guest there shall enjoy
more than I enjoy,--nor so much, if he considers the meats the best
part of the dinner. The beauty of the beautiful Aurelia I see and
worship as she drives by. The vision of many beautiful Aurelias
driving to dinner, is the mirage of that pleasant journey of mine
along the avenue. I do not envy the Persian poets, on those
afternoons, nor long to be an Arabian traveller. For I can walk that
street, finer than any of which the Ispahan architects dreamed; and I
can see sultanas as splendid as the enthusiastic and exaggerating
Orientals describe.

But not only do I see and enjoy Aurelia's beauty I delight in her
exquisite attire. In these warm days she does not wear so much as the
lightest shawl. She is clad only in spring sunshine. It glitters in
the soft darkness of her hair. It touches the diamonds, the opals, the
pearls, that cling to her arms, and neck, and fingers. They flash back
again, and the gorgeous silks glisten, and the light laces flutter,
until the stately Aurelia seems to me, in tremulous radiance, swimming
by.

I doubt whether you who are to have the inexpressible pleasure of
dining with her, and even of sitting by her side, will enjoy more than
I. For my pleasure is inexpressible, also. And it is in this greater
than yours, that I see all the beautiful ones who are to dine at
various tables, while you only see your own circle, although that, I
will not deny, is the most desirable of all.

Beside, although my person is not present at your dinner, my fancy
is. I see Aurelia's carriage stop, and behold white-gloved servants
opening wide doors. There is a brief glimpse of magnificence for the
dull eyes of the loiterers outside; then the door closes. But my fancy
went in with Aurelia. With her, it looks at the vast mirror, and
surveys her form at length in the Psyche-glass. It gives the final
shake to the skirt, the last flirt to the embroidered handkerchief,
carefully held, and adjusts the bouquet, complete as a tropic nestling
in orange leaves. It descends with her, and marks the faint blush upon
her cheek at the thought of her exceeding beauty; the consciousness of
the most beautiful woman, that the most beautiful woman is entering
the room. There is the momentary hush, the subdued greeting, the quick
glance of the Aurelias who have arrived earlier, and who perceive in a
moment the hopeless perfection of that attire; the courtly gaze of
gentlemen, who feel the serenity of that beauty. All this my fancy
surveys; my fancy, Aurelia's invisible cavalier.

You approach with hat in hand and the thumb of your left hand in your
waistcoat pocket. You are polished and cool, and have an
irreproachable repose of manner. There are no improper wrinkles in
your cravat; your shirt-bosom does not bulge; the trowsers are
accurate about your admirable boot. But you look very stiff and
brittle. You are a little bullied by your unexceptionable
shirt-collar, which interdicts perfect freedom of movement in your
head. You are elegant, undoubtedly, but it seems as if you might break
and fall to pieces, like a porcelain vase, if you were roughly shaken.

Now, here, I have the advantage of you. My fancy quietly surveying the
scene, is subject to none of these embarrassments. My fancy will not
utter commonplaces. That will not say to the superb lady, who stands
with her flowers, incarnate May, "What a beautiful day, Miss Aurelia."
That will not feel constrained to say something, when it has nothing
to say; nor will it be obliged to smother all the pleasant things that
occur, because they would be too flattering to express.  My fancy
perpetually murmurs in Aurelia's ear, "Those flowers would not be fair
in your hand, if you yourself were not fairer. That diamond necklace
would be gaudy, if your eyes were not brighter. That queenly movement
would be awkward, if your soul were not queenlier."

You could not say such things to Aurelia, although, if you are worthy
to dine at her side, they are the very things you are longing to
say. What insufferable stuff you are talking about the weather, and
the opera, and Alboni's delicious voice, and Newport, and Saratoga!
They are all very pleasant subjects, but do you suppose Ixion talked
Thessalian politics when he was admitted to dine with Juno?

I almost begin to pity you, and to believe that a scarcity of white
waistcoats is true wisdom. For now dinner is announced, and you, O
rare felicity, are to hand down Aurelia. But you run the risk of
tumbling her expansive skirt, and you have to drop your hat upon a
chance chair, and wonder, _en passant_ who will wear it home,
which is annoying.  My fancy runs no such risk; is not at all
solicitous about its hat, and glides by the side of Aurelia, stately
as she. There! you stumble on the stair, and are vexed at your own
awkwardness, and are sure you saw the ghost of a smile glimmer along
that superb face at your side. My fancy doesn't tumble down stairs,
and what kind of looks it sees upon Aurelia's face, are its own
secret.

Is it any better, now you are seated at table?  Your companion eats
little because she wishes little.  You eat little because you think it
is elegant to do so. It is a shabby, second-hand elegance, like your
brittle behavior. It is just as foolish for you to play with the
meats, when you ought to satisfy your healthy appetite generously, as
it is for you, in the drawing-room, to affect that cool indifference
when you have real and noble interests.

I grant you that fine manners, if you please, are a fine art. But is
not monotony the destruction of art? Your manners, O happy Ixion,
banqueting with Juno, are Egyptian. They have no perspective, no
variety. They have no color, no shading. They are all on a dead level;
they are flat. Now, for you are a man of sense, you are conscious that
those wonderful eyes of Aurelia see straight through all this net-work
of elegant manners in which you have entangled yourself, and that
consciousness is uncomfortable to you. It is another trick in the game
for me, because those eyes do not pry into my fancy. How can they,
since Aurelia does not know of my existence?

Unless, indeed, she should remember the first time I saw her. It was
only last year, in May. I had dined, somewhat hastily, in
consideration of the fine day, and of my confidence that many would be
wending dinnerwards that afternoon. I saw my Prue comfortably engaged
in seating the trowsers of Adoniram, our eldest boy--an economical
care to which my darling Prue is not unequal, even in these days and
in this town--and then hurried toward the avenue. It is never much
thronged at that hour. The moment is sacred to dinner. As I paused at
the corner of Twelfth Street, by the church, you remember, I saw an
apple-woman, from whose stores I determined to finish my dessert,
which had been imperfect at home. But, mindful of meritorious and
economical Prue, I was not the man to pay exorbitant prices for
apples, and while still haggling with the wrinkled Eve who had tempted
me, I became suddenly aware of a carriage approaching, and, indeed,
already close by. I raised my eyes, still munching an apple which I
held in one hand, while the other grasped my walking-stick (true to my
instincts of dinner guests, as young women to a passing wedding or old
ones to a funeral), and beheld Aurelia!

Old in this kind of observation as I am, there was something so
graciously alluring in the look that she cast upon me, as
unconsciously, indeed, as she would have cast it upon the church,
that, fumbling hastily for my spectacles to enjoy the boon more fully,
I thoughtlessly advanced upon the apple-stand, and, in some
indescribable manner, tripping, down we all fell into the street, old
woman, apples, baskets, stand, and I, in promiscuous confusion.  As I
struggled there, somewhat bewildered, yet sufficiently self-possessed
to look after the carriage, I beheld that beautiful woman looking at
us through the back-window (you could not have done it; the integrity
of your shirt-collar would have interfered,) and smiling pleasantly,
so that her going around the corner was like a gentle sunset, so
seemed she to disappear in her own smiling; or--if you choose, in view
of the apple difficulties--like a rainbow after a storm.

If the beautiful Aurelia recalls that event, she may know of my
existence; not otherwise. And even then she knows me only as a funny
old gentleman, who, in his eagerness to look at her, tumbled over an
apple-woman.

My fancy from that moment followed her. How grateful I was to the
wrinkled Eve's extortion, and to the untoward tumble, since it
procured me the sight of that smile. I took my sweet revenge from
that. For I knew that the beautiful Aurelia entered the house of her
host with beaming eyes, and my fancy heard her sparkling story. You
consider yourself happy because you are sitting by her and helping her
to a lady-finger, or a macaroon, for which she smiles. But I was her
theme for ten mortal minutes. She was my bard, my blithe historian.
She was the Homer of my luckless Trojan fall. She set my mishap to
music, in telling it.  Think what it is to have inspired Urania; to
have called a brighter beam into the eyes of Miranda, and do not think
so much of passing Aurelia the mottoes, my dear young friend.

There was the advantage of not going to that dinner. Had I been
invited, as you were, I should have pestered Prue about the buttons on
my white waistcoat, instead of leaving her placidly piecing adolescent
trowsers. She would have been flustered, fearful of being too late, of
tumbling the garment, of soiling it, fearful of offending me in some
way, (admirable woman!) I, in my natural impatience, might have let
drop a thoughtless word, which would have been a pang in her heart and
a tear in her eye, for weeks afterward.

As I walked nervously up the avenue (for I am unaccustomed to prandial
recreations), I should not have had that solacing image of quiet Prue,
and the trowsers, as the back-ground in the pictures of the gay
figures I passed, making each, by contrast, fairer. I should have been
wondering what to say and do at the dinner. I should surely have been
very warm, and yet not have enjoyed the rich, waning sunlight. Need I
tell you that I should not have stopped for apples, but instead of
economically tumbling into the street with apples and apple-women,
whereby I merely rent my trowsers across the knee, in a manner that
Prue can readily, and at little cost, repair. I should, beyond
peradventure, have split a new dollar-pair of gloves in the effort of
straining my large hands into them, which would, also, have caused me
additional redness in the face, and renewed fluttering.

Above all, I should not have seen Aurelia passing in her carriage, nor
would she have smiled at me, nor charmed my memory with her radiance,
nor the circle at dinner with the sparkling Iliad of my woes. Then at
the table, I should not have sat by her. You would have had that
pleasure; I should have led out the maiden aunt from the country, and
have talked poultry, when I talked at all. Aurelia would not have
remarked me. Afterward, in describing the dinner to her virtuous
parents, she would have concluded, "and one old gentleman, whom I
didn't know."

No, my polished friend, whose elegant repose of manner I yet greatly
commend, I am content, if you are. How much better it was that I was
not invited to that dinner, but was permitted, by a kind fate, to
furnish a subject for Aurelia's wit.

There is one other advantage in sending your fancy to dinner, instead
of going yourself. It is, that then the occasion remains wholly fair
in your memory. You, who devote yourself to dining out, and who are to
be daily seen affably sitting down to such feasts, as I know mainly by
hearsay--by the report of waiters, guests, and others who were
present--you cannot escape the little things that spoil the picture,
and which the fancy does not see.

For instance, in handing you the _potage a la Bisque_, at the
very commencement of this dinner to-day, John, the waiter, who never
did such a thing before, did this time suffer the plate to tip, so
that a little of that rare soup dripped into your lap--just enough to
spoil those trowsers, which is nothing to you, because you can buy a
great many more trowsers, but which little event is inharmonious with
the fine porcelain dinner service, with the fragrant wines, the
glittering glass, the beautiful guests, and the mood of mind suggested
by all of these. There is, in fact, if you will pardon a free use of
the vernacular, there is a grease-spot upon your remembrance of this
dinner.

Or, in the same way, and with the same kind of mental result, you can
easily imagine the meats a little tough; a suspicion of smoke
somewhere in the sauces; too much pepper, perhaps, or too little salt;
or there might be the graver dissonance of claret not properly
attempered, or a choice Rhenish below the average mark, or the
spilling of some of that Arethusa Madeira, marvellous for its
innumerable circumnavigations of the globe, and for being as dry as
the conversation of the host. These things are not up to the high
level of the dinner; for wherever Aurelia dines, all accessories
should be as perfect in their kind as she, the principal, is in hers.

That reminds me of a possible dissonance worse than all. Suppose that
soup had trickled down the unimaginable _berthe_ of Aurelia's
dress (since it might have done so), instead of wasting itself upon
your trowsers! Could even the irreproachable elegance of your manners
have contemplated, unmoved, a grease-spot upon your remembrance of the
peerless Aurelia?

You smile, of course, and remind me that that lady's manners are so
perfect that, if she drank poison, she would wipe her mouth after it
as gracefully as ever. How much more then, you say, in the case of
such a slight _contretemps_ as spotting her dress, would she
appear totally unmoved.

So she would, undoubtedly. She would be, and look, as pure as ever;
but, my young friend, her dress would not. Once, I dropped a pickled
oyster in the lap of my Prue, who wore, on the occasion, her sea-green
silk gown. I did not love my Prue the less; but there certainly was a
very unhandsome spot upon her dress. And although I know my Prue to be
spotless, yet, whenever I recall that day, I see her in a spotted
gown, and I would prefer never to have been obliged to think of her in
such a garment.

Can you not make the application to the case, very likely to happen,
of some disfigurement of that exquisite toilette of Aurelia's? In
going down stairs, for instance, why should not heavy old Mr
Carbuncle, who is coming close behind with Mrs.  Peony, both very
eager for dinner, tread upon the hem of that garment which my lips
would grow pale to kiss? The august Aurelia, yielding to natural laws,
would be drawn suddenly backward--a very undignified movement--and the
dress would be dilapidated. There would be apologies, and smiles, and
forgiveness, and pinning up the pieces, nor would there be the
faintest feeling of awkwardness or vexation in Aurelia's mind. But to
you, looking on, and, beneath all that pure show of waistcoat, cursing
old Carbuncle's carelessness, this tearing of dresses and repair of
the toilette is by no means a poetic and cheerful spectacle. Nay, the
very impatience that it produces in your mind jars upon the harmony of
the moment.

You will respond, with proper scorn, that you are not so absurdly
fastidious as to heed the little necessary drawbacks of social
meetings, and that you have not much regard for "the harmony of the
occasion" (which phrase I fear you will repeat in a sneering
tone). You will do very right in saying this; and it is a remark to
which I shall give all the hospitality of my mind, and I do so because
I heartily coincide in it. I hold a man to be very foolish who will
not eat a good dinner because the table-cloth is not clean, or who
cavils at the spots upon the sun. But still a man who does not apply
his eye to a telescope or some kind of prepared medium, does not see
those spots, while he has just as much light and heat as he who does.

So it is with me. I walk in the avenue, and eat all the delightful
dinners without seeing the spots upon the table-cloth, and behold all
the beautiful Aurelias without swearing at old Carbuncle. I am the
guest who, for the small price of invisibility, drinks only the best
wines, and talks only to the most agreeable people. That is something,
I can tell you, for you might be asked to lead out old Mrs.  Peony. My
fancy slips in between you and Aurelia, sit you never so closely
together. It not only hears what she says, but it perceives what she
thinks and feels. It lies like a bee in her flowery thoughts, sucking
all their honey. If there are unhandsome or unfeeling guests at table,
it will not see them.  It knows only the good and fair. As I stroll in
the fading light and observe the stately houses, my fancy believes the
host equal to his house, and the courtesy of his wife more agreeable
than her conservatory.  It will not believe that the pictures on the
wall and the statues in the corners shame the guests. It will not
allow that they are less than noble. It hears them speak gently of
error, and warmly of worth. It knows that they commend heroism and
devotion, and reprobate insincerity.  My fancy is convinced that the
guests are not only feasted upon the choicest fruits of every land and
season, but are refreshed by a consciousness of greater loveliness and
grace in human character.  Now you, who actually go to the dinner, may
not entirely agree with the view my fancy takes of that
entertainment. Is it not, therefore, rather your loss? Or, to put it
in another way, ought I to envy you the discovery that the guests
_are_ shamed by the statues and pictures;--yes, and by the spoons
and forks also, if they should chance neither to be so genuine nor so
useful as those instruments?  And, worse than this, when your fancy
wishes to enjoy the picture which mine forms of that feast, it cannot
do so, because you have foolishly interpolated the fact between the
dinner and your fancy.

Of course, by this time it is late twilight, and the spectacle I
enjoyed is almost over. But not quite, for as I return slowly along
the streets, the windows are open, and only a thin haze of lace or
muslin separates me from the Paradise within.

I see the graceful cluster of girls hovering over the piano, and the
quiet groups of the elders in easy chairs, around little tables. I
cannot hear what is said, nor plainly see the faces. But some hoyden
evening wind, more daring than I, abruptly parts the cloud to look in,
and out comes a gush of light, music, and fragrance, so that I shrink
away into the dark, that I may not seem, even by chance, to have
invaded that privacy.

Suddenly there is singing. It is Aurelia, who does not cope with the
Italian Prima Donna, nor sing indifferently to-night, what was sung,
superbly last evening at the opera. She has a strange, low, sweet
voice, as if she only sang in the twilight. It is the ballad of "Allan
Percy" that she sings.  There is no dainty applause of kid gloves,
when it is ended, but silence follows the singing, like a tear.

Then you, my young friend, ascend into the drawing-room, and, after a
little graceful gossip, retire; or you wait, possibly, to hand Aurelia
into her carriage, and to arrange a waltz for to-morrow evening. She
smiles, you bow, and it is over. But it is not yet over with me. My
fancy still follows her, and, like a prophetic dream, rehearses her
destiny.  For, as the carriage rolls away into the darkness and I
return homewards, how can my fancy help rolling away also, into the
dim future, watching her go down the years?

Upon my way home I see her in a thousand new situations. My fancy says
to me, "The beauty of this beautiful woman is heaven's stamp upon
virtue.  She will be equal to every chance that shall befall her, and
she is so radiant and charming in the circle of prosperity, only
because she has that irresistible simplicity and fidelity of
character, which can also pluck the sting from adversity. Do you not
see, you wan old book-keeper in faded cravat, that in a poor man's
house this superb Aurelia would be more stately than sculpture, more
beautiful than painting, and more graceful than the famous
vases. Would her husband regret the opera if she sang 'Allan Percy' to
him in the twilight? Would he not feel richer than the Poets, when his
eyes rose from their jewelled pages, to fall again dazzled by the
splendor of his wife's beauty?"

At this point in my reflections I sometimes run, rather violently,
against a lamp-post, and then proceed along the street more sedately.

It is yet early when I reach home, where my Prue awaits me. The
children are asleep, and the trowsers mended. The admirable woman is
patient of my idiosyncrasies, and asks me if I have had a pleasant
walk, and if there were many fine dinners to-day, as if I had been
expected at a dozen tables.  She even asks me if I have seen the
beautiful Aurelia (for there is always some Aurelia,) and inquires
what dress she wore. I respond, and dilate upon what I have seen. Prue
listens, as the children listen to her fairy tales. We discuss the
little stories that penetrate our retirement, of the great people who
actually dine out. Prue, with fine womanly instinct, declares it is a
shame that Aurelia should smile for a moment upon ----, yes, even upon
you, my friend of the irreproachable manners!

"I know him," says my simple Prue; "I have watched his cold courtesy,
his insincere devotion.  I have seen him acting in the boxes at the
opera, much more adroitly than the singers upon the stage.  I have
read his determination to marry Aurelia; and I shall not be
surprised," concludes my tender wife, sadly, "if he wins her at last,
by tiring her out, or, by secluding her by his constant devotion from
the homage of other men, convinces her that she had better marry him,
since it is so dismal to live on unmarried."

And so, my friend, at the moment when the bouquet you ordered is
arriving at Aurelia's house, and she is sitting before the glass while
her maid arranges the last flower in her hair, my darling Prue, whom
you will never hear of, is shedding warm tears over your probable
union, and I am sitting by, adjusting my cravat and incontinently
clearing my throat.

It is rather a ridiculous business, I allow; yet you will smile at it
tenderly, rather than scornfully, if you remember that it shows how
closely linked we human creatures are, without knowing it, and that
more hearts than we dream of enjoy our happiness and share our sorrow.

Thus, I dine at great tables uninvited, and, unknown, converse with
the famous beauties. If Aurelia is at last engaged, (but who is
worthy?)  she will, with even greater care, arrange that wondrous
toilette, will teach that lace a fall more alluring, those gems a
sweeter light. But even then, as she rolls to dinner in her carriage,
glad that she is fair, not for her own sake nor for the world's, but
for that of a single youth (who, I hope, has not been smoking at the
club all the morning), I, sauntering upon the sidewalk, see her pass,
I pay homage to her beauty, and her lover can do no more; and if,
perchance, my garments--which must seem quaint to her, with their
shining knees and carefully brushed elbows; my white cravat, careless,
yet prim; my meditative movement, as I put my stick under my arm to
pare an apple, and not, I hope, this time to fall into the
street,--should remind her, in her spring of youth, and beauty, and
love, that there are age, and care, and poverty, also; then, perhaps,
the good fortune of the meeting is not wholly mine.

For, O beautiful Aurelia, two of these things, at least, must come
even to you. There will be a time when you will no longer go out to
dinner, or only very quietly, in the family. I shall be gone then: but
other old book-keepers in white cravats will inherit my tastes, and
saunter, on summer afternoons, to see what I loved to see.

They will not pause, I fear, in buying apples, to look at the old lady
in venerable cap, who is rolling by in the carriage. They will worship
another Aurelia. You will not wear diamonds or opals any more, only
one pearl upon your blue-veined finger--your engagement ring. Grave
clergymen and antiquated beaux will hand you down to dinner, and the
group of polished youth, who gather around the yet unborn Aurelia of
that day, will look at you, sitting quietly upon the sofa, and say,
softly, "She must have been very handsome in her time."

All this must be: for consider how few years since it was your
grandmother who was the belle, by whose side the handsome, young men
longed to sit and pass expressive mottoes. Your grandmother was the
Aurelia of a half-century ago, although you cannot fancy her
young. She is indissolubly associated in your mind with caps and dark
dresses. You can believe Mary Queen of Scots, or Nell Gwyn or
Cleopatra, to have been young and blooming, although they belong to
old and dead centuries, but not your grandmother. Think of those who
shall believe the same of you--you, who to-day are the very flower of
youth.

Might I plead with you, Aurelia--I, who would be too happy to receive
one of those graciously beaming bows that I see you bestow upon young
men, in passing,--I would ask you to bear that thought with you,
always, not to sadden your sunny smile, but to give it a more subtle
grace. Wear in your summer garland this little leaf of rue. It will
not be the skull at the feast, it will rather be the tender
thoughtfulness in the face of the young Madonna.

For the years pass like summer clouds, Aurelia, and the children of
yesterday are the wives and mothers of to-day. Even I do sometimes
discover the mild eyes of my Prue fixed pensively upon my face, as if
searching for the bloom which she remembers there in the days, long
ago, when we were young. She will never see it there again, any more
than the flowers she held in her hand, in our old spring rambles. Yet
the tear that slowly gathers as she gazes, is not grief that the bloom
has faded from my cheek, but the sweet consciousness that it can never
fade from my heart; and as her eyes fall upon her work again, or the
children climb her lap to hear the old fairy tales they already know
by heart, my wife Prue is dearer to me than the sweetheart of those
days long ago.



MY CHATEAUX.

  "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
  A stately pleasure-dome decree."
  _Coleridge._


I am the owner of great estates. Many of them lie in the West; but the
greater part are in Spain.  You may see my western possessions any
evening at sunset when their spires and battlements flash against the
horizon.

It gives me a feeling of pardonable importance, as a proprietor, that
they are visible, to my eyes at least, from any part of the world in
which I chance to be. In my long voyage around the Cape of Good Hope
to India (the only voyage I ever made, when I was a boy and a
supercargo), if I fell home-sick, or sank into a reverie of all the
pleasant homes I had left behind, I had but to wait until sunset, and
then looking toward the west, I beheld my clustering pinnacles and
towers brightly burnished as if to salute and welcome me.

So, in the city, if I get vexed and wearied, and cannot find my wonted
solace in sallying forth at dinner-time to contemplate the gay world
of youth and beauty hurrying to the congress of fashion,--or if I
observe that years are deepening their tracks around the eyes of my
wife, Prue, I go quietly up to the housetop, toward evening, and
refresh myself with a distant prospect of my estates. It is as dear to
me as that of Eton to the poet Gray; and, if I sometimes wonder at
such moments whether I shall find those realms as fair as they appear,
I am suddenly reminded that the night air may be noxious, and
descending, I enter the little parlor where Prue sits stitching, and
surprise that precious woman by exclaiming with the poet's pensive
enthusiasm;

  "Thought would destroy their Paradise,
  No more;--where ignorance is bliss,
  'Tis folly to be wise."

Columbus, also, had possessions in the West; and as I read aloud the
romantic story of his life, my voice quivers when I come to the point
in which it is related that sweet odors of the land mingled with the
sea-air, as the admiral's fleet approached the shores; that tropical
birds flew out and fluttered around the ships, glittering in the sun,
the gorgeous promises of the new country; that boughs, perhaps with
blossoms not all decayed, floated out to welcome the strange wood from
which the craft were hollowed. Then I cannot restrain myself, I think
of the gorgeous visions I have seen before I have even undertaken the
journey to the West, and I cry aloud to Prue:

"What sun-bright birds, and gorgeous blossoms, and celestial odors
will float out to us, my Prue, as we approach our western
possessions!"

The placid Prue raises her eyes to mine with a reproof so delicate
that it could not be trusted to words; and, after a moment, she
resumes her knitting and I proceed.

These are my western estates, but my finest castles are in Spain. It
is a country famously romantic, and my castles are all of perfect
proportions, and appropriately set in the most picturesque situations.
I have never been to Spain myself, but I have naturally conversed much
with travellers to that country; although, I must allow, without
deriving from them much substantial information about my property
there. The wisest of them told me that there were more holders of real
estate in Spain than in any other region he had ever heard of, and
they are all great proprietors. Every one of them possesses a
multitude of the stateliest castles.  From conversation with them you
easily gather that each one considers his own castles much the largest
and in the loveliest positions. And, after I had heard this said, I
verified it, by discovering that all my immediate neighbors in the
city were great Spanish proprietors.

One day as I raised my head from entering some long and tedious
accounts in my books, and began to reflect that the quarter was
expiring, and that I must begin to prepare the balance-sheet, I
observed my subordinate, in office but not in years, (for poor old
Titbottom will never see sixty again!) leaning on his hand, and much
abstracted.

"Are you not well, Titbottom!" asked I.

"Perfectly, but I was just building a castle in Spain," said he.

I looked at his rusty coat, his faded hands, his sad eye, and white
hair, for a moment, in great surprise, and then inquired,

"Is it possible that you own property there too?"

He shook his head silently; and still leaning on his hand, and with an
expression in his eye, as if he were looking upon the most fertile
estate of Andalusia, he went on making his plans; laying out his
gardens, I suppose, building terraces for the vines, determining a
library with a southern exposure, and resolving which should be the
tapestried chamber.

"What a singular whim," thought I, as I watched Titbottom and filled
up a cheque for four hundred dollars, my quarterly salary, "that a man
who owns castles in Spain should be deputy book-keeper at nine hundred
dollars a year!"

When I went home I ate my dinner silently, and afterward sat for a
long time upon the roof of the house, looking at my western property,
and thinking of Titbottom.

It is remarkable that none of the proprietors have ever been to Spain
to take possession and report to the rest of us the state of our
property there. I, of course, cannot go, I am too much engaged. So is
Titbottom.  And I find it is the case with all the proprietors.  We
have so much to detain us at home that we cannot get away. But it is
always so with rich men.  Prue sighed once as she sat at the window
and saw Bourne, the millionaire, the President of innumerable
companies, and manager and director of all the charitable societies in
town, going by with wrinkled brow and hurried step. I asked her why
she sighed.

"Because I was remembering that my mother used to tell me not to
desire great riches, for they occasioned great cares," said she.

"They do indeed," answered I, with emphasis, remembering Titbottom,
and the impossibility of looking after my Spanish estates.

Prue turned and looked at me with mild surprise; but I saw that her
mind had gone down the street with Bourne. I could never discover if
he held much Spanish stock. But I think he does. All the Spanish
proprietors have a certain expression.  Bourne has it to a remarkable
degree. It is a kind of look, as if, in fact, a man's mind were in
Spain.  Bourne was an old lover of Prue's, and he is not married,
which is strange for a man in his position.

It is not easy for me to say how I know so much, as I certainly do,
about my castles in Spain. The sun always shines upon them. They stand
lofty and fair in a luminous, golden atmosphere, a little hazy and
dreamy, perhaps, like the Indian summer, but in which no gales blow
and there are no tempests.  All the sublime mountains, and beautiful
valleys, and soft landscape, that I have not yet seen, are to be found
in the grounds. They command a noble view of the Alps; so fine,
indeed, that I should be quite content with the prospect of them from
the highest tower of my castle, and not care to go to Switzerland.

The neighboring ruins, too, are as picturesque as those of Italy, and
my desire of standing in the Coliseum, and of seeing the shattered
arches of the Aqueducts stretching along the Campagna and melting into
the Alban Mount, is entirely quenched.  The rich gloom of my orange
groves is gilded by fruit as brilliant of complexion and exquisite of
flavor as any that ever dark-eyed Sorrento girls, looking over the
high plastered walls of southern Italy, hand to the youthful
travellers, climbing on donkeys up the narrow lane beneath.

The Nile flows through my grounds. The Desert lies upon their edge,
and Damascus stands in my garden. I am given to understand, also, that
the Parthenon has been removed to my Spanish possessions.  The
Golden-Horn is my fish-preserve; my flocks of golden fleece are
pastured on the plain of Marathon, and the honey of Hymettus is
distilled from the flowers that grow in the vale of Enna--all in my
Spanish domains.

From the windows of those castles look the beautiful women whom I have
never seen, whose portraits the poets have painted. They wait for me
there, and chiefly the fair-haired child, lost to my eyes so long ago,
now bloomed into an impossible beauty. The lights that never shone,
glance at evening in the vaulted halls, upon banquets that were never
spread. The bands I have never collected, play all night long, and
enchant the brilliant company, that was never assembled, into silence.

In the long summer mornings the children that I never had, play in the
gardens that I never planted.  I hear their sweet voices sounding low
and far away, calling, "Father! Father!" I see the lost fair-haired
girl, grown now into a woman, descending the stately stairs of my
castle in Spain, stepping out upon the lawn, and playing with those
children.  They bound away together down the garden; but those voices
linger, this time airily calling, "Mother!  mother!"

But there is a stranger magic than this in my Spanish estates. The
lawny slopes on which, when a child, I played, in my father's old
country place, which was sold when he failed, are all there, and not a
flower faded, nor a blade of grass sere. The green leaves have not
fallen from the spring woods of half a century ago, and a gorgeous
autumn has blazed undimmed for fifty years, among the trees I
remember.

Chestnuts are not especially sweet to my palate now, but those with
which I used to prick my fingers when gathering them in New Hampshire
woods are exquisite as ever to my taste, when I think of eating them
in Spain. I never ride horseback now at home; but in Spain, when I
think of it, I bound over all the fences in the country, barebacked
upon the wildest horses. Sermons I am apt to find a little soporific
in this country; but in Spain I should listen as reverently as ever,
for proprietors must set a good example on their estates.

Plays are insufferable to me here--Prue and I never go. Prue, indeed,
is not quite sure it is moral; but the theatres in my Spanish castles
are of a prodigious splendor, and when I think of going there, Prue
sits in a front box with me--a kind of royal box--the good woman,
attired in such wise as I have never seen her here, while I wear my
white waistcoat, which in Spain has no appearance of mending, but
dazzles with immortal newness, and is a miraculous fit.

Yes, and in those castles in Spain, Prue is not the placid,
breeches-patching helpmate, with whom you are acquainted, but her face
has a bloom which we both remember, and her movement a grace which my
Spanish swans emulate, and her voice a music sweeter than those that
orchestras discourse.  She is always there what she seemed to me when
I fell in love with her, many and many years ago.  The neighbors
called her then a nice, capable girl; and certainly she did knit and
darn with a zeal and success to which my feet and my legs have
testified for nearly half a century. But she could spin a finer web
than ever came from cotton, and in its subtle meshes my heart was
entangled, and there has reposed softly and happily ever since. The
neighbors declared she could make pudding and cake better than any
girl of her age; but stale bread from Prue's hand was ambrosia to my
palate.

"She who makes every thing well, even to making neighbors speak well
of her, will surely make a good wife," said I to myself when I knew
her; and the echo of a half century answers, "a good wife."

So, when I meditate my Spanish castles, I see Prue in them as my heart
saw her standing by her father's door. "Age cannot wither her." There
is a magic in the Spanish air that paralyzes Time.  He glides by,
unnoticed and unnoticing. I greatly admire the Alps, which I see so
distinctly from my Spanish windows; I delight in the taste of the
southern fruit that ripens upon my terraces; I enjoy the pensive shade
of the Italian ruins in my gardens; I like to shoot crocodiles, and
talk with the Sphinx upon the shores of the Nile, flowing through my
domain; I am glad to drink sherbet in Damascus, and fleece my flocks
on the plains of Marathon; but I would resign all these for ever
rather than part with that Spanish portrait of Prue for a day. Nay,
have I not resigned them all for ever, to live with that portrait's
changing original?

I have often wondered how I should reach my castles. The desire of
going comes over me very strongly sometimes, and I endeavor to see how
I can arrange my affairs, so as to get away. To tell the truth, I am
not quite sure of the route,--I mean, to that particular part of Spain
in which my estates lie. I have inquired very particularly, but nobody
seems to know precisely. One morning I met young Aspen, trembling with
excitement.

"What's the matter?" asked I with interest, for I knew that he held a
great deal of Spanish stock.

"Oh!" said he, "I'm going out to take possession.  I have found the
way to my castles in Spain."

"Dear me!" I answered, with the blood streaming into my face; and,
heedless of Prue, pulling my glove until it ripped--"what is it?"

"The direct route is through California," answered he.

"But then you have the sea to cross afterward," said I, remembering
the map.

"Not at all," answered Aspen, "the road runs along the shore of the
Sacramento River."

He darted away from me, and I did not meet him again. I was very
curious to know if he arrived safely in Spain, and was expecting every
day to hear news from him of my property there, when, one evening, I
bought an extra, full of California news, and the first thing upon
which my eye fell was this: "Died, in San Francisco, Edward Aspen,
Esq., aged 35." There is a large body of the Spanish stockholders who
believe with Aspen, and sail for California every week. I have not yet
heard of their arrival out at their castles, but I suppose they are so
busy with their own affairs there, that they have no time to write to
the rest of us about the condition of our property.

There was my wife's cousin, too, Jonathan Bud, who is a good, honest,
youth from the country, and, after a few weeks' absence, he burst into
the office one day, just as I was balancing my books, and whispered to
me, eagerly:

"I've found my castle in Spain."

I put the blotting-paper in the leaf deliberately, for I was wiser now
than when Aspen had excited me, and looked at my wife's cousin,
Jonathan Bud, inquiringly.

"Polly Bacon," whispered he, winking.

I continued the interrogative glance.

"She's going to marry me, and she'll show me the way to Spain," said
Jonathan Bud, hilariously.

"She'll make you walk Spanish, Jonathan Bud," said I.

And so she does. He makes no more hilarious remarks. He never bursts
into a room. He does not ask us to dinner. He says that Mrs. Bud does
not like smoking. Mrs. Bud has nerves and babies.  She has a way of
saying, "Mr. Bud!" which destroys conversation, and casts a gloom upon
society.

It occurred to me that Bourne, the millionaire, must have ascertained
the safest and most expeditious route to Spain; so I stole a few
minutes one afternoon, and went into his office. He was sitting at his
desk, writing rapidly, and surrounded by files of papers and patterns,
specimens, boxes, everything that covers the tables of a great
merchant.  In the outer rooms clerks were writing. Upon high shelves
over their heads, were huge chests, covered with dust, dingy with age,
many of them, and all marked with the name of the firm, in large black
letters--"Bourne & Dye." They were all numbered also with the proper
year; some of them with a single capital B, and dates extending back
into the last century, when old Bourne made the great fortune, before
he went into partnership with Dye. Everything was indicative of
immense and increasing prosperity.

There were several gentlemen in waiting to converse with Bourne (we
all call him so, familiarly, down town), and I waited until they went
out. But others came in. There was no pause in the rush.  All kinds of
inquiries were made and answered. At length I stepped up.

"A moment, please, Mr. Bourne."

He looked up hastily, wished me good morning which he had done to none
of the others, and which courtesy I attributed to Spanish sympathy.
"What is it, sir?" he asked, blandly, but with wrinkled brow.

"Mr. Bourne, have you any castles in Spain?"  said I, without preface.

He looked at me for a few moments without speaking, and without
seeming to see me. His brow gradually smoothed, and his eyes,
apparently looking into the street, were really, I have no doubt,
feasting upon the Spanish landscape.

"Too many, too many," said he at length, musingly, shaking his head,
and without addressing me.

I suppose he felt himself too much extended--as we say in Wall
Street. He feared, I thought, that he had too much impracticable
property elsewhere, to own so much in Spain; so I asked,

"Will you tell me what you consider the shortest and safest route
thither, Mr. Bourne? for, of course, a man who drives such an immense
trade with all parts of the world, will know all that I have come to
inquire."

"My dear sir," answered he wearily, "I have been trying all my life to
discover it; but none of my ships have ever been there--none of my
captains have any report to make. They bring me, as they brought my
father, gold dust from Guinea; ivory, pearls, and precious stones,
from every part of the earth; but not a fruit, not a solitary flower,
from one of my castles in Spain. I have sent clerks, agents, and
travellers of all kinds, philosophers, pleasure-hunters, and invalids,
in all sorts of ships, to all sorts of places, but none of them ever
saw or heard of my castles, except one young poet, and he died in a
mad-house."

"Mr. Bourne, will you take five thousand at ninety-seven?" hastily
demanded a man, whom, as he entered, I recognized as a broker. "We'll
make a splendid thing of it."

Bourne nodded assent, and the broker disappeared.

"Happy man!" muttered the merchant, as the broker went out; "he has no
castles in Spain."

"I am sorry to have troubled you, Mr. Bourne," said I, retiring.

"I am glad you came," returned he; "but I assure you, had I known the
route you hoped to ascertain from me, I should have sailed years and
years ago. People sail for the North-west Passage, which is nothing
when you have found it. Why don't the English Admiralty fit out
expeditions to discover all our castles in Spain?"

He sat lost in thought.

"It's nearly post-time, sir," said the clerk.

Mr. Bourne did not heed him. He was still musing; and I turned to go,
wishing him good morning. When I had nearly reached the door, he
called me back, saying, as if continuing his remarks--

"It is strange that you, of all men, should come to ask me this
question. If I envy any man, it is you, for I sincerely assure you
that I supposed you lived altogether upon your Spanish estates. I once
thought I knew the way to mine. I gave directions for furnishing them,
and ordered bridal bouquets, which were never used, but I suppose they
are there still."

He paused a moment, then said slowly--"How is your wife?"

I told him that Prue was well--that she was always remarkably
well. Mr. Bourne shook me warmly by the hand.

"Thank you," said he. "Good morning."

I knew why he thanked me; I knew why he thought that I lived
altogether upon my Spanish estates; I knew a little bit about those
bridal bouquets.  Mr. Bourne, the millionaire, was an old lover of
Prue's. There is something very odd about these Spanish castles. When
I think of them, I somehow see the fair-haired girl whom I knew when I
was not out of short jackets. When Bourne meditates them, he sees Prue
and me quietly at home in their best chambers. It is a very singular
thing that my wife should live in another man's castle in Spain.

At length I resolved to ask Titbottom if he had ever heard of the best
route to our estates. He said that he owned castles, and sometimes
there was an expression in his face, as if he saw them. I hope he
did. I should long ago have asked him if he had ever observed the
turrets of my possessions in the West, without alluding to Spain, if I
had not feared he would suppose I was mocking his poverty.  I hope his
poverty has not turned his head, for he is very forlorn.

One Sunday I went with him a few miles into the country. It was a
soft, bright day, the fields and hills lay turned to the sky, as if
every leaf and blade of grass were nerves, bared to the touch of the
sun. I almost felt the ground warm under my feet. The meadows waved
and glittered, the lights and shadows were exquisite, and the distant
hills seemed only to remove the horizon farther away. As we strolled
along, picking wild flowers, for it was in summer, I was thinking what
a fine day it was for a trip to Spain, when Titbottom suddenly
exclaimed:

"Thank God! I own this landscape."

"You," returned I.

"Certainly," said he.

"Why," I answered, "I thought this was part of Bourne's property?"

Titbottom smiled.

"Does Bourne own the sun and sky? Does Bourne own that sailing shadow
yonder? Does Bourne own the golden lustre of the grain, or the motion
of the wood, or those ghosts of hills, that glide pallid along the
horizon? Bourne owns the dirt and fences; I own the beauty that makes
the landscape, or otherwise how could I own castles in Spain?"

That was very true. I respected Titbottom more than ever.

"Do you know," said he, after a long pause, "that I fancy my castles
lie just beyond those distant hills.  At all events, I can see them
distinctly from their summits."

He smiled quietly as he spoke, and it was then I asked:

"But, Titbottom, have you never discovered the way to them?"

"Dear me! yes," answered he, "I know the way well enough; but it would
do no good to follow it.  I should give out before I arrived. It is a
long and difficult journey for a man of my years and habits--and
income," he added slowly.

As he spoke he seated himself upon the ground; and while he pulled
long blades of grass, and, putting them between his thumbs, whistled
shrilly, he said:

"I have never known but two men who reached their estates in Spain."

"Indeed!" said I, "how did they go?"

"One went over the side of a ship, and the other out of a third story
window," said Titbottom, fitting a broad blade between his thumbs and
blowing a demoniacal blast.

"And I know one proprietor who resides upon his estates constantly,"
continued he.

"Who is that?"

"Our old friend Slug, whom you may see any day at the asylum, just
coming in from the hunt, or going to call upon his friend the Grand
Lama, or dressing for the wedding of the Man in the Moon, or receiving
an ambassador from Timbuctoo. Whenever I go to see him, Slug insists
that I am the Pope, disguised as a journeyman carpenter, and he
entertains me in the most distinguished manner.  He always insists
upon kissing my foot, and I bestow upon him, kneeling, the apostolic
benediction.  This is the only Spanish proprietor in possession, with
whom I am acquainted."

And, so saying, Titbottom lay back upon the ground, and making a
spy-glass of his hand, surveyed the landscape through it. This was a
marvellous book-keeper of more than sixty!

"I know another man who lived in his Spanish castle for two months,
and then was tumbled out head first. That was young Stunning who
married old Buhl's daughter. She was all smiles, and mamma was all
sugar, and Stunning was all bliss, for two months. He carried his head
in the clouds, and felicity absolutely foamed at his eyes. He was
drowned in love; seeing, as usual, not what really was, but what he
fancied. He lived so exclusively in his castle, that he forgot the
office down town, and one morning there came a fall, and Stunning was
smashed."

Titbottom arose, and stooping over, contemplated the landscape, with
his head down between his legs.

"It's quite a new effect, so," said the nimble book-keeper.

"Well," said I, "Stunning failed?"

"Oh yes, smashed all up, and the castle in Spain came down about his
ears with a tremendous crash.  The family sugar was all dissolved into
the original cane in a moment. Fairy-times are over, are they?
Heigh-ho! the falling stones of Stunning's castle have left their
marks all over his face. I call them his Spanish scars."

"But, my dear Titbottom," said I, "what is the matter with you this
morning, your usual sedateness is quite gone?"

"It's only the exhilarating air of Spain," he answered.  "My castles
are so beautiful that I can never think of them, nor speak of them,
without excitement; when I was younger I desired to reach them even
more ardently than now, because I heard that the philosopher's stone
was in the vault of one of them."

"Indeed," said I, yielding to sympathy, "and I have good reason to
believe that the fountain of eternal youth flows through the garden of
one of mine. Do you know whether there are any children upon your
grounds?"

"'The children of Alice call Bartrum father!'"  replied Titbottom,
solemnly, and in a low voice, as he folded his faded hands before him,
and stood erect, looking wistfully over the landscape. The light wind
played with his thin white hair, and his sober, black suit was almost
sombre in the sunshine.  The half bitter expression, which I had
remarked upon his face during part of our conversation, had passed
away, and the old sadness had returned to his eye. He stood, in the
pleasant morning, the very image of a great proprietor of castles in
Spain.

"There is wonderful music there," he said: "sometimes I awake at
night, and hear it. It is full of the sweetness of youth, and love,
and a new world. I lie and listen, and I seem to arrive at the great
gates of my estates. They swing open upon noiseless hinges, and the
tropic of my dreams receives me. Up the broad steps, whose marble
pavement mingled light and shadow print with shifting mosaic, beneath
the boughs of lustrous oleanders, and palms, and trees of unimaginable
fragrance, I pass into the vestibule, warm with summer odors, and into
the presence-chamber beyond, where my wife awaits me. But castle, and
wife, and odorous woods, and pictures, and statues, and all the bright
substance of my household, seem to reel and glimmer in the splendor,
as the music fails.

"But when it swells again, I clasp the wife to my heart, and we move
on with a fair society, beautiful women, noble men, before whom the
tropical luxuriance of that world bends and bows in homage; and,
through endless days and nights of eternal summer, the stately revel
of our life proceeds.  Then, suddenly, the music stops. I hear my
watch ticking under the pillow. I see dimly the outline of my little
upper room. Then I fall asleep, and in the morning some one of the
boarders at the breakfast-table says:

"'Did you hear the serenade last night, Mr. Titbottom.'"

I doubted no longer that Titbottom was a very extensive
proprietor. The truth is, that he was so constantly engaged in
planning and arranging his castles, that he conversed very little at
the office, and I had misinterpreted his silence. As we walked
homeward, that day, he was more than ever tender and gentle. "We must
all have something to do in this world," said he, "and I, who have so
much leisure--for you know I have no wife nor children to work
for--know not what I should do, if I had not my castles in Spain to
look after."

When I reached home, my darling Prue was sitting in the small parlor,
reading. I felt a little guilty for having been so long away, and upon
my only holiday, too. So I began to say that Titbottom invited me to
go to walk, and that I had no idea we had gone so far, and that----

"Don't excuse yourself," said Prue, smiling as she laid down her book;
"I am glad you have enjoyed yourself. You ought to go out sometimes,
and breathe the fresh air, and run about the fields, which I am not
strong enough to do. Why did you not bring home Mr. Titbottom to tea?
He is so lonely, and looks so sad. I am sure he has very little
comfort in this life," said my thoughtful Prue, as she called Jane to
set the tea-table.

"But he has a good deal of comfort in Spain, Prue," answered I.

"When was Mr. Titbottom in Spain," inquired my wife.

"Why, he is there more than half the time," I replied.

Prue looked quietly at me and smiled. "I see it has done you good to
breathe the country air," said she. "Jane, get some of the blackberry
jam, and call Adoniram and the children."

So we went in to tea. We eat in the back parlor, for our little house
and limited means do not allow us to have things upon the Spanish
scale. It is better than a sermon to hear my wife Prue talk to the
children; and when she speaks to me it seems sweeter than psalm
singing; at least, such as we have in our church. I am very happy.

Yet I dream my dreams, and attend to my castles in Spain. I have so
much property there, that I could not, in conscience, neglect it. All
the years of my youth, and the hopes of my manhood, are stored away,
like precious stones, in the vaults; and I know that I shall find
everything convenient, elegant, and beautiful, when I come into
possession.

As the years go by, I am not conscious that my interest diminishes. If
I see that age is subtly sifting his snow in the dark hair of my Prue,
I smile, contented, for her hair, dark and heavy as when I first saw
it, is all carefully treasured in my castles in Spain. If I feel her
arm more heavily leaning upon mine, as we walk around the squares, I
press it closely to my side, for I know that the easy grace of her
youth's motion will be restored by the elixir of that Spanish air. If
her voice sometimes falls less clearly from her lips, it is no less
sweet to me for the music of her voice's prime fills, freshly as ever,
those Spanish halls. If the light I love fades a little from her eyes,
I know that the glances she gave me, in our youth, are the eternal
sunshine of my castles in Spain.

I defy time and change. Each year laid upon our heads, is a hand of
blessing. I have no doubt that I shall find the shortest route to my
possessions as soon as need be. Perhaps, when Adoniram is married, we
shall all go out to one of my castles to pass the honey-moon.

Ah! if the true history of Spain could be written what a book were
there! The most purely romantic ruin in the world is the Alhambra. But
of the Spanish castles, more spacious and splendid than any possible
Alhambra, and for ever unruined, no towers are visible, no pictures
have been painted, and only a few ecstatic songs have been sung. The
pleasure-dome of Kubla Khan, which Coleridge saw in Xanadu (a province
with which I am not familiar), and a fine Castle of Indolence
belonging to Thomson, and the Palace of art which Tennyson built as a
"lordly pleasure-house" for his soul, are among the best statistical
accounts of those Spanish estates.  Turner, too, has done for them
much the same service that Owen Jones has done for the Alhambra.  In
the vignette to Moore's Epicurean you will find represented one of the
most extensive castles in Spain; and there are several exquisite
studies from others, by the same artists, published in Rogers's Italy.

But I confess I do not recognize any of these as mine, and that fact
makes me prouder of my own castles, for, if there be such boundless
variety of magnificence in their aspect and exterior, imagine the life
that is led there, a life not unworthy such a setting.

If Adoniram should be married within a reasonable time, and we should
make up that little family party to go out, I have considered already
what society I should ask to meet the bride. Jephthah's daughter and
the Chevalier Bayard, I should say--and fair Rosamond with Dean
Swift--King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba would come over, I think,
from his famous castle--Shakespeare and his friend the Marquis of
Southampton might come in a galley with Cleopatra; and, if any guest
were offended by her presence, he should devote himself to the Fair
One with Golden Locks. Mephistophiles is not personally disagreeable,
and is exceedingly well-bred in society, I am told; and he should come
_tete-a-tete_ with Mrs. Rawdon Crawley. Spenser should escort his
Faerie Queen, who would preside at the tea-table.

Mr. Samuel Weller I should ask as Lord of Misrule, and Dr. Johnson as
the Abbot of Unreason. I would suggest to Major Dobbin to accompany
Mrs. Fry; Alcibiades would bring Homer and Plato in his purple-sailed
galley; and I would have Aspasia, Ninon de l'Enclos, and Mrs. Battle,
to make up a table of whist with Queen Elizabeth. I shall order a seat
placed in the oratory for Lady Jane Grey and Joan of Arc. I shall
invite General Washington to bring some of the choicest cigars from
his plantation for Sir Walter Raleigh; and Chaucer, Browning, and
Walter Savage Landor, should talk with Goethe, who is to bring Tasso
on one arm and Iphigenia on the other.

Dante and Mr. Carlyle would prefer, I suppose, to go down into the
dark vaults under the castle.  The Man in the Moon, the Old Harry, and
William of the Wisp would be valuable additions, and the Laureate
Tennyson might compose an official ode upon the occasion: or I would
ask "They" to say all about it.

Of course there are many other guests whose names I do not at the
moment recall. But I should invite, first of all, Miles Coverdale, who
knows every thing about these places and this society, for he was at
Blithedale, and he has described "a select party" which he attended at
a castle in the air.

Prue has not yet looked over the list. In fact I am not quite sure
that she knows my intention.  For I wish to surprise her, and I think
it would be generous to ask Bourne to lead her out in the bridal
quadrille. I think that I shall try the first waltz with the girl I
sometimes seem to see in my fairest castle, but whom I very vaguely
remember. Titbottom will come with old Burton and Jaques.  But I have
not prepared half my invitations. Do you not guess it, seeing that I
did not name, first of all, Elia, who assisted at the "Rejoicings upon
the new year's coming of age"?

And yet, if Adoniram should never marry?--or if we could not get to
Spain?--or if the company would not come?

What then? Shall I betray a secret? I have already entertained this
party in my humble little parlor at home; and Prue presided as
serenely as Semiramis over her court. Have I not said that I defy
time, and shall space hope to daunt me? I keep books by day, but by
night books keep me.  They leave me to dreams and reveries. Shall I
confess, that sometimes when I have been sitting, reading to my Prue,
Cymbeline, perhaps, or a Canterbury tale, I have seemed to see clearly
before me the broad highway to my castles in Spain; and as she looked
up from her work, and smiled in sympathy, I have even fancied that I
was already there.



SEA FROM SHORE

  "Come unto these yellow sands."
  _The Tempest._

  "Argosies of magic sails,
  Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales."
  _Tennyson_


In the month of June, Prue and I like to walk upon the Battery toward
sunset, and watch the steamers, crowded with passengers, bound for the
pleasant places along the coast where people pass the hot months.
Sea-side lodgings are not very comfortable, I am told; but who would
not be a little pinched in his chamber, if his windows looked upon the
sea?

In such praises of the ocean do I indulge at such times, and so
respectfully do I regard the sailors who may chance to pass, that Prue
often says, with her shrewd smiles, that my mind is a kind of
Greenwich Hospital, full of abortive marine hopes and wishes,
broken-legged intentions, blind regrets, and desires, whose hands have
been shot away in some hard battle of experience, so that they cannot
grasp the results towards which they reach.

She is right, as usual. Such hopes and intentions do lie, ruined and
hopeless now, strewn about the placid contentment of my mental life,
as the old pensioners sit about the grounds at Greenwich, maimed and
musing in the quiet morning sunshine.  Many a one among them thinks
what a Nelson he would have been if both his legs had not been
prematurely carried away; or in what a Trafalgar of triumph he would
have ended, if, unfortunately, he had not happened to have been blown
blind by the explosion of that unlucky magazine.

So I dream, sometimes, of a straight scarlet collar, stiff with gold
lace, around my neck, instead of this limp white cravat; and I have
even brandished my quill at the office so cutlass-wise, that Titbottom
has paused in his additions and looked at me as if he doubted whether
I should come out quite square in my petty cash. Yet he understands
it. Titbottom was born in Nantucket.

That is the secret of my fondness for the sea; I was born by it. Not
more surely do Savoyards pine for the mountains, or Cockneys for the
sound of Bow bells, than those who are born within sight and sound of
the ocean to return to it and renew their fealty. In dreams the
children of the sea hear its voice.

I have read in some book of travels that certain tribes of Arabs have
no name for the ocean, and that when they came to the shore for the
first time, they asked with eager sadness, as if penetrated by the
conviction of a superior beauty, "what is that desert of water more
beautiful than the land?"  And in the translations of German stories
which Adoniram and the other children read, and into which I
occasionally look in the evening when they are gone to bed--for I like
to know what interests my children--I find that the Germans, who do
not live near the sea, love the fairy lore of water, and tell the
sweet stories of Undine and Melusina, as if they had especial charm
for them, because their country is inland.

We who know the sea have less fairy feeling about it, but our
realities are romance. My earliest remembrances are of a long range of
old, half dilapidated stores; red brick stores with steep wooden
roofs, and stone window-frames and door-frames, which stood upon docks
built as if for immense trade with all quarters of the globe.

Generally there were only a few sloops moored to the tremendous posts,
which I fancied could easily hold fast a Spanish Armada in a tropical
hurricane.  But sometimes a great ship, an East Indiaman, with rusty,
seamed, blistered sides, and dingy sails, came slowly moving up the
harbor, with an air of indolent self-importance and consciousness of
superiority, which inspired me with profound respect. If the ship had
ever chanced to run down a row-boat, or a sloop, or any specimen of
smaller craft, I should only have wondered at the temerity of any
floating thing in crossing the path of such supreme majesty.  The ship
was leisurely chained and cabled to the old dock, and then came the
disembowelling.

How the stately monster had been fattening upon foreign spoils! How it
had gorged itself (such galleons did never seem to me of the feminine
gender) with the luscious treasures of the tropics! It had lain its
lazy length along the shores of China, and sucked in whole flowery
harvests of tea. The Brazilian sun flashed through the strong wicker
prisons, bursting with bananas and nectarean fruits that eschew the
temperate zone. Steams of camphor, of sandal wood, arose from the
hold. Sailors chanting cabalistic strains, that had to my ear a shrill
and monotonous pathos, like the uniform rising and falling of an
autumn wind, turned cranks that lifted the bales, and boxes, and
crates, and swung them ashore.

But to my mind, the spell of their singing raised the fragrant
freight, and not the crank. Madagascar and Ceylon appeared at the
mystic bidding of the song. The placid sunshine of the docks was
perfumed with India. The universal calm of southern seas poured from
the bosom of the ship over the quiet, decaying old northern port.

Long after the confusion of unloading was over, and the ship lay as if
all voyages were ended, I dared to creep timorously along the edge of
the dock, and at great risk of falling in the black water of its huge
shadow, I placed my hand upon the hot hulk, and so established a
mystic and exquisite connection with Pacific islands, with palm groves
and all the passionate beauties they embower; with jungles, Bengal
tigers, pepper, and the crushed feet of Chinese fairies. I touched
Asia, the Cape of Good Hope and the Happy Islands. I would not believe
that the heat I felt was of our northern sun; to my finer sympathy it
burned with equatorial fervors.

The freight was piled in the old stores. I believe that many of them
remain, but they have lost their character. When I knew them, not only
was I younger, but partial decay had overtaken the town; at least the
bulk of its India trade had shifted to New York and Boston. But the
appliances remained.  There was no throng of busy traffickers, and
after school, in the afternoon, I strolled by and gazed into the
solemn interiors.

Silence reigned within,--silence, dimness, and piles of foreign
treasure. Vast coils of cable, like tame boa-constrictors, served as
seats for men with large stomachs, and heavy watch-seals, and nankeen
trowsers, who sat looking out of the door toward the ships, with
little other sign of life than an occasional low talking, as if in
their sleep. Huge hogsheads perspiring brown sugar and oozing slow
molasses, as if nothing tropical could keep within bounds, but must
continually expand, and exude, and overflow, stood against the walls,
and had an architectural significance, for they darkly reminded me of
Egyptian prints, and in the duskiness of the low vaulted store seemed
cyclopean columns incomplete.  Strange festoons and heaps of bags,
square piles of square boxes cased in mats, bales of airy summer
stuffs, which, even in winter, scoffed at cold, and shamed it by
audacious assumption of eternal sun, little specimen boxes of precious
dyes that even now shine through my memory, like old Venetian schools
unpainted,--these were all there in rich confusion.

The stores had a twilight of dimness, the air was spicy with mingled
odors. I liked to look suddenly in from the glare of sunlight outside,
and then the cool sweet dimness was like the palpable breath of the
far off island-groves; and if only some parrot or macaw hung within,
would flaunt with glistening plumage in his cage, and as the gay hue
flashed in a chance sunbeam, call in his hard, shrill voice, as if
thrusting sharp sounds upon a glistening wire from out that grateful
gloom, then the enchantment was complete, and without moving, I was
circumnavigating the globe.

From the old stores and the docks slowly crumbling, touched, I know
not why or how, by the pensive air of past prosperity, I rambled out
of town on those well remembered afternoons, to the fields that lay
upon hillsides over the harbor, and there sat, looking out to sea,
fancying some distant sail proceeding to the glorious ends of the
earth, to be my type and image, who would so sail, stately and
successful, to all the glorious ports of the Future. Going home, I
returned by the stores, which black porters were closing. But I stood
long looking in, saturating my imagination, and as it appeared, my
clothes, with the spicy suggestion.  For when I reached home my
thrifty mother--another Prue--came snuffing and smelling about me.

"Why! my son, (_snuff, snuff,_) where have you been? (_snuff,
snuff._) Has the baker been making (_snuff_) ginger-bread? You
smell as if you'd been in (_snuff, snuff,_) a bag of cinnamon."

"I've only been on the wharves, mother."

"Well, my dear, I hope you haven't stuck up your clothes with
molasses. Wharves are dirty places, and dangerous. You must take care
of yourself, my son. Really this smell is (_snuff, snuff_,) very
strong."

But I departed from the maternal presence, proud and happy. I was
aromatic. I bore about me the true foreign air. Whoever smelt me smelt
distant countries. I had nutmeg, spices, cinnamon, and cloves, without
the jolly red-nose. I pleased myself with being the representative of
the Indies. I was in good odor with myself and all the world.

I do not know how it is, but surely Nature makes kindly provision. An
imagination so easily excited as mine could not have escaped
disappointment if it had had ample opportunity and experience of the
lands it so longed to see. Therefore, although I made the India
voyage, I have never been a traveller, and saving the little time I
was ashore in India, I did not lose the sense of novelty and romance,
which the first sight of foreign lands inspires.

That little time was all my foreign travel. I am glad of it. I see now
that I should never have found the country from which the East
Indiaman of my early days arrived. The palm groves do not grow with
which that hand laid upon the ship placed me in magic conception. As
for the lovely Indian maid whom the palmy arches bowered, she has long
since clasped some native lover to her bosom, and, ripened into mild
maternity, how should I know her now?

"You would find her quite as easily now as then," says my Prue, when I
speak of it.  She is right again, as usual, that precious woman; and
it is therefore I feel that if the chances of life have moored me fast
to a book-keeper's desk, they have left all the lands I longed to see
fairer and fresher in my mind than they could ever be in my
memory. Upon my only voyage I used to climb into the top and search
the horizon for the shore.  But now in a moment of calm thought I see
a more Indian India than ever mariner discerned, and do not envy the
youths who go there and make fortunes, who wear grass-cloth jackets,
drink iced beer, and eat curry; whose minds fall asleep, and whose
bodies have liver complaints.

Unseen by me for ever, nor ever regretted, shall wave the Egyptian
palms and the Italian pines.  Untrodden by me, the Forum shall still
echo with the footfall of imperial Rome, and the Parthenon unrifled of
its marbles, look, perfect, across the Egean blue.

My young friends return from their foreign tours elate with the smiles
of a nameless Italian, or Parisian belle. I know not such cheap
delights; I am a suitor of Vittoria Colonna; I walk with Tasso along
the terraced garden of the Villa d'Este, and look to see Beatrice
smiling down the rich gloom of the cypress shade. You staid at the
_Hotel Europa_ in Venice, at _Danielli's_ or the _Leone
bianco_; I am the guest of Marino Faliero, and I whisper to his
wife as we climb the giant staircase in the summer moonlight,

  "Ah! senza amaro
  Andare sul mare,
  Col sposo del mare,
  Non puo consolare."

It is for the same reason that I did not care to dine with you and
Aurelia, that I am content not to stand in St. Peter's. Alas! if I
could see the end of it, it would not be St. Peter's. For those of us
whom Nature means to keep at home, she provides entertainment. One man
goes four thousand miles to Italy, and does not see it, he is so
short-sighted. Another is so far-sighted that he stays in his room and
sees more than Italy.

But for this very reason that it washes the shores of my possible
Europe and Asia, the sea draws me constantly to itself. Before I came
to New York, while I was still a clerk in Boston, courting Prue, and
living out of town, I never knew of a ship sailing for India or even
for England and France, but I went up to the State House cupola or to
the observatory on some friend's house in Roxbury, where I could not
be interrupted, and there watched the departure.

The sails hung ready; the ship lay in the stream; busy little boats
and puffing steamers darted about it, clung to its sides, paddled away
from it, or led the way to sea, as minnows might pilot a whale.  The
anchor was slowly swung at the bow; I could not hear the sailors'
song, but I knew they were singing. I could not see the parting
friends, but I knew farewells were spoken. I did not share the
confusion, although I knew what bustle there was, what hurry, what
shouting, what creaking, what fall of ropes and iron, what sharp
oaths, low laughs, whispers, sobs. But I was cool, high, separate. To
me it was

  "A painted ship
  Upon a painted ocean."

The sails were shaken out, and the ship began to move. It was a fair
breeze, perhaps, and no steamer was needed to tow her away. She
receded down the bay. Friends turned back--I could not see them--and
waved their hands, and wiped their eyes, and went home to dinner.
Farther and farther from the ships at anchor, the lessening vessel
became single and solitary upon the water. The sun sank in the west;
but I watched her still.  Every flash of her sails, as she tacked and
turned, thrilled my heart.

Yet Prue was not on board. I had never seen one of the passengers or
the crew. I did not know the consignees, nor the name of the vessel. I
had shipped no adventure, nor risked any insurance, nor made any bet,
but my eyes clung to her as Ariadne's to the fading sail of
Theseus. The ship was freighted with more than appeared upon her
papers, yet she was not a smuggler. She bore all there was of that
nameless lading, yet the next ship would carry as much. She was
freighted with fancy. My hopes, and wishes, and vague desires, were
all on board. It seemed to me a treasure not less rich than that which
filled the East Indiaman at the old dock in my boyhood.

When, at length, the ship was a sparkle upon the horizon, I waved my
hand in last farewell, I strained my eyes for a last glimpse. My mind
had gone to sea, and had left noise behind. But now I heard again the
multitudinous murmur of the city, and went down rapidly, and threaded
the short, narrow, streets to the office. Yet, believe it, every dream
of that day, as I watched the vessel, was written at night to
Prue. She knew my heart had not sailed away.

Those days are long past now, but still I walk upon the Battery and
look towards the Narrows and know that beyond them, separated only by
the sea, are many of whom I would so gladly know, and so rarely
hear. The sea rolls between us like the lapse of dusky ages. They
trusted themselves to it, and it bore them away far and far as if into
the past. Last night I read of Antony, but I have not heard from
Christopher these many months, and by so much farther away is he, so
much older and more remote, than Antony. As for William, he is as
vague as any of the shepherd kings of ante-Pharaonic dynasties.

It is the sea that has done it, it has carried them off and put them
away upon its other side. It is fortunate the sea did not put them
upon its underside.  Are they hale and happy still? Is their hair
gray, and have they mustachios? Or have they taken to wigs and
crutches? Are they popes or cardinals yet? Do they feast with Lucrezia
Borgia, or preach red republicanism to the Council of Ten? Do they
sing, _Behold how brightly breaks the morning_ with Masaniello?
Do they laugh at Ulysses and skip ashore to the Syrens? Has Mesrour,
chief of the Eunuchs, caught them with Zobeide in the Caliph's garden,
or have they made cheese cakes without pepper? Friends of my youth,
where in your wanderings have you tasted the blissful Lotus, that you
neither come nor send us tidings?

Across the sea also came idle rumors, as false reports steal into
history and defile fair fames.  Was it longer ago than yesterday that
I walked with my cousin, then recently a widow, and talked with her of
the countries to which she meant to sail? She was young, and
dark-eyed, and wore great hoops of gold, barbaric gold, in her ears.
The hope of Italy, the thought of living there, had risen like a dawn
in the darkness of her mind. I talked and listened by rapid turns.

Was it longer ago than yesterday that she told me of her splendid
plans, how palaces tapestried with gorgeous paintings should be
cheaply hired, and the best of teachers lead her children to the
completest and most various knowledge; how,--and with her slender
pittance!--she should have a box at the opera, and a carriage, and
liveried servants, and in perfect health and youth, lead a perfect
life in a perfect climate?

And now what do I hear? Why does a tear sometimes drop so audibly upon
my paper, that Titbottom looks across with a sort of mild rebuking
glance of inquiry, whether it is kind to let even a single tear fall,
when an ocean of tears is pent up in hearts that would burst and
overflow if but one drop should force its way out? Why across the sea
came faint gusty stories, like low voices in the wind, of a cloistered
garden and sunny seclusion--and a life of unknown and unexplained
luxury.  What is this picture of a pale face showered with streaming
black hair, and large sad eyes looking upon lovely and noble children
playing in the sunshine--and a brow pained with thought straining into
their destiny? Who is this figure, a man tall and comely, with melting
eyes and graceful motion, who comes and goes at pleasure, who is not a
husband, yet has the key of the cloistered garden?

I do not know. They are secrets of the sea. The pictures pass before
my mind suddenly and unawares, and I feel the tears rising that I
would gladly repress. Titbottom looks at me, then stands by the window
of the office and leans his brow against the cold iron bars, and looks
down into the little square paved court. I take my hat and steal out
of the office for a few minutes, and slowly pace the hurrying
streets. Meek-eyed Alice! magnificent Maud! sweet baby Lilian! why
does the sea imprison you so far away, when will you return, where do
you linger? The water laps idly about docks,--lies calm, or gaily
heaves.  Why does it bring me doubts and fears now, that brought such
bounty of beauty in the days long gone?

I remember that the day when my dark haired cousin, with hoops of
barbaric gold in her ears, sailed for Italy, was quarter-day, and we
balanced the books at the office. It was nearly noon, and in my
impatience to be away, I had not added my columns with sufficient
care. The inexorable hand of the office clock pointed sternly towards
twelve, and the remorseless pendulum ticked solemnly to noon.

To a man whose pleasures are not many, and rather small, the loss of
such an event as saying farewell and wishing God-speed to a friend
going to Europe, is a great loss. It was so to me, especially, because
there was always more to me, in every departure, than the parting and
the farewell.  I was gradually renouncing this pleasure, as I saw
small prospect of ending before noon, when Titbottom, after looking at
me a moment, came to my side of the desk, and said:

"I should like to finish that for you."

I looked at him: poor Titbottom! he had no friends to wish God-speed
upon any journey. I quietly wiped my pen, took down my hat, and went
out. It was in the days of sail packets and less regularity, when
going to Europe was more of an epoch in life. How gaily my cousin
stood upon the deck and detailed to me her plan! How merrily the
children shouted and sang! How long I held my cousin's little hand in
mine, and gazed into her great eyes, remembering that they would see
and touch the things that were invisible to me for ever, but all the
more precious and fair! She kissed me--I was younger then--there were
tears, I remember, and prayers, and promises, a waving handkerchief,--a
fading sail.

It was only the other day that I saw another parting of the same
kind. I was not a principal, only a spectator; but so fond am I of
sharing, afar off, as it were, and unseen, the sympathies of human
beings, that I cannot avoid often going to the dock upon steamer-days
and giving myself to that pleasant and melancholy observation. There
is always a crowd, but this day it was almost impossible to advance
through the masses of people.  The eager faces hurried by; a constant
stream poured up the gangway into the steamer, and the upper deck, to
which I gradually made my way, was crowded with the passengers and
their friends.

There was one group upon which my eyes first fell, and upon which my
memory lingers. A glance, brilliant as daybreak--a voice,

  "Her voice's music,--call it the well's bubbling, the bird's
  warble,"

a goddess girdled with flowers, and smiling farewell upon a circle of
worshippers, to each one of whom that gracious calmness made the smile
sweeter, and the farewell more sad--other figures, other flowers, an
angel face--all these I saw in that group as I was swayed up and down
the deck by the eager swarm of people. The hour came, and I went on
shore with the rest. The plank was drawn away--the captain raised his
hand--the huge steamer slowly moved--a cannon was fired--the ship was
gone.

The sun sparkled upon the water as they sailed away. In five minutes
the steamer was as much separated from the shore as if it had been at
sea a thousand years.

I leaned against a post upon the dock and looked around. Ranged upon
the edge of the wharf stood that band of worshippers, waving
handkerchiefs and straining their eyes to see the last smile of
farewell--did any eager selfish eye hope to see a tear?  They to whom
the handkerchiefs were waved stood high upon the stern, holding
flowers. Over them hung the great flag, raised by the gentle wind into
the graceful folds of a canopy,--say rather a gorgeous gonfalon waved
over the triumphant departure, over that supreme youth, and bloom, and
beauty, going out across the mystic ocean to carry a finer charm and
more human splendor into those realms of my imagination beyond the
sea.

"You will return, O youth and beauty!" I said to my dreaming and
foolish self, as I contemplated those fair figures, "richer than
Alexander with Indian spoils. All that historic association, that
copious civilization, those grandeurs and graces of art, that variety
and picturesqueness of life, will mellow and deepen your experience
even as time silently touches those old pictures into a more
persuasive and pathetic beauty, and as this increasing summer sheds
ever softer lustre upon the landscape.  You will return conquerors and
not conquered.  You will bring Europe, even as Aurelian brought
Zenobia captive, to deck your homeward triumph.  I do not wonder that
these clouds break away, I do not wonder that the sun presses out and
floods all the air, and land, and water, with light that graces with
happy omens your stately farewell."

But if my faded face looked after them with such earnest and longing
emotion,--I, a solitary old man, unknown to those fair beings, and
standing apart from that band of lovers, yet in that moment bound more
closely to them than they knew,--how was it with those whose hearts
sailed away with that youth and beauty? I watched them closely from
behind my post. I knew that life had paused with them; that the world
stood still. I knew that the long, long summer would be only a
yearning regret. I knew that each asked himself the mournful question,
"Is this parting typical--this slow, sad, sweet recession?" And I knew
that they did not care to ask whether they should meet again, nor dare
to contemplate the chances of the sea.

The steamer swept on, she was near Staten Island, and a final gun
boomed far and low across the water. The crowd was dispersing, but the
little group remained. Was it not all Hood had sung?

  "I saw thee, lovely Inez,
  Descend along the shore
  With bands of noble gentlemen,
  And banners waved before;
  And gentle youths and maidens gay,
  And snowy plumes they wore;--
  It would have been a beauteous dream,
  If it had been no more!"

"O youth!" I said to them without speaking, "be it gently said, as it
is solemnly thought, should they return no more, yet in your memories
the high hour of their loveliness is for ever enshrined. Should they
come no more they never will be old, nor changed, to you. You will wax
and wane, you will suffer, and struggle, and grow old; but this summer
vision will smile, immortal, upon your lives, and those fair faces
shall shed, for ever, from under that slowly waving flag, hope and
peace."

It is so elsewhere; it is the tenderness of Nature.  Long, long ago we
lost our first-born, Prue and I. Since then, we have grown older and
our children with us. Change comes, and grief, perhaps, and decay. We
are happy, our children are obedient and gay. But should Prue live
until she has lost us all, and laid us, gray and weary, in our graves,
she will have always one babe in her heart.  Every mother who has lost
an infant, has gained a child of immortal youth. Can you find comfort
here, lovers, whose mistress has sailed away?

I did not ask the question aloud, I thought it only, as I watched the
youths, and turned away while they still stood gazing. One, I
observed, climbed a post and waved his black hat before the
white-washed side of the shed over the dock, whence I supposed he
would tumble into the water. Another had tied a handkerchief to the
end of a somewhat baggy umbrella, and in the eagerness of gazing, had
forgotten to wave it, so that it hung mournfully down, as if
overpowered with grief it could not express.  The entranced youth
still held the umbrella aloft. It seemed to me as if he had struck his
flag; or as if one of my cravats were airing in that sunlight.  A
negro carter was joking with an apple-woman at the entrance of the
dock. The steamer was out of sight.

I found that I was belated and hurried back to my desk. Alas! poor
lovers; I wonder if they are watching still? Has he fallen exhausted
from the post into the water? Is that handkerchief, bleached and rent,
still pendant upon that somewhat baggy umbrella?

"Youth and beauty went to Europe to-day," said I to Prue, as I stirred
my tea at evening.  As I spoke, our youngest daughter brought me the
sugar. She is just eighteen, and her name should be Hebe. I took a
lump of sugar and looked at her. She had never seemed so lovely, and
as I dropped the lump in my cup, I kissed her. I glanced at Prue as I
did so. The dear woman smiled, but did not answer my exclamation.

Thus, without travelling, I travel, and share the emotions of those I
do not know. But sometimes the old longing comes over me as in the
days when I timidly touched the huge East Indiaman, and magnetically
sailed around the world.

It was but a few days after the lovers and I waved farewell to the
steamer, and while the lovely figures standing under the great
gonfalon were as vivid in my mind as ever, that a day of premature
sunny sadness, like those of the Indian summer, drew me away from the
office early in the afternoon: for fortunately it is our dull season
now, and even Titbottom sometimes leaves the office by five o'clock.
Although why he should leave it, or where he goes, or what he does, I
do not well know. Before I knew him, I used sometimes to meet him with
a man whom I was afterwards told was Bartleby, the scrivener.  Even
then it seemed to me that they rather clubbed their loneliness than
made society for each other. Recently I have not seen Bartleby; but
Titbottom seems no more solitary because he is alone.

I strolled into the Battery as I sauntered about.  Staten Island
looked so alluring, tender-hued with summer and melting in the haze,
that I resolved to indulge myself in a pleasure-trip. It was a little
selfish, perhaps, to go alone, but I looked at my watch, and saw that
if I should hurry home for Prue the trip would be lost; then I should
be disappointed, and she would be grieved.

Ought I not rather (I like to begin questions, which I am going to
answer affirmatively, with _ought_,) to take the trip and recount
my adventures to Prue upon, my return, whereby I should actually enjoy
the excursion and the pleasure of telling her; while she would enjoy
my story and be glad that I was pleased? Ought I wilfully to deprive
us both of this various enjoyment by aiming at a higher, which, in
losing, we should lose all?

Unfortunaely, just as I was triumphantly answering "Certainly not!"
another question marched into my mind, escorted by a very defiant
_ought_.

"Ought I to go when I have such a debate about it?"

But while I was perplexed, and scoffing at my own scruples, the
ferry-bell suddenly rang, and answered all my questions. Involuntarily
I hurried on board. The boat slipped from the dock. I went up on deck
to enjoy the view of the city from the bay, but just as I sat down,
and meant to have said "how beautiful!" I found myself asking:

"Ought I to have come?"

Lost in perplexing debate, I saw little of the scenery of the bay; but
the remembrance of Prue and the gentle influence of the day plunged me
into a mood of pensive reverie which nothing tended to destroy, until
we suddenly arrived at the landing.

As I was stepping ashore, I was greeted by Mr.  Bourne, who passes the
summer on the island, and who hospitably asked if I were going his
way.  His way was toward the southern end of the island, and I said
yes. His pockets were full of papers and his brow of wrinkles; so when
we reached the point where he should turn off, I asked him to let me
alight, although he was very anxious to carry me wherever I was going.

"I am only strolling about," I answered, as I clambered carefully out
of the wagon.

"Strolling about?" asked he, in a bewildered manner; "'do people
stroll about, now-a-days?"

"Sometimes," I answered, smiling, as I pulled my trowsers down over my
boots, for they had dragged up, as I stepped out of the wagon, "and
beside, what can an old book-keeper do better in the dull season than
stroll about this pleasant island, and watch the ships at sea?"

Bourne looked at me with his weary eyes.

"I'd give five thousand dollars a year for a dull season," said he,
"but as for strolling, I've forgotten how."

As he spoke, his eyes wandered dreamily across the fields and woods,
and were fastened upon the distant sails.

"It is pleasant," he said musingly, and fell into silence. But I had
no time to spare, so I wished him good afternoon.

"I hope your wife is well," said Bourne to me, as I turned away. Poor
Bourne! He drove on alone in his wagon.

But I made haste to the most solitary point upon the southern shore,
and there sat, glad to be so near the sea. There was that warm,
sympathetic silence in the air, that gives to Indian-summer days
almost a human tenderness of feeling. A delicate haze, that seemed
only the kindly air made visible, hung over the sea. The water lapped
languidly among the rocks, and the voices of children in a boat
beyond, rang musically, and gradually receded, until they were lost in
the distance.

It was some time before I was aware of the outline of a large ship,
drawn vaguely upon the mist, which I supposed, at first, to be only a
kind of mirage. But the more steadfastly I gazed, the more distinct it
became, and I could no longer doubt that I saw a stately ship lying at
anchor, not more than half a mile from the land.

"It is an extraordinary place to anchor," I said to myself, "or can
she be ashore?"

There were no signs of distress; the sails were carefully clewed up,
and there were no sailors in the tops, nor upon the shrouds. A flag,
of which I could not see the device or the nation, hung heavily at the
stern, and looked as if it had fallen asleep.  My curiosity began to
be singularly excited. The form of the vessel seemed not to be
permanent; but within a quarter of an hour, I was sure that I had seen
half a dozen different ships. As I gazed, I saw no more sails nor
masts, but a long range of oars, flashing like a golden fringe, or
straight and stiff, like the legs of a sea-monster.

"It is some bloated crab, or lobster, magnified by the mist," I said
to myself, complacently.  But, at the same moment, there was a
concentrated flashing and blazing in one spot among the rigging, and
it was as if I saw a beatified ram, or, more truly, a sheep-skin,
splendid as the hair of Berenice.

"Is that the golden fleece?" I thought. "But, surely, Jason and the
Argonauts have gone home long since. Do people go on gold-fleecing
expeditions now?" I asked myself, in perplexity. "Can this be a
California steamer?"

How could I have thought it a steamer? Did I not see those sails,
"thin and sere?" Did I not feel the melancholy of that solitary bark?
It had a mystic aura; a boreal brilliancy shimmered in its wake, for
it was drifting seaward. A strange fear curdled along my veins. That
summer sun shone cool. The weary, battered ship was gashed, as if
gnawed by ice. There was terror in the air, as a "skinny hand so
brown" waved to me from the deck. I lay as one bewitched. The hand of
the ancient mariner seemed to be reaching for me, like the hand of
death.

Death? Why, as I was inly praying Prue's forgiveness for my solitary
ramble and consequent demise, a glance like the fulness of summer
splendor gushed over me; the odor of flowers and of eastern gums made
all the atmosphere. I breathed the orient, and lay drunk with balm,
while that strange ship, a golden galley now, with glittering
draperies festooned with flowers, paced to the measured beat of oars
along the calm, and Cleopatra smiled alluringly from the great
pageant's heart.

Was this a barge for summer waters, this peculiar ship I saw? It had a
ruined dignity, a cumbrous grandeur, although its masts were
shattered, and its sails rent. It hung preternaturally still upon the
sea, as if tormented and exhausted by long driving and drifting. I saw
no sailors, but a great Spanish ensign floated over, and waved, a
funereal plume.  I knew it then. The armada was long since scattered;
but, floating far

  "on desolate rainy seas,"

lost for centuries, and again restored to sight, here lay one of the
fated ships of Spain. The huge galleon seemed to fill all the air,
built up against the sky, like the gilded ships of Claude Lorraine
against the sunset.

But it fled, for now a black flag fluttered at the mast-head--a long
low vessel darted swiftly where the vast ship lay; there came a shrill
piping whistle, the clash of cutlasses, fierce ringing oaths, sharp
pistol cracks, the thunder of command, and over all the gusty yell of
a demoniac chorus,

  "My name was Robert Kidd, when I sailed."

--There were no clouds longer, but under a serene sky I saw a bark
moving with festal pomp, thronged with grave senators in flowing
robes, and one with ducal bonnet in the midst, holding a ring. The
smooth bark swam upon a sea like that of southern latitudes. I saw the
Bucentoro and the nuptials of Venice and the Adriatic.

Who where those coming over the side? Who crowded the boats, and
sprang into the water, men in old Spanish armor, with plumes and
swords, and bearing a glittering cross? Who was he standing upon the
deck with folded arms and gazing towards the shore, as lovers on their
mistresses and martyrs upon heaven? Over what distant and tumultuous
seas had this small craft escaped from other centuries and distant
shores? What sounds of foreign hymns, forgotten now, were these, and
what solemnity of debarkation? Was this grave form, Columbus?

Yet these were not so Spanish as they seemed just now. This group of
stern-faced men with high peaked hats, who knelt upon the cold deck
and looked out upon a shore which, I could see by their joyless smile
of satisfaction, was rough, and bare, and forbidding. In that soft
afternoon, standing in mournful groups upon the small deck, why did
they seem to me to be seeing the sad shores of wintry New England?
That phantom-ship could not be the May Flower!

I gazed long upon the shifting illusion.

"If I should board this ship," I asked myself, "where should I go?
whom should I meet? what should I see? Is not this the vessel that
shall carry me to my Europe, my foreign countries, my impossible
India, the Atlantis that I have lost?"

As I sat staring at it I could not but wonder whether Bourne had seen
this sail when he looked upon the water? Does he see such sights every
day, because he lives down here? Is it not perhaps a magic yacht of
his; and does he slip off privately after business hours to Venice,
and Spain, and Egypt, perhaps to El Dorado? Does he run races with
Ptolemy, Philopater and Hiero of Syracuse, rare regattas on fabulous
seas?

Why not? He is a rich, man, too, and why should not a New York
merchant do what a Syracuse tyrant and an Egyptian prince did? Has
Bourne's yacht those sumptuous chambers, like Philopater's galley, of
which the greater part was made of split cedar, and of Milesian
cypress; and has he twenty doors put together with beams of
citron-wood, with many ornaments? Has the roof of his cabin a carved
golden face, and is his sail linen with a purple fringe?

"I suppose it is so," I said to myself, as I looked wistfully at the
ship, which began to glimmer and melt in the haze.

"It certainly is not a fishing smack?" I asked, doubtfully.

No, it must be Bourne's magic yacht; I was sure of it. I could not
help laughing at poor old Hiero, whose cabins were divided into many
rooms, with floors composed of mosaic work, of all kinds of stones
tessellated. And, on this mosaic, the whole story of the Iliad was
depicted in a marvellous manner.  He had gardens "of all sorts of most
wonderful beauty, enriched with all sorts of plants, and shadowed by
roofs of lead or tiles. And, besides this, there were tents roofed
with boughs of white ivy and of the vine--the roots of which derived
their moisture from casks full of earth, and were watered in the same
manner as the gardens. There were temples, also, with doors of ivory
and citron-wood, furnished in the most exquisite manner, with pictures
and statues, and with goblets and vases of every form and shape
imaginable."

"Poor Bourne!" I said. "I suppose his is finer than Hiero's, which is
a thousand years old. Poor Bourne! I don't wonder that his eyes are
weary, and that he would pay so dearly for a day of leisure.  Dear me!
is it one of the prices that must be paid for wealth, the keeping up a
magic yacht?"

Involuntarily, I had asked the question aloud.

"The magic yacht is not Bourne's," answered a familiar voice. I looked
up, and Titbottom stood by my side. "Do you not know that all Bourne's
money would not buy the yacht?" asked he. "He cannot even see it. And
if he could, it would be no magic yacht to him, but only a battered
and solitary hulk."

The haze blew gently away, as Titbottom spoke and there lay my Spanish
galleon, my Bucentoro, my Cleopatra's galley, Columbus's Santa Maria,
and the Pilgrims' May Flower, an old bleaching wreck upon the beach.

"Do you suppose any true love is in vain?" asked Titbottom solemnly,
as he stood bareheaded, and the soft sunset wind played with his few
hairs. "Could Cleopatra smile upon Antony, and the moon upon Endymion,
and the sea not love its lovers?"

The fresh air breathed upon our faces as he spoke.  I might have
sailed in Hiero's ship, or in Roman galleys, had I lived long
centuries ago, and been born a nobleman. But would it be so sweet a
remembrance, that of lying on a marble couch, under a golden-faced
roof, and within doors of citron-wood and ivory, and sailing in that
state to greet queens who are mummies now, as that of seeing those
fair figures, standing under the great gonfalon, themselves as lovely
as Egyptian belles, and going to see more than Egypt dreamed?

The yacht was mine, then, and not Bourne's. I took Titbottom's arm,
and we sauntered toward the ferry. What sumptuous sultan was I, with
this sad vizier? My languid odalisque, the sea, lay at my feet as we
advanced, and sparkled all over with a sunset smile. Had I trusted
myself to her arms, to be borne to the realms that I shall never see,
or sailed long voyages towards Cathay, I am not sure I should have
brought a more precious present to Prue, than the story of that
afternoon.

"Ought I to have gone alone?" I asked her, as I ended.

"I ought not to have gone with you," she replied, "for I had work to
do. But how strange that you should see such things at Staten
Island. I never did, Mr. Titbottom," said she, turning to my deputy,
whom I had asked to tea.

"Madam," answered Titbottom, with a kind of wan and quaint dignity, so
that I could not help thinking he must have arrived in that stray ship
from the Spanish armada, "neither did Mr. Bourne."



TITBOTTOM'S SPECTACLES.

  "In my mind's eye, Horatio."
  _Hamlet_.


Prue and I do not entertain much; our means forbid it. In truth, other
people entertain for us.  We enjoy that hospitality of which no
account is made. We see the show, and hear the music, and smell the
flowers, of great festivities, tasting, as it were, the drippings from
rich dishes.

Our own dinner service is remarkably plain, our dinners, even on state
occasions, are strictly in keeping, and almost our only guest is
Titbottom. I buy a handful of roses as I come up from the office,
perhaps, and Prue arranges them so prettily in a glass dish for the
centre of the table, that, even when I have hurried out to see Aurelia
step into her carriage to go out to dine, I have thought that the
bouquet she carried was not more beautiful because it was more costly.

I grant that it was more harmonious with her superb beauty and her
rich attire. And I have no doubt that if Aurelia knew the old man,
whom she must have seen so often watching her, and his wife, who
ornaments her sex with as much sweetness, although with less splendor,
than Aurelia herself, she would also acknowledge that the nosegay of
roses was as fine and fit upon their table, as her own sumptuous
bouquet is for herself. I have so much faith in the perception of that
lovely lady.

It is my habit,--I hope I may say, my nature,--to believe the best of
people, rather than the worst.  If I thought that all this sparkling
setting of beauty,--this fine fashion,--these blazing jewels, and
lustrous silks, and airy gauzes, embellished with gold-threaded
embroidery and wrought in a thousand exquisite elaborations, so that I
cannot see one of those lovely girls pass me by, without thanking God
for the vision,--if I thought that this was all, and that, underneath
her lace flounces and diamond bracelets, Aurelia was a sullen, selfish
woman, then I should turn sadly homeward, for I should see that her
jewels were flashing scorn upon the object they adorned, that her
laces were of a more exquisite loveliness than the woman whom they
merely touched with a superficial grace. It would be like a gaily
decorated mausoleum,--bright to see, but silent and dark within.

"Great excellences, my dear Prue," I sometimes allow myself to say,
"lie concealed in the depths of character, like pearls at the bottom
of the sea.  Under the laughing, glancing surface, how little they are
suspected! Perhaps love is nothing else than the sight of them by one
person. Hence every man's mistress is apt to be an enigma to everybody
else.

"I have no doubt that when Aurelia is engaged, people will say she is
a most admirable girl, certainly; but they cannot understand why any
man should be in love with her. As if it were at all necessary that
they should! And her lover, like a boy who finds a pearl in the public
street, and wonders as much that others did not see it as that he did,
will tremble until he knows his passion is returned; feeling, of
course, that the whole world must be in love with this paragon, who
cannot possibly smile upon anything so unworthy as he.

"I hope, therefore, my dear Mrs. Prue," I continue, and my wife looks
up, with pleased pride, from her work, as if I were such an
irresistible humorist, "you will allow me to believe that the depth
may be calm, although the surface is dancing.  If you tell me that
Aurelia is but a giddy girl, I shall believe that you think so. But I
shall know, all the while, what profound dignity, and sweetness, and
peace, lie at the foundation of her character."

I say such things to Titbottom, during the dull season at the
office. And I have known him sometimes to reply, with a kind of dry,
sad humor, not as if he enjoyed the joke, but as if the joke must be
made, that he saw no reason why I should be dull because the season
was so.

"And what do I know of Aurelia, or any other girl?" he says to me with
that abstracted air; "I, whose Aurelias were of another century, and
another zone."

Then he falls into a silence which it seems quite profane to
interrupt. But as we sit upon our high stools, at the desk, opposite
each other, I leaning upon my elbows, and looking at him, he, with
sidelong face, glancing out of the window, as if it commanded a
boundless landscape, instead of a dim, dingy office court, I cannot
refrain from saying:

"Well!"

He turns slowly, and I go chatting on,--a little too loquacious
perhaps, about those young girls.  But I know that Titbottom regards
such an excess as venial, for his sadness is so sweet that you could
believe it the reflection of a smile from long, long years ago.

One day, after I had been talking for a long time, and we had put up
our books, and were preparing to leave, he stood for some time by the
window, gazing with a drooping intentness, as if he really saw
something more than the dark court, and said slowly:

"Perhaps you would have different impressions of things, if you saw
them through my spectacles."

There was no change in his expression. He still looked from the
window, and I said:

"Titbottom, I did not know that you used glasses.  I have never seen
you wearing spectacles."

"No, I don't often wear them. I am not very fond of looking through
them. But sometimes an irresistible necessity compels me to put them
on, and I cannot help seeing."

Titbottom sighed.

"Is it so grievous a fate to see?" inquired I.

"Yes; through my spectacles," he said, turning slowly, and looking at
me with wan solemnity.

It grew dark as we stood in the office talking, and, taking our hats,
we went out together. The narrow street of business was deserted. The
heavy iron shutters were gloomily closed over the windows.  From one
or two offices struggled the dim gleam of an early candle, by whose
light some perplexed accountant sat belated, and hunting for his
error. A careless clerk passed, whistling. But the great tide of life
had ebbed. We heard its roar far away, and the sound stole into that
silent street like the murmur of the ocean into an inland dell.

"You will come and dine with us, Titbottom?"

He assented by continuing to walk with me, and I think we were both
glad when we reached the house, and Prue came to meet us, saying:

"Do you know I hoped you would bring Mr.  Titbottom to dine?"

Titbottom smiled gently, and answered:

"He might have brought his spectacles with him, and have been a
happier man for it."

Prue looked a little puzzled.

"My dear," I said, "you must know that our friend, Mr. Titbottom, is
the happy possessor of a pair of wonderful spectacles. I have never
seen them, indeed; and, from what he says, I should be rather afraid
of being seen by them. Most short-sighted persons are very glad to
have the help of glasses; but Mr. Titbottom seems to find very little
pleasure in his."

"It is because they make him too far-sighted, perhaps," interrupted
Prue quietly, as she took the silver soup-ladle from the sideboard.

We sipped our wine after dinner, and Prue took her work. Can a man be
too far-sighted? I did not ask the question aloud. The very tone in
which Prue had spoken, convinced me that he might.

"At least," I said, "Mr. Titbottom will not refuse to tell us the
history of his mysterious spectacles.  I have known plenty of magic in
eyes (and I glanced at the tender blue eyes of Prue), but I have not
heard of any enchanted glasses."

"Yet you must have seen the glass in which your wife looks every
morning, and, I take it, that glass must be daily enchanted," said
Titbottom, with a bow of quaint respect to my wife.

I do not think I have seen such a blush upon Prue's cheek since--well,
since a great many years ago.

"I will gladly tell you the history of my spectacles," began
Titbottom. "It is very simple; and I am not at all sure that a great
many other people have not a pair of the same kind. I have never,
indeed, heard of them by the gross, like those of our young friend,
Moses, the you of the Vicar of Wakefield. In fact, I think a gross
would be quite enough to supply the world. It is a kind of article for
which the demand does not increase with use If we should all wear
spectacles like mine, we should never smile any more. Or--I am not
quite sure--we should all be very happy."

"A very important difference," said Prue, counting her stitches.

"You know my grandfather Titbottom was a West Indian. A large
proprietor, and an easy man he basked in the tropical sun, leading his
quiet, luxurious life. He lived much alone, and was what people call
eccentric--by which I understand, that he was very much himself, and,
refusing the influence of other people, they had their revenges, and
called him names. It is a habit not exclusively tropical. I think I
have seen the same thing even in this city.

"But he was greatly beloved--my bland and bountiful grandfather. He
was so large-hearted and open-handed. He was so friendly, and
thoughtful, and genial, that even his jokes had the air of graceful
benedictions. He did not seem to grow old, and he was one of those who
never appear to have been very young. He flourished in a perennial
maturity, an immortal middle-age.

"My grandfather lived upon one of the small islands--St. Kitt's,
perhaps--and his domain extended to the sea. His house, a rambling
West Indian mansion, was surrounded with deep, spacious piazzas,
covered with luxurious lounges, among which one capacious chair was
his peculiar seat. They tell me, he used sometimes to sit there for
the whole day, his great, soft, brown eyes fastened upon the sea,
watching the specks of sails that flashed upon the horizon, while the
evanescent expressions chased each other over his placid face as if it
reflected the calm and changing sea before him.

"His morning costume was an ample dressing-gown of gorgeously-flowered
silk, and his morning was very apt to last all day. He rarely read;
but he would pace the great piazza for hours, with his hands buried in
the pockets of his dressing-gown, and an air of sweet reverie, which
any book must be a very entertaining one to produce.

"Society, of course, he saw little. There was some slight apprehension
that, if he were bidden to social entertainments, he might forget his
coat, or arrive without some other essential part of his dress; and
there is a sly tradition in the Titbottom family, that once, having
been invited to a ball in honor of a new governor of the island, my
grand father Titbottom sauntered into the hall towards midnight,
wrapped in the gorgeous flowers of his dressing-gown, and with his
hands buried in the pockets, as usual. There was great excitement
among the guests, and immense deprecation of gubernatorial
ire. Fortunately, it happened that the governor and my grandfather
were old friends, and there was no offence. But, as they were
conversing together, one of the distressed managers cast indignant
glances at the brilliant costume of my grandfather, who summoned him,
and asked courteously:

"'Did you invite me, or my coat?'

"'You, in a proper coat,' replied the manager.

"The governor smiled approvingly, and looked at my grandfather.

"'My friend,' said he to the manager, 'I beg your pardon, I forgot.'

"The next day, my grandfather was seen promenading in full ball dress
along the streets of the little town.

"'They ought to know,' said he, 'that I have a proper coat, and that
not contempt, nor poverty, but forgetfulness, sent me to a ball in my
dressing-gown.'

"He did not much frequent social festivals after this failure, but he
always told the story with satisfaction and a quiet smile.

"To a stranger, life upon those little islands is uniform even to
weariness. But the old native dons, like my grandfather, ripen in the
prolonged sunshine, like the turtle upon the Bahama banks, nor know of
existence more desirable. Life in the tropics, I take to be a placid
torpidity.

"During the long, warm mornings of nearly half a century, my
grandfather Titbottom had sat in his dressing-gown, and gazed at the
sea. But one calm June day, as he slowly paced the piazza after
breakfast, his dreamy glance was arrested by a little vessel,
evidently nearing the shore. He called for his spyglass, and,
surveying the craft, saw that she came from the neighboring
island. She glided smoothly, slowly, over the summer sea. The warm
morning air was sweet with perfumes, and silent with heat. The sea
sparkled languidly, and the brilliant blue sky hung cloudlessly
over. Scores of little island vessels had my grandfather seen coming
over the horizon, and cast anchor in the port.  Hundreds of summer
mornings had the white sails flashed and faded, like vague faces
through forgotten dreams. But this time he laid down the spyglass, and
leaned against a column of the piazza, and watched the vessel with an
intentness that he could not explain. She came nearer and nearer, a
graceful spectre in the dazzling morning.

"'Decidedly, I must step down and see about that vessel,' said my
grandfather Titbottom.

"He gathered his ample dressing-gown about him, and stepped from the
piazza, with no other protection from the sun than the little
smoking-cap upon his head. His face wore a calm, beaming smile, as if
he loved the whole world. He was not an old man; but there was almost
a patriarchal pathos in his expression, as he sauntered along in the
sunshine towards the shore. A group of idle gazers was collected, to
watch the arrival. The little vessel furled her sails, and drifted
slowly landward, and, as she was of very light draft, she came close
to the shelving shore. A long plank was put out from her side, and the
debarkation commenced.

"My grandfather Titbottom stood looking on, to see the passengers as
they passed. There were but a few of them, and mostly traders from the
neighboring island. But suddenly the face of a young girl appeared
over the side of the vessel, and she stepped upon the plank to
descend. My grandfather Titbottom instantly advanced, and, moving
briskly, reached the top of the plank at the same moment, and with the
old tassel of his cap flashing in the sun, and one hand in the pocket
of his dressing-gown, with the other he handed the young lady
carefully down the plank. That young lady was afterwards my
grandmother Titbottom.

"For, over the gleaming sea which he had watched so long, and which
seemed thus to reward his patient gaze, came his bride that sunny
morning.

"'Of course, we are happy,' he used to say to her, after they were
married: 'For you are the gift of the sun I have loved so long and so
well.' And my grandfather Titbottom would lay his hand so tenderly
upon the golden hair of his young bride, that you could fancy him a
devout Parsee, caressing sunbeams.

"There were endless festivities upon occasion of the marriage; and my
grandfather did not go to one of them in his dressing-gown. The gentle
sweetness of his wife melted every heart into love and sympathy. He
was much older than she, without doubt. But age, as he used to say
with a smile of immortal youth, is a matter of feeling, not of years.

"And if, sometimes, as she sat by his side on the piazza, her fancy
looked through her eyes upon that summer sea, and saw a younger lover,
perhaps some one of those graceful and glowing heroes who occupy the
foreground of all young maidens' visions by the sea, yet she could not
find one more generous and gracious, nor fancy one more worthy and
loving than my grandfather Titbottom.

"And if, in the moonlit midnight, while he lay calmly sleeping, she
leaned out of the window, and sank into vague reveries of sweet
possibility, and watched the gleaming path of the moonlight upon the
water, until the dawn glided over it--it was only that mood of
nameless regret and longing, which underlies all human happiness; or
it was the vision of that life of cities and the world, which she had
never seen, but of which she had often read, and which looked very
fair and alluring across the sea, to a girlish imagination, which knew
that it should never see that reality.

"These West Indian years were the great days of the family," said
Titbottom, with an air of majestic and regal regret, pausing, and
musing, in our little parlor, like a late Stuart in exile, remembering
England.

Prue raised her eyes from her work, and looked at him with subdued
admiration; for I have observed that, like the rest of her sex, she
has a singular sympathy with the representative of a reduced family.

Perhaps it is their finer perception, which leads these tender-hearted
women to recognize the divine right of social superiority so much more
readily than we; and yet, much as Titbottom was enhanced in my wife's
admiration by the discovery that his dusky sadness of nature and
expression was, as it were, the expiring gleam and late twilight of
ancestral splendors, I doubt if Mr. Bourne would have preferred him
for book-keeper a moment sooner upon that account. In truth, I have
observed, down town, that the fact of your ancestors doing nothing, is
not considered good proof that you can do anything.

But Prue and her sex regard sentiment more than action, and I
understand easily enough why she is never tired of hearing me read of
Prince Charlie.  If Titbottom had been only a little younger, a little
handsomer, a little more gallantly dressed--in fact, a little more of
a Prince Charlie, I am sure her eyes would not have fallen again upon
her work so tranquilly, as he resumed his story.

"I can remember my grandfather Titbottom, although I was a very young
child, and he was a very old man. My young mother and my young
grandmother are very distinct figures in my memory, ministering to the
old gentleman, wrapped in his dressing-gown, and seated upon the
piazza. I remember his white hair, and his calm smile, and how, not
long before he died, he called me to him, and laying his hand upon my
head, said to me:

"'My child, the world is not this great sunny piazza, nor life the
fairy stories which the women tell you here, as you sit in their
laps. I shall soon be gone, but I want to leave with you some memento
of my love for you, and I know of nothing more valuable than these
spectacles, which your grandmother brought from her native island,
when she arrived here one fine summer morning, long ago. I cannot tell
whether, when you grow older, you will regard them as a gift of the
greatest value, or as something that you had been happier never to
have possessed.'

"'But, grandpapa, I am not short-sighted.'

"'My son, are you not human?' said the old gentleman; and how shall I
ever forget the thoughtful sadness with which, at the same time, he
handed me the spectacles.

"Instinctively I put them on, and looked at my grandfather. But I saw
no grandfather, no piazza, no flowered dressing-gown; I saw only a
luxuriant palm-tree, waving broadly over a tranquil landscape;
pleasant homes clustered around it; gardens teeming with fruit and
flowers; flocks quietly feeding; birds wheeling and chirping. I heard
children's voices, and the low lullaby of happy mothers. The sound of
cheerful singing came wafted from distant fields upon the light
breeze. Golden harvests glistened out of sight, and I caught their
rustling whispers of prosperity. A warm, mellow atmosphere bathed the
whole.

"I have seen copies of the landscapes of the Italian, painter Claude,
which seemed to me faint reminiscences of that calm and happy
vision. But all this peace and prosperity seemed to flow from the
spreading palm as from a fountain.

"I do not know how long I looked, but I had, apparently, no power, as
I had no will, to remove the spectacles. What a wonderful island must
Nevis be, thought I, if people carry such pictures in their pockets,
only by buying a pair of spectacles!  What wonder that my dear
grandmother Titbottom has lived such a placid life, and has blessed us
all with her sunny temper, when she has lived surrounded by such
images of peace!

"My grandfather died. But still, in the warm morning sunshine upon the
piazza, I felt his placid presence, and as I crawled into his great
chair, and drifted on in reverie through the still tropical day, it
was as if his soft dreamy eye had passed into my soul. My grandmother
cherished his memory with tender regret. A violent passion of grief
for his loss was no more possible than for the pensive decay of the
year.

"We have no portrait of him, but I see always, when I remember him,
that peaceful and luxuriant palm. And I think that to have known one
good old man--one man who, through the chances and rubs of a long
life, has carried his heart in his hand, like a palm branch, waving
all discords into peace, helps our faith in God, in ourselves, and in
each other, more than many sermons. I hardly know whether to be
grateful to my grandfather for the spectacles; and yet when I remember
that it is to them I owe the pleasant image of him which I cherish I
seem to myself sadly ungrateful.

"Madam," said Titbottom to Prue, solemnly, "my memory is a long and
gloomy gallery, and only remotely, at its further end, do I see the
glimmer of soft sunshine, and only there are the pleasant pictures
hung. They seem to me very happy along whose gallery the sunlight
streams to their very feet, striking all the pictured walls into
unfading splendor."

Prue had laid her work in her lap, and as Titbottom paused a moment,
and I turned towards her, I found her mild eyes fastened upon my face,
and glistening with many tears. I knew that the tears meant that she
felt herself to be one of those who seemed to Titbottom very happy.

"Misfortunes of many kinds came heavily upon the family after the head
was gone. The great house was relinquished. My parents were both dead,
and my grandmother had entire charge of me.  But from the moment that
I received the gift of the spectacles, I could not resist their
fascination, and I withdrew into myself, and became a solitary boy.
There were not many companions for me of my own age, and they
gradually left me, or, at least, had not a hearty sympathy with me;
for, if they teased me, I pulled out my spectacles and surveyed them
so seriously that they acquired a kind of awe of me, and evidently
regarded my grandfather's gift as a concealed magical weapon which
might be dangerously drawn upon them at any moment.  Whenever, in our
games, there were quarrels and high words, and I began to feel about
my dress and to wear a grave look, they all took the alarm, and
shouted, 'Look out for Titbottom's spectacles,' and scattered like a
flock of scared sheep.

"Nor could I wonder at it. For, at first, before they took the alarm,
I saw strange sights when I looked at them through the glasses.

"If two were quarrelling about a marble, or a ball, I had only to go
behind a tree where I was concealed and look at them leisurely. Then
the scene changed, and it was no longer a green meadow with boys
playing, but a spot which I did not recognise, and forms that made me
shudder, or smile.  It was not a big boy bullying a little one, but a
young wolf with glistening teeth and a lamb cowering before him; or,
it was a dog faithful and famishing--or a star going slowly into
eclipse--or a rainbow fading--or a flower blooming--or a sun
rising--or a waning moon.

"The revelations of the spectacles determined my feeling for the boys,
and for all whom I saw through them. No shyness, nor awkwardness, nor
silence, could separate me from those who looked lovely as lilies to
my illuminated eyes. But the vision made me afraid. If I felt myself
warmly drawn to any one, I struggled with the fierce desire of seeing
him through the spectacles, for I feared to find him something else
than I fancied. I longed to enjoy the luxury of ignorant feeling, to
love without knowing, to float like a leaf upon the eddies of life,
drifted now to a sunny point, now to a solemn shade--now over
glittering ripples, now over gleaming calms,--and not to determined
ports, a trim vessel with an inexorable rudder.

"But sometimes, mastered after long struggles, as if the unavoidable
condition of owning the spectacles were using them, I seized them and
sauntered into the little town. Putting them to my eyes I peered into
the houses and at the people who passed me. Here sat a family at
breakfast, and I stood at the window looking in. O motley meal!
fantastic vision! The good mother saw her lord sitting opposite, a
grave, respectable being, eating muffins.  But I saw only a bank-bill,
more or less crumbled and tattered, marked with a larger or lesser
figure.  If a sharp wind blew suddenly, I saw it tremble and flutter;
it was thin, flat, impalpable. I removed my glasses, and looked with
my eyes at the wife. I could have smiled to see the humid tenderness
with which she regarded her strange _vis-a-vis_. Is life only a
game of blindman's-buff? of droll cross-purposes?

"Or I put them on again, and then looked at the wives. How many stout
trees I saw,--how many tender flowers,--how many placid pools; yes,
and how many little streams winding out of sight, shrinking before the
large, hard, round eyes opposite, and slipping off into solitude and
shade, with a low, inner song for their own solace.

"In many houses I thought to see angels, nymphs, or, at least, women,
and could only find broomsticks, mops, or kettles, hurrying about,
rattling and tinkling, in a state of shrill activity. I made calls
upon elegant ladies, and after I had enjoyed the gloss of silk, and
the delicacy of lace, and the glitter of jewels, I slipped on my
spectacles, and saw a peacock's feather, flounced, and furbelowed, and
fluttering; or an iron rod, thin, sharp, and hard; nor could I
possibly mistake the movement of the drapery for any flexibility of
the thing draped.

"Or, mysteriously chilled, I saw a statue of perfect form, or flowing
movement, it might be alabaster, or bronze, or marble,--but sadly
often it was ice; and I knew that after it had shone a little, and
frozen a few eyes with its despairing perfection, it could not be put
away in the niches of palaces for ornament and proud family tradition,
like the alabaster, or bronze, or marble statues, but would melt, and
shrink, and fall coldly away in colorless and useless water, be
absorbed in the earth and utterly forgotten.

"But the true sadness was rather in seeing those who, not having the
spectacles, thought that the iron rod was flexible, and the ice statue
warm. I saw many a gallant heart, which seemed to me brave and loyal
as the crusaders, pursuing, through days and nights, and a long life
of devotion, the hope of lighting at least a smile in the cold eyes,
if not a fire in the icy heart. I watched the earnest, enthusiastic
sacrifice. I saw the pure resolve, the generous faith, the fine scorn
of doubt, the impatience of suspicion. I wratched the grace, the
ardor, the glory of devotion. Through those strange spectacles how
often I saw the noblest heart renouncing all other hope, all other
ambition, all other life, than the possible love of some one of those
statues.

"Ah! me, it was terrible, but they had not the love to give. The face
was so polished and smooth, because there was no sorrow in the
heart,--and drearily, often, no heart to be touched. I could not
wonder that the noble heart of devotion was broken, for it had dashed
itself against a stone. I wept, until my spectacles were dimmed, for
those hopeless lovers; but there was a pang beyond tears for those icy
statues.

"Still a boy, I was thus too much a man in knowledge,--I did not
comprehend the sights I was compelled to see. I used to tear my
glasses away from my eyes, and, frightened at myself, run to escape my
own consciousness. Reaching the small house where we then lived, I
plunged into my grandmother's room, and, throwing myself upon the
floor, buried my face in her lap; and sobbed myself to sleep with
premature grief.

"But when I awakened, and felt her cool hand upon my hot forehead, and
heard the low sweet song, or the gentle story, or the tenderly told
parable from the Bible, with which she tried to soothe me, I could not
resist the mystic fascination that lured me, as I lay in her lap, to
steal a glance at her through the spectacles.

"Pictures of the Madonna have not her rare and pensive beauty. Upon
the tranquil little islands her life had been eventless, and all the
fine possibilities of her nature were like flowers that never
bloomed. Placid were all her years; yet I have read of no heroine, of
no woman great in sudden crises, that it did not seem to me she might
have been. The wife and widow of a man who loved his home better than
the homes of others, I have yet heard of no queen, no belle, no
imperial beauty whom in grace, and brilliancy, and persuasive
courtesy, she might not have surpassed.

"Madam," said Titbottom to my wife, whose heart hung upon his story;
"your husband's young friend, Aurelia, wears sometimes a camelia in
her hair, and no diamond in the ball-room seems so costly as that
perfect flower, which women envy, and for whose least and withered
petal men sigh; yet, in the tropical solitudes of Brazil, how many a
camelia bud drops from the bush that no eye has ever seen, which, had
it flowered and been noticed, would have gilded all hearts with its
memory.

"When I stole these furtive glances at my grandmother, half fearing
that they were wrong, I saw only a calm lake, whose shores were low,
and over which the sun hung unbroken, so that the least star was
clearly reflected. It had an atmosphere of solemn twilight
tranquillity, and so completely did its unruffled surface blend with
the cloudless, star-studded sky, that, when I looked through my
spectacles at my grandmother, the vision seemed to me all heaven and
stars.

"Yet, as I gazed and gazed, I felt what stately cities might well have
been built upon those shores, and have flashed prosperity over the
calm, like coruscations of pearls. I dreamed of gorgeous fleets,
silken-sailed, and blown by perfumed winds, drifting over those
depthless waters and through those spacious skies. I gazed upon the
twilight, the inscrutable silence, like a God-fearing discoverer upon
a new and vast sea bursting upon him through forest glooms, and in the
fervor of whose impassioned gaze, a millenial and poetic world arises,
and man need no longer die to be happy.

"My companions naturally deserted me, for I had grown wearily grave
and abstracted: and, unable to resist the allurements of my
spectacles, I was constantly lost in the world, of which those
companions were part, yet of which they knew nothing.

"I grew cold and hard, almost morose; people seemed to me so blind and
unreasonable. They did the wrong thing. They called green, yellow; and
black, white. Young men said of a girl, 'What a lovely, simple
creature!' I looked, and there was only a glistening wisp of straw,
dry and hollow.  Or they said, 'What a cold, proud beauty!'  I looked,
and lo! a Madonna, whose heart held the world. Or they said, 'What a
wild, giddy girl!'  and I saw a glancing, dancing mountain stream,
pure as the virgin snows whence it flowed, singing through sun and
shade, over pearls and gold dust, slipping along unstained by weed or
rain, or heavy foot of cattle, touching the flowers with a dewy
kiss,--a beam of grace, a happy song, a line of light, in the dim and
troubled landscape.

"My grandmother sent me to school, but I looked at the master, and saw
that he was a smooth round ferule, or an improper noun, or a vulgar
fraction, and refused to obey him. Or he was a piece of string, a rag,
a willow-wand, and I had a contemptuous pity. But one was a well of
cool, deep water, and looking suddenly in, one day, I saw the stars.

"That one gave me all my schooling. With him I used to walk by the
sea, and, as we strolled and the waves plunged in long legions before
us, I looked at him through the spectacles, and as his eyes dilated
with the boundless view, and his chest heaved with an impossible
desire, I saw Xerxes and his army, tossed and glittering, rank upon
rank, multitude upon multitude, out of sight, but ever regularly
advancing, and with confused roar of ceaseless music, prostrating
themselves in abject homage.  Or, as with arms outstretched and hair
streaming on the wind, he chanted full lines of the resounding Iliad,
I saw Homer pacing the Aegean sands of the Greek sunsets of forgotten
times.

"My grandmother died, and I was thrown into the world without
resources, and with no capital but my spectacles. I tried to find
employment, but everybody was shy of me. There was a vague suspicion
that I was either a little crazed, or a good deal in league with the
prince of darkness. My companions, who would persist in calling a
piece of painted muslin, a fair and fragrant flower, had no
difficulty; success waited for them around every corner, and arrived
in every ship.

"I tried to teach, for I loved children. But if anything excited a
suspicion of my pupils, and putting on my spectacles, I saw that I was
fondling a snake, or smelling at a bud with a worm in it, I sprang up
in horror and ran away; or, if it seemed to me through the glasses,
that a cherub smiled upon me, or a rose was blooming in my
button-hole, then I felt myself imperfect and impure, not fit to be
leading and training what was so essentially superior to myself, and I
kissed the children and left them weeping and wondering.

"In despair I went to a great merchant on the island, and asked him to
employ me.

"'My dear young friend,' said he, 'I understand that you have some
singular secret, some charm, or spell, or amulet, or something, I
don't know what, of which people are afraid. Now you know, my dear,'
said the merchant, swelling up, and apparently prouder of his great
stomach than of his large fortune, 'I am not of that kind. I am not
easily frightened. You may spare yourself the pain of trying to impose
upon me. People who propose to come to time before I arrive, are
accustomed to arise very early in the morning,' said he, thrusting his
thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat, and spreading the fingers
like two fans, upon his bosom.  'I think I have heard something of
your secret.  You have a pair of spectacles, I believe, that you value
very much, because your grandmother brought them as a marriage portion
to your grandfather.  Now, if you think fit to sell me those
spectacles, I will pay you the largest market price for them.  What do
you say?'

"I told him I had not the slightest idea of selling my spectacles.

"'My young friend means to eat them, I suppose,' said he, with a
contemptuous smile.

"I made no reply, but was turning to leave the office, when the
merchant called after me--

"'My young friend, poor people should never suffer themselves to get
into pets. Anger is an expensive luxury, in which only men of a
certain income can indulge. A pair of spectacles and a hot temper are
not the most promising capital for success in life, Master Titbottom.'

"I said nothing, but put my hand upon the door to go out, when the
merchant said, more respect fully--

"'Well, you foolish boy, if you will not sell your spectacles, perhaps
you will agree to sell the use of them to me. That is, you shall only
put them on when I direct you, and for my purposes. Hallo!  you little
fool!' cried he, impatiently, as he saw that I intended to make no
reply.

"But I had pulled out my spectacles and put them on for my own
purposes, and against his wish and desire. I looked at him, and saw a
huge, bald-headed wild boar, with gross chaps and a leering eye--only
the more ridiculous for the high-arched, gold-bowed spectacles, that
straddled his nose One of his fore-hoofs was thrust into the safe,
where his bills receivable were hived, and the other into his pocket,
among the loose change and bills there.  His ears were pricked forward
with a brisk, sensitive smartness. In a world where prize pork was the
best excellence, he would have carried off all the premiums.

"I stepped into the next office in the street, and a mild-faced;
genial man, also a large and opulent merchant, asked me my business in
such a tone, that I instantly looked through my spectacles, and saw a
land flowing with milk and honey. There I pitched my tent, and staid
till the good man died, and his business was discontinued.

"But while there," said Titbottom, and his voice trembled away into a
sigh, "I first saw Preciosa.  Despite the spectacles, I saw
Preciosa. For days, for weeks, for months, I did not take my
spectacles with me. I ran away from them, I threw them up on high
shelves, I tried to make up my mind to throw them into the sea, or
down the well. I could not, I would not, I dared not, look at Preciosa
through the spectacles. It was not possible for me deliberately to
destroy them; but I awoke in the night, and could almost have cursed
my dear old grandfather for his gift.

"I sometimes escaped from the office, and sat for whole days with
Preciosa. I told her the strange things I had seen with my mystic
glasses. The hours were not enough for the wild romances which I raved
in her ear. She listened, astonished and appalled. Her blue eyes
turned upon me with sweet deprecation. She clung to me, and then
withdrew, and fled fearfully from the room.

"But she could not stay away. She could not resist my voice, in whose
tones burnt all the love that filled my heart and brain. The very
effort to resist the desire of seeing her as I saw everybody else,
gave a frenzy and an unnatural tension to my feeling and my manner. I
sat by her side, looking into her eyes, smoothing her hair, folding
her to my heart, which was sunken deep and deep--why not for ever?--in
that dream of peace. I ran from her presence, and shouted, and leaped
with joy, and sat the whole night through, thrilled into happiness by
the thought of her love and loveliness, like a wind harp, tightly
strung, and answering the airiest sigh of the breeze with music.

"Then came calmer days--the conviction of deep love settled upon our
lives--as after the hurrying, heaving days of spring, comes the bland
and benignant summer.

"'It is no dream, then, after all, and we are happy,' I said to her,
one day; and there came no answer, for happiness is speechless.

"'We are happy, then,' I said to myself, 'there is no excitement
now. How glad I am that I can now look at her through my spectacles.'

"I feared least some instinct should warn me to beware. I escaped from
her arms, and ran home and seized the glasses, and bounded back again
to Preciosa. As I entered the room I was heated, my head was swimming
with confused apprehensions, my eyes must have glared. Preciosa was
frightened, and rising from her seat, stood with an inquiring glance
of surprise in her eyes.

"But I was bent with frenzy upon my purpose.  I was merely aware that
she was in the room. I saw nothing else. I heard nothing. I cared for
nothing, but to see her through that magic glass, and feel at once all
the fulness of blissful perfection which that would reveal. Preciosa
stood before the mirror, but alarmed at my wild and eager movements,
unable to distinguish what I had in my hands, and seeing me raise them
suddenly to my face, she shrieked with terror, and fell fainting upon
the floor, at the very moment that I placed the glasses before my
eyes, and beheld--_myself_, reflected in the mirror, before which
she had been standing.

"Dear madam," cried Titbottom, to my wife, springing up and falling
back again in his chair, pale and trembling, while Prue ran to him and
took his hand, and I poured out a glass of water--"I saw myself."

There was silence for many minutes. Prue laid her hand gently upon the
head of our guest, whose eyes were closed, and who breathed softly
like an infant in sleeping. Perhaps, in all the long years of anguish
since that hour, no tender hand had touched his brow, nor wiped away
the damps of a bitter sorrow.  Perhaps the tender, maternal fingers of
my wife soothed his weary head with the conviction that he felt the
hand of his mother playing with the long hair of her boy in the soft
West India morning.  Perhaps it was only the natural relief of
expressing a pent-up sorrow.

When he spoke again, it was with the old subdued tone, and the air of
quaint solemnity.

"These things were matters of long, long ago, and I came to this
country soon after. I brought with me, premature age, a past of
melancholy memories, and the magic spectacles. I had become their
slave. I had nothing more to fear. Having seen myself, I was compelled
to see others, properly to understand my relations to them. The lights
that cheer the future of other men had gone out for me; my eyes were
those of an exile turned backwards upon the receding shore, and not
forwards with hope upon the ocean.

"I mingled with men, but with little pleasure.  There are but many
varieties of a few types. I did not find those I came to
clearer-sighted than those I had left behind. I heard men called
shrewd and wise, and report said they were highly intelligent and
successful. My finest sense detected no aroma of purity and principle;
but I saw only a fungus that had fattened and spread in a night. They
went to the theatres to see actors upon the stage. I went to see
actors in the boxes, so consummately cunning, that others did not know
they were acting, and they did not suspect it themselves.

"Perhaps you wonder it did not make me misanthropical.  My dear
friends, do not forget that I had seen myself. That made me
compassionate not cynical.

"Of course, I could not value highly the ordinary standards of success
and excellence. When I went to church and saw a thin, blue, artificial
flower, or a great sleepy cushion expounding the beauty of holiness to
pews full of eagles, half-eagles, and three-pences, however adroitly
concealed they might be in broadcloth and boots: or saw an onion in an
Easter bonnet weeping over the sins of Magdalen, I did not feel as
they felt who saw in all this, not only propriety but piety.

"Or when at public meetings an eel stood up on end, and wriggled and
squirmed lithely in every direction, and declared that, for his part,
he went in for rainbows and hot water--how could I help seeing that he
was still black and loved a slimy pool?

"I could not grow misanthropical when I saw in the eyes of so many who
were called old, the gushing fountains of eternal youth, and the light
of an immortal dawn, or when I saw those who were esteemed
unsuccessful and aimless, ruling a fair realm of peace and plenty,
either in their own hearts, or in another's--a realm and princely
possession for which they had well renounced a hopeless search and a
belated triumph.

"I knew one man who had been for years a byword for having sought the
philosopher's stone. But I looked at him through the spectacles and
saw a satisfaction in concentrated energies, and a tenacity arising
from devotion to a noble dream which was not apparent in the youths
who pitied him in the aimless effeminacy of clubs, nor in the clever
gentlemen who cracked their thin jokes upon him over a gossiping
dinner.

"And there was your neighbor over the way, who passes for a woman who
has failed in her career, because she is an old maid. People wag
solemn heads of pity, and say that she made so great a mistake in not
marrying the brilliant and famous man who was for long years her
suitor. It is clear that no orange flower will ever bloom for her. The
young people make their tender romances about her as they watch her,
and think of her solitary hours of bitter regret and wasting longing,
never to be satisfied.

"When I first came to town I shared this sympathy, and pleased my
imagination with fancying her hard struggle with the conviction that
she had lost all that made life beautiful. I supposed that if I had
looked at her through my spectacles, I should see that it was only her
radiant temper which so illuminated her dress, that we did not see it
to be heavy sables.

"But when, one day, I did raise my glasses, and glanced at her, I did
not see the old maid whom we all pitied for a secret sorrow, but a
woman whose nature was a tropic, in which the sun shone, and birds
sang, and flowers bloomed for ever.  There were no regrets, no doubts
and half wishes, but a calm sweetness, a transparent peace. I saw her
blush when that old lover passed by, or paused to speak to her, but it
was only the sign of delicate feminine consciousness. She knew his
love, and honored it, although she could not understand it nor return
it. I looked closely at her, and I saw that although all the world had
exclaimed at her indifference to such homage, and had declared it was
astonishing she should lose so fine a match, she would only say simply
and quietly--

"'If Shakespeare loved me and I did not love him, how could I marry
him?'

"Could I be misanthropical when I saw such fidelity, and dignity, and
simplicity?

"You may believe that I was especially curious to look at that old
lover of hers, through my glasses.  He was no longer young, you know,
when I came, and his fame and fortune were secure. Certainly I have
heard of few men more beloved, and of none more worthy to be loved. He
had the easy manner of a man of the world, the sensitive grace of a
poet, and the charitable judgment of a wide-traveller.  He was
accounted the most successful and most unspoiled of men. Handsome,
brilliant, wise, tender, graceful, accomplished, rich, and famous, I
looked at him, without the spectacles, in surprise, and admiration,
and wondered how your neighbor over the way had been so entirely
untouched by his homage. I watched their intercourse in society, I saw
her gay smile, her cordial greeting; I marked his frank address, his
lofty courtesy. Their manner told no tales. The eager world was
baulked, and I pulled out my spectacles.

"I had seen her already, and now I saw him.  He lived only in memory,
and his memory was a spacious and stately palace. But he did not
oftenest frequent the banqueting hall, where were endless hospitality
and feasting,--nor did he loiter much in the reception rooms, where a
throng of new visitors was for ever swarming,--nor did he feed his
vanity by haunting the apartment in which were stored the trophies of
his varied triumphs,--nor dream much in the great gallery hung with
pictures of his travels.

"From all these lofty halls of memory he constantly escaped to a
remote and solitary chamber, into which no one had ever
penetrated. But my fatal eyes, behind the glasses, followed and
entered with him, and saw that the chamber was a chapel.  It was dim,
and silent, and sweet with perpetual incense that burned upon an altar
before a picture forever veiled. There, whenever I chanced to look, I
saw him kneel and pray; and there, by day and by night, a funeral hymn
was chanted.

"I do not believe you will be surprised that I have been content to
remain a deputy book-keeper.  My spectacles regulated my ambition, and
I early learned that there were better gods than Plutus.  The glasses
have lost much of their fascination now, and I do not often use
them. But sometimes the desire is irresistible. Whenever I am greatly
interested, I am compelled to take them out and see what it is that I
admire.

"And yet--and yet," said Titbottom, after a pause, "I am not sure that
I thank my grandfather."

Prue had long since laid away her work, and had heard every word of
the story. I saw that the dear woman had yet one question to ask, and
had been earnestly hoping to hear something that would spare her the
necessity of asking. But Titbottom had resumed his usual tone, after
the momentary excitement, and made no further allusion to himself. We
all sat silently; Titbottom's eyes fastened musingly upon the carpet,
Prue looking wistfully at him, and I regarding both.

It was past midnight, and our guest arose to go.  He shook hands
quietly, made his grave Spanish bow to Prue, and, taking his hat, went
towards the front door. Prue and I accompanied him. I saw in her eyes
that she would ask her question, And as Titbottom opened the door, I
heard the low words:

"And Preciosa?"

Titbottom paused. He had just opened the door, and the moonlight
streamed over him as he stood, turning back to us.

"I have seen her but once since. It was in church, and she was
kneeling, with her eyes closed, so that she did not see me. But I
rubbed the glasses well, and looked at her, and saw a white lily,
whose stem was broken, but which was fresh, and luminous, and fragrant
still."

"That was a miracle," interrupted Prue.

"Madam, it was a miracle," replied Titbottom, "and for that one sight
I am devoutly grateful for my grandfather's gift. I saw, that although
a flower may have lost its hold upon earthly moisture, it may still
bloom as sweetly, fed by the dews of heaven."

The door closed, and he was gone. But as Prue put her arm in mine, and
we went up stairs together, she whispered in my ear:

"How glad I am that you don't wear spectacles."



A CRUISE IN THE FLYING DUTCHMAN.

  "When I sailed: when I sailed."
  _Ballad of Robert Kidd._


With the opening of spring my heart opens. My fancy expands with the
flowers, and, as I walk down town in the May morning, toward the dingy
counting-room, and the old routine, you would hardly believe that I
would not change my feelings for those of the French Barber-Poet
Jasmin, who goes, merrily singing, to his shaving and hair cutting.

The first warm day puts the whole winter to flight. It stands in front
of the summer like a young warrior before his host, and,
single-handed, defies and destroys its remorseless enemy.

I throw up the chamber-window, to breathe the earliest breath of
summer.

"The brave young David has hit old Goliath square in the forehead this
morning," I say to Prue, as I lean out, and bathe in the soft
sunshine.

My wife is tying on her cap at the glass, and, not quite disentangled
from her dreams, thinks I am speaking of a street-brawl, and replies
that I had better take care of my own head.

"Since you have charge of my heart, I suppose," I answer gaily,
turning round to make her one of Titbottom's bows.

"But seriously, Prue, how is it about my summer wardrobe?"

Prue smiles, and tells me we shall have two months of winter yet, and
I had better stop and order some more coal as I go down town.

"Winter--coal!"

Then I step back, and taking her by the arm, lead her to the window. I
throw it open even wider than before. The sunlight streams on the
great church-towers opposite, and the trees in the neighboring square
glisten, and wave their boughs gently, as if they would burst into
leaf before dinner.  Cages are hung at the open chamber-windows in the
street, and the birds, touched into song by the sun, make Memnon
true. Prue's purple and white hyacinths are in full blossom, and
perfume the warm air, so that the canaries and the mocking birds are
no longer aliens in the city streets, but are once more swinging in
their spicy native groves.

A soft wind blows upon us as we stand, listening and looking. Cuba and
the Tropics are in the air.  The drowsy tune of a hand-organ rises
from the square, and Italy comes singing in upon the sound.  My
triumphant eyes meet Prue's. They are full of sweetness and spring.

"What do you think of the summer-wardrobe now?" I ask, and we go down
to breakfast.

But the air has magic in it, and I do not cease to dream. If I meet
Charles, who is bound for Alabama, or John, who sails for Savannah,
with a trunk full of white jackets, I do not say to them, as their
other friends say,--

"Happy travellers, who cut March and April out of the dismal year!"

I do not envy them. They will be sea-sick on the way. The southern
winds will blow all the water out of the rivers, and, desolately
stranded upon mud, they will relieve the tedium of the interval by
tying with large ropes a young gentleman raving with delirium
tremens. They will hurry along, appalled by forests blazing in the
windy night; and, housed in a bad inn, they will find themselves
anxiously asking, "Are the cars punctual in leaving?"--grimly sure
that impatient travellers find all conveyances too slow. The
travellers are very warm, indeed, even in March and April,--but Prue
doubts if it is altogether the effect of the southern climate.

Why should they go to the South? If they only wait a little, the South
will come to them. Savannah arrives in April; Florida in May; Cuba and
the Gulf come in with June, and the full splendor of the Tropics
burns through July and August. Sitting upon the earth, do we not
glide by all the constellations, all the awful stars? Does not the
flash of Orion's scimeter dazzle as we pass? Do we not hear, as we
gaze in hushed midnights, the music of the Lyre; are we not throned
with Cassiopea; do we not play with the tangles of Berenice's hair, as
we sail, as we sail?

When Christopher told me that he was going to Italy, I went into
Bourne's conservatory, saw a magnolia, and so reached Italy before
him. Can Christopher bring Italy home? But I brought to Prue a branch
of magnolia blossoms, with Mr.  Bourne's kindest regards, and she put
them upon her table, and our little house smelled of Italy for a week
afterward. The incident developed Prue's Italian tastes, which I had
not suspected to be so strong. I found her looking very often at the
magnolias; even holding them in her hand, and standing before the
table with a pensive air. I suppose she was thinking of Beatrice
Cenci, or of Tasso and Leonora, or of the wife of Marino Faliero, or
of some other of those sad old Italian tales of love and woe So easily
Prue went to Italy!

Thus the spring comes in my heart as well as in the air, and leaps
along my veins as well as through the trees. I immediately travel. An
orange takes me to Sorrento, and roses, when they blow, to Paestum.
The camelias in Aurelia's hair bring Brazil into the happy rooms she
treads, and she takes me to South America as she goes to dinner. The
pearls upon her neck make me free of the Persian gulf.  Upon her
shawl, like the Arabian prince upon his carpet, I am transported to
the vales of Cashmere; and thus, as I daily walk in the bright spring
days, I go round the world.

But the season wakes a finer longing, a desire that could only be
satisfied if the pavilions of the clouds were real, and I could stroll
among the towering splendors of a sultry spring evening. Ah! if I
could leap those flaming battlements that glow along the west--if I
could tread those cool, dewy, serene isles of sunset, and sink with
them in the sea of stars.

I say so to Prue, and my wife smiles.

"But why is it so impossible," I ask, "if you go to Italy upon a
magnolia branch?"

The smile fades from her eyes.

"I went a shorter voyage than that," she answered; "it was only to
Mr. Bourne's."

I walked slowly out of the house, and overtook Titbottom as I went. He
smiled gravely as he greeted me, and said:

"I have been asked to invite you to join a little pleasure party."

"Where is it going?"

"Oh! anywhere," answered Titbottom.

"And how?"

"Oh! anyhow," he replied.

"You mean that everybody is to go wherever he pleases, and in the way
he best can. My dear Titbottom, I have long belonged to that pleasure
party, although I never heard it called by so pleasant a name before."

My companion said only:

"If you would like to join, I will introduce you to the party. I
cannot go, but they are all on board."

I answered nothing; but Titbottom drew me along. We took a boat, and
put off to the most extraordinary craft I had ever seen. We approached
her stern, and, as I curiously looked at it, I could think of nothing
but an old picture that hung in my father's house. It was of the
Flemish school, and represented the rear view of the _vrouw_ of a
burgomaster going to market. The wide yards were stretched like
elbows, and even the studding-sails were spread. The hull was seared
and blistered, and, in the tops, I saw what I supposed to be strings
of turnips or cabbages, little round masses, with tufted crests; but
Titbottom assured me they were sailors.

We rowed hard, but came no nearer the vessel.

"She is going with the tide and wind," said I; "we shall never catch
her."

My companion said nothing.

"But why have they set the studding-sails?"  asked I.

"She never takes in any sails," answered Titbottom.

"The more fool she," thought I, a little impatiently, angry at not
getting nearer to the vessel.  But I did not say it aloud. I would as
soon have said it to Prue as to Titbottom. The truth is, I began to
feel a little ill, from the motion of the boat, and remembered, with a
shade of regret, Prue and peppermint. If wives could only keep their
husbands a little nauseated, I am confident they might be very sure of
their constancy.

But, somehow, the strange ship was gained, and I found myself among as
singular a company as I have ever seen. There were men of every
country, and costumes of all kinds. There was an indescribable
mistiness in the air, or a premature twilight, in which all the
figures looked ghostly and unreal.  The ship was of a model such as I
had never seen, and the rigging had a musty odor, so that the whole
craft smelled like a ship-chandler's shop grown mouldy. The figures
glided rather than walked about, and I perceived a strong smell of
cabbage issuing from the hold.

But the most extraordinary thing of all was the sense of resistless
motion which possessed my mind the moment my foot struck the deck. I
could have sworn we were dashing through, the water at the rate of
twenty knots an hour. (Prue has a great, but a little ignorant,
admiration of my technical knowledge of nautical affairs and phrases.)
I looked aloft and saw the sails taut with a stiff breeze, and.  I
heard a faint whistling of the wind in the rigging, but very faint,
and rather, it seemed to me, as if it came from the creak of cordage
in the ships of Crusaders; or of quaint old craft upon the Spanish
main, echoing through remote years--so far away it sounded.

Yet I heard no orders given; I saw no sailors running aloft, and only
one figure crouching over the wheel: He was lost behind his great
beard as behind a snow-drift. But the startling speed with which we
scudded along did not lift a solitary hair of that beard, nor did the
old and withered face of the pilot betray any curiosity or interest as
to what breakers, or reefs, or pitiless shores, might be lying in
ambush to destroy us.

Still on we swept; and as the traveller in a night-train knows that he
is passing green fields, and pleasant gardens, and winding streams
fringed with flowers, and is now gliding through tunnels or darting
along the base of fearful cliffs, so I was conscious that we were
pressing through various climates and by romantic shores. In vain I
peered into the gray twilight mist that folded all. I could only see
the vague figures that grew and faded upon the haze, as my eye fell
upon them, like the intermittent characters of sympathetic ink when
heat touches them.

Now, it was a belt of warm, odorous air in which we sailed, and then
cold as the breath of a polar ocean. The perfume of new-mown hay and
the breath of roses, came mingled with the distant music of bells, and
the twittering song of birds, and a low surf-like sound of the wind in
summer woods.  There were all sounds of pastoral beauty, of a tranquil
landscape such as Prue loves--and which shall be painted as the
background of her portrait whenever she sits to any of my many artist
friends--and that pastoral beauty shall be called England; I strained
my eyes into the cruel mist that held all that music and all that
suggested beauty, but I could see nothing. It was so sweet that I
scarcely knew if I cared to see. The very thought of it charmed my
senses and satisfied my heart. I smelled and heard the landscape that
I could not see.

Then the pungent, penetrating fragrance of blossoming vineyards was
wafted across the air; the flowery richness of orange groves, and the
sacred odor of crushed bay leaves, such as is pressed from them when
they are strewn upon the flat pavement of the streets of Florence, and
gorgeous priestly processions tread them under foot. A steam of
incense filled the air. I smelled Italy--as in the magnolia from
Bourne's garden--and, even while my heart leaped with the
consciousness, the odor passed, and a stretch of burning silence
succeeded.

It was an oppressive zone of heat--oppressive not only from its
silence, but from the sense of awful, antique forms, whether of art or
nature, that were sitting, closely veiled, in that mysterious
obscurity.  I shuddered as I felt that if my eyes could pierce that
mist, or if it should lift and roll away, I should see upon a silent
shore low ranges of lonely hills, or mystic figures and huge temples
trampled out of history by time.

This, too, we left. There was a rustling of distant palms, the
indistinct roar of beasts, and the hiss of serpents. Then all was
still again. Only at times the remote sigh of the weary sea, moaning
around desolate isles undiscovered; and the howl of winds that had
never wafted human voices, but had rung endless changes upon the sound
of dashing waters, made the voyage more appalling and the figures
around me more fearful.

As the ship plunged on through all the varying zones, as climate and
country drifted behind us, unseen in the gray mist, but each, in turn,
making that quaint craft England or Italy, Africa and the Southern
seas, I ventured to steal a glance at the motley crew, to see what
impression this wild career produced upon them.

They sat about the deck in a hundred listless postures. Some leaned
idly over the bulwarks, and looked wistfully away from the ship, as if
they fancied they saw all that I inferred but could not see. As the
perfume, and sound, and climate changed, I could see many a longing
eye sadden and grow moist, and as the chime of bells echoed distinctly
like the airy syllables of names, and, as it were, made pictures in
music upon the minds of those quaint mariners--then dry lips moved,
perhaps to name a name, perhaps to breathe a prayer.  Others sat upon
the deck, vacantly smoking pipes that required no refilling, but had
an immortality of weed and fire. The more they smoked the more
mysterious they became. The smoke made the mist around them more
impenetrable, and I could clearly see that those distant sounds
gradually grew more distant, and, by some of the most desperate and
constant smokers, were heard no more. The faces of such had an apathy,
which, had it been human, would have been despair.

Others stood staring up into the rigging, as if calculating when the
sails must needs be rent and the voyage end. But there was no hope in
their eyes, only a bitter longing. Some paced restlessly up and down
the deck. They had evidently been walking a long, long time. At
intervals they, too threw a searching glance into the mist that
enveloped the ship, and up into the sails and rigging that stretched
over them in hopeless strength and order.

One of the promenaders I especially noticed.  His beard was long and
snowy, like that of the pilot. He had a staff in his hand, and his
movement was very rapid. His body swung forward, as if to avoid
something, and his glance half turned back over his shoulder,
apprehensively, as if he were threatened from behind. The head and the
whole figure were bowed as if under a burden, although I could not see
that he had anything upon his shoulders; and his gait was not that of
a man who is walking off the ennui of a voyage, but rather of a
criminal flying, or of a startled traveller pursued.

As he came nearer to me in his walk, I saw that his features were
strongly Hebrew, and there was an air of the proudest dignity,
fearfully abased, in his mien and expression. It was more than the
dignity of an individual. I could have believed that the pride of a
race was humbled in his person.

His agile eye presently fastened itself upon me, as a stranger. He
came nearer and nearer to me, as he paced rapidly to and fro, and was
evidently several times on the point of addressing me, but, looking
over his shoulder apprehensively, he passed on. At length, with a
great effort, he paused for an instant, and invited me to join him in
his walk.  Before the invitation was fairly uttered, he was in motion
again. I followed, but I could not overtake him. He kept just before
me, and turned occasionally with an air of terror, as if he fancied I
were dogging him; then glided on more rapidly.

His face was by no means agreeable, but it had an inexplicable
fascination, as if it had been turned upon what no other mortal eyes
had ever seen. Yet I could hardly tell whether it were, probably, an
object of supreme beauty or of terror. He looked at everything as if
he hoped its impression might obliterate some anterior and awful one;
and I was gradually possessed with the unpleasant idea that his eyes
were never closed--that, in fact, he never slept.

Suddenly, fixing me with his unnatural, wakeful glare, he whispered
something which I could not understand, and then darted forward even
more rapidly, as if he dreaded that, in merely speaking, he had lost
time.

Still the ship drove on, and I walked hurriedly along the deck, just
behind my companion. But our speed and that of the ship contrasted
strangely with the mouldy smell of old rigging, and the listless and
lazy groups, smoking and leaning on the bulwarks. The seasons, in
endless succession and iteration, passed over the ship. The twilight
was summer haze at the stern, while it was the fiercest winter mist at
the bows. But as a tropical breath, like the warmth of a Syrian day,
suddenly touched the brow of my companion, he sighed, and I could not
help saying:

"You must be tired."

He only shook his head and quickened his pace.  But now that I had
once spoken, it was not so difficult to speak, and I asked him why he
did not stop and rest.

He turned for moment, and a mournful sweetness shone in his dark eyes
and haggard, swarthy face.  It played flittingly around that strange
look of ruined human dignity, like a wan beam of late sunset about a
crumbling and forgotten temple. He put his hand hurriedly to his
forehead, as if he were trying to remember--like a lunatic, who,
having heard only the wrangle of fiends in his delirium, suddenly in a
conscious moment, perceives the familiar voice of love. But who could
this be, to whom mere human sympathy was so startlingly sweet?

Still moving, he whispered with a woful sadness, "I want to stop, but
I cannot. If I could only stop long enough to leap over the bulwarks!"

Then he sighed long and deeply, and added, "But I should not drown."

So much had my interest been excited by his face and movement, that I
had not observed the costume of this strange being. He wore a black
hat upon his head. It was not only black, but it was shiny. Even in
the midst of this wonderful scene, I could observe that it had the
artificial newness of a second-hand hat; and, at the same moment, I
was disgusted by the odor of old clothes--very old clothes,
indeed. The mist and my sympathy had prevented my seeing before what a
singular garb the figure wore. It was all second-hand and carefully
ironed, but the garments were obviously collected from every part of
the civilized globe. Good heavens! as I looked at the coat, I had a
strange sensation. I was sure that I had once worn that coat. It was
my wedding surtout--long in the skirts--which Prue had told me, years
and years before, she had given away to the neediest Jew beggar she
had ever seen.

The spectral figure dwindled in my fancy--the features lost their
antique grandeur, and the restless eye ceased to be sublime from
immortal sleeplessness, and became only lively with mean cunning.  The
apparition was fearfully grotesque, but the driving ship and the
mysterious company gradually restored its tragic interest. I stopped
and leaned against the side, and heard the rippling water that I could
not see, and flitting through the mist, with anxious speed, the figure
held its way. What was he flying? What conscience with relentless
sting pricked this victim on?

He came again nearer and nearer to me in his walk. I recoiled with
disgust, this time, no less than terror. But he seemed resolved to
speak, and, finally, each time, as he passed me, he asked single
questions, as a ship which fires whenever it can bring a gun to bear.

"Can you tell me to what port we are bound?"

"No," I replied; "but how came you to take passage without inquiry? To
me it makes little difference."

"Nor do I care," he answered, when he next came near enough; I have
already been there."

"Where?" asked I.

"Wherever we are going," he replied. "I have been there a great many
times, and, oh! I am very tired of it."

"But why are you here at all, then; and why don't you stop?"

There was a singular mixture of a hundred conflicting emotions in his
face, as I spoke. The representative grandeur of a race, which he
sometimes showed in his look, faded into a glance of hopeless and puny
despair. His eyes looked at me curiously, his chest heaved, and there
was clearly a struggle in his mind, between some lofty and mean
desire. At times, I saw only the austere suffering of ages in his
strongly-carved features, and again I could see nothing but the
second-hand black hat above them. He rubbed his forehead with his
skinny hand; he glanced over his shoulder, as if calculating whether
he had time to speak to me; and then, as a splendid defiance flashed
from his piercing eyes, so that I know how Milton's Satan looked, he
said, bitterly, and with hopeless sorrow, that no mortal voice ever
knew before:

"I cannot stop: my woe is infinite, like my sin!"--and he passed into
the mist.

But, in a few moments, he reappeared. I could now see only the hat,
which sank more and more over his face, until it covered it entirely;
and I heard a querulous voice, which seemed to be quarrelling with
itself, for saying what it was compelled to say, so that the words
were even more appalling than what it had said before:

"Old clo'! old clo'!"

I gazed at the disappearing figure, in speechless amazement, and was
still looking, when I was tapped upon the shoulder, and, turning
round, saw a German cavalry officer, with a heavy moustache, and a
dog-whistle in his hand.

"Most extraordinary man, your friend yonder," said the officer; "I
don't remember to have seen him in Turkey, and yet I recognize upon
his feet the boots that I wore in the great Russian cavalry charge,
where I individually rode down five hundred and thirty Turks, slew
seven hundred, at a moderate computation, by the mere force of my
rush, and, taking the seven insurmountable walls of Constantinople at
one clean flying leap, rode straight into the seraglio, and, dropping
the bridle, cut the sultan's throat with my bridle-hand, kissed the
other to the ladies of the hareem, and was back again within our lines
and taking a glass of wine with the hereditary Grand Duke
Generalissimo before he knew that I had mounted. Oddly enough, your
old friend is now sporting the identical boots I wore on that
occasion."

The cavalry officer coolly curled his moustache with his fingers. I
looked at him in silence.

"Speaking of boots," he resumed, "I don't remember to have told you of
that little incident of the Princess of the Crimea's diamonds. It was
slight, but curious. I was dining one day with the Emperor of the
Crimea, who always had a cover laid for me at his table, when he said,
in great perplexity, 'Baron, my boy, I am in straits. The Shah of
Persia has just sent me word that he has presented me with two
thousand pearl-of-Oman necklaces, and I don't know how to get them
over, the duties are so heavy.' 'Nothing easier,' replied I; 'I'll
bring them in my boots.' 'Nonsense!' said the Emperor of the
Crimea. 'Nonsense! yourself,' replied I, sportively: for the Emperor
of the Crimea always gives me my joke; and so after dinner I went over
to Persia. The thing was easily enough done. I ordered a hundred
thousand pairs of boots or so, filled them with the pearls; said at
the Custom-house that they were part of my private wardrobe, and I had
left the blocks in to keep them stretched, for I was particular about
my bunions. The officers bowed, and said that their own feet were
tender,--upon which I jokingly remarked that I wished their
consciences were, and so in the pleasantest manner possible the
pearl-of-Oman necklaces were bowed out of Persia, and the Emperor of
the Crimea gave me three thousand of them as my share. It was no
trouble. It was only ordering the boots, and whistling to the infernal
rascals of Persian shoe-makers to hang for their pay."

I could reply nothing to my new acquaintance, but I treasured his
stories to tell to Prue, and at length summoned courage to ask him why
he had taken passage.

"Pure fun," answered he, "nothing else under the sun. You see, it
happened in this way:--I was sitting quietly and swinging in a cedar
of Lebanon, on the very summit of that mountain, when suddenly,
feeling a little warm, I took a brisk dive into the Mediterranean. Now
I was careless, and got going obliquely, and with the force of such a
dive I could not come up near Sicily, as I had intended, but I went
clean under Africa, and came out at the Cape of Grood Hope, and as
Fortune would have it, just as this good ship was passing.  So I
sprang over the side, and offered the crew to treat all round if they
would tell me where I started from. But I suppose they had just been
piped to grog, for not a man stirred, except your friend yonder, and
he only kept on stirring."

"Are you going far?" I asked.

The cavalry officer looked a little disturbed. "I cannot precisely
tell," answered he, "in fact, I wish I could;" and he glanced round
nervously at the strange company.

"If you should come our way, Prue and I will be very glad to see you,"
said I, "and I can promise you a warm welcome from the children."

"Many thanks," said the officer,--and handed me his card, upon which I
read, _Le Baron Munchausen_.

"I beg your pardon," said a low voice at my side; and, turning, I saw
one of the most constant smokers--a very old man--"I beg your pardon,
but can you tell me where I came from?"

"I am sorry to say I cannot," answered I, as I surveyed a man with a
very bewildered and wrinkled face, who seemed to be intently looking
for something.

"Nor where I am going?"

I replied that it was equally impossible. He mused a few moments, and
then said slowly, "Do you know, it is a very strange thing that I have
not found anybody who can answer me either of those questions. And yet
I must have come from somewhere," said he, speculatively--"yes, and I
must be going somewhere, and I should really like to know something
about it."

"I observe," said I, "that you smoke a good deal, and perhaps you find
tobacco clouds your brain a little."

"Smoke! Smoke!" repeated he, sadly, dwelling upon the words; "why, it
all seems smoke to me;" and he looked wistfully around the deck, and I
felt quite ready to agree with him.

"May I ask what you are here for," inquired I; "perhaps your health,
or business of some kind; although I was told it was a pleasure
party?"

"That's just it," said he; "if I only knew where we were going, I might
be able to say something about it. But where are you going?"

"I am going home as fast as I can," replied I warmly, for I began to
be very uncomfortable.  The old man's eyes half closed, and his mind
seemed to have struck a scent.

"Isn't that where I was going? I believe it is; I wish I knew; I think
that's what it is called, Where is home?"

And the old man puffed a prodigious cloud of smoke, in which he was
quite lost.

"It is certainly very smoky," said he, "I came on board this ship to
go to--in fact, I meant, as I was saying, I took passage for--." He
smoked silently. "I beg your pardon, but where did you say I was
going?"

Out of the mist where he had been leaning over the side, and gazing
earnestly into the surrounding obscurity, now came a pale young man,
and put his arm in mine.

"I see," said he, "that you have rather a general acquaintance, and,
as you know many persons, perhaps you know many things. I am young,
you see, but I am a great traveller. I have been all over the world,
and in all kinds of conveyances; but," he continued, nervously,
starting continually, and looking around, "I haven't yet got abroad."

"Not got abroad, and yet you have been everywhere?"

"Oh! yes; I know," he replied, hurriedly; "but I mean that I haven't
yet got away. I travel constantly, but it does no good--and perhaps
you can tell me the secret I want to know. I will pay any sum for
it. I am very rich and very young, and, if money cannot buy it, I will
give as many years of my life as you require."

He moved his hands convulsively, and his hair was wet upon his
forehead. He was very handsome in that mystic light, but his eye
burned with eagerness, and his slight, graceful frame thrilled with
the earnestness of his emotion. The Emperor Hadrian, who loved the boy
Antinous, would have loved the youth.

"But what is it that you wish to leave behind?"  said I, at length,
holding his arm paternally; "what do you wish to escape?"

He threw his arms straight down by his side, clenched his, hands, and
looked fixedly in my eyes.  The beautiful head was thrown a little
back upon one shoulder, and the wan faced glowed with yearning desire
and utter abandonment to confidence, so that, without his saying it, I
knew that he had never whispered the secret which he was about to
impart to me. Then, with a long sigh, as if his life were exhaling, he
whispered,

"Myself."

"Ah! my boy, you are bound upon a long journey."

"I know it," he replied mournfully; "and I cannot even get started. If
I don't get off in this ship, I fear I shall never escape." His last
words were lost in the mist which gradually removed him from my view.

"The youth has been amusing you with some of his wild fancies, I
suppose," said a venerable man, who might have been twin brother of
that snowy-bearded pilot. "It is a great pity so promising a young man
should be the victim of such vagaries."

He stood looking over the side for some time, and at length added,

"Don't you think we ought to arrive soon?"

"Where?" asked I.

"Why, in Eldorado, of course," answered he.

"The truth is, I became very tired of that long process to find the
Philosopher's Stone, and, although I was just upon the point of the
last combination which must infallibly have produced the medium, I
abandoned it when I heard Orellana's account, and found that Nature
had already done in Eldorado precisely what I was trying to do. You
see," continued the old man abstractedly, "I had put youth, and love,
and hope, besides a great many scarce minerals, into the crucible, and
they all dissolved slowly, and vanished--in vapor. It was curious, but
they left no residuum except a little ashes, which were not strong
enough to make a lye to cure a lame finger. But, as I was saying,
Orellana told us about Eldorado just in time, and I thought, if any
ship would carry me there it must be this. But I am very sorry to find
that any one who is in pursuit of such a hopeless goal as that pale
young man yonder, should have taken passage. It is only age," he said,
slowly stroking his white beard, "that teaches us wisdom, and
persuades us to renounce the hope of escaping ourselves; and just as
we are discovering the Philosopher's Stone, relieves our anxiety by
pointing the way to Eldorado."

"Are we really going there?" asked I, in some trepidation.

"Can there be any doubt of it?" replied the old man. "Where should we
be going, if not there?  However, let us summon the passengers and
ascertain."

So saying, the venerable man beckoned to the various groups that were
clustered, ghost-like, in the mist that enveloped the ship. They
seemed to draw nearer with listless curiosity, and stood or sat near
us, smoking as before, or, still leaning on the side, idly gazing. But
the restless figure who had first accosted me, still paced the deck,
flitting in and out of the obscurity; and as he passed there was the
same mien of humbled pride, and the air of a fate of tragic grandeur,
and still the same faint odor of old clothes, and the low querulous
cry, "Old clo!' old clo'!"

The ship dashed on. Unknown odors and strange sounds still filled the
air, and all the world went by us as we flew, with no other noise than
the low gurgling of the sea around the side.

"Gentlemen," said the reverend passenger for Eldorado, "I hope there
is no misapprehension as to our destination?"

As he said this, there was a general movement of anxiety and
curiosity. Presently the smoker, who had asked me where he was going,
said, doubtfully:

"I don't know--it seems to me--I mean I wish somebody would distinctly
say where we are going."

"I think I can throw a light upon this subject," said a person whom I
had not before remarked. He was dressed like a sailor, and had a
dreamy eye.  "It is very clear to me where we are going. I have been
taking observations for some time, and I am glad to announce that we
are on the eve of achieving great fame; and I may add," said he,
modestly, "that my own good name for scientific acumen will be amply
vindicated. Gentlemen, we are undoubtedly going into the Hole."

"What hole is that?" asked M. le Baron Munchausen, a little
contemptuously.

"Sir, it will make you more famous than you ever were before," replied
the first speaker, evidently much enraged.

"I am persuaded we are going into no such absurd place," said the
Baron, exasperated.

The sailor with the dreamy eye was fearfully angry. He drew himself up
stiffiy and said:

"Sir, you lie!"

M. le Baron Munchausen took it in very good part. He smiled and held
out his hand:

"My friend," said he, blandly, "that is precisely what I have always
heard. I am glad you do me no more than justice. I fully assent to
your theory: and your words constitute me the proper historiographer
of the expedition. But tell me one thing, how soon, after getting into
the Hole, do you think we shall get out?"

"The result will prove," said the marine gentleman, handing the
officer his card, upon which was written, _Captain Symmes_. The
two gentlemen then walked aside; and the groups began to sway to and
fro in the haze as if not quite contented.

"Good God," said the pale youth, running up to me and clutching my
arm, "I cannot go into any Hole alone with myself. I should die--I
should kill myself. I thought somebody was on board, and I hoped you
were he, who would steer us to the fountain of oblivion."

"Very well, that is in the Hole," said M. le Baron, who came out of
the mist at that moment, leaning upon the Captain's arm.

"But can I leave myself outside?" asked the youth, nervously.

"Certainly," interposed the old Alchemist; "you may be sure that you
will not get into the Hole, until you have left yourself behind."

The pale young man grasped his hand, and gazed into his eyes.

"And then I can drink and be happy," murmured he, as he leaned over
the side of the ship and listened to the rippling water, as if it had
been the music of the fountain of oblivion.

"Drink! drink!" said the smoking old man.  "Fountain! fountain! Why, I
believe that is what I am after. I beg your pardon," continued he,
addressing the Alchemist. "But can you tell me if I am looking for a
fountain?"

"The fountain of youth, perhaps," replied the Alchemist.

"The very thing!" cried the smoker, with a shrill laugh, while his
pipe fell from his mouth, and was shattered upon the deck, and the old
man tottered away into the mist, chuckling feebly to himself, "Youth!
youth!"

"He'll find that in the Hole, too," said the Alchemist, as he gazed
after the receding figure.

The crowd now gathered more nearly around us.

"Well, gentlemen," continued the Alchemist, "where shall we go, or,
rather, where are we going?"

A man in a friar's habit, with the cowl closely drawn about his head,
now crossed himself, and whispered:

"I have but one object. I should not have been here if I had not
supposed we were going to find Prester John, to whom I have been
appointed father confessor, and at whose court I am to live
splendidly, like a cardinal at Rome. Gentlemen, if you will only agree
that we shall go there, you shall all be permitted to hold my train
when I proceed to be enthroned as Bishop of Central Africa."

While he was speaking, another old man came from the bows of the ship,
a figure which had been so immoveable in its place that I supposed it
was the ancient figure-head of the craft, and said in a low, hollow
voice, and a quaint accent:

"I have been looking for centuries, and I cannot see it. I supposed we
were heading for it. I thought sometimes I saw the flash of distant
spires, the sunny gleam of upland pastures, the soft undulation of
purple hills. Ah! me. I am sure I heard the singing of birds, and the
faint low of cattle.  But I do not know: we come no nearer; and yet I
felt its presence in the air. If the mist would only lift, we should
see it lying so fair upon the sea, so graceful against the sky. I fear
we may have passed it. Gentlemen," said he, sadly, "I am afraid we may
have lost the island of Atlantis for ever."

There was a look of uncertainty in the throng upon the deck.

"But yet," said a group of young men in every kind of costume, and of
every country and time, "we have a chance at the Encantadas, the
Enchanted Islands. We were reading of them only the other day, and the
very style of the story had the music of waves. How happy we shall be
to reach a land where there is no work, nor tempest, nor pain, and we
shall be for ever happy."

"I am content here," said a laughing youth, with heavily matted
curls. "What can be better than this? We feel every climate, the music
and the perfume of every zone, are ours. In the starlight I woo the
mermaids, as I lean over the side, and no enchanted island will show
us fairer forms. I am satisfied. The ship sails on. We cannot see but
we can dream. What work or pain have we here?  I like the ship; I like
the voyage; I like my company, and am content."

As he spoke he put something into his mouth, and, drawing a white
substance from his pocket, offered it to his neighbor, saying, "Try a
bit of this lotus; you will find it very soothing to the nerves, and
an infallible remedy for home-sickness."

"Gentlemen," said M. le Baron Munchausen, "I have no fear. The
arrangements are well made; the voyage has been perfectly planned, and
each passenger will discover what he took passage to find, in the Hole
into which we are going, under the auspices of this worthy Captain."

He ceased, and silence fell upon the ship's company.  Still on we
swept; it seemed a weary way.  The tireless pedestrians still paced to
and fro, and the idle smokers puffed. The ship sailed on, and endless
music and odor chased each other through the misty air. Suddenly a
deep sigh drew universal attention to a person who had not yet spoken.
He held a broken harp in his hand, the strings fluttered loosely in
the air, and the head of the speaker, bound with a withered wreath of
laurels, bent over it.

"No, no," said he, "I will not eat your lotus, nor sail into the
Hole. No magic root can cure the home-sickness I feel; for it is no
regretful remembrance, but an immortal longing. I have roamed farther
than I thought the earth extended. I have climbed mountains; I have
threaded rivers; I have sailed seas; but nowhere have I seen the home
for which my heart aches. Ah! my friends, you look very weary; let us
go home."

The pedestrian paused a moment in his walk, and the smokers took their
pipes from their mouths.  The soft air which blew in that moment
across the deck, drew a low sound from the broken harp-strings, and a
light shone in the eyes of the old man of the figure-head, as if the
mist had lifted for an instant, and he had caught a glimpse of the
lost Atlantis.

"I really believe that is where I wish to go," said the seeker of the
fountain of youth. "I think I would give up drinking at the fountain
if I could get there.  I do not know," he murmured, doubtfully; "it is
not sure; I mean, perhaps, I should not have strength to get to the
fountain, even if I were near it."

"But is it possible to get home?" inquired the pale young man. "I
think I should be resigned if I could get home."

"Certainly," said the dry, hard voice of Prester John's confessor, as
his cowl fell a little back, and a sudden flush burned upon his gaunt
face; "if there is any chance of home, I will give up the Bishop's
palace in Central Africa."

"But Eldorado is my home," interposed the old Alchemist.

"Or is home Eldorado?" asked the poet, with the withered wreath,
turning towards the Alchemist.

It was a strange company and a wondrous voyage.  Here were all kinds
of men, of all times and countries, pursuing the wildest hopes, the
most chimerical desires. One took me aside to request that I would not
let it be known, but that he inferred from certain signs we were
nearing Utopia. Another whispered gaily in my ear that he thought the
water was gradually becoming of a ruby color--the hue of wine; and he
had no doubt we should wake in the morning and find ourselves in the
land of Cockaigne.  A third, in great anxiety, stated to me that such
continuous mists were unknown upon the ocean; that they were peculiar
to rivers, and that, beyond question, we were drifting along some
stream, probably the Nile, and immediate measures ought to be taken
that we did riot go ashore at the foot of the mountains of the
moon. Others were quite sure that we were in the way of striking the
great southern continent; and a young man, who gave his name as
Wilkins, said we might be quite at ease for presently some friends of
his would come flying over from the neighboring islands and tell us
all we wished.

Still I smelled the mouldy rigging, and the odor of cabbage was strong
from the hold.

O Prue, what could the ship be, in which such fantastic characters
were sailing toward impossible bournes--characters which in every age
have ventured all the bright capital of life in vague speculations and
romantic dreams? What could it be but the ship that haunts the sea for
ever, and, with all sails set, drives onward before a ceaseless gale,
and is not hailed, nor ever comes to port?

I know the ship is always full; I know the gray-beard still watches at
the prow for the lost Atlantis, and still the alchemist believes that
Eldorado is at hand. Upon his aimless quest, the dotard still asks
where he is going, and the pale youth knows that he shall never fly
himself. Yet they would gladly renounce that wild chase and the dear
dreams of years, could they find what I have never lost. They were
ready to follow the poet home, if he would have told them where it
lay.

I know where it lies. I breathe the soft air of the purple uplands
which they shall never tread. I hear the sweet music of the voices
they long for in vain. I am no traveller; my only voyage is to the
office and home again. William and Christopher, John and Charles sail
to Europe and the South, but I defy their romantic distances. When the
spring comes and the flowers blow, I drift through the year belted
with summer and with spice.

With the changing months I keep high carnival in all the zones. I sit
at home and walk with Prue, and if the sun that stirs the sap quickens
also the wish to wander, I remember my fellow-voyagers on that
romantic craft, and looking round upon my peaceful room, and pressing
more closely the arm of Prue, I feel that I have reached the port for
which they hopelessly sailed. And when winds blow fiercely and the
night-storm rages, and the thought of lost mariners and of perilous
voyages touches the soft heart of Prue, I hear a voice sweeter to my
ear than that of the syrens to the tempest-tost sailor: "Thank God!
Your only cruising is in the Flying Dutchman!"



FAMILY PORTRAITS.

  "Look here upon this picture, and on this."
  _Hamlet_


We have no family pictures, Prue and I, only a portrait of my
grandmother hangs upon our parlor wall. It was taken at least a
century ago, and represents the venerable lady, whom I remember in my
childhood in spectacles and comely cap, as a young and blooming girl.

She is sitting upon an old-fashioned sofa, by the side of a prim aunt
of hers, and with her back to the open window. Her costume is quaint,
but handsome.  It consists of a cream-colored dress made high in the
throat, ruffled around the neck, and over the bosom and the
shoulders. The waist is just under her shoulders, and the sleeves are
tight, tighter than any of our coat sleeves, and also ruffled at the
wrist. Around the plump and rosy neck, which I remember as shrivelled
and sallow, and hidden under a decent lace handkerchief, hangs, in the
picture, a necklace of large ebony beads. There are two curls upon the
forehead, and the rest of the hair flows away in ringlets down the
neck.

The hands hold an open book: the eyes look up from it with tranquil
sweetness, and, through the open window behind, you see a quiet
landscape--a hill, a tree, the glimpse of a river, and a few peaceful
summer clouds.

Often in my younger days, when my grandmother sat by the fire, after
dinner, lost in thought--perhaps remembering the time when the picture
was really a portrait--I have curiously compared her wasted face with
the blooming beauty of the girl, and tried to detect the likeness. It
was strange how the resemblance would sometimes start out: how, as I
gazed and gazed upon her old face, age disappeared before my eager
glance, as snow melts in the sunshine, revealing the flowers of a
forgotten spring.

It was touching, to see my grandmother steal quietly up to her
portrait, on still summer mornings when every one had left the
house,--and I, the only child, played, disregarded,--and look at it
wistfully and long.

She held her hand over her eyes to shade them from the light that
streamed in at the window, and I have seen her stand at least a
quarter of an hour gazing steadfastly at the picture. She said
nothing, she made no motion, she shed no tear, but when she turned
away there was always a pensive sweetness in her face that made it not
less lovely than the face of her youth.

I have learned since, what her thoughts must have been--how that long,
wistful glance annihilated time and space, how forms and faces unknown
to any other, rose in sudden resurrection around her--how she loved,
suffered, struggled and conquered again; how many a jest that I shall
never hear, how many a game that I shall never play, how many a song
that I shall never sing, were all renewed and remembered as my
grandmother contemplated her picture.

I often stand, as she stood, gazing earnestly at the picture, so long
and so silently, that Prue looks up from her work and says she shall
be jealous of that beautiful belle, my grandmother, who yet makes her
think more kindly of those remote old times.  "Yes, Prue, and that is
the charm of a family portrait."

"Yes, again; but," says Titbottom when he hears the remark, "how, if
one's grandmother were a shrew, a termagant, a virago?"

"Ah! in that case--" I am compelled to say, while Prue looks up again,
half archly, and I add gravely--"you, for instance, Prue."

Then Titbottom smiles one of his sad smiles, and we change the
subject.

Yet, I am always glad when Minim Sculpin, our neighbor, who knows that
my opportunities are few, comes to ask me to step round and see the
family portraits.

The Sculpins, I think, are a very old family.  Titbottom says they
date from the deluge. But I thought people of English descent
preferred to stop with William the Conqueror, who came from France.

Before going with Minim, I always fortify myself with a glance at the
great family Bible, in which Adam, Eve, and the patriarchs, are
indifferently well represented.

"Those are the ancestors of the Howards, the Plantagenets, and the
Montmorencis," says Prue, surprising me with her erudition. "Have you
any remoter ancestry, Mr. Sculpin?" she asks Minim, who only smiles
compassionately upon the dear woman, while I am buttoning my coat.

Then we step along the street, and I am conscious of trembling a
little, for I feel as if I were going to court. Suddenly we are
standing before the range of portraits.

"This," says Minim, with unction, "is Sir Solomon Sculpin, the founder
of the family."

"Famous for what?" I ask, respectfully.

"For founding the family," replies Minim gravely, and I have sometimes
thought a little severely.

"This," he says, pointing to a dame in hoops and diamond stomacher,
"this is Lady Sheba Sculpin."

"Ah! yes. Famous for what?" I inquire.

"For being the wife of Sir Solomon."

Then, in order, comes a gentleman in a huge, curling wig, looking
indifferently like James the Second, or Louis the Fourteenth, and
holding a scroll in his hand.

"The Right Honorable Haddock Sculpin, Lord Privy Seal, etc., etc."

A delicate beauty hangs between, a face fair, and loved, and lost,
centuries ago--a song to the eye--a poem to the heart--the Aurelia of
that old society.

"Lady Dorothea Sculpin, who married young Lord Pop and Cock, and died
prematurely in Italy."

Poor Lady Dorothea! whose great grandchild, in the tenth remove, died
last week, an old man of eighty!

Next the gentle lady hangs a fierce figure, flourishing a sword, with
an anchor embroidered on his coat-collar, and thunder and lightning,
sinking ships flames and tornadoes in the background.

"Rear Admiral Sir Shark Sculpin, who fell in the great action off
Madagascar."

So Minim goes on through the series, brandishing his ancestors about
my head, and incontinently knocking me into admiration.

And when we reach the last portrait and our own times, what is the
natural emotion? Is it not to put Minim against the wall, draw off at
him with my eyes and mind, scan him, and consider his life, and
determine how much of the Eight Honorable Haddock's integrity, and the
Lady Dorothy's loveliness, and the Admiral Shark's valor, reappears in
the modern man? After all this proving and refining, ought not the
last child of a famous race to be its flower and epitome? Or, in the
case that he does not chance to be so, is it not better to conceal the
family name?

I am told, however, that in the higher circles of society, it is
better not to conceal the name, however unworthy the man or woman may
be who bears it. Prue once remonstrated with a lady about the marriage
of a lovely young girl with a cousin of Minim's; but the only answer
she received was, "Well, he may not be a perfect man, but then he is a
Sculpin," which consideration apparently gave great comfort to the
lady's mind.

But even Prue grants that Minim has some reason for his pride. Sir
Solomon was a respectable man, and Sir Shark a brave one; and the
Right Honorable Haddock a learned one; the Lady Sheba was grave and
gracious in her way; and the smile of the fair Dorothea lights with
soft sunlight those long-gone summers. The filial blood rushes more
gladly from Minim's heart as he gazes; and admiration for the virtues
of his kindred inspires and sweetly mingles with good resolutions of
his own.

Time has its share, too, in the ministry, and the influence. The hills
beyond the river lay yesterday, at sunset, lost in purple gloom; they
receded into airy distances of dreams and faery; they sank softly into
night, the peaks of the delectable mountains.  But I knew, as I gazed
enchanted, that the hills, so purple-soft of seeming, were hard, and
gray, and barren in the wintry twilight; and that in the distance was
the magic that made them fair.

So, beyond the river of time that flows between, walk the brave men
and the beautiful women of our ancestry, grouped in twilight upon the
shore.  Distance smooths away defects, and, with gentle darkness,
rounds every form into grace. It steals the harshness from their
speech, and every word becomes a song. Far across the gulf that ever
widens, they look upon us with eyes whose glance is tender, and which
light us to success. We acknowledge our inheritance; we accept our
birthright; we own that their careers have pledged us to noble action.
Every great life is an incentive to all other lives; but when the
brave heart, that beats for the world, loves us with the warmth of
private affection, then the example of heroism is more persuasive,
because more personal.

This is the true pride of ancestry. It is founded in the tenderness
with which the child regards the father, and in the romance that time
sheds upon history.

"Where be all the bad people buried?" asks every man, with Charles
Lamb, as he strolls among the rank grave-yard grass, and brushes it
aside to read of the faithful husband, and the loving wife, and the
dutiful child.

He finds only praise in the epitaphs, because the human heart is kind;
because it yearns with wistful tenderness after all its brethren who
have passed into the cloud, and will only speak well of the departed.
No offence is longer an offence when the grass is green over the
offender. Even faults then seem characteristic and individual. Even
Justice is appeased when the drop falls. How the old stories and plays
teem with the incident of the duel in which one gentleman falls, and,
in dying, forgives and is forgiven. We turn the page with a tear. How
much better had there been no offence, but how well that death wipes
it out.

It is not observed in history that families improve with time. It is
rather discovered that the whole matter is like a comet, of which the
brightest part, is the head; and the tail, although long and luminous,
is gradually shaded into obscurity.

Yet, by a singular compensation, the pride of ancestry increases in
the ratio of distance. Adam was valiant, and did so well at Poictiers
that he was knighted--a hearty, homely country gentleman, who lived
humbly to the end. But young Lucifer, his representative in the
twentieth remove, has a tinder-like conceit because old Sir Adam was
so brave and humble. Sir Adam's sword is hung up at home, and Lucifer
has a box at the opera.  On a thin finger he has a ring, cut with a
match fizzling, the crest of the Lucifers. But if he should be at a
Poictiers, he would run away. Then history would be sorry--not only
for his cowardice, but for the shame it brings upon old Adam's name.

So, if Minim Sculpin is a bad young man, he not only shames himself,
but he disgraces that illustrious line of ancestors, whose characters
are known.  His neighbor, Mudge, has no pedigree of this kind, and
when he reels homeward, we do not suffer the sorrow of any fair Lady
Dorothy in such a descendant--we pity him for himself alone. But
genius and power are so imperial and universal, that when Minim
Sculpin falls, we are grieved not only for him, but for that eternal
truth and beauty which appeared in the valor of Sir Shark, and the
loveliness of Lady Dorothy. His neighbor Mudge's grandfather may have
been quite as valorous and virtuous as Sculpin's; but we know of the
one, and we do not know of the other.

Therefore, Prue, I say to my wife, who has, by this time, fallen as
soundly asleep as if I had been preaching a real sermon, do not let
Mrs. Mudge feel hurt, because I gaze so long and earnestly upon the
portrait of the fair Lady Sculpin, and, lost in dreams, mingle in a
society which distance and poetry immortalize.

But let the love of the family portraits belong to poetry and not to
politics. It is good in the one way, and bad in the other.

The _sentiment_ of ancestral pride is an integral part of human
nature. Its _organization_ in institutions is the real object of
enmity to all sensible men, because it is a direct preference of
derived to original power, implying a doubt that the world at every
period is able to take care of itself.

The family portraits have a poetic significance; but he is a brave
child of the family who dares to show them. They all sit in
passionless and austere judgment upon himself. Let him not invite us
to see them, until he has considered whether they are honored or
disgraced by his own career--until he has looked in the glass of his
own thought and scanned his own proportions.

The family portraits are like a woman's diamonds; they may flash
finely enough before the world, but she herself trembles lest their
lustre eclipse her eyes.  It is difficult to resist the tendency to
depend upon those portraits, and to enjoy vicariously through them a
high consideration. But, after all, what girl is complimented when you
curiously regard her because her mother was beautiful? What attenuated
consumptive, in whom self-respect is yet unconsumed, delights in your
respect for him, founded in honor for his stalwart ancestor?

No man worthy the name rejoices in any homage which his own effort and
character have not deserved.  You intrinsically insult him when you
make him the scapegoat of your admiration for his ancestor.  But when
his ancestor is his accessory, then your homage would flatter
Jupiter. All that Minim Sculpin does by his own talent is the more
radiantly set and ornamented by the family fame. The imagination is
pleased when Lord John Russell is Premier of England and a whig,
because the great Lord William Russell, his ancestor, died in England
for liberty.

In the same way Minim's sister Sara adds to her own grace the sweet
memory of the Lady Dorothy.  When she glides, a sunbeam, through that
quiet house, and in winter makes summer by her presence; when she sits
at the piano, singing in the twilight, or stands leaning against the
Venus in the corner of the room--herself more graceful--then, in
glancing from her to the portrait of the gentle Dorothy, you feel that
the long years between them have been lighted by the same sparkling
grace, and shadowed by the same pensive smile--for this is but one
Sara and one Dorothy, out of all that there are in the world.

As we look at these two, we must own that _noblesse oblige_ in a
sense sweeter than we knew, and be glad when young Sculpin invites us
to see the family portraits. Could a man be named Sidney, and not be a
better man, or Milton, and be a churl?

But it is apart from any historical association that I like to look at
the family portraits. The Sculpins were very distinguished heroes, and
judges, and founders of families; but I chiefly linger upon their
pictures, because they were men and women. Their portraits remove the
vagueness from history, and give it reality. Ancient valor and beauty
cease to be names and poetic myths, and become facts. I feel that they
lived, and loved, and suffered in those old days. The story of their
lives is instantly full of human sympathy in my mind, and I judge them
more gently, more generously.

Then I look at those of us who are the spectators of the portraits. I
know that we are made of the same flesh and blood, that time is
preparing us to be placed in his cabinet and upon canvass, to be
curiously studied by the grandchildren of unborn Prues. I put out my
hands to grasp those of my fellows around the pictures. "Ah! friends,
we live not only for ourselves. Those whom we shall never see, will
look to us as models, as counsellors. We shall be speechless then. We
shall only look at them from the canvass, and cheer or discourage them
by their idea of our lives and ourselves. Let us so look in the
portrait, that they shall love our memories--that they shall say, in
turn, 'they were kind and thoughtful, those queer old ancestors of
ours; let us not disgrace them.'"

If they only recognize us as men and women like themselves, they will
be the better for it, and the family portraits will be family
blessings.

This is what my grandmother did. She looked at her own portrait, at
the portrait of her youth, with much the same feeling that I remember
Prue as she was when I first saw her, with much the same feeling that
I hope our grandchildren will remember us.

Upon those still summer mornings, though she stood withered and wan in
a plain black silk gown, a close cap, and spectacles, and held her
shrunken and blue-veined hand to shield her eyes, yet, as she gazed
with that long and longing glance, upon the blooming beauty that had
faded from her form forever, she recognized under that flowing hair
and that rosy cheek--the immortal fashions of youth and health--and
beneath those many ruffles and that quaint high waist, the fashions of
the day--the same true and loving woman. If her face was pensive as
she turned away, it was because truth and love are, in their essence,
forever young; and it is the hard condition of nature that they cannot
always appear so.



OUR COUSIN THE CURATE.

  "Why, let the stricken deer go weep,
    The heart ungalled play;
  For some must watch while some must sleep;
    Thus runs the world away."


Prue and I have very few relations: Prue, especially, says that she
never had any but her parents, and that she has none now but her
children. She often wishes she had some large aunt in the country, who
might come in unexpectedly with bags and bundles, and encamp in our
little house for a whole winter.

"Because you are tired of me, I suppose, Mrs. Prue?" I reply with
dignity, when she alludes to the imaginary large aunt.

"You could take aunt to the opera, you know, and walk with her on
Sundays," says Prue, as she knits and calmly looks me in the face,
without recognizing my observation.

Then I tell Prue in the plainest possible manner that, if her large
aunt should come up from the country to pass the winter, I should
insist upon her bringing her oldest daughter, with whom I would flirt
so desperately that the street would be scandalized, and even the
corner grocery should gossip over the iniquity.

"Poor Prue, how I should pity you," I say triumphantly to my wife.

"Poor oldest daughter, how I should pity her," replies Prue, placidly
counting her stitches.

So the happy evening passes, as we gaily mock each other, and wonder
how old the large aunt should be, and how many bundles she ought to
bring with her.

"I would have her arrive by the late train at midnight," says Prue;
"and when she had eaten some supper and had gone to her room, she
should discover that she had left the most precious bundle of all in
the cars, without whose contents she could not sleep, nor dress, and
you would start to hunt for it."

And the needle clicks faster than ever.

"Yes, and when I am gone to the office in the morning, and am busy
about important affairs--yes, Mrs. Prue, important affairs," I insist,
as my wife half raises her head incredulously--"then our large aunt
from the country would like to go shopping, and would want you for her
escort. And she would cheapen tape at all the shops, and even to the
great Stewart himself, she would offer a shilling less for the
gloves. Then the comely clerks of the great Stewart would look at you,
with their brows lifted, as if they said, Mrs. Prue, your large aunt
had better stay in the country."

And the needle clicks more slowly, as if the tune were changing.

The large aunt will never come, I know; nor shall I ever flirt with
the oldest daughter. I should like to believe that our little house
will teem with aunts and cousins when Prue and I are gone; but how can
I believe it, when there is a milliner within three doors, and a
hair-dresser combs his wigs in the late dining-room of my opposite
neighbor? The large aunt from the country is entirely impossible, and
as Prue feels it and I feel it, the needles seem to click a dirge for
that late lamented lady.

"But at least we have one relative, Prue."

The needles stop: only the clock ticks upon the mantel to remind us
how ceaselessly the stream of time flows on that bears us away from
our cousin the curate.

When Prue and I are most cheerful, and the world looks fair--we talk
of our cousin the curate.  When the world seems a little cloudy, and
we remember that though we have lived and loved together, we may not
die together--we talk of our cousin the curate. When we plan little
plans for the boys and dream dreams for the girls--we talk of our
cousin the curate. When I tell Prue of Aurelia whose character is
every day lovelier--we talk of our cousin the curate. There is no
subject which does not seem to lead naturally to our cousin the
curate. As the soft air steals in and envelopes everything in the
world, so that the trees, and the hills, and the rivers, the cities,
the crops, and the sea, are made remote, and delicate, and beautiful;
by its pure baptism, so over all the events of our little lives,
comforting, refining, and elevating, falls like a benediction the
remembrance of our cousin the curate.

He was my only early companion. He had no brother, I had none: and we
became brothers to each other. He was always beautiful. His face was
symmetrical and delicate; his figure was slight and graceful. He
looked as the sons of kings ought to look: as I am sure Philip Sidney
looked when he was a boy. His eyes were blue, and as you looked at
them, they seemed to let your gaze out into a June heaven. The blood
ran close to the skin, and his complexion had the rich transparency of
light.  There was nothing gross or heavy in his expression or texture;
his soul seemed to have mastered his body. But he had strong passions,
for his delicacy was positive, not negative: it was not weakness, but
intensity.

There was a patch of ground about the house which we tilled as a
garden. I was proud of my morning-glories, and sweet peas; my cousin
cultivated roses. One day--and we could scarcely have been more than
six years old--we were digging merrily and talking. Suddenly there was
some kind of difference; I taunted him, and, raising his spade, he
struck me upon the leg. The blow was heavy for a boy, and the blood
trickled from the wound. I burst into indignant tears, and limped
toward the house. My cousin turned pale and said nothing, but just as
I opened the door, he darted by me, and before I could interrupt him,
he had confessed his crime, and asked for punishment.

From that day he conquered himself. He devoted a kind of ascetic
energy to subduing his own will, and I remember no other outbreak. But
the penalty he paid for conquering his will, was a loss of the gushing
expression of feeling. My cousin became perfectly gentle in his
manner, but there was a want of that pungent excess, which is the
finest flavor of character. His views were moderate and calm. He was
swept away by no boyish extravagance, and, even while I wished he
would sin only a very little, I still adored him as a saint. The truth
is, as I tell Prue, I am so very bad because I have to sin for
two--for myself and our cousin the curate.  Often, when I returned
panting and restless from some frolic, which had wasted almost all the
night, I was rebuked as I entered the room in which he lay peacefully
sleeping. There was something holy in the profound repose of his
beauty, and, as I stood looking at him, how many a time the tears have
dropped from my hot eyes upon his face, while I vowed to make myself
worthy of such a companion, for I felt my heart owning its allegiance
to that strong and imperial nature.

My cousin was loved by the boys, but the girls worshipped him. His
mind, large in grasp, and subtle in perception, naturally commanded
his companions, while the lustre of his character allured those who
could not understand him. The asceticism occasionally showed itself a
vein of hardness, or rather of severity in his treatment of others. He
did what he thought it his duty to do, but he forgot that few could
see the right so clearly as he, and very few of those few could so
calmly obey the least command of conscience. I confess I was a little
afraid of him, for I think I never could be severe.

In the long winter evenings I often read to Prue the story of some old
father of the church, or some quaint poem of George Herbert's--and
every Christmas-eve, I read to her Milton's Hymn of the Nativity.
Yet, when the saint seems to us most saintly, or the poem most
pathetic or sublime, we find ourselves talking of our cousin the
curate. I have not seen him for many years; but, when we parted, his
head had the intellectual symmetry of Milton's, without the puritanic
stoop, and with the stately grace of a cavalier.

Such a boy has premature wisdom--he lives and suffers prematurely.

Prue loves to listen when I speak of the romance of his life, and I do
not wonder. For my part, I find in the best romance only the story of
my love for her, and often as I read to her, whenever I come to what
Titbottom calls "the crying part," if I lift my eyes suddenly, I see
that Prue's eyes are fixed on me with a softer light by reason of
their moisture.

Our cousin the curate loved, while he was yet a boy, Flora, of the
sparkling eyes and the ringing voice. His devotion was absolute. Flora
was flattered, because all the girls, as I said, worshipped him; but
she was a gay, glancing girl, who had invaded the student's heart with
her audacious brilliancy, and was half surprised that she had subdued
it. Our cousin--for I never think of him as my cousin, only--wasted
away under the fervor of his passion. His life exhaled as incense
before her. He wrote poems to her, and sang them under her window, in
the summer moonlight. He brought her flowers and precious gifts. When
he had nothing else to give, he gave her his love in a homage so
eloquent and beautiful that the worship was like the worship of the
wise men. The gay Flora was proud and superb. She was a girl, and the
bravest and best boy loved her. She was young, and the wisest and
truest youth loved her. They lived together, we all lived together, in
the happy valley of childhood. We looked forward to manhood as
island-poets look across the sea, believing that the whole world
beyond is a blest Araby of spices.

The months went by, and the young love continued.  Our cousin and
Flora were only children still, and there was no engagement. The
elders looked upon the intimacy as natural and mutually beneficial. It
would help soften the boy and strengthen the girl; and they took for
granted that softness and strength were precisely what were wanted. It
is a great pity that men and women forget that they have been
children. Parents are apt to be foreigners to their sons and
daughters. Maturity is the gate of Paradise, which shuts behind us;
and our memories are gradually weaned from the glories in which our
nativity was cradled.

The months went by, the children grew older, and they constantly
loved. Now Prue always smiles at one of my theories; she is entirely
sceptical of it; but it is, nevertheless, my opinion, that men love
most passionately, and women most permanently.  Men love at first and
most warmly; women love last and longest. This is natural enough; for
nature makes women to be won, and men to win.  Men are the active,
positive force, and, therefore, they are more ardent and
demonstrative.

I can never get farther than that in my philosophy, when Prue looks at
me, and smiles me into scepticism of my own doctrines. But they are
true, notwithstanding.

My day is rather past for such speculations; but so long as Aurelia is
unmarried, I am sure I shall indulge myself in them. I have never made
much progress in the philosophy of love; in fact, I can only be sure
of this one cardinal principle, that when you are quite sure two
people cannot be in love with each other, because there is no earthly
reason why they should be, then you may be very confident that you are
wrong, and that they are in love, for the secret of love is past
finding out. Why our cousin should have loved the gay Flora so
ardently was hard to say; but that he did so, was not difficult to
see.

He went away to college. He wrote the most eloquent and passionate
letters; and when he returned in vacations, he had no eyes, ears, nor
heart for any other being. I rarely saw him, for I was living away
from our early home, and was busy in a store--learning to be
book-keeper--but I heard afterward from himself the whole story.

One day when he came home for the holidays, he found a young foreigner
with Flora--a handsome youth, brilliant and graceful. I have asked
Prue a thousand times why women adore soldiers and foreigners. She
says it is because they love heroism and are romantic. A soldier is
professionally a hero, says Prue, and a foreigner is associated with
all unknown and beautiful regions. I hope there is no worse reason.
But if it be the distance which is romantic, then, by her own rule,
the mountain which looked to you so lovely when you saw it upon the
horizon, when you stand upon its rocky and barren side, has
transmitted its romance to its remotest neighbor. I cannot but admire
the fancies of girls which make them poets. They have only to look
upon a dull-eyed, ignorant, exhausted _roue_, with an impudent
moustache, and they surrender to Italy to the tropics, to the
splendors of nobility, and a court life--and--

"Stop," says Prue, gently; "you have no right to say 'girls' do so,
because some poor victims have been deluded. Would Aurelia surrender
to a blear-eyed foreigner in a moustache?"

Prue has such a reasonable way of putting these things!

Our cousin came home and found Flora and the young foreigner
conversing. The young foreigner had large, soft, black eyes, and the
dusky skin of the tropics. His manner was languid and fascinating,
courteous and reserved. It assumed a natural supremacy, and you felt
as if here were a young prince travelling before he came into
possession of his realm.

It is an old fable that love is blind. But I think there are no eyes
so sharp as those of lovers. I am sure there is not a shade upon
Prue's brow that I do not instantly remark, nor an altered tone in her
voice that I do not instantly observe. Do you suppose Aurelia would
not note the slightest deviation of heart in her lover, if she had
one? Love is the coldest of critics. To be in love is to live in a
crisis, and the very imminence of uncertainty makes the lover
perfectly self-possessed. His eye constantly scours the horizon. There
is no footfall so light that it does not thunder in his ear. Love is
tortured by the tempest the moment the cloud of a hand's size rises
out of the sea. It foretells its own doom; its agony is past before
its sufferings are known.

Our cousin the curate no sooner saw the tropical stranger, and marked
his impression upon Flora, than he felt the end. As the shaft struck
his heart, his smile was sweeter, and his homage even more poetic and
reverential. I doubt if Flora understood him or herself. She did not
know, what he instinctively perceived, that she loved him less. But
there are no degrees in love; when it is less than absolute and
supreme, it is nothing. Our cousin and Flora were not formally
engaged, but their betrothal was understood by all of us as a thing of
course. He did not allude to the stranger; but as day followed day, he
saw with every nerve all that passed. Gradually--so gradually that she
scarcely noticed it--our cousin left Flora more and more with the
soft-eyed stranger, whom he saw she preferred.  His treatment of her
was so full of tact, he still walked and talked with her so
familiarly, that she was not troubled by any fear that he saw what she
hardly saw herself. Therefore, she was not obliged to conceal anything
from him or from herself; but all the soft currents of her heart were
setting toward the West Indian. Our cousin's cheek grew paler, and his
soul burned and wasted within him. His whole future--all his dream of
life--had been founded upon his love. It was a stately palace built
upon the sand, and now the sand was sliding away. I have read
somewhere, that love will sacrifice everything but itself. But our
cousin sacrificed his love to the happiness of his mistress. He ceased
to treat her as peculiarly his own. He made no claim in word or manner
that everybody might not have made. He did not refrain from seeing
her, or speaking of her as of all his other friends; and, at length,
although no one could say how or when the change had been made, it was
evident and understood that he was no more her lover, but that both
were the best of friends.

He still wrote to her occasionally from college, and his letters were
those of a friend, not of a lover.  He could not reproach her. I do
not believe any man is secretly surprised that a woman ceases to love
him. Her love is a heavenly favor won by no desert of his. If it
passes, he can no more complain than a flower when the sunshine leaves
it.

Before our cousin left college, Flora was married to the tropical
stranger. It was the brightest of June days, and the summer smiled
upon the bride. There were roses in her hand and orange flowers in her
hair, and the village church bell rang out over the peaceful fields.
The warm sunshine lay upon the landscape like God's blessing, and Prue
and I, not yet married ourselves, stood at an open window in the old
meeting-house, hand in hand, while the young couple spoke their
vows. Prue says that brides are always beautiful, and I, who remember
Prue herself upon her wedding-day--how can I deny it? Truly, the gay
Flora was lovely that summer morning, and the throng was happy in the
old church. But it was very sad to me, although I only suspected then
what now I know. I shed no tears at my own wedding, but I did at
Flora's, although I knew she was marrying a soft-eyed youth whom she
dearly loved, and who, I doubt not, dearly loved her.

Among the group of her nearest friends was our cousin the curate. When
the ceremony was ended, he came to shake her hand with the rest. His
face was calm, and his smile sweet, and his manner unconstrained.
Flora did not blush--why should she?--but shook his hand warmly, and
thanked him for his good wishes. Then they all sauntered down the
aisle together; there were some tears with the smiles among the other
friends; our cousin handed the bride into her carriage, shook hands
with the husband, closed the door, and Flora drove away.

I have never seen her since; I do not even know if she be living
still. But I shall always remember her as she looked that June
morning, holding roses in her hand, and wreathed with orange
flowers. Dear Flora! it was no fault of hers that she loved one man
more than another: she could not be blamed for not preferring our
cousin to the West Indian: there is no fault in the story, it is only
a tragedy.

Our cousin carried all the collegiate honors--but without exciting
jealousy or envy. He was so really the best, that his companions were
anxious he should have the sign of his superiority. He studied hard,
he thought much, and wrote well.  There was no evidence of any blight
upon his ambition or career, but after living quietly in the country
for some time, he went to Europe and travelled. When he returned, he
resolved to study law, but presently relinquished it. Then he
collected materials for a history, but suffered them to lie unused.
Somehow the mainspring was gone.  He used to come and pass weeks with
Prue and me.  His coming made the children happy, for he sat with
them, and talked and played with them all day long, as one of
themselves. They had no quarrels when our cousin the curate was their
playmate, and their laugh was hardly sweeter than his as it rang down
from the nursery. Yet sometimes, as Prue was setting the tea-table,
and I sat musing by the fire, she stopped and turned to me as we heard
that sound, and her eyes filled with tears.

He was interested in all subjects that interested others. His fine
perception, his clear sense, his noble imagination, illuminated every
question. His friends wanted him to go into political life, to write a
great book, to do something worthy of his powers.  It was the very
thing he longed to do himself; but he came and played with the
children in the nursery, and the great deed was undone. Often, in the
long winter evenings, we talked of the past, while Titbottom sat
silent by, and Prue was busily knitting.  He told us the incidents of
his early passion--but he did not moralize about it, nor sigh, nor
grow moody. He turned to Prue, sometimes, and jested gently, and often
quoted from the old song of George Withers, I believe:

  "If she be not fair for me,
  What care I how fair she be?"

But there was no flippancy in the jesting; I thought the sweet humor
was no gayer than a flower upon a grave.

I am sure Titbottom loved our cousin the curate, for his heart is as
hospitable as the summer heaven.  It was beautiful to watch his
courtesy toward him, and I do not wonder that Prue considers the
deputy book-keeper the model of a high-bred gentleman.  When you see
his poor clothes, and thin, gray hair, his loitering step, and dreamy
eye, you might pass him by as an inefficient man; but when you hear
his voice always speaking for the noble and generous side, or
recounting, in a half-melancholy chant, the recollections of his
youth; when you know that his heart beats with the simple emotion of a
boy's heart, and that his courtesy is as delicate as a girl's modesty,
you will understand why Prue declares that she has never seen but one
man who reminded her of our especial favorite, Sir Philip Sidney, and
that his name is Titbottom.

At length our cousin went abroad again to Europe. It was many years
ago that we watched him sail away, and when Titbottom, and Prue, and
I, went home to dinner, the grace that was said that day was a fervent
prayer for our cousin the curate.  Many an evening afterward, the
children wanted him, and cried themselves to sleep calling upon his
name. Many an evening still, our talk flags into silence as we sit
before the fire, and Prue puts down her knitting and takes my hand, as
if she knew my thoughts, although we do not name his name.

He wrote us letters as he wandered about the world. They were
affectionate letters, full of observation, and thought, and
description. He lingered longest in Italy, but he said his conscience
accused him of yielding to the syrens; and he declared that his life
was running uselessly away. At last he came to England. He was charmed
with everything, and the climate was even kinder to him than that of
Italy. He went to all the famous places, and saw many of the famous
Englishmen, and wrote that he felt England to be his home.  Burying
himself in the ancient gloom of a university town, although past the
prime of life, he studied like an ambitious boy. He said again that
his life had been wine poured upon the ground, and he felt guilty. And
so our cousin became a curate.

"Surely," wrote he, "you and Prue will be glad to hear it; and my
friend Titbottom can no longer boast that he is more useful in the
world than I.  Dear old George Herbert has already said what I would
say to you, and here it is.

  "'I made a posy, while the day ran by;
  Here will I smell my remnant out, and tie
       My life within this band.
  But time did beckon to the flowers, and they
  My noon most cunningly did steal away,
       And wither'd in my hand.

  "'My hand was next to them, and then my heart;
  I took, without more thinking, in good part,
       Time's gentle admonition;
  Which did so sweetly death's sad taste convey,
  Making my mind to smell my fatal day,
       Yet sugaring the suspicion.

  "'Farewell, dear flowers, sweetly your time ye spent,
  Fit, while ye lived, for smell or ornament,
       And after death for cures;
  I follow straight without complaints or grief,
  Since if my scent be good, I care not if
       It be as short as yours.'"

This is our only relation; and do you wonder that, whether our days
are dark or bright, we naturally speak of our cousin the curate? There
is no nursery longer, for the children are grown; but I have seen Prue
stand, with her hand holding the door, for an hour, and looking into
the room now so sadly still and tidy, with a sweet solemnity in her
eyes that I will call holy. Our children have forgotten their old
playmate, but I am sure if there be any children in his parish, over
the sea, they love our cousin the curate, and watch eagerly for his
coming. Does his step falter now, I wonder, is that long, fair hair,
gray; is that laugh as musical in those distant homes as it used to be
in our nursery; has England, among all her good and great men, any man
so noble as our cousin the curate?

The great book is unwritten; the great deeds are undone; in no
biographical dictionary will you find the name of our cousin the
curate. Is his life, therefore, lost? Have his powers been wasted?

I do not dare to say it; for I see Bourne, on the pinnacle of
prosperity, but still looking sadly for his castle in Spain; I see
Titbottom, an old deputy book-keeper, whom nobody knows, but with his
chivalric heart, loyal to whatever is generous and humane, full of
sweet hope, and faith, and devotion; I see the superb Aurelia, so
lovely that the Indians would call her a smile of the Great Spirit,
and as beneficent as a saint of the calendar--how shall I say what is
lost, or what is won? I know that in every way, and by all his
creatures, God is served and his purposes accomplished. How should I
explain or understand, I who am only an old book-keeper in a white
cravat?

Yet in all history, in the splendid triumphs of emperors and kings, in
the dreams of poets, the speculations of philosophers, the sacrifices
of heroes, and the extacies of saints, I find no exclusive secret of
success. Prue says she knows that nobody ever did more good than our
cousin the curate, for every smile and word of his is a good deed; and
I, for my part, am sure that, although many must do more good in the
world, nobody enjoys it more than Prue and I.





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