Easters, Vol. 1
by John Neal
PREFACE; OR A PRELIMINARY ESSAY ON MATTERS AND THINGS IN GENERAL.
PREFACE; OR A PRELIMINARY ESSAY ON
MATTERS AND THINGS IN GENERAL.
TO THE READER— -
If the language and general behaviour of those whom a traveller
meets with, in journeying over this country now, should improve as
much, and alter as much in proportion during the next fifty years, as
they have within the last fifteen or twenty, there will be hardly a
vestige left of our strongest and sharpest peculiarities. Our
grand-children— perhaps our children—may know as little of their
immediate progenitors in the familiar business of life; of their
speech, dress and general deportment, as we know in this day of
research and prying curiosity, about the fire-side feelings, the
every-day habits, and the real spoken language of our primitive
And what price would be too much to pay now, by any hearty lover of
his country, or of his country's literature, for a dialogue of their
day, faithfully reported from their lips?—not imagined and put
together in the closet; taken down word for word from the mouth of the talker,—not soberly and thoughtfully prepared by a learned or
popular author from a glossary and a grammar; a rough sketch if you
will, but trustworthy and characteristic, and all alive with
individuality— not a language that nobody on earth ever talked, or
thought of talking, although everybody of any pretension may have written it all his life long; nor such as may be found every day of
the year in some quiet, sleepy, good-for-nothing book, made up to order
from Dr. Blair, Allison on Taste, or the British Classics hashed over?
Tell me not that faithful representations of native character, which
are neither intended for example nor offered for imitation, are of no
use. They are of use. They bring strangers acquainted with what
we are most anxious to conceal— the truth; and what is more,
they bring us acquainted with ourselves, with our own peculiarities and
our own faults.
Were I to say, that after hundreds and hundreds of volumes have been
written, purporting to describe the New-Englander, there are but two
upon the face of the earth (one a novel and the other a play)
containing so much as one single phrase of pure Yankee, the
reader would be astonished. And yet I should say no more than the
simple truth. Let him go into the largest of our circulating libraries
to morrow, and tumble over a cart-load of story-books and novels,
English or Scotch, native or otherwise; for the Yankee, like the Indian
of our country, has been tried by every whippersnapper in literature;
and by not a few distinguished writers of England, Scotland, France,
Germany, and the United-States; one day in a story, another in a poem;
here in a play and there in a history—and for every phrase of pure
New-England speech he meets with, I will undertake to find a lump of
pure gold in the sweepings of the first poor-house I come to, or to
fish up a pearl from the first puddle of dirty water I find.
To judge by our novel-writers, play-makers and poets, with here and
there a partial exception, rather by accident than otherwise, we have
cottages and sky-larks in our country; pheasants and nightingales,
first families, youth of a `gentle blood,' and a virtuous peasantry;
mossgrown churches, curfews and ivy-mantled towers; with a plenty of
hard-hearted fathers, runaway matches—to nobody knows whom, for
nobody knows what; unfaithful wives, cruel step-mothers, treacherous
brothers—any thing and every thing in short which goes to the
ground-work of a third-rate English or Scotch novel, and nothing—
absolutely nothing—whereby a stranger would be able to distinguish an American story from any other, or to obtain a glimpse of our
peculiar institutions, or of the state of society here, if I except a
short story or two by Flint— or myself—in our baby-house
annuals—here and there a passage of Miss Ledgwick, a portion of
Paulding's rough, honest and powerful, though sometimes rather
ill-natured portraitures, the earlier efforts of Cooper—and I wish I
might say, of Brown and Irving, but even they are not examples:
their books are not American, though they themselves are.
Are these things to continue? I hope not. I believe not. Something I
have attempted here; and more I may attempt hereafter, should I
have time for pursuing the experiment, and preparing the way for a
change; but the chief work and the glory thereof must be left to
others; to the younger and the more enthusiastic, with a longer life
Is the language here put into the mouth of the New-Englander, that
which is heard in real life? Are the manners here ascribed to him,
characteristic? Then, however peculiar and however absurd they may
appear, they ought to be portrayed; nay—the more absurd and the more
peculiar, so much the more do they deserve to be portrayed; and so
much the better will it be, not only for my book, but for the
New-Englander himself. At first, he may deny the truth of the
portrait—I have known such a thing to occur—I have known people
refuse to believe their own ears. Do you doubt this?—Try the
experiment for yourself. Do me the favor to stop the first man you hear
talking, no matter where; and you will never persuade him that the
transcript of his speech you hold in your hand, is a faithful copy. Ten
to one, he flies in a passion with you; but if you can persuade him to
go home quietly, and watch his next-door neighbor for a day or two, you
will be astonished at the difference in his manner when you meet again.
But who would believe it! he will say. Everybody about me talks
one language, and writes another.
The first step toward improvement is having our faults made visible
to ourselves—and to others.
But perhaps it may be said that I do
not give a faithful
picture. To which I answer—perhaps I do. And if I do not, how
easy to expose me.
And if the picture
is faithful, I am betraying my country. Be
it so. If she is only to be upheld by untruth; if to speak the truth,
is to betray her,—I shall do my best to betray her, now and
forever—here and hereafter—whenever and wherever I may think it for
P. S.—The original sketch of two scenes here, amounting altogether
to about a dozen or fifteen pages, the reader may have met with before.
Some time in the month of April, 1830, a person I did not know and had
never seen, wrote to me from New-York, to request a contribution for a
new periodical, about to be established there. Being very busy at the
time, and having other and very good, though private reasons for saying
no, I refused. Again he applied—offering terms, which I agreed to;
and I sent a paper describing a series of incidents on board a
steam-boat. It was published in the first number of the periodical
referred to—which, by the by, never reached a second. And all that I
know of either magazine or editor, and I may add of the publisher, is
that I never got my pay, and that the individual who applied to me,
signed himself Edward Thompson of Wall-street, New-York. Having written
both to the publishers and to him, without receiving any answer, I have
taken the liberty to retouch the outline referred to, on my own
account. If they are dissatisfied, they will please look to me for the
damages. THE AUTHOR.
 The Yankee in England, by Gen. Humphries, (dedicated to
Mr. Gifford,) is a Connecticut-man. Mathews, Hackett and Hill,
have borrowed largely from it however in their general representation
of the New-Englander. Since this preface was written, two or
three capital stories have appeared in the newspapers and annuals with
a deal of pure Yankee in them; and Paulding, a New-Englander to the
back-bone, has brought forth two or three good specimens of Yankee character, though the language is not Yankee, or to speak more
cautiously, not pure Yankee. And as for the Yankee of Cooper,
notwithstanding his great cleverness in dramatic portraiture, they are
dead failures, like every sample to be found in the romances of Mr.
Galt (whose early Scotch novels are unequalled for truth, humor and
originality) of Mr. Fearon, of Mrs. Trollope and of Mrs. Captain B.
Hall, who never by any accident happen to give a specimen of true
Yankee, nor hardly ever a downright Americanism; the dialogues
of all being evidently made up from the disjointed materials of a
common-place book, put together by strangers.
We were on our way from Philadelphia to Baltimore, in the beautiful
month of May, 1814; our boat crowded with passengers, the oddest
collection you ever saw, and the British lying not far off in
considerable force; and yet, so assured were we of our ability to
escape, as not even to be kept awake by our dangerous neighborhood. The
war, chess, politics, flirting, pushpin, tetotum, and jackstraws,
(cards being prohibited,) newspapers and religious tracts, had all been
tried, and all in vain to relieve the insipidity of a pleasant passage,
and keep off the drowsiness that weighed upon our spirits like the rich
overloaded atmosphere of a spice-island, breathing about a soft summer
sea. Even the huge negroes felt and enjoyed the delicious warmth, as
they lay stretched out, heads and points, over the piles of split wood,
with their fat shiny faces turned up to the sky, and their broad feet
stiffening in the shadow.
The smooth, steady, uninterrupted motion of our way—it was like
one long continued launch—with the soft sleepy blue overhead, and the
still softer and sleepier wave underneath, would have been too much for
the wakefulness of any body alive, but a thief-taker on the scent of
his prey—or a reader of some such book as—as—as I intend this to
Yaw—aw—aw! I wonder what o'clock 'tis
now? drawled a man
who lay stretched out on no less than five differen' chairs, in a spot
which glowed like the reflection of a furnace-mouth upon a
white-washed wall; with a yellow handkerchief drawn over his face, and
a hat fixed under his head—Yaw—aw—aw! never seed sich weather
afore since I cum inter the world; I swan if I did!
The remark was probably intended for me, though directed to nobody
in particular—merely thrown out, as a lawyer would say—after the
manner of people who want to be familiar without the risk of being
snubbed. I had been dusting the face of my watch a moment before, and
laughing with a pretty little quakeress, who sat near me, at the
perverse ingenuity of this very man, who had lost his own shadow for
the twentieth time at least, while pursuing it blindfolded, with his
hat pulled over his eyes, and a bandanna over his mouth. But I told him
the hour, nevertheless.
Thee appears to be a stranger in these parts, added a venerable man,
who sat on the other side of the little quakeress, in a Philadelphia
coat and a snuff-colored beaver; stooping toward me as he spoke, so
that a sprinkle of white hair—the whitest and thinnest I ever saw,
blew athwart her upturned eyes—I could just see their color through
it—they were as like the sky as any earthly thing could well
be—just about as blue, and just about as clear—starry, with a white
mist flying over them.
I bowed, and was on the point of replying
at length, after
the fashion of my country, when there are plenty of chairs within reach
of our arms and legs, like one of those figures which painters draw
from the points made by five bits of paper, dropped together upon a
table; when a stiff, straight, bony-looking Down Easter, with a straw
hat, high cheek-bones, a nose like a sun-dial, and the sharpest mouth
you ever saw in a domesticated Yankee, who had been galloping about the
deck for two hours at full speed, with his new coat sleeves pushed half
way up the elbow, (as if he had just prepared to wash himself) so as to
betray a cotton shirt with linen wristbands, and large brass
sleeve-buttons; his collar turned back, and his shirtbosom all open to
the waist,—made a full stop in front and addressed me as
follows—looking another way all the time. If he is a stranger
in these parts, I can tell him he'd better have his eye-teeth cut afore
he's much older; if he don't (lowering his voice to a sort of whistle,
and puckering up his mouth into the oddest of all possible shapes for a
mouth, stooping over, turning up one foot sideways, and beginning to
count the stitches in the shoe,) if he don't shave putty nigh the
grinstun, somebody 't he's ben so ter'ble thick with 'll show him
what's what, afore he's done with him— ketch a weazle asleep, hey?
(cocking his eye at me,) wish his cake dough; if he don't there's none
o' me, that's all.
Pray sir, said I, in no little trepidation, I confess; for I saw by
his look what no mortal would have gathered from his speech, that I had
something to fear,—Pray, sir, if you mean me, what is the danger you
Instead of replying—he blew a long breath, pulled down his
sleeves, pulled 'em up, looked at my watch and then at the old quaker;
shifted his feet; blew another long breath; and then set off with more
energy than ever—walking away as if he had a wager in view, swinging
the tail of his queer-shaped coat, which he had now thrown back half
off his shoulders, first one side and then the other, at every step he
took; now fanning himself with all his might, and now shading his face
with a ragged newspaper; treading the deck as if he would go through
whap into the seller, as he called it, where they keep the sarse aboard-ship; and flirting a new pocket handkerchief after the
manner of most Americans and of all New-Englanders, now this way and
now that, now drawing it through his hand and now flourishing it in the
breeze, till every thing was in motion about him—leaves, pamphlets,
dust, ribbons, and newspapers.
A pretty way for a body to keep himself cool, said I, in what I
meant for a confidential whisper to the dear little creature at my
elbow,—who let fall her dark lashes in a hurry, half averted her face
in reply, and bit her under lip.
Too drowsy by half, thought I, and rather too stiff on the whole,
for hot-weather companionship aboard a steamboat; and looking at her
again, I thought her eyes did not appear quite so blue, nor altogether
so transparent as they had a few minutes before, when she was inclined
to be more sociable; and turning away from her in somewhat of a huff, I
observed a handsome young man a little way off lounging over the
quarterrail with his hat off, and a mass of black hair, of unshorn
plumage rather, as black as death, and glossy with strange
brightness-floating off and rising and falling over his temples at
every pitch of the boat, as if stirred and lifted by a strong
sea-breeze. Whether he saw her, I do not know—nor whether he knew
her—but her eye was upon him, and I could see her mouth tremble, and
the delicate lawn over her young bosom shiver, as he turned away. And
then, happening to shift my place, I observed the fellow who lay
stretched out his whole length upon half a score of cane chairs without
backs, with his head lifted up and resting on his elbow—and his face
turning after me—as if instead of being asleep, he had placed himself
there for no purpose on earth but to observe my motions. I recollected
him now—he had stuck to my side—saying nothing, doing nothing from
the first moment I happened to pull out my watch below; with all his
legs and arms stretched out here and there over the costly furniture,
as if they had been all shipwrecked together; one leg lying across a
superb mahogany table, another bent over the top of a tilted chair, and
one elbow finding its way slowly—slowly but surely— through the
bottom of a cane-wrought sofa, which he had contrived to fix up aslant
behind him. At this moment the handkerchief slipped down from his eyes,
and I found him watching me like a cat. At first I felt rather uneasy;
but then, what had I to fear? The fellow was evidently a down-easter;
and therefore, incapable of any thing that would bring him within the
grasp of the law. Finding that he was observed, he stretched himself
out, gaped like a tame lioness for half a minute or so, and then
turning away, went to sleep with his back toward me.
A full quarter of an hour after this, when I had entirely forgotten
the man, the handsome stranger, the little quakeress, and
myself—dignity and all, and was occupied with a strange tumultuous
revery, which came up, and moved before me like a vision of the future,
and which has turned out since to be prophecy— I heard a bell
ring—a slight bustle midships—and then boat lurched, and all at
once we lay motionless our upon the slope of the sea. Some of our
machinery was out of order for the first time; and though the greatest
exertions were made, on account of our dear friends, the British, who
were all abroad over the Chesapeake, we lost nearly five hours by the
delay. During this period, the youthful stranger with the black hair,
entered into conversation with the old quaker, and continued it so long
and so earnestly, that I had the finest opportunity in the world for
surveying his face. I think I never saw a finer mouth, more luminous
eyes, nor a more exalted, intelligent countenance, take it altogether.
Animated, fiery and changeable—with a dash of haughty seriousness,
and what I should call sorrow in another—a sort of proud melancholy,
that could not bear to be approached or questioned,—it fixed my
attention from the first, and absolutely fascinated the poor girl; for
though the conversation did not appear to be intended for her, and was
conducted in a very low voice, I could perceive that she heard it all,
and was deeply interested in the subject, whatever it was. Her
half-opened lips, her eager attitude—her occasional change of color,
and her low suppressed breathing, betrayed her. Never shall I forget
the altered expression of her sweet sober child-like face! It began to
light up with a look of womanhood, all alive with a new interest and a
new energy. And yet, so far as I could see, and I had watched them both
very narrowly above an hour, they were strangers to each other; and the
young man did not even look at her, nor she at him. But there they
sat—he talking to the old man as about a matter of life and death;
and she with her face turned away, and her blue eyes fixed upon the
far shore, as if the agitation of her whole frame, down to the little
finger-ends that were tapping the rail near me, had been caused by
While I was watching her, with the deepest attention— feeling
toward her, and pitying her, as if she were a beloved sister, and
greatly in need of a brother's care; the queer fellow who had accosted
me before, and who still kept marching to and fro the whole length of
the deck, and clearing a passage for himself at every sweep of his coat
tail, wide enough to allow three ordinary men to walk abreast, now made
another stop full before me, and turning toward the father, while he
kept his eye on something overboard—I say! says he; and having
secured our attention, he proceeded— I say tho'! if he don't sleep
with one eye open as I said afore, which I never like to meddle with
other folks's business, there's a chap taint fur off 'll git a swop out
o' his hide yit—slick as a whistle; I vum if he don't!
You know consider'ble don't ye? said the other, whom we had all
supposed to be asleep for the last hour; lifting his head quietly off
the chair, pulling away the handkerchief from his mouth, just far
enough to allow a squirt of tobacco spittle to escape through his shut
teeth, and eying the speaker with a good natured leer Whereupon the
first, turning slowly toward him without appearing at all disconcerted,
though evidently taken by surprise, began to eye him in return, inch by
inch, as if he were taking an inventory of his features and dress; and
having finished the survey, he puckered up his mouth, flung out one of
his huge feet as far it would go, and then put forth a question, as
usual down-east, by way of reply. There is no describing his look or
manner; both must be left to the reader's imagination after all, if he
has never happened to see a live Yankee about to engage another at a
game of poke-fun, as they call it where it flourishes most. Didn't you
never hear tell o' them air creuked sticks they cut away down-east—so
creuked they wun't lay still—hey?
To this something was said, which I did not distinctly understand,
though it appeared to go to the right place, and set two or three of
the bystanders a laughing.
Wal! retorted the other; you aint long for this world, I swan!
judgin' by your tongue, as they do in the gab fever.
Not long for this world! retorted his antagonist; getting under way
rather slowly, then drawing himself out like a portable fishing-rod or
a telescope, and stretching himself up to his full stature—gaping and
throwing both arms abroad as far as he could reach, like one of
anthropophagi after flies--longer 'n yourself tho' by an inch
and a half—and then with a look which every body followed with his
eye, though nobody ventured to smile, he added—leavin' out noses
Not by two chalks! retorted his antagonist, tapping the handle of
his own visage as he spoke, to show that he understood him; tho' if you
had all the kinks pulled out o' your carcase, your ears buttoned back,
and a bladder hauled over your mouth accordin' to law, instead
o' that air flashy handercher, you'd be ever so much longer than ye air
now, an' wuth more too, by a pocky tarnal sight. I'd give as much agin
for ye—with the bristles off.
This was too much for the gravity of my quaker friends, though the
handsome stranger appeared to enjoy it most. The old man looked up with
a smile of subdued amazement, I laughed till my sides ached, the fair
girl (she proved to be his grand-daughter at last) sat looking sideways
at the two down-easters, and struggled to suppress her mirth, till the
tears ran down her cheeks; while they interchanged a look of triumph
with certain of the bystanders, and then separated—one betaking
himself more zealously than ever, and with the most self-satisfied air
in the world, to his journeying fore and aft the deck, pretending not
to know that he was a subject of admiration to every body near; while
the other, as if equally satisfied with the issue, having folded his
large yellow bandanna into a new shape, threw himself limb by limb over
the five chairs, pretending to fall asleep again directly, in spite of
the attention he received from two or three mischievous young dogs, who
wanted to keep them in play.
Again the conversation was renewed between the the stranger and the
old man; but in a very low voice and with a manner that indicated
extraordinary interest in both; and at last I heard the latter
say—Thy notions are now to me, and I should be glad of a further
acquaintance when we arrive at Baltimore— or if thee should ever come
to Philadelphia—what may I call thy name?
And thy other name?
Gerard, sir—Gerard Middleton; bowing with his large troubled eyes
fixed upon the daughter for the first time—and looking as if he would
look her through, and read her very heart without being observed by me
or the grandfather. I saw instantly that they had met before—and yet
she stood it bravely—I will say that for her—bravely, considering
her youth and her gentleness. A mere child in years, and looking as if
butter wouldn't melt in her mouth; and yet, there she sat perfectly
still, and suffered him to pore into the lighted depth of her own dear
eyes, without flinching or trembling or dropping the lids; and then all
at once, when the trial was over, and he withdrew, partially abashed I
thought from the encounter, she recollected herself, turned away, and
blushed to her finger-ends. The next time I saw her, she was very pale,
and her lashes were wet with tears.
Another bell—to remind us of our passage-money; and having run
forward to see what the matter was, I did not immediately return; and
when I did—but that will do for another chapter,
The confusion attendant on settling for the passage having subsided,
and the trouble about the machinery being pretty well over, I returned
to my favorite station by the fair quakeress; where I had an
opportunity of studying Middleton yet more at my leisure. He stood near
me, leaning over the rail and playing with the bolt of the gangway--I
spoke to him twice about the danger, and he thanked me, though he
persisted nevertheless, and at one time the slightest lurch of the
vessel would have precipitated him into the sea—yet there he stood,
watching the beautiful countenance before him, the placid mouth and the
happy eyes turned up toward her dear old grandfather, and
occasionally wandering toward mine, (though I am sure she never saw
me after Middleton crossed her path,) whenever he appeared in a
revery, or was looking another way. I saw now that he was rather tall,
and very thin; a decided southerner in his carriage, indolent, haughty
and graceful—somewhat swarthy too about the uncovered part of his
face, with a very intellectual forehead— the temples were absolutely
transparent—a woman's mouth, and the most effeminate-looking hands I
ever saw. I never was half so much puzzled before—what to make of
him, I could'nt tell for a long while. His black joyful eyes and
haughty lip, did'nt belong far enough north for the fine chisseling of
the other features, and the singular beauty of his language. But when I
discovered, as I did before we parted, that he was born of a
New-England mother, remarkable for her beauty and accomplishment, and
that his father was a Georgia planter, who died in a duel, which
resulted in the premature birth of his only child—this very
youth—and that after travelling in the south of Europe, he had been
educated in the north for the very purpose of counteracting his fiery
temper, and fortifying his brave lineage by other and better principles
than he had imbibed in the south, I had a key to the whole mystery; and
from that hour the heart of Gerard Middleton lay naked before me. I
read it like a map.
Finding I had no business there—the grand-father being fully
competent for the protection of the child—I bore away for the walking
down-easter—the man with a nose like a sword-fish, and begged him,
half out breath already with no less than four attempts to bring him to
before I succeeded, to have compassion on me, and tell me what
the—gulp!—he meant by the caution he had favored me with, so early
in the day. But he only walked so much the faster, evading all my
questions so adroitly, and with so much ease to himself—now by a
swing of his coat-tail, which struck me so heavily as to satisfy me
that he carried weight, like John Gilpin's nag, and that people had
good reason for keeping out of his way, and now by a flourish of his
enormous pocket-handkerchief, that I began to feel rather vexed with
In a con-siderable of a hurry jess now, said he—as if he expected
to arrive at Baltimore so much the sooner for every step he took,
though we lay at the time—
—As idle as a painted ship,
Upon a painted ocean— Smashin' round like a house a fire
a—a—a, he added passing me so swiftly that I lost a part of his
remark, and he the whole of my answer. And when I lay too, waiting to
fire into him as he wore upon his heel or stood away upon a new tack;
another and another word, accompanied by a significant gesture, reached
my ear, and then—away he would go again! right before the wind! wing
and wing, all sails out, the ballast shifting at every roll, and
talking as fast as ever, though I could'nt make out one word in forty.
No time to talk now! dont ye see where we air?— right in the jaws
o' the inimy; have to fight yit, I vum if we dont! no runnin' away
here, rot an' tarnation seize the everlastin' steam-boats!; you seem to
be a leetle ryled yourself—dont wonder—dod burn an' butter my hide;
if you ever ketch me aboard o' steam-boat agin, that's all! I know what
you want! Stan' out o' my way—I'm gettin' ready for a jump—
A jump! what the devil do you mean?—
Yis, a jump—right overboard! smash! the moment I see the inimy;
you may do as you like, you and the rest o' the passengers, but I'm
agoin' to swim ashore—hullow! look o' there!—what's that-o'-comin'
up there! Aint them the boats?—I say, Cap'n Trip! hullow, Cap'n Trip!
aint them the inimy's boats?
Captain Trip had been reconnoitering before; and arriving aft with
his spy-glass, he assured us we had nothing to fear from that quarter,
even if it should prove to be the boats of the enemy; as long before
they could pull up with us, we should be at work under a double
Dont believe a word on't, said the Yankee—no business to come out,
an' I toll him so when I wanted to walk to Havre de Grace—meachin'
feller! never was half so mad afore—ryled all over, inside and out.
To be sure!—ryled—ructious—there ye go agin! right off
the reel, jest as eff you never heerd o' bein ryled afore? Hullow
there! I say you, mister! bawling away like a
two-and-forty-pounder at a mulatto who was righting the baggage forward
with a handspike, and trying to get some of the best of it under cover.
Mind how ye jounce that air chist about! Have to pay for all ye break
o' mine, I tell ye now! An' I say, neighbor, (turning to me) I
take you for a witness. Mind what ye're at now! never seed sich a
feller since I breathed the breath o' life; no sprawl in ye—great
slammerkin' good for nothin'— there now! What did I tell ye!
One of the boxes had pitched over upon a black fellow below, who
cleared himself with a spring and a howl, and began leaping about the
deck with his foot in his hand, his enormous mouth as wide open as it
would stretch, and the tears running down his cheeks—
There now! and away bounced the Yankee to his relief; catching him
up in his arms as if he had been a child, scolding him heartily all the
time; and laying him out over the bales of goods, without appearing to
see the strange faces that gathered about him, or to care a fig for
their profound astonishment, he began pulling and hauling the leg
about, now this way and now that, and wrenching the foot first one way
and then another, as if he would twist it off, while the sufferer lay
grinding his teeth and uttering an occasional boo-hoo!—boo-hoo!
Boohoo!—boohoo!—cried the Yankee, who had now satisfied himself
as to the state of the case. What's the use o' boo-hooin, I tell ye!
Keep a stiff upper lip; no bones broke—don't I know? Seventh son of a
seventh son—sarved ye right though—aint hurt half bad
enough—never hearn tell o' the rain water doctor? some calls him the
screw-augur doctor, an' some the steam-doctor—boo-oo—boo-hoo—what
are ye afeard on? Got the stuff till cure ye, if ye'd jammed your leg
off—take the bruise right out by the roots—look here! whipping out
a large box, with a lead-colored pigment, blue pill or opodeldoc
perhaps, or perhaps the scraping of a carriage-wheel. That's the stuff
for corns, I tell ye! capital too for razorstraps! addressing himself
now to one and now to another of the bystanders, and either by accident
or design so as to hit rather hard here and there, and raise a
good-natured laugh at the expense of a little somebody with pinched
feet, and a cross-looking old woman with a beard. Clear grit as ever
you see! gut sech a thing as a jacknife about ye marm?—to the latter,
who stood stooping over the box with a most inquisitive air, eying him
through her golden-bowed spectacles, and occasionally touching the
contents of the box, and then smelling her fingers in a way that he
did'nt appear to relish—with a red-haired girl in very tight shoes on
one arm, and a sleepy-looking coxcomb with mustachios on the
other—clear grit, I tell ye!—take a notch out of a broad
axe!—whoa! to the nigger, who-a! there, there!—best
furnitoor-polish ever you come across, mam. There, there,
stiddy—stiddy!— don't kick—plastering the foot all over with his
furniture-polish, and wrapping it up with a bandage of loose
oakum—ah, hah! begin to feel nicely aready, don't it, mister?
O, yessa massa, groaned the poor negro—him peel berry moodch
nicaly; tankee massa—berry mudch— boo-hoo!—gorrigh!
Told ye so! slickest stuff ever you see, aint it mister? snatching
up a rag of tarred canvass and a bunch of spun-yarn that somebody held
near—good for the lockjaw—tried it on myself; nobody talks faster
'an I do now, do they marm? fuss chop too for yeller-fever, an moths,
and lip-salve, an bed-bugs—try a leetle on't, mister, (to the youth
in moustachios) or maybe you'd like a box or yer own—some call it a
new sort o' tooth paste with more varter in't than nineteen sea hosses;
only a quarter dollar a box at retail, or two dollars a dozen box in
all, and take your pay in most any thing marm, (to the red haired girl)
boxes worth half the money, and more too, marm—take 'em back at
double price, if you aint satisfied, if I ever come across you
agin—sell ye the privilege right out for any o' the states, so't your
son there could make his fortin' by sellin' it for bears-greese; don't
kick, I tell ye!— to tho nigger—sartain cure for the itch—help
yourself, mister—why if you'll believe me, but I know you wunt, I've
seen it cure a whole neighborhood so privately, they did'nt know it
themselves—chincough—striped-fever and back-bitin' to boot, only by
rubbin' it over the minister's wig—mortal fine stuff for the hair!—
turns it all manner o' colors—there! letting the limb go and lifting
the poor man up with a bandage on it about as big as a moderate-sized
pillow—see there! enough's enough, I tell ye—boo-hoo—boo-hoo! If
yer don't stop your blartin' an' boo-hooin, you'll take cold inside,
and that'll take all the varter out o' the greese—and then, arter
that's done, I defy yer to stop—I call it greese; but its no more
greese than you air, (to a very fat man who had been laughing at all
the others in succession—it was their turn now) an' what's more (to
the nigger) your foot 'll turn all the colors of a peacocks'-tail.
How would it
answer in a case of yellow fever? enquired the
Not knowin' cant say—suppose you try it with a question or two
yourself? But I've known it tried out an' out with the slow
On a four-wheeled one-horse dearbon, hey? said somebody near me. Ah,
and what's more, on a fever an' ager; and it cured 'em both afore five
o'clock, an' gut all cleared away by supper time.
And ready for another, hey? continued the same voice.
Here the poor negro began to hobble off, saying as he moved
away—Tanka massa, tanka berry mush.
I say tho', mister, cried the Yankee, calling after him—might ask
what's to pay; or buy a box o' the hair-powder—that's the least you
Why lor a bressa massa; massa so good, he neber tink o' takin'
notin' o' poor nigger, hey?
I sholl dat! cried the poor fellow, beginning to whistle,
possum up a gum tree—ope he go! ope he go! with one hand foraging at
will in the pockets of his old tarred trowsers, and the other, perhaps
out of sheer sympathy, sprawling about in the matted wool over-head,
the fingering whereof by a nigger implies great inward perplexity.
Meanwhile the down-easter had got under way again; giving me a nod
as he went by, to make chase. But I had satisfied myself on that point
before—his long legs were altogether too much for me; and my only
chance appeared to lie in raking him as he yawed, or waylaying him on a
return passage. O, that you could see him! his newly-paved boots
falling on the deck at every step like a machine driving piles, or a
beetle shod with sole-leather; and his pockets rattling as he drove by,
hitting first one person and then another, like a newly-freighted
waggon finding its way downhill backwards without a driver.
All in good part! said he, talking faster than ever mortal talked
before, with the wind right in his teeth, so that I lost three words
out of four, and had to guess at the fourth. Forgit and forgive, that's
my way, which if you dont git swapped out o' somthin' hansum I miss my
guess, that's all! can't you see! wears a putty clever coat to be sure;
but when ye git a chance, jest take a peep into the in'ards or that air
umberill o' his'n with a cloth over it—why its nothin' in this world
but a frame o' sticks 'at he swapped for at French-town— been whipped
into hoss hair long ago, if it had'nt been kept for a trade. But he
knows how the cat jumps, I tell ye—cute as nutmeg—brought up on
ten-penny nails, pynted at both eends; why that air hat o' his'n 't you
see there, with a new hat-case, bran fire new, see how he keeps muchin'
it—whenever you look that way; why that's nothin' arter all but an
old three quarter dollar swap, with the wool off, an' more spots on the
brim than you could try out in half a year—
As true as you're alive—or shake a stick at between now an'
Pray tell me, said I, as he hove in sight again,— what I have to
fear from that—ah—he was already out of hearing.
Why as to that question, said he, some five minutes after, when we
happened to cross one another's route within speaking distance; my old
granfather, he said to me, says he, more 'n forty years ago—here he
made a full stop for a moment with his eye upon two other negroes who
were at work with the baggage, and then sweeping by me as before, I
lost the remainder of his reply; and the next words that reached me
were,—don't want yer money; only did it to try yer—not knowin' cant
say—never thought much o' Jedediah—do you chaw?
I stared and was about to answer, but I was too late. He had gone
by, with the poor old negro halting after him and holding out a handful
of change. We were under way once more, and there was a great bustle
midships—and I felt the breeze blowing fresh—and heard the sail run
up with a pleasure that I wondered at. If I had been becalmed for a
month on a voyage to Europe I could not have enjoyed the motion of the
vessel more—springing forward with new life and a preternatural
vigor, as the sea roughened with the evening breeze and gradually
darkened about our path, over which the white foam poured with a deluge
of lustre from our wheels and prow.
I had lost myself entirely again, and was wandering away I know not
where—over the dim blue waters; among the bright isles of the
sea—far, far away, when I was brought suddenly to my senses by a
familiar slap on the back. My teeth rattled again at the salutation. It
was the down-easter. I say, give us a nip o' that air snuff o' yourn,
't I see ye have, down below there, will ye? said he, rounding to as he
finished, and resting on his heel for a moment like a fine ship that
has been struck by a flaw in the midst of a capital manoeuvre. Putty
good o' the sort, hey, what there is o'nt—an' enough on't too, such
as it is; what d'ye give a bladder?
A bladder! Oh—ah—I understand you now; I dont buy it by
O, you don't, do ye? how then?
By the box.
By the box! you don't say so!
But I do say so.
Oh—ah—whoolsale? Comes cheaper when you lay it in by the box,
hey? Pulling out a piece of ragged brown-paper from his coat pocket—a
store house of odds and ends, of slops and fragments, blackball and
wafer-boxes, with a bunch of twine, a gimlet or two, and a leather
strap; and having spread the paper in the palm of his hand, he began
helping himself pinch after pinch, till he had nearly emptied the box
and filled the paper; when seeing what he took for a beetle or a
cockroach at the bottom, he dropped the last pinch as if he had burnt
his fingers, and cried out— lord a massy! what is it!
Where! where!—cried two or three persons near me, all
speaking together, and looking toward the quarter where the British
were expected. No wonder they were half frightened out of their wits; I
should have been frightened too, had I not perceived the cause of his
consternation, as he stood pointing at the box, and making the most
O—that's a bean, said I.
You dont say so! what's it good for?
To scent the snuff.
Why how ye talk!—pulling it slowly out with his forefinger and
thumb, and feeling it cautiously— Would'nt a cockroach do? The man
evidently had his misgivings, and like a true down-easter, was trying
to turn it off with a little over-acting; and then after eyeing it
awhile at arm's length, so as to make every body that stood near doubt
whether he was not pretending ignorance, he began to rub it slowly and
cautiously over the tip-end of his tremendous nose—I never did see
such a nose! that's a fact—it was about the color and very much the
size of a long-necked winter-squash—the more I saw of it the more I
was troubled, and I saw more and more of it every time I looked that
way—no, no, I never did see such a nose! and then, having smelt it,
he gave it a bite with his fore teeth—I'm not speaking of the nose
now—heaven forbid!—that belongs to another paragraph—and then
before I could possibly interfere, with his grinders; my attention
being diverted at the time by a half-smothered girlish giggle. On
turning my head, I found all eyes upon him, as he stood there making
mouths at the bean, preparatory to trying the flavor in the way
mentioned above. I was ready to burst with laughter and vexation, till
I saw that she understood the matter properly; though I was not
altogether satisfied I confess, when I turned that way and saw her
thinking of the stranger with the passionate lip and the imperious eye.
That she was thinking of him I knew the moment I saw her face; and she knew that I knew it; for she never lifted her eyes to mine
afterwards, but sat there trembling, with one snowy hand lying so
quietly in her lap, and the other stretched out toward me so
helplessly, that I longed to take it into mine with the clasp of a
brother—of an elder not a younger brother—and say to her: be of
good cheer maiden! I will never betray thee! But how could I? It was
not yet dark; and we were not alone; and perhaps if I had—for such
things have been—perhaps I might have had my ears boxed for my
sympathy, or a small sword flourished athwart my eyes, brother or no
brother, some cold frosty morning. It makes my teeth chatter to think
Having tasted the bean, chawed it, and smelt of it inside and out,
the down-easter shook his head, and spitting once or twice with the air
of a man who has heard of the biter bit, and feels rather
perplexed on the whole, take it by-and-large, was about returning the
bean to the box; and would have done so I am sure, had I not turned
away in a hurry, snapped the lid with a decided emphasis, and begged
him to keep it to scent the snuff with which he had in the paper.
Wal, said he, not at all embarrassed by the proposition or the look
I favored him with—Wal! seein' 'ts you, I dont care 'f I do—for
between you' an' me an' the post, I've taken a sort of a likin' to you—rather a sorter than a sorter not—I vow if I haint! and
that's a slum-fac (a solemn fact I believe he meant—a favorite phrase
with him); for I guess you're a putty clever sort of a feller notwithstandin'—rather equivocal thought I, as he proceeded. What
d'ye have to pay for sech beans as them, hey? Where d'ye git 'em? What
do they cost? How do ye lay 'em in—by weight or measure?
By tale, said I.
Oh—laying his finger along the side of his nose and trying to look
arch at the old quaker.
They are worth sixpence a piece, I added.
You don't say so! sixpence a piece! beats all nater! By jingo, if I
dont plant this, right away—do ye think 'till mind a scratch or two
like that? showing me the marks of his fore teeth, and rubbing the
bean with his cuff—did'nt go more 'n half way to the heart—
sixpence a piece! York money though?
No—Massachusetts—New England—Virginia currency.
Wal, if ever! May be you've got some to sell?— rather guess
Like to buy, may be? What'll ye give a thousand—
A thousand! why bless your heart, I—
Or truck out o' the store at cash prices—hullow!
We were interrupted by a great noise, and a cry of,
below there! and the next moment a couple of long chests painted
sky-blue, and flowered off in great style with a border of
brimstone-yellow, pitched headlong from the very tip-top of the
luggage; and the end of one being stove, and the top flying off, the
deck was instantly littered with all sorts of down-east travelling
haberdashery—half a bushel of dried apples on strings, a quantity of
blue-and-white woollen yarn, with sundry articles of clothing, which
had seen their best days long and long before, a heap of dough-nuts, a
new bridle, part of a sage-cheese, three or four nests of sugar-boxes,
a wooden clock-face and a pair of spurs with enormous rowels, were
among the articles I remember.
There now! cried my companion, you've jess done it! I told you
so—did'nt I mister? (turning to me for proof) did'nt I tell you so,
when that are gentleman was a cypherin' about there with the wooden
crow-bar, among all them air chists and boxes?
The gentleman he alluded to was the steward; a handsome,
well-behaved, well-dressed mulatto.
Never you mind tho'; I'll make him pay for it; or Cap'n Trip shall
make the damage good afore I leave the vessel—I'm goin' right away to
Washintin', and its wuth five dollars a day to me, every day 't I
A representative perhaps?
A representatyve?—oh—no! somethin' more'n that comes too, I
But you've paid your passage, I believe—
So I have, by jingo! What a fool I was to be sure! but never you
mind though—law is law—and I'll have my money's worth out o' Cap'n
Trip afore I've done with him—you'll be an evidence for me, wunt ye?
Do as much for you any time—ye will now, wunt ye?—say whether ye
will or no; if ye don't, I'll have ye summoned right away, and here's
your money all ready for ye, slapping his pockets— for travelling
fees an' tendance. Burn my buttons if I don't fix 'em! Cap'n Trip! I
And here, without paying the least attention to the trumpery that
lay exposed upon the deck to every body's observation, off he started
after the captain, calling upon me by name and all the others in the
lump, to bear witness that he had abandoned for a total loss, and
vowing he would'nt go nigh the chist nor touch to, till he'd
come to a fair understanding with Captain Trip.
Here a grave-looking little personage who stood in his way, and whom
I had seen prompting him a moment before, took the liberty to follow
the yankee a few steps, when the latter turned upon him with a look of
dismay, and stood staring over his head at me, while the other went on
with a sort of law-lecture about general-average, common-carriers,
bailment, &c. &c.— till the down-easter begun to grow rather shy of
him, and buttoned up his coat, and tucked away his watch-chain, and
crammed both hands into his pockets. Perhaps he took him for a
lawyer—but why conceal his watch-chain? why screw up his mouth, and
look about him, as if he expected to lose a tooth or two by sleight of
No sooner had he left me, than I stole up to the seat I had
previously occupied, with a determination to make sure of it for the
remainder of the passage, when, lo! I found another in possession; a
little dapper Bostonian, who kept a store as they call it, where every
shop is a store, every stick a pole, every stone a rock
, every stall a factory, and every goose a swan, sold
tape which he imported on his own account, dabbled in literature,
puffed poetry for the North-American-Review, and the
North-American-Review for the newspapers; at his elbow was another, an
educated and travelled Yankee—cold, supercilious and stiff—standing
like the statue of man before the loveliest of God's creatures, and
talking like a book, even to his washerwoman. I could not help
observing them both; for each was a fair specimen of what are called
the talented and gifted of their several classes. Both
avoided the brave old English word guess, even where no other
would serve their purpose— trying thereby to conceal their lineage,
and substituting for it, all sorts of awkward and silly circumlocution,
like most of our countrymen who have heard that to guess betrays
the Yankee, or at least the New-Englander: and so it does, where they
make use of it to express absolute certainty, that is indeed
characteristic of a New-Englander. He will say, when the thermometer
is five degrees below zero—Wal, I guess this is putty cole weather;
and if you ask him if that house yonder belongs to him, he will
answer—Wal, I rather guess it dooze. But in forty-nine cases out of
fifty, the rudest Yankee will employ the word guess after the manner of
the best old English authors; while the educated Yankee and the
Southerner, will resort to such absurd and bastard phraseology as the
following— to prove they are not Yankees, forsooth!—I take it; I
presume; I conjecture; I fancy; I imagine; I believe; I anticipate; I
contemplate; I reckon; I calculate, &c. &c. betraying the former
shibboleth nevertheless, even where most careful about hadn't ought
and legis'-latoore, dooze and Fellydelphy, by talking
through the nose in jets, by whimpering at the end of a long sentence,
and by saying I want you should go with me, or some other
pre-eminent Yankeeism, while counterfeiting the manners and speech of
the South, and affecting to pity his New-England brethern for their
strongly-marked and hopeless barbarism of language and
behavior—there! that'll do for the present.
By and by, the former went so far as to signify that he made his own
poetry; and being sorely persuaded by a mischievious girl who had
joined the group, and by the little creature who had so interested
me—zounds! what a mystery your innocent women are! They may do just
what they like, with absolute impunity!—he was obliging enough to
recite a copy of verses, with a low sweet musical cadence, which went
to the heart of all the women that heard it. Having somehow or other
forgotten a word, he thought proper to refer to a common-place book he
had with him, lettered ORIGINAL POETRY on both sides, in large
handsome letters—on opening it, I read the title of the piece,
`written by himself,' and surely never was title more appropriate, and
somebody at my elbow appeared to think so too, for he read it aloud
with an emphasis that proved to be irresistible—`Lines beneath
The little rogue took the idea, and laughed heartily before she had
time to turn away her face, or to stuff a handkerchief into her mouth;
and I—what shall I say?—I who had already begun to think her eyes
not more than half so blue as they were when we first came aboard and
sat together looking into the deep still mirror below; her stature to
say the least of it, rather diminutive; her mouth somewhat
large, though I do love a generous mouth, and her unspeakable
taciturnity, the best proof she had given or could give of her good
sense—I who had begun to think thus of her, became instantaneously
converted to a contrary belief, by the sudden burst of girlish
hilarity, the ringing joyousness, and what I should call the unexpectedness of her laugh. Her eyes were bluer than ever— her
mouth perfect—her good sense altogether wonderful— and her shape
that of the winged women I had courted in my youth. Ah—ha! said I to
myself, as she laughed all over—I am sure she did, "for it went
a-rippling to my finger-ends"—who is there with courage to deny to
that girl an exquisite perception of truth and humour, and a strong
sense of the ridiculous?
But of whose truth and humour?—I looked up to see for myself; and
there stood another Yankee as I live! close at her elbow and looking
over her shoulder, with all the ease of an old acquaintance. And what
was harder for me to put up with—she did not appear to observe him.
Oh Pharaoh! Pharaoh! thought I, if they had only thought of trying thee
with New-Englanders! In the course of a short conversation that
followed, I found his name was Gage, and that he and Middleton were old
acquaintances; though I had an idea from the angry flashing of
Middleton's eyes, that he did'nt half like the strange familiarity, the
perfect self-possession, and the steady quiet voice of Gage. But as for
me, I was delighted with him. He was evidently a New-Englander of the
right sort; a full-blooded, old-fashioned Yankee; and from the moment I
heard him read over the title of the verses from the book, `Lines beneath a nosegay,' I was determined to know more of him. No
change, nor shadow of change was there in look or tone, voice or
feature; but a something so self-assured at the time, so easy and so
natural, that for your life, you could'nt be angry, though he treated
you from the first moment you saw him, as if he had been acquainted
with you all your life long. He would say the severest things!—but
always with such a pleasant eye—no bitterness—no affected
archness—no assumed gravity was there; nothing of that manner which
betrays a professional wit, who having raised a laugh, or let a pun,
draws out his pocket-handkerchief with a long sober flourish and wipes
his mouth, or turns on his heel and walks away, as if he attached no
sort of value to his very best things, and might, if he would take the
trouble, do a thousand times better.
He could reason too, and that with extraordinary power; and in the
course of the day and evening we were together, he impressed me with a
very exalted opinion of his moral courage. Perhaps an example or two
may give the reader a better idea of him, and though it may appear to
delay the story, it will serve to abridge it in the long run, by
substituting fact for description—the man himself, heartily engaged
in a favorite cause, for a picture of him or many pictures of him,
wanting that essential feature of individuality— speech.
Take an example—
Not long after this I found him occupied with the venerable old
quaker in a discussion that interested me, and appeared to interest
others, exceedingly. It was about war.
But thee will agree with me friend Gage, said the old man, that if
two neighbors, having a dispute, if thee will, about the boundary of
their respective gardens, or some privilege common to both, were to
spend their time shooting at one another through the fence, or setting
fire to each other's houses, or carrying off each other's children, and
holding them as prisoners of war and hostages, only to be given up at
the end of the quarred—if they did this, instead of referring the
disputed question to a neighbor, they would only be acting as nations
do, when they go to war about a patch of territory, hardly worth having
at all, and never worth the sacrifice of one human creature— never!
And then, after a short pause and a benevolent smile, as he sat
smoothing down the soft silky hair of his grand-daughter, whose bonnet
had slipped off without being perceived by herself.—Perhaps
thee will agree too, that for such neighbors to talk about honor, or
dignity, or justice, while they are trying to murder one another,
would be looked upon, though there were no law to appeal to, as
a great folly and a great wickedness?
Certainly, sir, said Gage. And I would go further, much further. I
would say that in perhaps ninetynine cases out of a hundred, if
individuals were to act as nations do in going to war, they would be
hunted to death by common consent, even among savages.
Grandfather, said the girl, in a low timid whisper— and then she
stopped and seeing Middleton's eyes fixed upon her, with a look that
instantly disappeared, faltered out something relative to the New
Zealanders, adding that it went far to prove what friend Gage had been
Friend Gage, to be sure! and said without any visible
trepidation, with no drooping of the eye-lids, nor quivering of the
under-lip—and yet, I had reason to believe that he was a perfect
stranger to her. To tell the truth, I did'nt half like her manner in
this behalf, as a lawyer would say; and as for Middleton, I could
perceive that he was no better pleased than my self. But when she
addressed him also as a friend— friend Middleton, it appeared
to alter the case. He stared first, and then bowed, and then blushed,
and then looked another way.
Yes, continued Gage, and if they were to employ other people, as the
war-makers do, instead of risking their own lives and property; or go
to war with one another merely for the sake of employing their
supernumeraries, grumblers, hangers-on, I am very sure that even among
the New Zealanders, a price would soon be put upon their heads; for if
you recollect m'am— bowing reverentially to the fair creature before
Elizabeth, friend Gage—Elizabeth Hale, that's her name, said her
grandfather, before he had finished the bow—
Elizabeth—Hale—whispered Middleton—I could just hear the sound
as he breathed it forth, just see the motion of his lips; his pale face
all of a glow, and the tone so modulated, perhaps by accident, as to
change a question into an apostrophe—Elizabeth Hale? into Elizabeth!
But, continued Gage, as soon as he had recovered from the bow—I
would not be understood to mean— that is to say—there are
cases I believe—there may be cases, I should say—don't you
think so Miss Hale?— wandering, by Jupiter!—(getting more courage
and more breath as he proceeded, and showing that even he could be
disconcerted by a pair of fine child-like eyes—to the astonishment of
myself and the great joy of Middleton)—there are cases where,
in short, a—a—a where even war would be justifiable, not for
the sacrifice, but to avoid the sacrifice of human life.
Thou shalt not kill, whispered the fair Elizabeth; and then
she turned away, as if unwilling to to be led into a controversy, and
half ashamed of herself and sorry for having said so much; and I began
to feel, as I saw her studying the deep sea once more, that I should
forgive her soon, for not having appeared to enjoy one of my very
sensible observations in the first part of our voyage.
But we are not to understand such things literally— are we sir?
continued Gage, addressing himself to the grandfather, who appeared to
triumph in her application of scripture. If so, we are to kill
nothing— nothing—not even the beast of prey, the serpent, or the
Thou shalt do no murder, friend Gage—Nehemiah Gage, I think
Yes; Nehemiah—Elizabeth turned her face toward Middleton,
as much as to say—Thine's the prettier name by far; and Middleton bit
his under lip, as much as to say—I'm sure he thought so—a very
sensible observation Miss Elizabeth! what if they had tried to christen
me Nehemiah?—they'd 'a had a pretty time of it, don't you think so?
And Gage continued—But if killing a fellow-creature is the murder meant there, what becomes of the right of self-defence?
I find nothing said about the right of self-defence in the Book of
Life, my young friend: we are commanded to love our enemies, continued
the grand-father, in a tone that would have stopped that controversy or
any other, ashore.
And our neighbour as ourself, added somebody in a low whisper
at my elbow. It was Middleton talking to himself; and I saw the color
come and go over the beautiful neck before me, and wander about in
flashes underneath the delicate gauze, like the soft glow you see
toward sunset in the month of September— when the large white flowers
of the wilderness and the solitude are blowing in the mist and warmth
of our Indian-summer—the sweet-scented waterlilies, if they would
only blow in that month—when every thing is unsteadied in the
atmosphere. I was completely bewildered. Perhaps the reader may be so
And moreover, continued the grandfather, we are commanded to do as
we would be done by.
Worthy of all acceptation! cried Gage, looking at the innocent mouth
before him as if ready to follow the command to the very
letter—Middleton's eyes flashed fire! And I saw, or thought I saw,
the shadow of a projected under lip over the sarsnet-lining of her
little straw-bonnet, as that mouth turned away.
Fearing he had gone too far perhaps, Gage continued in a different
tone, as if with a view to conciliate both.—It cannot be sir, that
you and others who are willing to live under a government of laws,
where the guilty are punished and the virtuous protected— by law
—it cannot be that you receive these and other like passages
And why not, I pray thee? How are we to understand them
otherwise—on what authority? The language is clear—very clear—so
clear as to need no interpretation; so clear as to be incapable of
Yet we do, and we must continue to understand them otherwise. For if
literally, my dear sir, we are to take no heed for the morrow, and
to leave the support of a family to chance; if literally, we are
to do as we would be done by—if, when smitten upon one cheek, we are literally to turn the other; and if
literally, when a man
sueth us at law, and taketh away our coat, we are to let him have our
cloaks also—if we are to receive all these commands literally,
what would become of us? Why have we any laws upon earth, or any
government? Why any laws upon earth, or any government? Why any
fastening to our doors, or locks in our houses? Why not spend all that
we have in rewarding the robber and the ravisher, the house-breaker and
the midnightmurderer? No sir!—one of these two things we must do,
whether christians or not—believers or not— whether friends or
presbyterians, methodists or catholics—we must either take these and
other like doctrines in a limited and qualified sense, even as all
Christians do, in practice, and all that make war in any manner
or contribute in any manner to the making of war, under any
provocation; Or—we must give up the security of law, have done
with all government, from the highest to the lowest, and all the
appendages thereto—raze all our public-prisons, even to our
penitentiaries and bettering-houses, and lunatichospitals to their very
foundations; let loose all the unhappy creatures that inhabit them for our security— lay bare all our treasures—
Middleton began to breath fiercely here, and the fair Elizabeth to
look alarmed, sitting with her lips apart and her eager eyes rivetted
on Gage, who continued with great energy.
Lay bare all our treasures—throw open all our doors— and leave
our daughters and our wives to the spoiler!
Friend Gage!—Nehemiah Gage! said the grand-father, with a look of
I am perfectly serious, added Gage.
I believe thee, and am sorry for it, answered the grandfather; and
when I looked at the fair Elizabeth, she was pale as death, and her
eyes were full of strange sorrow.
But Gage persevered, and as for me, I was wicked enough to enjoy the
idea of his forfeiting the favor of both.
Perfectly, my dear sir. I see no other alternative. He who
contends for the literal interpretation of those passages, must do so
upon the ground that all human means of protection are prohibited; that
self-defence, not being mentioned in scripture, is therefore
unauthorised; that under all circumstances, and everywhere, the
Believer has nothing to do for himself;— for what is law, any law
, for the protection of property, life or character, but the right of
The old man shook his reverend locks, and poor Elizabeth breathed
only at long intervals; but when she did breathe, her eyes were upon
Gage—there is no denying it—with an expression of deep interest. I
began to feel angry with her—.
In which case continued he, standing more upright and warming with
the subject—I hold it sir, to be no more inconsistent for a
christian, who contends for the literal meaning of those
passages, to go to war, than to go to law.
Grandfather would agree with the there! said Elizabeth, interrupting
him with an eager smile, and a sigh that I couldn't help referring to
Gage put forth his hand upon her arm—so unconsciously, that
she forgot to observe it; adding as he did so, with an air that
astonished me—it was that of a high-bred handsome fellow, confident
of his power and sure of being well received by a woman, say what he
would, or do what he would; for this neither Middleton nor I was
prepared,—I am obliged to you, said he; but I have not finished. And
I hold sir, that it would be no more inconsistent for the believer to
go to war, than for any body who adheres to the literal
interpretation of these passages, to fasten his door o' nights, or to
have a lock-and-key under his roof.
But, my young friend, urged the grandfather—if we were
consistent, and always consistent, there would be no need of
bolts and bars, nor locks and keys—nor even of laws. And it is not
for thee and me to do wrong because others do so; or to be inconsistent
because others are so.
There was a clencher! and I could perceive that it was so intended,
and so understood, by all parties. Another might have been abashed or
puzzled; but our Yankee appeared to enjoy the idea of hearing a new
argument to answer. My dear sir, said he, we do not understand each
other. What I complain of is that all are inconsistent; and
they, more than all others, who receiving these passages literally
, go to law, or lock up their money, or under any circumstances
apply to the law for protection.
But we never do go to law, said the grandfather.
Excuse me sir. You never go to law among yourselves. Yet you go to
law with others; and the stricteth of your faith would not scruple to
apply to a magistrate for protection against any body that he seriously
feared, or any one who threatened to destroy his property or injure his
Very true—and that is what thee calls inconsistency hey?
Yes. And I go further. I say that if you were
instead of being what you are, inconsistent, there would be a
stop to the whole business of life among you. Society would be overrun
with outlaws, robbers and ravishers. Is it a sure mode of making others
honest, for a man to fall asleep in the highway or the market-place,
with his gold lying about him in heaps? or the best way of making
others peaceable, for a man to go with his hands tied behind him,
among ruffians—particularly if he assures them before hand that he is
worth an experiment, by assuring them before hand that they have
nothing to fear. Constituted as the world now is, he who forbears to
protect his own life, either by applying to the law, or by making use
of the bodily power he may be endowed with, appears to me, sir, to be a
very presumptuous man. He crowds temptation in the way of those who are
least able to withstand it, and then, having done this, he relies on a miracle for safety. Nay more, he tempts Jehovah—why not cast
himself down headlong from the pinnacle of the temple, in his
The sweet girl grew very uneasy here; and I saw her thoughts
wandering visibly between the eloquent northerner, and the silent
southerner—who stood aloof with his haughty lip contradicting his
lighted eyes; a gathered and concentrated power about the mouth, dashed
with a something scornful; a loftier and a more glorious look above, as
though he felt himself carried away by the generous language, and high
bearing of the man before him—spite of a constitutional antipathy and
a something more, which nobody understood better than the fair
Elizabeth, who instead of being offended by the familiar manner of
Gage, appeared to be pleased with it—or not to observe it, where to a
southerner it seemed worthy of immediate and special reproof.
Talk of consistency sir! continued Gage, stepping out from the
circle and throwing a hurried glance round the whole company, as if he
had another and a higher object in view, than the refutation of the old
grandfather, his pale cheek reddening with concealed fire and his grey
eyes dilating with extraordinary brightness for a man of the north.
Talk of consistency sir! If our Father above were consistent,
according to such notions of consistency, he would love his bitterest
enemies most, and he would treat those best who behaved worst—and so
would the Savior of men!
And is it not so—said Gerard Middleton; do we not find it so?
stepping quietly forth, and urging what he had to say with a voice that
thrilled through and through me—so earnest and so musical was it and
so eloquent with subdued emotion. What are all the blessings we
receive, all that we enjoy upon earth— health, strength and
intellectual power—opportunity for doing good—equally
distributed every where and at all times, without regard to our unequal merits? Nay sir—What is the parable of the prodigal son?
What the illustration that goes with it, showing that there is more
rejoicing in heaven over one sinner that repenteth—I have a bad
memory for language sir— What are all these things but the recorded
interpretation of our Father's will? the everlasting order of his works
Having said this, he fell back as if astonished at himself and more
than half sorry for having been so betrayed—in such a place and in
such company—and his lips quivered, and I could see that his hand
Gage looked up with a glow of surprize and joy overspreading his
intelligent face, and putting forth his arm, he would have taken
Middleton's hand, as it lay palpitating over the top of a chair; but
Middleton withdrew it, and Gage instead of knocking him down
—smiled, not bitterly nor insultingly neither, but pleasantly, as
if he understood every pulsation of the youthful and imperious heart
Magnificently urged! cried he. And yet, if all were to understand
these things as you do, would there not be encouragement for the
transgressor, and discouragement for the obedient and
faithful?—encouragement for transgression, I should say?
My young friend—Gerard Middleton—I must know more of thee, said
the old man, seeing him about to reply; and of thee also, Nehemiah
Gage—for I am satisfied (with a smile) I am satisfied that in
thee, our people have a dangerous adversary. I have heard of thee
before. Not contented with abandoning the faith committed to thee by
our fathers', I am afraid (smiling benevolently upon him and upon
Middleton, as he proceeded) thou hast profited a little to our
disadvantage by thy long familiarity with our opinions?—
Gage colored. And Elizabeth—poor Elizabeth— she looked as if the
Arch-Apostate himself had appeared to her bodily.
Nevertheless, continued the grandfather, I cannot deny that thee has
a very ingenious plausible way with thee, Ne-he-miah. I am not
convinced to be sure; and between ourselves I dont much think thee
would wish me to be convinced—thee would rather have such a
controversy continue; would thee not, Nehemiah?
Gage laughed, but assured him he was greatly mistaken.
Well, well—I dare say so. Thee is not the first that has convinced
himself in failing to convince others; but before we leave the
subject, there is one passage I would refer thee to, and leave thee to
examine it for thyself, at thy own leisure. I allude to that, where
Simon Peter having a sword, drew it and smote a servant of the
High-Priest and cut off his ear. Whereupon he was commanded to put up
his sword; for said he, who spake as never, never man spake, all they
that take the sword shall perish by the sword.
One moment—if you please! cried Gage, seeing the old man draw the
hand of Elizabeth through his arm, and pull her bonnet over her
forehead as if about to leave us. I am as unwilling as you to continue
the subject here (with a decided emphasis, and a flutter that
betrayed the hope he entertained); but as I may never have another
The devil take your impudence! thought I. Now there is Middleton,
who would give his little finger for another opportunity as you
call it; and here am I, a personage not very easily disconcerted—yet
neither could have said as much, in that way, if our lives had depended
Never continued he—much as I may desire it,— And some how
or other, even I could perceive as well as the fair Elizabeth, whose
blue eyes trembled in their own lustre when he looked at her, a
something very mournful and sweet in his altered voice—touching
I would say, but for the fellow's breadth of shoulders, high clear
forehead, compressed mouth and perfect self possession—Allow me to
ask you whether you receive that passage literally?
The old man hesitated.
In point of fact, I would ask you sir—if
all who take the
sword—all sir, do perish by the sword?
By the sword of the spirit—perhaps, if not by the sword of
Ah!—then you give up the literal meaning! Now, without referring
to the passage where the Saviour commands every man who hath not a
sword to sell his garment and buy one—I too have a bad memory for
language sir, glancing at Middleton—and without relying upon the
circumstance that he never reproaches a centurion for following the
trade of war; I should argue from the very passage you have cited, that
one of these things must be true. Either the Savior of Men did
not teach the doctrine of nonresistance to evil as you
understand it; or—I pray you to consider the alternative:—Or
, he did not teach it clearly and explicitly, and to all: in
other words, my dear sir, that his immediate followers and constant
companions did not so understand it as you understand it: Or
—and here again I beseech you to consider the alternative—or
, that they were guilty of the most unpardonable outrage toward him, at
the very moment when all his teachings, and promptings and sufferings
were about to be consummated forever! one of his followers an apostle
, not only having a sword, but wearing it into his very
presence; and wearing it too unrebuked of the others! up to the very
moment when he drew it before the face of his Lord-and-Master, the
Prince of Peace, and smote off the ear of his enemy! To judge of this
argument as I do think it deserves, let me ask you sir, what would be
thought by your brethren, if a follower of George Fox were to go armed
into the midst of them on a yearly-meeting day? Yet sir—if the
Savior taught the same doctrines, and taught them as clearly as George
Fox did, Simon Peter offered a greater affront by far to his
teacher and to his brethren!
A dead silence followed—nobody moved nor spoke, till the fair
Elizabeth murmured out something, which led her grandfather to observe,
as he looked hurriedly and anxiously, now at Gage and now at
Middleton— We are commanded to love one another.
Yes, echoed another and a nearer voice, trembling with timidity and
issuing in a low sweet murmur— Yes!—We are commanded to love one
Would you believe it! her eyes—her dove-like eyes—instead of
wandering from Gage to Middleton and from Middleton to me when she said
this, were fixed upon Middleton!
The fervid young Southerner was completely overpowered. He stood
before her, like a child, speechless and motionless;—I have no doubt,
with a dreadful sinking of the heart, and a terrible ringing in the
ears. How I pitied him!—But I pitied Gage more. Both are dead in love
with her, said a stranger at my elbow—and I'm ditto!
On shifting my quarters and going farther forward, where I might
pursue the train of thought conjured up by the lively picture of
society I had just left, I found myself in the company of another
stranger, evidently from the south—perhaps from Baltimore, as he was
remarkably well-dressed, rather sallow, and given to calling unmarried
females, whatever might be their age, Miss—hit or miss, I
should say, though if I were a woman of a certain age, like Hannah
Moore, Joanna Bailie or Elizabeth any body,— I think I should rather
be hit any how, than missed in that way; at the south, it
is regarded as peculiar to the north, as downright a vulgarism,
to say ma'am to the unmarried, as to talk about a dish of
tea, though both, instead of yankee—are English modes of speech.
Before five minutes were over, that which was only conjecture at first,
became certainty; for the individual in question while talking with me
about the curiosities of our northern speech, had the misfortune to say
in'-quiry, deciss'ive, adver'tiss, and dif-fic'-ult. We were
interrupted by the Down-Easter with a figurehead to his face, talking
to another. Why then, to the best o' my belief, said he, the
tor'-mented critter! he's a sort of a travellin' missionary goin' about
to an' fro in the airth seekin' what he may devour ho— ho—ho!
I started and turned to see whom he had in view— and whether it
was really and truly a laugh or only a dry cough; but I did not
succeed in satisfying myself, and to this day I continue in doubt. He
had never laughed before—to my knowledge—nor do I believe that he
has ever laughed since—like other people.
No great shakes tho' arter all, continued he, sitting on the
windlass, talking apparently to himself, with a long nine in his mouth,
and swinging his legs, somewhere between 225° and 280° on the average,
for ten minutes together; lives by swappin' watches and so-forths
, six days o' the week, an' preachin' at the halves, or maybe for his
board an' hoss-keep a' sabba-days.
Preaching at the halves—how's that? said the southerner.
Why dont you know? in partnership for what's taken up arter the
sarmon's over; sometimes they go snacks, an' sometimes they sell out
aforehand for so much over an' above thir reglar wages.
How?—snacks—hey? I don't understand you—I never heard
of this before.
I want to know! exclaimed the other down-easter.
Well you do know, replied the southerner, in perfect good
faith, mistaking a northern exclamation for a formal interrogatory.
Why, continued the down-Easter—there's them that preaches yer see
and then there's them that rides about an' drums up the
congregation—poor business though, now I can tell ye—quite spylt
for the reg'lar trader—so many pious young men about now that has
their expenses paid, so 't they are able to under-preach the rest of
us; there's some on 'em gits a dollar a day an' found; when if they was
obleege to work honestly for a livin' they wouldn't airn the salt to
Let alone their porridge! said the Baltimorian.
Well well I've no objection to that nyther, answered the
down-easter, also in perfect good faith and simplicity, mistaking a
southern idiom, for a gentle reproof.
Here a most obstreperous peal of laughter broke forth, from a tall,
showy, handsome, savage looking-fellow, whom I had not observed before.
Who is he—what's he laughin' at?—sees somethin' over-board, I
ruther guess, dont you?—wonder where he was brung up, to have no more
manners than that comes to? continued the latter of the down-easters,
tacking question to question by the score, without waiting for a single
answer. Taint half an hour ago 't I heard him talk about growin'
potaters an' makin' corn, an' raisin' niggers—guess he was
pokin' fun at somebody; an' then I should like to know (in a whisper)
what upon irth he means by hog-an-omminy, an' hoe cakes, an' pone
bread, an' mud-larks that's made into Virginny-ham. I'll be driv right
in eend, if I can see through that.
Before I had time to reply, my friend with the nose, rounded to and
bore away on another tack, propounding so many questions without
appearing to see me or any body else, or to care a fig about being
answered—talking to himself as it were in a loud earnest voice—that
I determined to have a pull at the game he was putting up, on my own
account, or perhaps I had better say, on my own `account and risk;
' for there is no little risk in setting a down-Easter.
If I am not much deceived, said I—you are a New-Englander; are you
Me!—What makes you think so?
That's enough—I am satisfied now.
Satisfied?—who with?—yourself or me?
answer I ever heard in my life; a
great deal better than yes or no; for it amounts to proof—proof positive—that you are of those that always answer a question by
Why—how you talk!
Here, the travelling-trader against whom I had been cautioned, and
who had followed me without being perceived, spoke up and addressing
himself to the other who was on the wheel asked him what he thought of
the war—`take it altogether—inside an' out, as the nigger said.'
Why, what do you think of it yourself? was the reply.
Ah—ha!—I know what makes ye so snappish; see through you, when
you fust cum aboard—if I didn't, there's no sneks in our part o' the
country—leave't to you, neighbour:—appealing to me as if we were on
the most familiar terms in the world, and taking up my hat as he spoke,
and blowing about the rich fur by way of parentheses.
I replied as well as I knew how, and forthwith a political set-to
began, which continued till there were five or six of a side all
talking together—laughing— swearing—smoking—and calling one
another blue-lights, jacobins, tories, democrats and enemies to the
country. The sharpest and bitterest, nay the rudest and coarsest things
were said—but all in a good-natured way, like brothers pretending to
be in a passion, though they would strike their fists upon the empty
hogsheads, and their eyes would flash and their chins quiver with rage
one minute, and they would all burst out a laughing together, and clap
their hands, and stamp their feet, and hourra the next, as the one side
or the other happened to give a good hit. In the midst of the uproar my
attention was called off to another group so thoroughly characteristic
of a steam-boat conversation-party that I could not forbear listening
One had a newspaper and was reading aloud to the rest—in a way
that appeared to amuse them exceedingly. When he came to what he called
an outlandish word, he would stop and spell it, and then push forward
again with a speed that left him breathless at the end of every
paragraph. T. Z. A. R—said he,— how do you purnounce that air,
mister? turning to Gage; never had no schoolin' to speak of myself—
Ah! said Gage, with a look of surprize—
No, never, an' the leetle I do know I've picked up here an' there,
nobody knows how; an' I don't purtend above all to know but plaguy
leetle about grammar an' jogrify.—T. Z. A. R.—I should call that
Teazer—the Teazer of Rooshy, hey?
Well, and why not? said Gage; free country you know.
Wal! I declare! If that aint jest
my way o' thinkin'. Taint
more an' three years ago last fall—raising his voice and looking
about him with an air of growing superiority—when I was a candidate
for our leegislater, or may be youd call it legis'-latoore? some folks
do—an' bein' one o' the se'-lectmen, I was in the school-committee,
says I to master Smith says I, who cares for Noah Webster, says I, or
his Third part eyther says I—or for Perry's dicksonary—I've gut as
good a right to my pernouncyashun as they have to theirn, says I, ary
one of em, says I—T-Z-A-R,—T stands for T. dont it?—and Z-A-R
spells Zar, dont it?—an' that makes Teazer, if I aint most plaguily
Precisely, said Gage. And if you are ever on the school-committee
again, I advise you to try them all round with that very word. See if
they can spell it after you, or pronounce it either.
Work em about right, hey? plaguy tough fellows some on 'em though;
take most any word apart ever you see, and put it together again full
as good as 'twas afore—an' sometimes better. Tried him once with
tremendyous—and squire Joe Smith he yaw hawed right out, and said
he'd be most particularly dumsquizzled if there was any sich a word.
Putty feller for a squire, wannt he? an' a 'chool committee-man too!
But I guess I paid him well for it, afore I was done with him. Next
year he might 'a been governor, with a salary o' six hundred dollars a
And found? said Gage.
An' found? no indeed—find himself—putty good wages too, I should
say; for my part I offered to take it for half price and give the
balance towards a new meetin'-house—but bein' a lawyer, he might 'a
had the whool, an ben allowed somethin' hansum to boot for wear an'
Washing and mending, you mean, hey? said Gage.
No I don't nyther—we do our own washin' an' mendin' where I
live—all the representatyves, and why should'nt the governor?
Taint posserble! said Gage. I looked at him in amazement.
, would'ntbelieve it possible reader, for such a man, with such a face,
to hoax any body alive—
The down-easter went on describing how he had managed to defeat
squire Smith, electioneering against him throughout the whole
neighbourhood; putty feller for a governor! added he, when he had got
through—not to know there was sich a word as tremendyous!
Pray sir, said the little Bostonian—turning with an air of
authority toward Gage, and glancing at the bystanders, as if to prepare
them for a triumph, pray sir, upon what ground,—if you are
serious,—do you pretend to justify the pronunci-ation of that word,
Tzar?—if you are serious, I say?
If I am serious—my dear sir! What can have led you to
suppose me not serious? The true sound of the ancient C.—(I began to
be puzzled myself here: was he or was he not humbugging a brother
yankee? For my life, I could'nt tell.)—Of the ancient C. has never
been settled. The learned, (with a bow— which the other took to
himself) are uncertain to this day, whether he whom we call cæsar was
not called Kæsar by the Romans. The emperor of Germany, the direct
inheritor of the title you know (another bow) is called der Kaiser
, which would seem to justify the idea.—Odds in favor of Gage.
To be sure, but—and here the other began to look bewildered.
But then, as the Italians say ladzaretto, and pentsiero, for
lazzaretto and pensiero, mixing the sounds of d and t
with those of z and s like the Russians— another
bow—and the Russians having borrowed the title of Caesar, and
corrupted it by their horrible orthography into Tzar (speaking
faster and faster-every moment, so that his antagonist had no way of
escaping the mystification) I confess I do not well see how we can
avoid following them so far at least as to call their T, by its right
name—T, instead of C. Three to one for Gage.
Nor I sir—nor I—but then as to the a—a— I want you should
show me, that is to say—for where the object of discussion is not so
much victory, as truth, we had'nt ought—appealing to the
company—never ought I should say—blushing to the eyes and beginning
to switch his boots with his pocket-handkerchief— to take too much
for granted as Butler says— ever read Butler's analogy sir? or Adam
Smith, or the Spectator —?
Precisely sir—I agree with you there, said Gage; but then, Rome
was not built in a day!—and he looked about him with such a knowing
air, that several of the bystanders began to wag their heads at one
another, as much as to say—what a snag of a fellow at an argument!
all to nothing for Gage—no betters.
And moreover, continued he, addressing himself anew with a
deferential bow to his antagonist—I have an idea, and I should be
happy to have your opinions upon the subject sir.—I have an idea that
the languages of Europe abound in similar corruptions— why may we not
have the Teazer of Russia, as well as the Dolphin of France, the Clam
of Tartary and the Dog of Venice?—
The clam of Tartary, and the
dog of Venice! cried the
other; as if, notwithstanding the perfect simplicity and good-faith of
Gage's countenance, he had begun to suspect for the first time, that we
were laughing at him. And what might have been the consequences but for
an accidental interruption, I would not take upon myself to say: for he
grew very pale about the mouth, and there was an angry flashing of his
bright blue eyes that indicated a dangerous temper. A hundred to one
offered; no takers.
I presume sir, said a tall thin awkward man with knock-knees,
and green goggles and protruding eyes, lugging out his
pocket-handkerchief with a violent flourish, and stepping up to Gage—
I presume sir, that you have never been in Rooshy—speaking in a
very sharp key, and so as to attract every body's attention— pulling
off his goggles and wiping them so carefully, with his teeth
clenched and his queer-looking eyes roving about over all our faces
with an expression of cool confidence which had a very unfavorable
effect upon those, who, but a moment before, had been ready to hurra
for Gage,—have you sir?—bets equal for the new comer.
Never, said Gage, without any change of countenance—
Well sir—I have!
The devil you have! said Gage; with an air of such unaffected
astonishment, as to deceive me for a white. Gage losing favor.
Yes sir! straightening himself up, replacing the goggles,
withdrawing his feelers and giving his pocket-handkerchief another
deliberate and circumstantial flourish, (five to four against Gage) and
there they pronounce the word—give me leave to tell you sir—
Tzar—and not Teazer—
With all my heart, answered Gage; but give me leave to ask you
sir—what does that prove? Bets even.
Prove sir—prove? said the other, shifting his feet once or
twice, changing his pocket-handkerchief no less than five times from
one hand to the other, and taking off and putting on his goggles three
times, before he had worked out the answer—wiping them every time and
appealing to each of the different by-standers by turns, with a peering
into his very eyes that diverted me inexpressibly—Prove
sir?—why sir, it proves that if the Italians do say Ladzaretto,
that's no reason why other people should say Teazer!
Indeed! said Gage, and bets were all going the other way.
Ah, ha!—there you have him! said the other antagonist!—answer me
that if you can! whispered a third. That's into yer, a few! I ruther
guess! cried a fourth. The current was evidently setting hard in favor
of the new comer.
Why sir, continued Gage, if you mean to infer that pronunciation of
the word to be right, because they pronounce it so in Russia, then you
would justify every sort of corruption, every sort of pronunciation;
the Scotch, the Welsh, the Irish, and the Yankee—in talking English
as they do: For they do what?—just exactly what the Russians do,
borrow other peoples words, appropriate them to their own use, without
leave or license, and spoil them. And then forsooth, we are to
follow their example, are we? If they cannot spell, we must'nt—if
they spell Cæsar with a T, we must, hey? Hourra for you! cried a
by-stander, give it to him Gage! One more round my boy and the game's
My own idee 'gzackly! cried the school-committee-man.
Not a fair case though, answered the man with the goggles—by no
manner o' means; wunt allow it, nor touch to! As if them that use a
word most are not likely to know best? Getting wild—into him Gage!
One hundred to five—no taker.
Do we always find it so in point of fact? continued the
imperturbable Gage. Did you ever hear a mechanic say le'-ver? Don't
they all say lev'-er? even the watchmaker and the machinest, with their
patent lev-vers. Do you know a single navigator who does'nt say
hor'-izon for hori'zon, a painter or drawing-master who does't say
a'riel for a-erial? a schoolmaster who does'nt say pronun-ci-a-tion
instead of pronunshiation, though he never thinks of saying offi-ci-al,
but offishal; a lawyer who does'nt say tosummons for to summon,
evidence for witness, ten'-ure for te'nure, and perhaps recon'nizance,
for recog'-nizance; a builder who does'nt say pylaster for pilaster, or
a lover of back-gammon who does'nt play the very devil with the names
of the throws, however well he may speak French at other times—
saying tray-ace, and syzes, and deuces and kayters— I might go
through with society in the same way.
The man with the goggles had nothing to say—he was thunder-struck
at the volubility and seriousness and readiness of Gage, and stood
staring at him, speechless and motionless, with his mouth wide open.
Fifty to one on Gage—all to nothing! Time! time!
—and the adversary not being able to come up, Gage untied his
handkerchief and jumped over the ropes.
Wal done you 'squire! cried the se'-lect-man, clapping Gage on the
back with tremendous good will; Hooraw for you, I say! gin' it to 'em
both about right, hey? trig little feller he is too—tho' I cant say
't I admire to see peeked-toed shoes, or a man's eyes rigged out with
spy-glasses and feelers—gut a half-pistareen about you frind?—hytee
tytee! turning to another, who appeared to be laboring under some
fierce emotion, his upper lip working after the manner of Lord
Brougham's, and his mouth twitching convulsively at every motion of his
head—who are you makin' mouths at, hey?
God bless you, my friend, whispered I—the poor fellow cant help it.
Cant help it! why not, I should like to know?
Why don't you see, whispered another yankee, he's got a wry mouth.
Rye-mouth—rye-an-injunn more like.
What more could I say? All further explanation would be useless; and
to tell the truth, I could not help agreeing with the man as to the
sort of mouth before us, much as I pitied the proprietor.
Everlastin' hot weather! aint it
you? continued the
down-easter; 'nough to try out a side o'sole-leather; for my part, I'm
all runnin' away.
Taint the fuss time nyther, I'll bate! said the man with the
unfortunate mouth; and then turning toward a fellow-passenger, he
continued, as if renewing a conversation about a murder which had
occured the day before at Philadelphia, I'm no frind to capital
punishment, an' never was; but if ever a feller desarved to be
frittered in two with a hansaw, that feller dooze.
Sarved her right! cried another; and then after running himself
entirely out of breath, he protested the man had no right to be
hung; while another declared, with equal appropriateness of language,
that such a cold blooded murder was ridiculous, and that the man
ought to be hung right away—had'nt ought to live another hour.
The eyes of both were turned upon Gage. I'm of
said he, speaking to the last—nothing can be more ridiculous
than cutting a woman's throat in her sleep—in the dead of night.
Ah—ha! what did I tell you? cried the individual whose opinion he
had so handsomely adopted. And I agree with you, also, continued
Gage, turning to the other, the poor fellow has no right to be
hung, and I dare say if he were hard pushed, he would own it
himself—or give it up, if you were to try him at the foot of the
There now—what did I tell you! cried the other.
I say—you!—mister!—shouted the man with the nose,
rounding to, as he happened to see apassenger at work upon his lips
with a spunge dipped in sweet-oil. They were dreadfully chapped. I say!
try some o' this ere lip-salve, wont ye? had'nt ye better? allays care
some on't about me—slickest stuff for piles ever you see! lugging out
the identical box we had seen before, and offering the blue pigment to
Faugh!—cried the other—should our engine get out of order, your
panacea might come in play there again!
Te be sure!—take a notch out of a broad-axe in less 'an three
wipes; did'nt I tell ye so—have some?
Go to the devil with your nasty trumpery!—
Frind!—I meant no offence, an' I'm sorry for it; but if you'll
allow me to express my opinion, I should say that a leetle o'
that are—a very leetle—scooping out as much as he could with
his thumb-nail, and holding it up—not more 'an you'd want to soap a
griss-mill with—jess slicked over your lips, inside an' out,
you'd be a much easier man for the rest o' the day; an' talk more to
other people's satisfaction.
And then, having said this, he walked off, enjoying the
half-suppressed laugh that broke forth at intervals for five minutes
afterwards, with the most innocent look you ever saw. After a while he
crossed my path again—Hullow! said he; don't care if I do take
another nip o' your snuff, seein'-ts you!
I reached him the box, and my gentleman, after opening it as far as
it would go and rapping the kiver as he called it, and shaking it—as
a puppy would an old hat—and tipping it up, first on one side and
then on the other, till his forefinger and thumb, already prepared for
the business by the lip-salve, had cornered the last pinch there was
left—as the dog Billy would the rats; and then, without the slightest
compunction or hesitation, availing himself of the advantage, so that
none escaped, he slicked it all up, and returning the box—he
said he ruther guessed I want very fond o' snuff—only cared a box for
fashion-sake! and then, after a short pause and a laugh or two which
set my ears ringing, he added—proper snarl o' folks here aint they?
Wonder how much the skipper—here he turned to a neighbor—how goes
it Nathan? Cleverly, I'm obleege to ye; how goes it with
yourself?—wonder how much he gits a year, privilege, perquisytes an'
all hey? putty good bairth I'm a thinkin', if they let him drive on
sheers, an' I rather guess they do by all accounts; ever ben over the
Bay State or Varmount?
Never, said I.
I'm sure I've seen you tho', or somebody plaguy like you, haint I?
Quite posserble, hey! more 'n that I rather guess— why, you look
as naiteral, as the nigger said—don't know yer name though?
Somewhere in the back-parts o' New-Hampshire may be?
May be so.
Wal! I thought so—I swamp it if I did'nt! felt considerable
acquainted with you from the very fust— what may I call your name?
What you please.
Ah!—oh—you aint mad nor nothin' I hope.
Not in the least.
Wal then—can't ye tell a feller yer name?
Pretty fair! said I in a voice intended for Gage, who stood near me,
with his arms folded, leaning over the rail and evidently enjoying the
catechism of the down-easter.
Ah, but your chriss'n name: your given name?
Peter!—Peter?—ah, I know I'd seen you afore—
travellin' hey? ben to Pheladelphy?
Wal, I say though, Mr. Putty—putty—putty— quair name tho' that
o' yourn by the hokey! as ever I come across.
Pooty-far—pooty-far?—drollest name ever I heard, make the best
on't though—taint none of your choosin' I spose—bear it like a good
feller, thats the way, never know'd many o' that name in our part o'
What! never heard o' the Potiphar family! cried Gage.
Lord you! that I have! Speakin' o' names though, there'll be a fight
aboard, afore long.
A fight! said I, rather alarmed I confess at the abrupt
communication of what I dreaded more than any earthly thing—a fight
in a crowd. I hope not.
O, but there will tho'. That air long chap there from Tennessee,
he's ben havin' a spat with the capun about you mister (looking at
Gage) and he vows he'll whip you as soon as he gits you ashore.
I looked at Gage. His countenance never altered, and he replied in
such a quiet natural manner, that I believed him, when he said—You
are under a mistake, my friend; it cannot be with me that he would
quarrel. I have had nothing to say to him.
Thats the very reason! He swears he'll take the stiffenin' out o'
you—an' that air little southerner.
Which little southerner! demanded Gage in quite another voice. It
startled me, and when I looked up, he was leaning forward with lighted
eyes and trembling very hard—his hand shook too, I saw that, as it
lay spread out on the bench, with its rigid sinews and square muscles
in action. It was like the paw of a wild-beast for strength, and
Why that are chap you was with below, said the Down-Easter.
Gerard Middleton, hey?
Do tell!—is that his name?
Take the stiffnin' out o' Gerard Middleton—will he?
Never shall I forget the expression of that man's face, when he
uttered these two brief words—will he! It made me catch my
breath. He got up and walked away after saying this, and when I looked
again I saw him in close conversation with the down-easter, in a
distant part of the vessel where they could not be overheard.
If they go to kickin up a dust here, they'd better look out—that's
all, said somebody at my elbow, who appeared to understand my very
thoughts—it was the swapper against whom I had been cautioned.—I
know a feller 'twould whip the whool boodle of 'em an' give 'em
six—an' there he goes now! ever hear tell o' Gage—Atherton
Gage?—that's the very man; rather too much of a gentleman to be sure,
but he can't help that—runs in the blood, naitral to the family—
old Jerry P. R. Gage was the biggest gentleman ever you see, an' so's
the whole bylin' of 'em.
Atherton Gage said I—you must be mistaken; his name is Nehemiah.
Nehemiah!—Nehemiah Gage!—Nehemiah Fiddlestick! don't I know?
But I heard him say so—it must be Nehemiah?
I tell ye taint. His rayal name is Atherton Gage— his mothers
name's Atherton, but jess for the fun o' the thing sometimes he calls
himself Nehemiah, or Peltiah, or Hezekiah, or some such old-fashioned
name. He's rayal Yankee, I tell ye!—clear grit—an' smooth as ile;
slick as grease, we say. Why where 've you ben all your life, not to
hear tell o' Atherton Gage—son of old deacon Jerry P. R. Gage of
Quamphegan? best wrastler in all New-England; gwin' right away inter
Kentucky, jess to have a try there with some o' them air fellers that's
brought up to Ingeen-hug among the bears, an' if you ever bate, I'll
bate ye any thing you like in reason—an' plank the money too—which
as I was a sayin'—Old rugged-an'-tough they used to call his dad,
famous wrastler he was too, warped with hoop-poles an' filled with
oven-wood; beatemest feller ever you see for some things—ought to go
by the name of old say-nothin' away from our part o' the country, but
when he's to home (talking very slowly and quietly, and eying my
watch-fob all the time)—why Lord you! he's a match for gab with any
body 't ever you come across— getting hold of my hat and blowing up
the fur and examining every part of it, inside and out, and glancing
every now and then at his own, which he had rigged out with a new
hat-case and stowed away under the chair. But as you're from
Feladelphy— what a pocky tarnal great place that must be! by all
accounts, may be you can tell us how dry-goods in jinral is there —?
Yes—needles an' pins, and calico and cultery an' so forth and so
forth—putty good cloth that o' yourn
—for war-times—laying his hand on the sleeve of my coat, and
smoothing down the nap—who's your maker?
My Maker!—Oh, I understand you—my tailor you mean?
Yis—who made your cote? Is that a Feladelphy hat o' yourn, though?
What do they come at there, cash on the nail? 'Spose abody was to take
three or four right out, and say no more about it—whoolsale— hey?
I do not know.
My stars! why didt'nt you say 't you'd come from Feladelphy?
So I did—but as I do not live there, it would be impossible for me
to answer such questions—.
New York then, hey?
I shook my head.
Or New-Haven?—or Providence?—or Boston?— or—
No sir—no sir—
Or Salem?—or Newberyport?—or Portsmuth?— beginning to say over
Morse's Gazetteer, page by page.
No! no! no! said I, speaking as fast as I could, and enjoying his
look of amazement and perplexity— put on for the occasion I believe
now—more than I ought perhaps, if it was not.
Well then! drawing a long breath, and beginning to admire my
boots—where upon airth do ye live! I should like to
know, laying his foot alongside of mine, and turning it this way and
that, as he pursued the investigation, either to satisfy himself about
the comparative size of our feet, or to make me observe that his boots,
evidently new, were topped off in the highest fashion of the day.
Live—said I—in reply to the last interrogation— here
and there, and every where; in other words— no where.
Jess so! and then after a long pause—where do ye stay then? Where
do ye keep?
Wal! you're more'n a match for me, I'll say that for ye any how!
another long pause, but only long enough to breathe our indefatigble
down-easter for another attack—.
Aint the wandering jew, air ye? and then, instantly aware that he
had overacted his part, he added; you're from tother side arter all,
I'm a' thinkin'?
From over there—away yender, pointing to the high-seas. What do ye
pay for sech a pair o' boots as them in Eurup? Newest fashion
there—all the kick I spose, hey?
I laughed—I could
not help it—laughed aloud, and long and
heartily. But he was no way disconcerted.
Wal I thought so! if I did'nt there's none o' me, thats all! more n
two hours ago, says I to capin Trip says I, capin! says I; that air
chap there with the gool watch, he's from the old country, if he aint,
I'll eat a grin-stone—jess so! an' whats more says I, that air
hat he's gut on, aint a rayal beaver hat no more 'n you air, says
I—nothin' but a silk hat says I—an' then, says I, capin Trip, says
I—jess look o' them cloth stockins outside o' his shoe (eying my
drab gaiters)—any body might know.
Cloth stockings outside of my shoes—the rascal!
Capin Trip, says I, any body might know, says I,— did'nt I mister?
(to the man at the wheel) that he's from tother side—or (lowering his
voice) or wants to be thought so; and whats more 'an all that, says
I— he dooz'nt seem a mite afeard o' the man' o' war's-man off there
't we passed as tight as we could spring— and you know you
did'nt!—and what's more yit, says I, he never says nothin' about the
war says I, an' when he seed leetle Georgee, says I, an old Tennessee
says I, jess goin' to pull hair, says I, he would'nt hourraw for nyther
side, says I—jess so!
Nor did you, sir, if you mean the foolish dispute below.
Not I, you may depend! a
leetle too fur east, I ruther guess
for them sort o' didoes. When the southerners come to a close grip with
one another, what do we care? don't they keep a hundred or two o' great
nasty bull-niggers a piece, jess to sharpen their knives on—without a
rag to kiver 'em, starvin' 'em most to death all the time, an' lettin'
their women folks and babies slash 'em up with case-knives, for jess
nothin' at all, an massacree 'em most to death, when there's company to
dinner, jess to sehw 'em what they can do? Haint they sold their own
flesh an' blood many a time to get money for a cock-fight or a
hoss-race?—do'nt we know 'em of old? Thats what they call gettin' the
yeller-boys, I spose—I've been there, an' I've heern 'em say so many
a time; pocky tarnal shame! butter my hide if taint; an' what should we
care, comin' from a land o' liberty where there aint no niggers to
speak of, when we see sech folks fall together by the ears—where
there's hundreds an' thousands on 'em taint washed from one years eend
to another, an go about the houses thicker 'n the frogs in Ejup, an' a
plaguy deal nastier—I've ben there, I tell ye, an' I know what I'm
sayin' of— which it is no wonder we love to see the feathers fly.
And why so pray?
Why so! Why what business has the niggers there? Let them that likes
'em have 'em, I say: An' if they go to quarlin' about 'em, an' cuttin'
one another's throats, whose business is it? Not ourn I'm sure. We told
'em how twould be, long enough ago.
Yet in your part of the country, you are not over friendly to the
blacks—I believe—said somebody in a quiet mild voice, at our
very elbow. It was Middleton himself.
Frindly! what dye ye mean by that? do ye think we keep
company with niggers, or make frinds of 'em, hey?
And why not, if they are well-behaved?
A nigger well-behaved! guess you don't know what your talkin' about
Or a mulatto—
Jess as bad—all alike I tell ye; aint a copper to choose betwixt
'em—if there's a drop o' nigger-blood in 'em, they'll always show it
in their temper.
How in their temper?
How in their temper? Why you know as well as me—they're right down
ugly when theyre mad, clear niggerish. Why taint more'n a month ago t'
I heard a great he-nigger tell a white man that if he struck him with
his whip, hed split his head open with the axe—why, in our part o'
the country they think themselves most as good as white folks, every
And what if they do—if they are otherwise well-behaved— you tax
them, dont you?
Tax 'em! to be sure we do; they are free-niggers that way.
Do you ever put them into the jury-box?
Into the jury-box—haw, haw, haw!
Or into the militia?
Into the militia! Why frind, you dont seem to know much about
New-England—who do ye think would train along side a pesky nigger, in
a free country—in the dog-days.
Or a mulatto—
Yes, or a mulatto eyther, down to the fortyeth generation.
Do you ever allow them to visit you?
Visit me!—niggers visit me!—I'll tell you what tis frind, if you
are pokin' fun at a feller—you'd better find somethin' else to do,
But I am perfectly serious. I am only asking a few questions, which
I hope you are good-natured enough to answer, as civilly as they are
Oh, wal! if thats what you're divin' at—whip away.
Do even the poorest and most worthless of your white men ever
associate freely with the blacks or mulattos in your part of the
Why no! I tell ye. They wunt eat together nor play together, nor
sleep in the same room together if they can help it; and our overseers
o' the poor would be ashamed to ask it, when they're a town-charge.
Are the children of colored people admitted to the same benches with
the whites in your free schools—
On the same benches! By gimini! if I should'nt like to see sambo
Smith's boys cipherin' along aside o' mine at our town-school! I guess
I'd have a word to say to master Cobb an' the school committee too! an'
the select men! Putty fellers to be sure!
But who is Sambo Smith?
What! never hearn tell o' Sambo Smith! he twas out in the
revolutionary war, and tho' he was only a hired man o' gineral Green,
he fit the innimy more in three hours one arternoon, with ony one other
great lazy good-for-nothin' nigger 't had lost his arm to help
him—old Cato Frost—you see old Cato laid down in the grass an' bit
off the catriges and primed the guns, fust one and then tother, as
Sambo blazed away at 'em out o' the stone-mill, where old Put had left
some flour for the continentals—no idea afore 'at ever Sambo had shot
off a gun; killed ever so many o' the troopers afore they'd give up,
some said eighteen or twenty; others not so much, though some was
carried off, my dad says, and he was out the whool war, that six bodies
was found arterwards, in the bushes an' among the logs in the river.
Ah!—yet this man—who pays taxes—and is free-born perhaps of
So I've hearn tell.
What kind of a character does he bear?
What kind of a character? O, good enough for a nigger, I tell ye;
works hard as any body and brings up gran children like the rest of us;
owes nobody nothin', takes off his hat to every body he sees when he
goes to the corner, never drinks a drop, nor swears a word, an' they do
say is a rayal christian—belongs to the church too.
Ah, a member of the church!
Do they allow him to sit side by side, with the white communicants
at the communion-table?
What!—in a tone of unqualified amazement; and then all at once
perceiving the drift of Middleton's questioning, he added—Why no! the
nigger'd rather take his 'lowance in the porch—I've hearn him say so.
And so they let him take his allowance in the porch, hey—like
O, but—ahem! old Sambo, he's gettin' old now 'an he'd a little
ruther not go to the table, I know.
And rather not serve upon the jury, or train with the militia
perhaps—even before he grew old?
To be sure! The nigger'd only be laughed at, if he was to be darned
fool enough to sarve.
You let him go to the polls I hope?
Oh!—yes! We all'ys care him up—parties ben putty equally
divided, so good an' so good, in our town this five years, an' Sambo
gets a ride every year, one side o' tother; stuffiest nigger ever you
see tho'! Wunt vote for nobody 't he dont like, no matter who gives him
a recommend; and what's more nigger than all that, he wont tell
aforehand which side he's goin to vote for, and sometimes he wunt vote
for nyther, an' sometimes he'll vote right agin the side that brung him
Middleton took off his hat, and drew himself up, and looked about
him, as if wondering to find himself so altogether alone as he appeared
to be, in his majestic admiration of old Sambo Smith—a glow of
indignant wrath burning all over his forehead—in the depth of his
large dark eyes, and about his firmly shut mouth, as he walked proudly
Ah, ha! gut his belly-full, I ruther guess, continued the other;
don't care which side whips, when the nigger-drivers falls out among
themselves; an' I told 'em so—did'n I mister?—oh, you're in the
sulks agin I see!—dont care for that though; raial down-easter I tell
And how do you know but I'm a down-easter?
You a donw-easter! eying me more narrowly then ever, and fumbling
for his pocket-handkerchief, as if to assure himself that all was safe,
before he ventured upon a more particular acquaintance—you a
down-easter! you! shaking his head slowly—very slowly. Why how
can that be? Haint I axed you one by one about all the places
down-east, where a feller could find sech a slick fit as them
are—glancing at my boots and then at my coat? No, no, Mr.
Potiphar—Peter Potiphar I think you said?—thats what we should call
a snorter, down-east. Ah, you may laugh! laugh away; laugh as much as
ever ye like, but I want you should go long o' me to the map, and show
me where yer live. Tell you what 'tis neighbor—I can see through you.
What dye mean sir?
Dont I know ye! an' did'nt I say so when ye fust come aboard! dont
talk to me—whizz! You from down-east!—putty joke faith! Do you play
checkers? or fox an' geese?—or morris?—or all fours?— or
I shook my head, one by one, to this string of questions, uttered at
longer and longer intervals, in a sharper and sharper voice, till the
astonishment of the man exhausted itself in a long and a fixed stare.
Draw cuts?—or open a book for the nighest letter? or chalk the
floor, hey? or jump up and kick?
I'm yer man by Gawd, stranger! I'm the boy for any thing or that
sort! cried the tall Tennessee youth, who had kept aloof till now,
lying on his back by the hour, with a long nine in his mouth and a
shotbelt full of sugar plums dangling over his breast. I'm the boy for
that! hourrra! run, jump, or kick, wrastle or fight, for all I gut
here! slapping his breeches-pockets, and springing up with a loud
boisterous laugh that sounded not unlike the half-smothered roar of a
good-natured wild-beast—I'm your man for all that, an' half the
plunder about ye if ye dare! hurra! And then he flung a handful of
sugar-plums right and left over the deck where a group of children were
I had observed him at the breakfast-table, eying the dishes with a
wary look, and fighting shy whenever he was helped—as if he hated the
very knives and forks for interfering with a more summary method of
getting into what he called the `belly-timber,' after a fashion of his
own—with the paws of a she-bear, and the appetite of a grist-mill.
Yet he was a good natured, handsome, savage-looking fellow; and at the
worst only a rougher, and I believe in my heart, a better sort of
Yankee, with more manliness and straight-forwardness than our people
While I was trying to get a sketch of him, as he threw himself out
his whole length over the bench, the swapper renewed his attack on me.
Fore-warned, fore-armed thought I, and I determined to favor him with
all the opportunity he could wish.
I say tho' Mr. Potipher, thats a plaguy neat lookin' watch o' yourn
'ti seed ye have; I should like to heft it, if you've no objection—I
put my watch into his hand, without a word of remark—I wonder now if
you'd mind my seein' how'ts put together?—over-hauling it and hefting it between every two words, ransacking it inside and out,
seal, chain, clasp and guard, but so cautiously and so skilfully as to
show that I had nothing to fear. That he might proceed with the
investigation more at his leisure, he off coat, rolled up his
shirt-sleaves, loosened his shirt-collar, and put away his old hat with
a deal of superfluous care, and actually dropped upon his `heads
antipodes' while the boat was plunging through a heavy sea, much to the
amusement of the fair Elizabeth, who had been clinging to the rail ever
since the departure of Middleton, with desperate strength, and looking
overboard with half-shut eyes and a quivering lip growing paler and
paler at every plunge.
After he had taken it apart and put it together again—or adopting
the definition of the other down-easter about orthography—after he
had spelt it, as thoroughly as I would allow him—using only a
tooth-pick and a ninepenny whittler as he called the knife he
made use of—he shot the kiver and wiping the face with his new
bandanna as affectionately as a mother would that of her youngest born
after a somerset in a duck-puddle—he seemed on the point of returning
the watch—hesitated—withdrew his extended arm, the fingers
involuntarily contracting over the treasure— even while he kept
saying, there she is frind! there she is! take her, and never say 'tive
hurt her, hide or hair. How old is she?—not that I want you or any
body else on airth to tell me that; guess I know by her click, about as
well as any body, without lookin' at her teeth—
Take care! said I, as he held her up, and swung her round by the
chain: the watch is at your risk— if she flies off, you must pay for
I pay for her! What for? Wal, wal, I spose you know more about the
law 'an I do; dont seem to me to be altogether fair shakes somehow for
a feller to have to pay jess as much for only lookin' at her insides a
minnit, as if he'd bought her right out—slap dash—I'll leave it to
ary one o' you if tis?
How much do ye offer? askes the Tennessee-youth, who had been
capering about hither and thither for the last quarter of an hour, like
a dislocated windmill adrift—under an idea that a man six feet high
was a fool to be sea-sick—how much 'll ye give stranger? And then
without waiting for a reply, he added—You may look at my insides for
half the money! out whittler if ye dare! And away he scampered with
both hands plastered over his mouth—paws I might say, though he
did'nt go on all fours—toward a place where he told me afterwards he
threw up his shoes and stockings, a jacket lined with tripe (I give his
own language) and his commission, that of major in the mounted militia,
which he had torn to pieces and swallowed the day before in a rage with
his brigadier, for saying twa'nt gentlemanly to spit on a hearth-rug,
or to blow your nose with your fingers, and wipe them on your
pantaloons. And I'll leave it to you, stranger! said he as he wound up
the story of his affront—if sich a feller as that's fit to be a
brigadier o' the mounted rangers? Taint more 'an a month at the very
outside, sense he turned out with a new pocket-hank'cher for the fuss
time—an'ts never ben out of his hand sense, by Gawd! An' I up an'
told him so—right to his head—mister brigadier says I, by the time
you're a gineral right out, you'll have a ruffled shirt o' your own
says I, an' expect your understrappers to wash their faces every
campaign, says I; an' eat buffaloe-punch with a knife an' fork, says
I—hourra! if I did'nt I wish I may be d—d!
Ruther a limpsy chain though, continued the down-easter as soon as
he had got his breath; watch putty fair—best imitation I've seen
since I dont know when.
Imitation? said I.
Yes—that what dye ye call 'em stuff, washed over with gool leaf.
Pho, pho man—that is neither pinchback nor imitation.
Posserble! What is it then?
Maybe you'd like to wage somethin' o' that—man enough aint ye to
back your word with a trifle? pulling out an old tattered wallet with
what appeared to be a large roll of paper money in it. Say the word, if
you dar'st—and we'll leave it out to the fuss man comes along for
jess what you like.
Pho, pho—nonsense; I'm no friend to wagers. What I tell you is the
Sneks an' spiders! you dont say so!—If the wind cants in a little
more 't the norrard the fog 'll scale off I ruther guess; wherebouts
are ye goin' to set now marm?—I did'nt speak to you, mister;
nor to you nyther, marm—nary one o' ye; but to that pore little gal
there; she ought to have somethin' to take right away and somethin' to
hold on by too—ah, what's that are book about? Leetle a more.
All these questions and remarks were uttered in precisely the same
tone of voice, now to one by-stander, now to another; and then he took
up a volume—it was Walter Scott's Rokeby—Leetle o' more, you'd a'
lost it overboard—R. O. K—rok-E— rokee—b. y.
by—Rocke-eby—that's it, hey?—chock full o' varse hey?
Precisely, said Gage—Rockeby baby on the tree-top!— humming the
old nursery air with his eye upon Middleton, poor fellow! who sat near
the little quakeress, so altered and so pale—so deadly pale— and so
helpless, that much as he desired to continue a conversation with her,
which the down-easter had interrupted, he could not—and after several
attempts, rising up, and opening his mouth, and clinging to the rail
within a few feet of her, anxious to betray a proper sympathy for one
so beautiful and so attractive, he finished, by turning his back
abruptly upon her, and rushing to a distant part of the deck. I saw him
and pitied him—of all sickness, there is none so selfish, so hateful
and so prosaic, none so trying to a first love, I do in my heart
believe, as that of the sea— with its `untrampled floor,' and
glorious depths, and magnificent shadows, and glad waters, and blue
lustre, and all that.
They were like strangers for a time, sitting so near to each other
all the while, that over and over again, her beautiful hair swept over
his very mouth and eyes, and instead of thrilling at the touch, he
never knew it— nor did she! I pitied them both, and was happier than
either I verily believe, when they recovered so far as to recognize one
another, and smile and blush, at their odd forgetfulness of
propriety;—one of the prettiest feet in the world having wandered
away from the modest drapery that clung to the instep and shivered with
every breath—and the slope of a perfect shoulder, from which the
plentiful gauze had been lifted away by the sea-breeze, or the motion
of the boat, having some how or other found its way into the open air
on the side next the enamored youth— whose cravat always negligently
tied, was now dropping like a shower of snow into his bosom— while
his black hair fell with a prodigious effect about his pale face—I
never saw a finer picture— both were in love, deeply desperately in
love. I saw it in their eyes, I heard it in their breathing— and I
Not pure goole tho' whatever you may say, neighbor, continued
the down-easter, following me as I moved away; jewellers goole may be?
or Attlebury-goole? We make broches o' lead an pewter, at most of ou
tin-ware factories, and then give 'em a lick o' goole leaf or
copper-leaf—all the same in dry weather—never seed a watch sarved
so before to day tho'.
Maybe, you've seen a chist o' draws washed over with mahogany,
hey?—or tin-ware put together with shoe-maker's wax, said the man
with the nose, dropping into conversation here as naitral as could
be— If you haint, I have!
You dont say so!
Wal that's pooty nigh the truth for you—what if you try agin!
Wal, if ever! fetching a long breath and pretending to be
overwhelmed with astonishment. Con'sarn it all mister! anybody that
takes you for a dumb fool would'nt be very much mistaken, would they?
Not more 'an half as much as if they took you for an honest man. Try
agin, will ye! and off he marched.
You shet your yop, an' mind your own business— if you know when
you're well off! said the the first after the other was out of hearing
And so mister Potipher, as I was a sayin'—Peter I think you said:—
I've gut a neephew o' that name, all'ays a favoryte name with me; smart
feller as ever you come across— lugging out a heavy silver watch, as
he said this, a genuine bull's-eye with a huge copper logging-chain, a
bell-metal face, and a bear-trap for a toy dangling at the end of it;
dropping his voice or changing the subject whenever any body came
near—What an everlastin' spell o' weather we have had! haint we?—a
bit of a rogue he was too, when he want more 'n knee high to a
Jess what I should expect! said the other, cutting in again as he
passed by, and continuing a sort of yaw, haw! till it was
drowned by the noise of the sea bursting and roaring about our path.
Clear grit an' no grease I tell ye!—twirling the great lubberly
chain about his wrist, and leering at me through a pair of eyebrows
like swallow's nests. Not much in names tho' arter all—may be?
There now!—jess look o' that air! There's a watch for you! Thats
what I call somethin' like! none o' them pitch-pine bureaus jess
slicked over with a wash o' moggany not half so thick as your
nail—that are feller's ben talkin' about—wonder what he's good
for— all jaw like a sheep's head, while I'm allers right up an down
like a sheep's tail goin' over a wall— why, neighbor, that air's
about the beatemest watch ever you see—ben a a-guyin' more'n sixty
years right off the reel—never stopped to wheeze, I tell ye! jess
look o' here now—see what a hell-fired noise it makes!
He was right. Whenever he shook it, and held it up to my ear, it
made a noise like a coffee-mill. I jumped when I first heard it, and he
called out for me not to be afraid.
Heft it, said he—heft it man; what are ye afeard of? twunt hurt ye.
I took it up, and seeing Gage a little way off, began heaving and
weighing it with both hands.
Heavy agin as that o' yourn, ye see! capped an' jewelled—and then,
lowering his voice to a dry whisper, he added, what'll ye give to boot?
Give! said I, in amazement.
I laughed—I could bear it no longer—laughed till my sides ached;
and poor Elizabeth laughed too, and her excellent old grandfather upon
whose arm her head lay, with her luxuriant hair all abroad over her
disordered neck, he laughed, and all who heard us, except that strange
fellow—Nehemiah Gage— or Atherton Gage, if I might believe the
down-easter, laughed with her.
But our swapper was not a man to be so easily thrown out; and after
a little rest, he began once more in a still lower whisper, with his
eye upon Gage; and after saying, I want you should give me a letter o'
recommend to Pheladelphy, as I ruther guess I shall go back that way,
and I'll give you another to Barnstable, or Boothbay, or most any where
along ashore—he wound up with, How'll you swap?
That's it! ben out in no less 'an two wars aready— heft it will
ye? spry as ever yer see! another pause, and another careful
examination of my countenance followed, as if he—the poor
innocent—was afraid of being cheated by me! we are pon honor, I hope?
I hope so, said I.
Fact is, I aint much of a sharper myself; and then seeing the other
down-easter approach, he lifted up his head as if talking about some
very indifferent affair, and asked him if he could whittle agin the
The other, who had been whittling a bit of soft pine for the last
half hour, into forty successive shapes—now rounding it into a
spigot, and now into a clothes' pin—now into a small spoon, and
finally into a miniature snuff-box with a moveable cover and a perfect
hinge, cut out of the solid wood, working his penknife with consummate
ease and swiftness, heaved to at this queer salutation, and after
eying his antagonist with a knowing look for a moment, he tipped me a
wink, as much as to say—didint I tell ye so! and was walking off;
when the other, not at all embarrassed by the reproof, stopped him by
saying, I say, mister, let me see your knife a minnit!
Wal—there! said the other holding it up before his eyes.
Pshaw! you know what I mean—I want to borry it—holding out his
hand—cant you let a feller see the edge.
No—nor feel the pynt, without I keep hold o' the handle; gut eyes
in the eends o' your fingers hey? and off he walked.
That air chap's no gentleman—I swan if he is! aint fit to carry
guts to a bear; howsomever as I said afore; aint much of a sharper
myself, and if we're gwyin' to trade fair—
To trade fair—I dont understand you; who spoke of
Fair play's a jooel friend—hate a sharper as I do pyz'n; a
dicker's a dicker I allays concate, where people's upon honor, but not
where they aint; dont care how close a feller is—closer an'
button-wood-bark, all the better for me, for I love to git away jist by
the skin o' my teeth—an' a leetle more.
I began to grow tired of this. Thank you for my watch, said I;
offering to return his at the same time.
But he hesitated about receiving his own back, and began looking
about—perhaps to find a witness that would prove a swap—saying as
he did so, with more and more earnestness and vivacity every moment,—
Which as I said afore, if you've a mind to stick to the swap—a
bargain 's a bargain you know?—aint it mister? to a foot passenger on
his way to Baltimore.
I'll thank you for my watch, was my answer to this.
My stars! Have it now, or wait till you can git it? all honey an'
hug a minnit ago; an' now! marsy on us! what a change!
Give me the watch!
Why what a feeze you
air in, to be sure!
Dont provoke me sir!
At a word then—how'll you swap?
No how—give me the watch I say.
Possable! Buy it of ye then—what 'll ye
I started to my feet, I dare say with no very amiable expression of
countenance, for I had grown heartily tired of his pertinacity.
Buy or sell frind—all the same to me—what 'll ye
make us an offer, if ye dare!
At this moment a loud jarring bell, wheezing and sounding far and
wide over the agitated sea, interrupted our talk; and up came the
steward to say dinner was ready. But I would not stir a step till I had
secured my watch. And the down-easter, who tried to allay my fears by
reminding me that he did'nt consider the watch as altogether at his
risk, would'nt leave me till I agreed to a proposition which tickled me
prodigiously. And what do you think it was, reader? Why nothing more
nor less than for me to leave the value of my superb repeater to be
fixed by a third person, and then to sell her at the price he named!
As I live, I had half a mind to say
yes, and refer the
question to the very individual who had watched over me so faithfully,
and warned me so frequently against the tricks of this fellow.
But perhaps he suspected my design; for he added in the same breath,
as if to secure himself against any misfortune of that nature—that
instead of choosing an umpire, we should take the first person that
came along, and then if I refused to sell, or if he refused to buy, at
the price mentioned, the party falling back should treat or pay for
three dinners. By jove! said I to myself, but I'll fix him so far as
three dinners go—he richly deserves it— and so under pretence of
more fully understanding the proposition, I repeated it after him,
keeping my eye upon the man with the nose, then evidently preparing to
follow the others to dinner—and finished just at the critical moment,
to secure him as the first person that came along. Already had
he grasped the mahogany railing—a moment more, and he would have
disappeared down the companion-way. Such an opportunity for revenge was
not to be let slip, and I insisted on the very letter of our contract.
My antagonist demurred for a moment, and there was a something in his
eye, which at any other time would have induced me to relent.
Wal, said he, if it must be so, it must I 'spose— though I
should'nt think twould be any put-out to you to take somebody else; and
then he gave up, though with evident unwillingness, and a peculiar
twitch of the mouth and sparkle of the eye that delighted me
exceedingly at the time—though not so much afterwards; and we called
the man to us, and I stated the question—chuckling at the bare idea
of out-witting one down-easter by the help of another, and so
Why! said the umpire, whose hurry to get away augmented in
exact proportion to the noise below—a noise like nothing I had ever
before, asleep or awake— a country-tavern election day, or a
crockery-ware shop running off at the heels of wild-horses, or another
Brummagem got loose and breaking up for a voyage over sea, with
steam-engines to match—these and these only occur to me as even
tolerable types of the uproar that followed, growing louder and louder
every moment, till we could hardly hear ourselves speak—Why
—a—a—standing first on one leg and then on the other—if you're
We assured him we were, and my companion, began to look
sheepish—you've no idea how diverted I felt, though as the venerable
quaker afterwards assured me, I kept my countenance to a charm, all
things considered. N. B. I never forgave him for the remark.
Why, continued the umpire—twisting the watch-chain about
his fingers and hefting the whole concern as he called it—and
weighing the whole matter so conscientiously—upon my word, I
have no patience with myself, when I think of his unmatchable coolness
or of my own self-satisfied stupidity—why to tell ye the truth
mister; you're both strangers to me—I'm no great judge o' these ere
kind o' jimcracks—fair tradin's gut to be putty pore business now,
an' fair traders terrible skase—most every body jockies for
themselves now—feller cant cut his own fodder, if he dont shave
tarnation close, I tell ye! which its my opinion, an' you may let it go
for jess whats worth an' no more—that's my way—an' your watch may
be gool as you say—and may be not: whereupon— shifting his
leg and interchanging a glance with the old quaker, who bit his lip and
looked at me—whereupon, as I said afore, considerin' how turrible
thick you've ben all the parsage, notwithstandin' all I could
say—could'nt tell which was which five minutes ago, you sot so close
together—hitching up his mouth till there was only one side to it, as
if astonished at the clearness of his own exposition—A-a-a its my
best judgment frinds—never good for much though, as I said
afore—that somewhere about fifteen dollars—or fifteen-fifty—or
say fifteen-seventy-five, at the very outside, weighing the watch again
with a grave thoughtful air as he concluded the decree—would be about
the fair valley on't these times, an' pesky hard times they air too, I
tell ye! Judge of my amazement!
Why sir said I, laughing in spite of my vexation at the ridiculous
figure I cut, between such a pair of thorough-bred sharpers—only
consider; fifteen dollars or fifteen-fifty, or fifteen seventy-five, at
the very outside as you say—upon my word, the little amethyst you see
there, the smallest seal of the whole bunch, cost me double the money!
Dare say! cant help that tho'; dont pertend to be much of a
judge—both strangers to me, as I said before.
Very well, said I, though I longed to remind him of what he had said
of the other, some three hours earlier in the day—when he knew him of
old—Very well! lifting my foot with an emphasis which diverted the
old quaker prodigiously, and the young quakeress too, if I might judge
by what I could see of her mouth below the handkerchief that she held
up to it, and beginning to descend the stairs—very well— I am
What!—hey!—satisfied!—you aint though, air ye! cried
both together, struck all of a heap it seemed to me. Taint posserble!
cried the umpire. Why!....! cried the swapper; and there I left them
staring at one another as if thunderstruck. Their first idea
undoubtedly was, that instead of jockeying me, as they termed
it, they were handsomely jockied themselves, perhaps with something
inferior to pinchback or bell-metal.
Yes, I repeated, yes my good sir,
satisfied—so far as
to—making a full stop to enjoy their perplexity— so far as to—we
were interrupted again just here.
Mind though! cried the umpire, the disinterested umpire, who had
happened upon us by accident, after cautioning me so frequently and
so earnestly to beware of the other,—mind though! you jest warranted
that are watch pure goold; an' what's more, I'm a witness on't; and if
I'm no judge, as I said afore, I ruther guess I'm a bit of
lawyer when I am at home— haw, haw, haw!
Whereupon, I continued—satisfied, gentlemen, if you will
hear me out—so far as to pay for three dinners, and treat you
Jess so! cried the first. Ginmee you yit—by Jings! added the
other—hourray! their countenances brightening up immediately—
And treat you both,
as you deserve,—I added from between my
shut teeth—I could'nt help it—the rascals! Saying this, I hurried
down the steps and left them whispering together. But my ill-humor I
own vanished on my arrival at the dinner-table, whither they pursued me
instantly and without shame or remorse, each fortifying the other at
every remark and pretending to the last never to have met before, nor
even to know the others name. I saw clearly enough now that they had
been playing the whole voyage through—not so much for the watch, as
for the dinners, being, after all perhaps, rather better judges of the
latter than of the former commodity; and that if they had failed to get
it in this, or in some other similar way, by hook or by crook, as they
term it, they would have gone without or dined on the contents of their
sugar-boxes, and wallets, and saddle-bags— ginger-bread and salt-fish
perhaps, or apples and cheese, or rye-and-indian-bread, fat-pork and
cold beans—but we have gone far enough perhaps, for one chapter.
Mind, Cap'n Trip! this ere man pays for the three— for both of us
two an' himself! cried the foremost in doubling the captain's chair, on
our way to the table; to which very delicate intimation I had nothing
to say, as the captain did not hear them in the bustle of making room
for two or three new comers. Our places were now secure, and I had
seated myself with a view to business—being, if I may be allowed so
to speak—in a devil of a hurry to go to work, and as hungry as a
wolf, two-thirds famished—when one of my two associates called out to
the steward in passing, a colored man—I say, mister! this 'ere man
here, pointing to me, and then laying hold of my collar, pays for
three; mind now! ye're to look to him for all we eat an' drink—no put
out to you, I hope?
This matter stated, and the judgment of law fairly bespoken, they
seated themselves one on each side of me—as if to make sure of a
subject, much to my annoyance, but altogether more to my amusement; for
all eyes were upon me, whenever they condescended to open their
mouths. Middleton I thought understood the matter and compassionated my
situation; but as for Gage—I believe in my heart I should have
quarrelled with him any where else, but for the reputation he had, so
much did he appear to enjoy my occasional embarrassment and their
uncouth familiarities, though he said nothing, and there was little in
his look to complain of, except perhaps a slight convulsive twitching
about the mouth, accompanied by a brief contraction of the forehead,
now and then, which another might not have cared for.
Two tables were spread the whole length of the large cabin; both
were crowded at last, and I have no doubt there were two hundred
passengers, may be more, all eating together and all talking together
as fast and as loud as they could speak, for about half an hour.
Pray, sir—to give the reader some idea of the scene—pray, sir,
murmured a fat choleric-looking man, opposite me, will you do me the
favor to—pah! what the devil is that! cried another at my elbow,
jumping half out of his chair and overturning a dish of melted butter
that a servant was trying to push by his elbow. Will you do me the
favor, sir, continued the first, as to help me to a—a—to help
me—to a—to a!—growing more and more nervous and impatient, and
speaking louder and louder at every repetition, till the murmur had
became a shout—
Hullow there! bear a hand, will ye—interrupted another.
To help me to a—to a—
Louder! louder! screamed a voice further off, like a wretched
clarionet with the reed split—louder! louder! can't hear a word you
say! Two plates encounter each other at this moment—midway of the
table—both are smashed—the veal cutlets fly one way and the fried
fish another—louder, if you please!
I turned my head toward the speaker, and saw a little thin man
stooping half across the table with his hand to his ear, trying to make
out the bluff petition of the choleric old gentleman, who had risen
half out of his chair, and now stood with his mouth wide open— his
head stretched toward the other—and gesticulating, like a
thorough-bred East India captain, doubling the Cape—with bad
officers—in a hurricane.
A laugh on my left obliged me to turn my head that way. One of the
down-easters had pulled a large roasted fowl out of the dish, upon the
soiled table-cloth, and was sawing it in two mid-ships, with his mouth
full of bread-and-butter, which he kept supplied during the whole
Waiter!—wai—ter! screamed another shrill voice afar off, so
shrill as to be distinctly heard through all the uproar, like a
"wry-necked fife' at a militia muster, or an octavo flute in a full
band—haloo there! not a waiter to be seen, by George!
Not a waiter to be seen—faith! I can see nothing
waiters, answered somebody else.
Here, boy, here! this way an' be damned to you! growled another.
Cuss the nigger! he shouted again, with his mouth so full he could'nt
make himself heard.
Begga parron, massa! twan't my fawt, if massa preeze.
Nor was it. The chicken—a devilish tough chicken I thought, and so
did the sufferer, I dare say, had slipped from the clutches of the
operator from down-east, into the lap of a burly midshipman, who was
that instant reaching his plate across the table, swimming with fish
gravy—poor fellow! it turned out to be pudding-sauce, after he had
cursed the nigger again, cleared his throat and swabbed his white
kerseymeres. Nobody knew how it got there—he had just spread out the
favorite part of a favorite fish— and there he sat, eying it in
dismay, and breathing as if he had been under water half an hour;
while the down-easter stood leaning over the table with his knife and
fork in the air, and his eyes rivetted on the hacked and hewed
skeleton, as it tumbled from the midshipman's lap into the settee, and
from the settee into the middle of the floor—there to be kicked about
until dinner was over.
Hulloo there! bear a hand, will ye?—what's the matter now?—Devil
to pay and no pitch hot!—There ye go agin! sloppin' the grease all
over the table cloth!—What's that to you, I should like to know?—
Should ye?—Yes I should.—You be damned!—I say youngster, can you
tell the difference between the— the—capital fish, hey?—the
hypotheneuse of a right angle-triangle with the stops off, and the
distance between— a mouthful o' cabbage if you please—between time
and space?—helping the other who had interrupted him, to full half a
No, sir! but I can tell you sir—raising his voice by degrees, and
waxing warmer and warmer as he proceeded, till he was actually
inarticulate with rage— while the other kept on eating—you're
a—boo—oo--oo— Thank ye sir, said the other, interrupting him with
a good natured laugh—that's what I call a smasher!
I say, you mister! thank ye for a leetle more o' your'e
sarse! The man stared, and then began to pour out some pudding-sauce
upon the offered plate—
Dod butter it all! I did'nt see what you was a doin' of. That aint
the kind o' sarse I wanted, puddin'-gravy to corn-fish! pulling away
his plate and leaving the sauce to run all over the table-cloth—I
wanted cabbage or potaters, or most any sort o' garden sarse— there,
there! most any one 'll do for me—aint over an' above particlar.
A short pause followed—a breathing spell—and the clamor died
away, voice by voice, like the prattle of girls at a crowded party,
where all talk together and all are silent together; and then, after a
minute or two, recommenced again louder than before—you'd have
thought the vessel afire, by the shouting and screaming.
Bread up there!—This way nigger! Goode-goree-midee—never heerd
nodin' like 'm! yelled the nigger, in reply. Hourraw there, hourraw! I
say steward— steward!—this way, my good fellow; can't you give us a
mouthful?—Stewart, I say—Hell and damnation! must I bawl my heart
out before I can make you hear?—Ay, ay sir!—comin' directly
sir.—Stewart, I say!—Sir to you.
Here boy, here, cried another somebody, in a voice like one
suffocating with heat and thirst—take my plate—get me a clean
glass—and a bottle of—Ay, ay, sir!—porter; an' some fruit
pie—is that dried peach or cramberry—(cram-berry! whispered
Gage)—and a small piece of fresh butter, and a—stop, stop! aint
half done yet; where the devil are ye goin' to?—Stop! I say—But the
servant was already out of hearing.
Josh! I say Josh—slobber-cakes all gone?—Jawsh! I say!—hand us
over the big speakin' trumpet, hollar fire, and set the big bell
a-goin'! theres a good feller; nobody 'll hear it!
Fire and fury! squeaked another `still small voice' never seed sech
a boat since I breathed the breath o' life—driv me fust one side an'
then 'tother, ever since I cum aboard, an' never get me nothin' to eat
arter all.—One day in the courts of the lord is better than a
thousand, so I'v hearn our preacher say, an' that's my notion of a
steam-boat.—Hush your jaw there!
Dont you say that agin!
Shet your clam!—like that better?—hold your yop!
Tell you what, my frind: you'll run agin the eend o' my arm if you
dont look well ahead—through you, like shell-beans, if you get me
ryled in airnest!
A feller might starve here an' nobody know nothin' about it.
Nigger—I say!—nigger—stewart—nigger! Why don't ye strangle that
child?—Ma! ma! where's ma? I want ma!—if you dont, I will, by the
Lord Harry! git out ye little tom-cat! give him a two-and-forty pounder
to play with—No ma go away! waugh! Chuck him into the boiler!
Wau— au—augh!—I want ma!
Here a very pompous gentleman, who had not opened his mouth before,
reached over toward a short citizen, whom I had been observing, and who
was just in the middle of a large plate of beef, reeking with delicious
blood, gravy and yellow-mustard, over which you could see his huge
bald-pate vibrating this way and that with the regularity of a pendulum
as he cut and swallowed and sopped, and sopped and swallowed and cut,
puffing and blowing at intervals of a minute or more, and never lifting
his eyes from the plate—reached over, as I said before, and begged
him with a sober countenance and a dignified motion of the extended
arm, speaking very slowly, and loud enough to call the attention of the
whole company toward him—to put his fork into a potato.
The other did so—took the offered fork, and thrust it into a
potato, without looking up—and left it there.
The pompous gentleman stared and then with another and a lower bow
and a compassionate smile for the by-standers, he told the other he'd be obliged to him for his fork.
Whereupon the other bowed in reply, and pulled out the fork, without
looking up, and reached it across the table to him with such a literal
innocent air, that the midshipman who was just pouring down a tumbler
of porter, burst forth into a roar of ungovernable laughter, scattering
the foam over all his neighbours, and showering his white kerseymeres
with a new color, as he held the empty bottle in the air with one hand;
and the empty tumbler in the other. The laugh was so hearty—
so unexpected—and so outrageous, that all within reach of
the echo were obliged to laugh with him, before he had finished— save
and except the pompous gentleman himself who sat swelling and heaving
with rage, till he grew almost black in the face; and the gourmand, who
was too much occupied for a laugh—looking up only once during the
whole uproar, and then with such a stare of unsuspecting good-nature,
as to set us all a-going again, louder than ever. And now, reader,
imagine yourself surrounded for half an hour by outcries like these
already mentioned, intermixed with the following, of which I took a
memorandam the first opportunity after I left the dinner-table.
Stewart I say!—Ay, ay, sir. Stewart! stewart!— Here I am
sir—lowering his voice, I aint deef, sir.— Who said you was? take
my plate an' be hanged to ye; an' ax that lady there, with my
compliments to her, if she'll take a glass o' porter!—What'll you
have now sir, said another blackey, in passing our part of the
Now sir! why zounds an' death, you lump of tarred rattlin
with a figger-head to match; I havent had nothin' at all yit—your
very good health marm!— beg your pardon sir—(the speaker had just
blown the froth from his porter into the ruffled-bosom of his next
neighbor)—I was lookin' at the lady sir.
Hourra there, hourra! green peas 'll be all gone if you don't mind
your eyes, cuffee.—Thank ye for a few more o' them air green
peas—dont feel very well somehow—never able to eat nothin' hearty
when I'm at sea!
By jingo, growled a double bass in reply—guess he never
at sea then; eat nothin' but green peas since he sot down—hourraw
for you, cuffee!
Sir, said a well-dressed, well-bred looking man with a short neck, a
tight stiff cravat, a florid face, drab gaiters, and hair powder that
flew about the table strangely enough, as he wiped his mouth on the
table-cloth, or helped himself, as he did frequently from the open
snuff-box at his elbow, with decided emphasis—a—a—sir, I never
could exactly understand— filling his mouth with water and squirting
it through his teeth into what he called a finger-glass, to the
astonishment and disgust of the low-bred natives about him—a-a—not
exactly—why the colored Americans are called cuffees.
Gerard Middleton started and sat eying the stranger—a portentous
flash going over his high pale forehead—a swarthy glow—leaving it
instantly paler than before; and but for Gage, who interfered with a
remark that caused every body to turn that way, I believe in my heart
we should have had an immediate interchange of cards. A stranger, I
presume? said Gage, with a most deferential bow; to which the other
returned a very encouraging smile, and a bow remarkable for its dignity
and impressiveness. Gage continued—The people of this country sir, as
you have undoubtedly observed, are of two colors, black and white.
Black or white, I presume sir—with a still more encouraging
As you please, my dear sir—one should be careful in the use of
copulatives in such cases—black or white sir--or—glancing at
Middleton—or half-and-half sometimes at the south, where they are
Middleton's eyes flashed fire; but the imperturbable Gage
The whites in America, are the cuffers, and the blacks are
Middleton smiled faintly and was turning away, when the stranger
whipped out a memorandum-book and began writing in it with unspeakable
earnestness. The smile became a laugh, and he stopped and took the hand
of Gage with an expression that I never shall forget while I breathe.
The stranger was out on furlough perhaps from Sheffield or Birmingham,
or peradventure from the Scotch navy, on a holiday voyage of discovery.
A book which has appeared since, would appear to be—a-a—but no
matter for that.
I had now leisure to attend to the doings of the company in another
quarter. For my own part, I could eat nothing—there was no time to
eat—no elbow-room—no space for swallowing; it was about as much as
one's life were worth to try where I sat, wedged in for two thirds of
my length between the two indefatigable down-easters; so that if any
one of the whole three moved or wriggled, the other two were certain to
drop their food from their lifted-knives, or to slop their tumblers
over, on the way to their mouths.
Here you nigger! this way—fetch me another glass o' that air
coslin' stuff, you know what (with a wink and a laugh) I say
Bob!—hourrah there! will ye take a pull with me, if ye dare?—Will
I?—try me. Well then you-go to-hell! as the Frenchman said, ha, ha,
haw!—Same to you Swipes! You're from Rhode-Island, hey?—An' you're
from Delaware— hey?—Not as you knows on!—Have a gardeen
'pynted for you as soon as I git ashore.—Would ye though?
Having now made sure of a plate of soup, not so much to eat, as to
play with, I renewed my conversation with my right-hand neighbor, and
asked him how he came to suppose me an old-countryman, as he called me.
Why, said he, us ra-al ginooines always begin what we have to say with
a wal or a why—and then in the first place fustly, fact
is, jest arter you come aboard—eat away man! eat away! if you know
when you are well off, any body might know you're not o' these parts—
I have divided that pie twice already, said a man opposite, to
another who wanted a share.
So you have—with yourself both times; said the other; you remind
me of the boy who complained of his bed-fellow for taking half the
bed—and why not? said his mother? he's entitled to half, aint he? yes
mother, said the boy—but how should you like to have him take out all
the soft for his half?—he will have his half right out o' the middle!
and I have to sleep both sides of him—
Ah! and what did his mother say? asked the literal creature above
mentioned, who had just finished his share of the ox.
Not of these parts! how so? said I, resuming the subject with my
Eatin' brawth fust! when there's duck an' green peas at three
dollars a peck right under your nose— might lays in most enough to
pay your passage. I say mister—halves there! halves, I say!
The man he called to, was dividing another large pie fore and aft
with a single sweep of his cleaver.
Flimsiest cloth ever I did see—wonder what he gin for
this—lifting up a corner of the table-cloth with one hand, and
looking through it up the companion-way, while he fed himself
diligently with the other; wonder how much that stood him in—guess if
I had him at 'Derry, he'd find it come a good deal cheaper—put it to
him leetle more'n half price for cash, or approved endorsed notes.
Here, you nigger! gimmee you yit!—mamma! mamma! screamed a
child from the far cabin. To which the mother screamed in reply—Hold
yer yop, George Federick Smith, if I have to come to you I'll—
boo-hoo-hoo-hoo!—will yer! Hush there, Matildy Charlotty Smith!
I'll take an' whip ye both if ye dont shet up—I will so!—Why dont
you carry the poor little dears about in your arms Dinah? and the
female voice went off by another passage to the deck.
Pose you tink poor ole dinah nebber had notin' else ado, an' tote
you all about a ship, hey, said the girl, as soon as the mother was out
of hearing—up stars an' down?—Pa, pa! ma, ma! I want my pa! I want
my ma!—boo-hoo! boo-hoo! boo-hoo!—Hush you noise, ye liddle debbil
When I was a little boy, my mother told me,
If I didn't lie still, she'd come an' hold me, Whistled the
midshipman between his shut teeth.—
What's that door shot for—oh, I see—innocent Abigail! fastened
her chamber-door with a boiled carrot—.
Heered that story another way, said his companion— she tied
herself up with her garters, and left a knife in the winder.
I say Sambo—take and care that away; care it up on deck and empt
it overboard, abaft the main-chains, dye hear? to the wind'ard o' that
are weather-gage ye see there, pointing to the Yankee's nose. Whew—
ew—ew—!—d—d etarnal hot here, hey?—Hot as blue blazes—my
buttons are droppin' off by spoon-fulls. That's your conceit—another
conspyracy I swan! two o' the stubbedest fellers ever I did see, and
always at it!
More green peas! more green peas!—Halloo, mister! what are ye at
now?—Beg your pardon sir.— Blast an' set fire to your nonsense,
you've stuck that are fork into me half way up to the handle!—Hope
not sir; very sorry sir—thank ye for another spoonful or two o' them
air green peas.—Consarn it all neighbor, if I think them are green
peas 'll continner long at this rate—better have a dip now (in a
whisper to me.) No I thank ye—Had'nt ye better?—All gone sir, all
gone! cried the waiter.—All gone!—heaven and earth! ye dont say
so!—all gone! why how ye talk! Have'nt had a single mouthful yit!
cried two or three voices on the right and left of me, in accents of
Jess so! cried another—jess so! And never shall I forget
the sound to my dying day; you'd have thought his wife had fallen
over-board—or his pocket-book.
Cap'n Thrip, cap'n Thrip! cried a little gentleman what lithped,
coming forward and speaking as it were with a mouthful of
cotton-wool—it aint potheble!— Gentlemen! gentlemen! cried
Nicodemus Trip from the further part of the table—the ladies, the
ladies!— gentlemen, the ladies!
The ladies had long been trying to escape from the back-seats—each
waiting for all the others to begin the move; and now their husband's,
lover's and father's beginning to perceive a certain paleness
overspread the faces of some who had been very cheerful on deck,
started up and made way for them to escape as well as they could. All
were imprisoned, not a few sea-sick, and others far too sleepy or too
lazy to move, while the boat went pitching and rolling with prodigious
swiftness, and the trampling on deck was absolutely deafening. For my
own part, as I could neither escape, unless I crawled over the table or
under it, nor get a nap where I was, I determined to see the dinner
through—and make the most of it. N. B. I am keeping my promise now.
Cap'n Thrip, I say!—Wal sir?—Be you deef?—No, sir, I believe
not, what'll you please to have?—Why that are plaguy boy o' yourn
hath 'ad my plate thith half hour an' more too, an' I aint git a
mouthful yit; Jess so! added the down-easter, We are all a sufferin'
here in jess exactly the same way.
Very sorry, gentlemen, very sorry indeed—what can I help you to,
this way?—Thum duck an' green peath, if you pleath.
Lord help the man! whispered Gage, as the other continued in a
broken-hearted whisper, thatth my only chanth here, I thee
plainly!—Why stranger! they've all ben gone this half hour, said the
Kentuckian—bones an' all; Avast there!—ben—bin— bean—I wonder
which is accordin' to Gunter? demanded a weather beaten sea-captain,
who was passing at the moment.—None o' your—the speaker happened to
lift his eye before he finished; whereupon he made a full stop and let
the sea-captain off— and then followed by a different passage-way,
adding I don't believe that are chap 'll ever set the north-river afire!
Nor I—but I should'nt wonder if he was to
try, added the
swapper on my left. And then turning to me—did'nt you never hear tell
Mr. Potti—Pottipher; speaking to me with his mouth full, his plate
full, both hands full, and a heap of odds and ends piled up along side
of his plate, consisting of apples, and cheese, cake, pie, two or three
kinds of tart, which he had tasted and rejected I thought, for he made
a wry-face over each as he laid it aside. But when every thing else had
been disposed of, he began to nibble at these fragments, which
disappeared one after another, to my infinite amazement, before he took
down his elbows, upon which he was leaning in profound thought—his
head resting by the ears upon his clenched hands, till he had gobbled
up (or down?) every fragment, crumb and chip of the whole; and then he
lifted his head and looked about him so innocently! as if he
could have done as much by half a peck more, without knowing it. Judge
of my surprise therefore, when I heard him say, in a low querulous
tone, just before he left the table, that had been sick ever since last
fall; never was very rugged, an' about this time every year, always
felt wuss than ever by a darned sight— rather pokerish too when he
was on the water—no kind o' sprawl. It aint often I eat any thing,
said he; an' when I do eat, I dont eat much—but the leetle I do eat,
dooze me good—somehow!
I say! didn't you never hear tell—continued he, with his two eyes
starting out of his head, and every button of his coat upon the full
stretch—here you nigger! I'll have my brawth now—Bad 'nuff to be
poor nigger massa, widout hab his shin kick, said the boy, and I
thought so too.—Come, come, beauty! lets have the brawth.
What! cried Gage—after eating fish, meat, and peas; pudding,
fruit, roast-beef and pie—to say nothing of chickens, ducks and the
five baskets you left—you're not going to begin again with soup!
Free country neighbor—feller may eat brawth I hope, whenever he
likes, if he is able to pay for it— or (winking at his confederate)
or able to make another pay for it, an' don't eat more 'n his 'lowance;
an' more'n all that, a feller can eat brawth when he can't eat nothin'
else to speak of.
Indeed!—To be sure! brawth 'll go where hearty vittels
wunt, I ruther guess. Nothin' better'n brawth to fill up the chinks
with; and what's more yit, I'm of opinion that a dinner's a dinner—no
matter who pays for't. Now mister, you don't have to pay no more for
me, than that are little cock-sparrer's dad there dooze for him; an' he
aint eat more'n half a dozen pinches o' dough since he com
aboard—which if you aint observed him yourself, you may ask the
cap'n—I say tho' mister I want you should give me that air letter o'
recommend to Feledelphy, afore we split—as I think its like as not I
may go that way, some time or other; cost you nothin' but the
paper—and that I'm willin' to pay for. And then turning to the other,
he added—was them your weddin' spurs 't I see, when your chist gut
jounced open frind?
Wal! I swan if I dont think you're the very feller 't had a box made
for his wife 't opened like an eight-day clock-case, the very mornin'
arter he was tied up—an' allaws cared the key with him.
How ye talk! right away from down-east aint ye, where a cow an' a
caff an' a calico gown is a gals portion.
An' you're from the place ant ye? where a potater-patch, with cracks
int so wide, that the grass-hoppers are picked up at the bottom by
handfuls—all their necks broke trying to jump over—is a portion for
the oldest son? And then turning to me, he said, his father was once
riding by one of the great farms he referred to, when observing the
wretchedness of the land, he side—the fellow that owns this must be
plaguy poor. Not so poor as you think for! answered a voice from the
blackberry-bushes—for I dont own but a third on't my father gin away
one third to git a man take tother.
Turrible sight o' rain lately—when'd you come
Dreadful sight o' weather lately—when'd you come
You aint acquainted with a man by the name of—
Turney-General! said the other interrupting him with a loud
laugh—or the chief-justice o' the soopreme Judicial court hey?
I say frind—turning to me with perfect self-possession— I'm some
tired o' that fellers gab; wish he'd make himself skerce—all
jaw like a sheeps head—only ben tryin' out the stuff, an' you see all
its good for: and now, if you say so, I'll tell you how I found you out.
Found me out sir—!
Found ye out—I'll tell ye—slick
as a whistle! fetching me
a slap on the thigh; dont be fractious. No fault o' your'n—people has
to be born putty much where other folks say, barrin' accidents; dare
say theres some honest folks enough to be heard of that side o' the
water—cant be helped now—make the best on't: bear it like a man Mr.
Potipher—git naite-ralized right away, and let 'em lump it if they
dont like it, an' squirm their hides off; that's none o' your look
out—is it? All fair when you're made a natyve.
Or a representatyve, and sent to the legisslatoore, added Gage.
But sir, said I—mr—a—a—what may I call
Fairfield sir. Obadiah G. Fairfield, seventh son of Bigah S. T.
Fairfield an' Marcey his wife, both o' Groton, old Massatusetts—can you spell Massatusetts?
No—but please to tell me how you
found me out, as you term
Aint tired any, air ye? Maybe you'd better lay down, had'nt ye.—No
I thank ye.—Had'nt ye better? Not berths enough I'm afeard, whispered
somebody else. That may depend upon the length of the passage added
another, very innocently, glancing at the ladies cabin, where a
tremendous pow wow had just broken out, Such a screaming of mothers!
and such a squalling of babies—the dear creatures—you never heard
ashore in all your life, no matter what your profession may be, nor
what your experience. No two of the whole were quiet for five minutes
together, till the end of the passage.
Why, continued the swapper, in reply to my question: Before we'd ben
together long, you says, says you, to that air tother chap there—a
friend o' you'rn I spose aint he?—but you dont care much about
knowin', arter all, I see.
You are mistakin—I should like to know.
Should ye! would'nt give a trifle to know, would ye?
A trifle—yes: not much though—
O ye would, would ye?—dont know what you'd consider a
trifle—would'nt mind a drop o' somethin to set fire to the cobwebs,
would ye? Aint very stingey, air ye?
Thought so! look to me a right down ginerous feller; but some folks
when they're travellin' for pleasure; plaguy close-fisted.
Oh yes—that they air—closer 'an button-wood-bark; an'
whatever you git out o' them, you git by the skin o' their teeth.
Wouldn't mind tellin' you the whool—honor bright now—right off the
reel, as quick's a flash, if you'd do the thing that's hansum.
And what do you call the thing that's hansum?
Why, shell out for three—two besides yourself— I allays bate for
three, so that I may take in a friend, now and then—
You never lose a chance to take in a friend, I dare say?
Not I! love to be neighborly—do as you are done by—that's my
way; an' a drop or two o' real ginoyne—what say ye to whiskey for
three? with a slap on my shoulder that I can feel to this day, whenever
I think of my unpreparedness and of the echo that followed the blow.
What say ye to whiskey for three!
I assented, and my man was just going to
clench the bargain
with a shake of the hand, when hearing a slight rustle and turning my
head quickly, I caught a glimpse of a little scrap of paper passing
under a plate towards the fellow I was chaffering with, who, as he
pretended to look another way, though I continued to watch him all the
time, read it instantly, with a glance at the decanter of whiskey then
actually on the table and furnished gratis to the company.—
And then he blushed—upon my soul he did!—blushed to the very heart
I dare say—adding in a different voice, would'nt say wine for
three, would ye?
Yes but I would though—to the emount of a bottle or two.
Wal then! fact is frind Potipher—stopping to draw a long
breath—if we should happen to be snapped up, that was the very word—
snapped-up—or fired into by one o' the innimy, twould be no more
'n what we all desarve—might a gone by the stage—jess so!— And
with that says I—but have yer made up your mind, hey?
My mind—for what pray—
Never to part with her.
There now! that's right down ugly o' you: know what I mean as well
as any body.
Upon my word I do not though; I have no idea of what you mean.
Why Lord you! (squeaking) I mean that everlastin' time-piece o'
yourn, that you concait is goold—now have you made up your
mind never to part with her— yes or no?
Uglier an' uglier, by Moses! I dont often swear, an' when I do, I
dont swear much, but the little I do swear dooze me good! (with
a still higher and sharper squeak). But when a feller's in airnest, why
the— dickens!—cant you tell us, hey? Hav'nt made up yer mind
though, have ye?
No. But answer my question and we'll talk about the watch
Will yer tho'! thats a good feller! Fact is then, talking about the
British, ye said says you, they aint any more to blame for havin' a
king than we air for havin' a president—jess so!—jess as people's
brought up, says you; some folks likes a king, an' some doozent—poor
critters! And then ye koted some varses, pair o' varses we call
'em—about fools an adminstations, so't I could see plain enough which
side you was on, without goin skonickin' round arter you much further.
I remember it—
For forms of government, let fools contest,
That which is best
administered, is best—hey?
Jess so! an' then arter that, ye kind o' made believe 't you'd never
hearn tell how nigh we come to takin' the biggest half o' the old
country in one scrape—two more privateers an' we might 'a took tother
half, as Paul Jones an' commodore Tucker told the king to his teeth.
Nor did I ever hear of the circumstance before. How did it
There now! thats jess the way with all. To look at ye, a body would
think you'd never hearn tell o' the revolutioniary war—nor general
Gage—nor old Put—likely story for a man o' your years. Ah, is that
you, master Puriniton? haint seed you afore— where ye from? how long
ben aboard?—where ye gwyin' to?—what are ye doin' of South?—how'd
ye leave the family—hope the whole on 'em's well, hey? &c. &c.
Cleverly I thank ye! And with this one reply to the others
five-and-forty question, he moved on.
Jess the way with ye all, continued Fairfield—aint a copper to
choose; never see an ole countryman yit twould'nt face a feller down
about that are story where Gineral Washinton (which he was only a
youngster at the time) went ashore with Paul Jones an' come pretty
plaguy near carin' off the whole royal family, crown, jewels, prince o'
Wales an' all— proper sight on 'em there was too, by all accounts—
and tippin' the ole tower into the sea. Chock full o' prejudyce yit;
any body can see that.
Prejudice! how so—in what way?
Haint forgot the ole war. May be you've never hearn tell o' that
Yes but I have though.
O, ye have, have ye? Wal thats somethin' for
you to give up
For me to give up. Why what the devil do you take me for?
Take ye for! Why for one o' the innimy.
One of the enemy!
To be sure!—an Englishman.
But I am not an Englishman.
What—not Irish I hope?—moving off with visible
Why what on the face o' the universal airth, air ye then?
An American sir—a native American.
You!—moving still further off, and hastily gathering up his
duds from the bench—you a natyve American!
Yes! a native New-Englander—a through-bred Yankee.
This was altogether too much for my conspirators.
one, with a look of dismay. Obadi— ah! groaned the other; and
then they interchanged a look of such piteable amazement and
perplexity, that I could'nt help thinking they were more than half
sorry for having preyed upon their own kith and kin— for the Yankees
of old—the Hebrew Yankees were forbidden to do this; while they were
encouraged to profit by the stranger.—It may be however that
they had only some secret misgivings, that they were afraid of being
outwitted after all, when they discovered the truth. At this moment
there was a faint cry on deck, followed instantly—instantly
—by another in a different voice, louder and nearer and uttered with
a most apalling intonation. What my own thoughts were I do not know;
but this I do know, that all the faces about me grew suddenly
and frightfully pale, as if death-struck, and that we all started up
and stood holding our breath and looking at one another as if—
Gracious God!—I never shall forget the unspeakable horror of that one
moment—never—never—though I should live a thousand years!
A moment of death-like stillness followed, and then there was
another faint sobbing cry afar off, a shriek at my very elbow that
thrilled through and through me—a great rush overhead—a loud
trampling on deck—two or three heavy rolls, and a lurch, accompanied
by a trembling of the timbers that frightened me half out of my senses,
and a screaming from every part of the ship, growing louder and louder
at every roll. In the belief that we were going down, and that I had
not a moment to lose, I sprang for the companion-way, overturning every
body in the passage, and arrived on deck just in time to see a large
powerful man go headfirst over the side of the vessel, as she recovered
from the last roll and swung round with a heavy lurch to the leward,
jarring and shivering through all her timbers at every dip of the
wheels—the women clinging to whatever they happened to be near, their
white veils and dishevelled hair streaming away from their grasp, and
their clothes rattling fiercely in the wind—the frighted passengers
trying to assist the crew, and running about hither and thither at
every cry of the captain—Gage struggling with somebody whom I
afterwards found to be Gerard Middleton, the handsome young Southerner,
and calling for assistance, within a few feet of the opening
gangway—the sea roaring and flashing directly under their feet, with
the swift brightness of a torrent—a portion of the lee-bulwarks
carried away and the heavy gate hanging by the top hinge, and swinging
to and fro with a violence that nothing could resist.
Save her! save her! screamed another and another female voice.
Heavenly Father! save her! shouted Middleton, disengaging his right-arm
and grasping the shattered bulwark, against which his powerful
adversary had planted his foot, and was bearing with all the strength
of his body—the huge gate shrieking and clapping at brief intervals,
with a noise that overpowered every thing else—the deck slippery with
spoon-drift—and the sea roaring for its prey.
Stop the engine! cried Gage, with a voice like a trumpet. Heave her
about captain Trip, and I will answer for her safety—Gerard
They were now within a few inches of the very brink—the sea almost
on a level with their feet— wrestling together as with all their
Gerard Middleton! I swear to you by the Everlasting God that if you
go—we go together!
Be it so! cried Middleton stooping for a last effort as he
spoke—and the next moment he was pitched head-long into the midst of
a coil of rigging that lay aft. Courage! courage! cried his antagonist,
following him and standing over him, ready to renew the attack if he
stirred with an evil purpose. Courage! down with your boat my boys!
over with all your split-wood.—Ay, ay, shouted the captain, securing
the heavy gate as he spoke, and lashing it home with the strength of a
giant—away with ye, my lads!
And away with the women too! cried Gage—they have no business
here—away with you to the cabin ladies! we'll answer for your safety,
if you'll betake yourselves to prayer in a quiet way—and leave off
Cant hear yourself speak now, cried a sailor—and away flew the
split wood from both sides of the deck, and away scampered the women.
Over with it my lads! over with it! chairs, tables and all!
continued captain Trip—and instantly the waters on both sides of our
path were covered with every thing buoyant that lay within
reach—you'd have thought our deck had been swept by a West India
hurricane—and as I ran aft, where Middleton was lying apparently
insensible, with Gage standing over him like a roused lion over a
refractory cub, I saw a man pull down a large box from a pile of
luggage— empty it on deck with one blow of his foot— secure the
lid—stop the key-hole with a wad of oakum—run as far aft as he
could go—and wait there till another who had just kicked off his
boots—laid aside his coat and hat as deliberately as if he were going
to an afternoon's nap—and who, calling upon captain Trip to take
notice, that they were left in his charge, and that he must be
answerable for them if any thing happened,—got ready for a plunge. It
was all the work of a minute or two—hardly more—and it was only
after the struggle was over and the terror no more, that I had time to
arrange the circumstances in my memory as they occurred. The two then
heaved the box overboard—the brave boat wore round at the same
instant—and over went the lastmentioned man, just as I staggered to
the lee-railing, and caught a glimpse of a strong swimmer afar off, and
right in our wake, where our pathway was all white and luminous with
the irrisistable thundering of our wheels in their backward
revolution. As I looked, I saw something more—yet further off and in
a different direction—a mass of white drapery buoyed up and whirling
and eddying with the swift waters. I stretched out my arms
involuntarily and might have gone overboard too, but for Gage—for my
heart died within me—and I felt sure—ay, strange as it may
seem—perfectly sure that she, in whom I had felt so much
interest, she and no other, was now beyond the reach of him and
of help. I could even persuade myself, as I stood clinging to the
rails, and gasping for breath, and watching what I saw in the distance,
that I could see her arms uplifted in her agony, and her dark lustrous
hair washing over her beautiful face—
And there we stood, I know not how long, they and I to the number of
twenty or thirty altogether, helpless and speechless, gazing as if
fascinated with terror upon the white halo, as it appeared to be slowly
and gradually sinking into the depth of waters. And yet there was
hope—some hope—for every blow of the engine, every revolution of
the wheel brought us nearer, and the boats were already cast off, and
the oars were bending to the resolute fellows that manned them; while
the roar of the sea and the noise of the wheels aboard were not enough
to overpower the encouraging cries of pull away! pull away! thats your
sort my lads—pull away!
One of the two persons who had jumped over-board was now found to be
on the wrong side of our path, while the other had entirely
disappeared, and we were looking about and enquiring with our eyes, for
most of us were afraid or unable to speak, who he was and where he
was, with a feeling of the deepest anxiety. A breathless silence had
succeeded to the overwhelming uproar. Captain Trip, who was below when
the accident happened, had now got command of his vessel, and you might
have heard a pin drop fore and aft her whole length, but for the noise
of the machinery and the ringing of the loud waters when struck by the
paddles, or thundering across our pathway.
One circumstance I never shall forget—here stood the old man—the
aged grandfather—I could have sworn to the relationship at a
glance—unutterable terror and hope and faith, and more than a
grand-father's love, all struggling together for mastery in his
agitated countenance—and each prevailing by turns. As he stood
holding on by the rail, with his hat off, his hair blowing about his
venerable face, and his dim eyes fixed upon the disappearing
brightness— the white robe of his dear child fast vanishing, forever
and ever into the depths of the terrible sea— forever and ever!—I
saw him glance at poor Middleton, who was lying on a bench near, as if
utterly overcome by the struggle—and I thought I could perceive a
look of self-reproach, on the one part and a look of pity on the other.
How it happened that I did nothing but stare— first at one object
and then at another, all this time, I do not know—I never knew—it
is not my way in seasons of danger—I never lost my self-command
before; and though but a poor swimmer and of course utterly incapable
of helping a fellow-creature in such an extremity by jumping
over-board, still I might have been of some use in some other way, I
think now, if I had not been stupified by the suddenness and
singularity of the adventure; and my heart has reproached me a thousand
and a thousand times since for my boyish helplessness at the
time—babyish I might say—as I and some thirty more able-bodied men
stood there, motionless and speechless, waiting the issue of life and
death to one of that most beautiful of God's creatures, without one
cry—and I am afraid without one prayer; though, as I hope for mercy
hereafter, I would have risked my life any where—at any time—for
almost any body—in almost any other way; and but for the latter part
of our acquaintance, might have done it for her. Let others expound the
riddle that have the courage—I have not.
Another and another faint cry reached us, and then, just as the
leading boat was rounding to, and one of the oars was lifted as if to
touch the object, the drapery shivered and shook, and the boat lurched
and drifted away and appeared to be unmanageable. We shut our eyes. And
when we looked that way again, we were very near, and lo! there was
nothing to be seen but a large spot near the top of the water, somewhat
lighter-colored than the rest over the smooth dark level of the
sea—Ah! the shriek! the loud unearthly, overwhelming shriek that
followed! Every heart burst forth at once on every side of me—above
and below—as with a cry of horror. We altered our course and were
shooting by, swifter and more swiftly at every revolution of the
wheels, when we heard voices from the sea right under our bows; and
again we were breathless and anxious, though not so much in terror now,
as in hope. A moment more, and cries of keep her away! keep her away!
you'll run us down!—back the engine! were heard from the sea and from
the deck, followed by—there she is! hurrah!—all safe,
hurrah!—Amos 'll bring her up, as sure as a die—didnt I tell yer
so! fish up oysters fore to day. I say—you—mister!—it was the
yankee who had thrown the chest over, speaking to somebody whom I was
unable to see, as he appeared to be just under our bows—Here, take my
hat! mind though you must pay for it, case and all, if you're ever wuth
enough arter ye git ashore—there tis! cost foursixty-nine cash,
Boston money—one thirty-one allowed for the odds o' Philadelphy an'
no dicker—turn the mouth down, and keep it under water with a good
grip an' hold it there—stiddy, stiddy!—and you might as well try to
drown a bladder; there! you've gut the knack now, and you may float
this half hour; and if you git tired a few, sing out to me, and I'll
The moment he began to speak, I ran forward, and saw a large
powerful man—it proved to be the Tennessee-youth, apparently quite
exhausted, and fast dropping a-stern; yet holding on by the hat, with
its mouth under water and floating as if buoyed up with a cork-jacket.
Thats you stranger! never mind me; you look out for the wimmen-folks
and I'll take care o' myself— ride-and-tie if I cant do better; haint
swum the 'Hio for nothin' I warrant ye, six months upon the stretch,
five knot and a half agin the stream with a buffalo under each arm, and
a catamount on my back—putty severe boatin' tho' where I am.
Something more he added in a cheerful voice, but we were already out of
reach, and the next moment, another loud, joyful and long reiterated
cry announced that the object of our search had re-appeared once more.
I looked— and saw both boats, which were now a long way off, pulling
together toward a spot where something appeared like another very small
boat. While I was yet looking, somebody rose up from it, and plunged
into the sea. A moment more, and a slight glimmering broke through the
water, and the blue chest emerged in full sight before our path, and
lay rocking upon the surface. Hourray! hourray! cried a voice at my
elbow, did'nt I tell ye so! He'll have her now! if he dont, there's no
sneks. When he div the last time I knew what he was arter—hourray!
There now! capering about the deck and rubbing his hands for
joy—there now! see as well under water as you can see here. Brung up
to divin' at Pawtucket Falls—ever there any on ye?—seen 'em jump
off the rich pole o' the Factory there, five stories high?— swim like
a fish—feared o' nothin' dead or alive— dont be in sich a tarnal
feeze neighbor (to the grand-father, whose countenance I never shall
forget as he stood there—hardly venturing to let go his hold or to
look toward the sea). Bate ye what ye like ye'll see her agin. There
now!—see there!—did'nt I tell ye so, as the old woman said, when
the hog eet the grinstone, hurray!
As he spoke, a strong arm appeared pushed forth from the dread level
of the deep, and clutching a mass of white drapery. A short brief
struggle ensued— one end of the blue chest tilted in the air—and a
voice came up with more than mortal energy, as out of the very jaws of
Death, saying—Obadiah! Obadiah! I've gut her, by jingo!
Hourray for you! you old rascal you; thats our Amos! if taint I'm a
chowderhead; jess like him— hourray!
I shall not hourray! I never hourray till I'm out of the woods,
answered the other.
Jess so! cried the first, fetching the old man a slap on the
back, and cutting another caper with both feet in the air. Ever see
sich a feller?
By this time both boats were along side of the sufferer, and by the
help of the blue chest and a rope or two, and a spare bench, they were
Now my lads! now pull away for that fine fellow astern! cried Gage.
Ay, ay sir! And away they sprung.
Could'nt ye spell a feller, hey? shouted the man with the box,
evidently exhausted with the fatigue of supporting his burthen, which
was now in full sight— her eyes closed, and her beautiful hair all
about over his broad shoulders.
Over went one of the crew and a passenger, head-first in reply.
And over went Gage after them, not head-first like the others, but
steadily and safely by a rope; and over went the youthful Georgian
after him, though he could'nt swim his length, and had only been
prevented by Gage from throwing himself overboard where certain death
Ah my brave fellow! cried Gage to the yankee, as he dropped into the
water, holding only the rope with one hand—What ails you? are you
Jess you mind your own business an' take care o' the gal. When she's
safe, you may give me a boost if you like—hulloo, hey,
what!—there's another fellow over there cant swim a mouthful, you
take care o' him, will ye; I'm too tired for that—pocky tarnal tired,
I ruther guess.
Gracious God—Middleton—is that you! cried Gage, leaving the poor
girl and her exhausted preserver, to take care of themselves, and
pulling after the adventurous madman like a giant.
I had it now in my power to be of some use—a little—not much;
and intending to share in the glory of the achievement, I grasped at
the poor girl, stooping over the bulwarks to do so, and with the help
of two or three more, succeeded in lifting her, speechless and to all
appearance lifeless, into the arms of the women who had gathered about
us; and was turning away to assist the poor old grandfather, when I
heard the voice of the yankee below crying out— hang on! hang on! by
gosh I'll treat! Whereupon I looked over and beheld Obadiah the
swapper, dragging Amos out of the great deep, literally, by the hair of
Mind the kew Diah! mind the kew I tell you; its apt to
The words were hardly out of his mouth, when the quieu parted near
the middle, the upper part slipping off like the skin of a squirel's
tail, and letting poor Amos into the sea again, over head and ears. It
was half a minute before he came up, and when he did, the first words
he spoke after getting his breath were— Did'nt I tell ye so?
Did'nt I tell ye so! retorted the other looking at the end of the
quieu which he held in his hand, as if he himself were drowning. Who'd
a thought o' your wearin' a false kew! Darn me if I dont believe
the story Eunice Blair told me about ye teeth now— I 'member seein'
a sojer scalped once 'twore a wig, and the Indian was most frightened
o' the two—aint ye ashamed o' yourself, our Amos?
But enough. All were rescued, all in safety, and we were then at
leisure to enquire into the cause of the accident. It appeared that
poor Elizabeth was leaning against the rail of the lee-gang-way, which
had worked loose or been left unfastened, and that, as half a score of
the little romps, who had taken advantage of a clear deck while their
mamas and the he-creatures were at dinner below, to have a little
noise, were engaged in a race, one of them ran against her and she was
precipitated backwards—ay, backwards— into the foaming unfathomable
All eyes were now turned upon her deliverer. The poor girl once in
charge of the women, he was by far the most interesting personage
aboard—I can see him this moment!—there he stands! the great long
rawboned, half-Scotch, half methodist-looking fellow, with his arms
dangling to his knees, the water running in a puddle from the legs of
his trowsers, and his coalblack hair streaming over his shoulders like
the mane of a cart-horse. While we were standing about him, the
grandfather appeared on deck, and passing by all the rest of us, went
straightway up to him, and, without paying any attention whatever to
our numberless enquiries, took him by both hands—then stopped before
him, and struggled with himself for half a minute or more, trying to
speak—and then turning away, began to sob like a child. I do not know
that I was ever so much affected in my life. Again he made the
attempt, and again he was obliged to turn away, with his heart too
full for speech, faltering out a word or two about the Preserver of Men.
Jess so! cried Obadiah G. Fairfield, rubbing his forepaws together,
capering about the deck, and hourrawing at intervals. Beats all nater!
Allys the way with our Amos—and testifying his joy by a thous and
uncouth extravagancies, which I now began to see through. They were
brothers—our Amos had betrayed their relationship.
At last I heard the old grandfather say—I do not know how to thank
thee; I am getting very childish; but if thee will go with us to
Philadelphia and see her mother and the rest of our family, they will
satisfy thee perhaps, that though we are a people of few words, we are
not o' the unthankful or the forgetful.
No, I thank ye, no occasion said Amos, beginning to haul on his coat
over his dripping clothes—no proud flesh here nyther frind—what may
I call yer name?
Well then, if its all the same to you Abraham, as I aint much used
to your ways, nor you to mine—and then he stopped, grew very pale,
and asked for a bandage and something warm to take the chill off; and
then, before we could put forth a hand to help him, though twenty of us
were standing about, he staggered away with outstretched arms, and fell
his whole length upon the wet slippery deck, within three feet of the
open gangway—the passage-way to another world. Then it was, and not
till then, that we saw the whole strength of his character. On lifting
him up, we found his breast severely cut, and his left arm disabled.
Gracious God! he is bleeding to death, cried one of the bystanders.
Not by two chalks! muttered Amos; wan't brung up in the medders to
be kicked to death by grasshoppers; howsomever frinds, if its all the
same to you, I should like a bandage to sling my arm, with a
sheet or two o' brown paper for my head, a handful o' wormwood bruised
with a wine glass o' New-England— rayal ginwyne, (smacking his white
lips,) and a mug half an' half—two mugs I should say; for I owe that
are chap there a handsome treat, (nodding to Obadiah, who held up the
fag end of the quieu in reply,) and Amos O. P. Fairfield aint one of
them air 't play sherk, I ruther guess, when it comes to a treat; if it
hadn't a ben for 'Diah I might 'a gone to the bugs arter all.
To the fishes, more like, said Obadiah; might a laid in a stock o'
kew-leather 'mong the eels, haw, haw!
That air plaguy split-wood's none o' the softest, I tell ye, for a
feller to dive inter, both gwyin' different ways, and both in a
Here a pocket-book was put into his hand, as it lay over his
Hullo! what's this 'ere?—turning it over, and shifting it three or
four times from one hand to the other.
It is thine, whispered a voice at my elbow; it belongs to thee.
B'longs to me! no sich a thing; wunt own it nor touch to; never seed
it afore—who are you makin' mouths at?
A person here stepped forward, who had been making signs for a long
time at Amos, and whispered something in his ear, at which his
countenance brightened up, and rolling over and supporting himself on
his elbows, he opened the pocket-book, and pulling forth a quantity of
bank-notes, which lay smoothly spread out between two-folds of worn
parchment; and puckering up his mouth and clenching his teeth as if to
avoid betraying his inward joy, he proceeded to count the money, dollar
by dollar, in a voice loud enough to be heard by all the bystanders,
while Obadiah stood watching him, with a look of perplexity, which
gradually gave way to another, more resembling anxiety, and then to
another of downright shame. His lip quivered—his cheek changed
color—and if I was not greatly deceived, there was a drop of scalding
water in his eye.
But Amos heeded him not, and having finished the count, he lifted
himself up, announced the sum total to be two hundred and sixty odd
dollars, Filadelphy and Baltimore money, adding—not worth so much as
Boston money, by twenty-five per cent though; and then, after wiping
his hands, he proceeded to lay it all back again into the parchment
wrapper, smoothing it down with extraordinary care, drew forth a piece
of red tape from his pocket, along with a handful of snarled
twine, leather-straps, waxed-ends, a gimlet and spare
screws—measured it—snipped off a piece of the proper length with a
single snap of his large glistening teeth—tied up the parcel with
great sobriety and deliberation, and then to our amazement, reached it
back to the person who had been whispering to him, without saying a
Whereupon Obadiah pressed forward and clenching him by the hand,
without speaking, though he blushed more than ever, and his handsome
eyes looked handsomer than ever, burst forth into an uncontrolable fit
of laughter; and then stopped suddenly—looked silly—and went away,
as if ashamed of being so happy, or of betraying so much of his real
nature even to a brother.
And why not keep it friend Amos? whispered the old quaker, who had
stolen up to us unperceived, and was trying to expostulate with him, so
as not to be heard by others.
No, no; thank ye as much as if I did—no 'casion.
Do take it—do; thee'll oblige me greatly, and her
mother also. It is but a trifle from her abundance.
May be so, but between you an' me an' the post, neighbor, that aint
the way I git my livin'.
I dare say not, continued the old man, his eyes filling with tears
of joy and thankfulness; but thee has 'most spoiled thy clothes, and
hurt theeself grievously, an' I have a right, as thee says, to
indemnify thee according to law.
Not by a jug-full; cant obleege me at law, frind.
The old man shook his head.
Well, then, if its all the same to you frind Leach, or frind
Abraham—I dont know what your Pheladelphy fashion is, but we say
frind so and so, in our parts— I aint dreadful particular ye see
about my clothes; never was good for much, all I had on wasn't worth a
five-dollar bill; and as for my hurts, why man alive, we dont mind sich
sort o' things where I com from, two jumps of a rattle-snek—ben
through a row o' griss-mills afore now, arter an' ole hat I dropped a
fishin'; so yer see I shan't take yer money nor touch to; but I say—
you—mister, (turning to me as he finished) brother 'Diah'll
finish the trade with you for that air watch o' yourn, about the
slickest, if you'll give him another chance, while my clothes are a
The good old man smiled—how could he help it?— at the perfect
seriousness of the proposal, and patting him on the shoulder, invited
him to go below and have a trade with him for his watch, pulling
out a heavy old-fashioned affair of his own, as he spoke.
That will I; cried Amos—and then stopping and struggling with
himself, he added; no no thank ye— taint in my line to make-believe
swap; I can see through you—(good naturedly)—you mean to be too
much for Amos O. P. Fairfield.
But Obadiah was not willing to let slip so fine a chance, and when I
next saw him, he was seated at one of the side-benches below, for a
regular swap, without caring a fig for the evident displeasure of his
brother, or thinking of any thing else on earth, I am sure; the old
quaker trying to give boot for the bulleyed warming-pan with a
pewter-face, and the other trying to swap it into him—fairly—in the
way of business.
It was dark now, and we were making our way toward Baltimore
smoothly enough I thought; nor did I observe, till we had come together
about the tables below, that Gage and Middleton were no longer on the
same terms they had been at first; each appearing to to hold himself
apart and aloof from the other; and from the Tennessee youth, who
appeared to believe that Gage could not have prevented Middleton from
going overboard, if the latter had been as much in earnest as he
pretended, I began to fear that mischief was brewing, and resolved in
my own mind to to watch the parties and prevent them at all hazards.
For myself, I was satisfied that Gage had saved Middleton's life by his
violence, and that nothing but a fair opportunity for explanation was
needed, to satisfy both of the fact. So, instead of going to sleep as
most of the passengers did, I kept my position at the table, where two
strangers were engaged in a game of checkers—Middleton sitting afar
off, with his hat pulled over his eyes, and his arms folded on his
chest. I longed to speak to him, but was afraid. On casting round my
eyes for Gage, I found him asleep on a settee, his countenance turned
away from the light, and breathing as freely as heart could desire. Of
course there would be no difficulty in dealing with him. Your true
Yankee is always reasonable—always— even at the moment of
unsheathing the sword, or pulling a hair-trigger.
Near me, with their ponderous legs outstretched over the superb
furniture, half-asleep and half-awake, were Amos and Obadiah, and five
or six down-easters, dozing by fits and snoring by turns. Many attempts
were made at conversation, such as you may hear aboard a stage-coach in
the grey of the morning, after a night, voyage over a rough road in
miserable weather—lazy questions, lazily put, and more lazily
answered—one would gape to see them in a newspaper— people talking
to themselves, and then waiting for a reply, or yawning and stretching
all around, one after another.
Yaw—aw—aw, wonder where we are now? says one; how far be we says
a second; begins to be rather cold here, mutters a third. Very!
adds a fourth, muffling himself up to the eyes. The next moment they
are all growling together, and all in the same key. My watch has
stopped; if it taint I'm a bigger fool than you are. Only half-past
nine! 'taint posserble. You dont say so—gettin' to be rather warm
here. Very! I say steward! how far is it to where we put up to
night? Dont know 'azacly sir, I'll ax the cap'n. See 't ye do—aw, aw,
aw!—hot as blazes! Very! Man re-appears, saying tis better
than two hours sail. Better! I should call it wuss by a
darnation-sight. Yaw, aw, aw! everlastin' cold weather we have for the
season. Very! At last the party got waked up, and the following
conversation took place.
But we have
two Universities, my dear sir, said the fat
stranger who had been taking notes. Have ye tho'? Well, I should
like to know what they're good for. So should I, muttered Gage,
lifting himself up on one elbow and preparing to take his part in this,
or any other discussion that offered a fair opportunity for playing
with both sides of a question—for every body knows that our
University at Harvard is the first in the world—is'nt it gentlemen?
To be sure it is; whoever denied it? answered two or three voices
together. Nobody—in America. Talk of libraries and professorships,
and oriental literature and all that, pho, pho! as a body may say—
Precisely! added a little dapper Bostonian. You are a true patriot
sir, and I honor you for your impartiality. That, (snapping his
fingers with a revolutionary flourish) that! for your German
Universities, and your Cambridge and Oxford Universities! what do they
know about the improved system established at old Harvard?
Very true sir; give me your hand, cried Gage, Very true sir. In
orthography, arithmetic and English grammar, to say nothing of the
higher branches of mathematics, we have a—
Precisely sir! Here bows were interchanged all around, followed by
sundry compliments to one another's love of country, and freedom from
prejudice, when my attention was called to another quarter.
What a strange foreign look he has! said somebody at another table;
for my part, I believe he was just as much in earnest when he tried to
jump over at last—cant be a native American surely.
He is a southerner raised in the north.
You dont say so! answered a third voice.
Of the best blood in the country too, I can tell you that.
Wal if ever! Why judgin' by his looks, I'd wager a trifle that he
had a cross o' the nigger in him.
Hush, for God's sake, whispered the other, turning with a look of
alarm toward the subject of their conversation, whose breathing grew
very audible a minute or two afterwards, though we thought him asleep.
Such a remark as that sir, continued the speaker, would cost you or any
other man alive— more than you would like to pay.
Wal, if there aint a drop or nigger, there is o' Ingunn blood in
him, or I miss my guess—no harm in that I hope?
Sir!—I entreat you.
Why what's the matter now!
If you wish to leave this boat alive, take my advice and avoid such
remarks before the Men of the South.
You aint serious tho', air ye?
But I am serious. I look upon it as a matter of life and
Fiddle de dee!—That for ye men o' the south, I say!
And are the men of the south ashamed of being thought to have
descended from the original proprietors of the new world? said Gage,
speaking in a loud clear natural voice—the chiefs, the princes, and
the kings of North-America! Shame on them if they are!
A suppressed breathing made me look up, and there stood Middleton
directly in front of Gage, his under-lip quivering, and his large
luminous eyes all afire with inward commotion.
But Gage continued with the same steady look and firm voice, leaning
back in his chair as he finished; and after some few remarks of a
general nature respecting the men of the south, wound up with an
eloquent apostrophe to the Indians—cutting, as with a two-edged sword
into the very joints and marrow of that unholy and ungrateful pride,
which in the North as well as in the South (for in the north it is
highly penal for whites to intermarry with Indians) has prohibited all
companionship, other than that of master and slave, the oppressor and
the oppressed, between them.
Middleton was evidently disturbed, and the Tennessee youth drew
near, hoping I dare say, and believing I am sure, that something
serious would grow out of the conversation before they finished.
And now Middleton, said Gage—my dear Middleton, a word with you
before all these witnesses. You want a quarrel with me—I see it
Middleton grew paler and paler every moment, and he shook all over;
but the wrath of his black eye was not so deadly as before.
Now, continued Gage, the plain truth is that you are in the wrong;
and therefore I have determined not to allow you to quarrel with me.
Nevertheless, for treating you like a madman (as you were) I beg your
pardon—for saving your life in spite of your determination to throw
it away, I—
Here a most unlucky laugh, badly-suppressed from the Tennessee
youth, had well nigh set us altogether by the ears again; but Gage
favored him with a look of reproof, and the savage was turning away,
with a sort of good-natured growl, when, happening to catch the eye of
Middleton, his countenance instantly changed and he drew himself up to
his full stature, and stood facing him and waiting for Gage to finish.
Yes sir, continued Gage, yet more deliberately— For saving your
life in spite of your determination to throw it away, Gerard Middleton,
I am ready, if you require it, and before all these witnesses, to beg
your pardon heartily and humbly.
That's what I call showin' the white-feather, by Gawd! cried the
Tennessee boy, turning on his heel as he spoke.
Middleton's eyes flashed fire; but Gage merely looked up, and
begging him not to interfere, turned quietly to the other and asked him
what he meant by the remark, and whether it was intended for him.
What do I mean, stranger? I mean jess what I say—You are showin'
the white feather; an' you know well enough what that means, if you
have ever been in the woods an' seen the whippoor-will run away
with her tail-feathers draggin' after her, one each side o' the bunch,
as white as the driven snow— that's what I mean, take it as ye like.
By all which I am to understand that you believe me wanting in
courage to resent insult, or to punish insolence—in plain English,
that I am what bullies and swaggerers would call a coward?
What do you mean by that sir! who d'ye call a swaggerer.
You shall know in a moment, said Gage, slowly rising from the chair,
and measuring his tall handsome antagonist with an eye that neither
shifted nor quailed, and a countenance that never altered, till he had
finished. You believe me to be a coward then?
And you would insult me, nevertheless?
What think you of your own courage then? Is it not the courage of a
swaggerer, to insult a coward?
For a moment the high-spirited fellow was abashed; but the next,
observing a smile or a sneer about the mouth of Middleton, he uttered
something—something, I know not what, nor could I ever learn that any
body there had fully understood it; and instantly, but for Gage, who
grappled with the Tennesseean and threatened to call captain Trip, they
would have sprung at each other's throats across the table. As it was,
they were instantly separated, and withdrew in a portentous silence to
their respective berths.
We were now approaching Baltimore. The outline of the city was
already visible upon the clear blue sky, in a mass of huge broken
shadow, with the cathedral crowning the whole, and the
Washingtonmonument upheaving itself into the unclouded vault, like the
wonders you see on your approach to Rome, while yet afar off; and I had
begun to hope that we should have no further trouble, when happening to
turn away from the light, I had a view of Gage in a mirror as he sat
with his back toward me, and for the first time in my life I felt as if
nothing could save one fellow-creature from the wrath of
another—nothing. And yet he had only grown a little more serious; and
so long as he sat with his back toward me, talking pleasantly with the
other passengers, I should not have suspected from his voice that any
thing was the matter. But from the moment I saw his face there, I felt
alarmed—I know not why—the reader must have seen such a face to
understand me—alarmed for the safety of the Tennesseean.
Yet as I have said before, the conversation was cheerful enough, and
nobody else, not even captain Trip himself, appeared to think seriously
of the trifling dispute which had occurred.
Again I found myself at my old employment of studying character and
hoarding up phraseology. He'll do it any day o' the week, said a man at
my elbow, let alone Saturdays—of course the speaker was a Marylander
of Irish parentage. What a heap a folks there was to be sure, said
another—a Virginian of course—a mighty little man of his age, said
a third—a Carolinian. I shot the door, an' went an' sot down, said a
fourth. I'm tired some; I aint tired any, added a fifth
and sixth. Care that up, an' empt it; I expect he was eenjest tired to
death—all Yankees. No marm I have not—wal I want yer to, ditto,
ditto. Resky, jumpy, skerse, a dark-complected man; I should admire to
see you do it: He said how he could handle me, and told him he might
have a chance to try; use your thinkers: I vum if I would— ditto,
ditto, ditto. Good deal o' land about here: nice putty stars, but lord
you, as the gal said to her feller, if you could only see the bunch
thats right over our front door. There now! its all gut to be strained
over agin! as the old woman said, when the dog p—d in her milk-pan.
Thats right down ugly o' you. I'm rather porely now. See any thing
partiklar in that feller there?—makes poetry himself sabbadays, made
more poetry an' you could shake a stick at; never thought o' trying his
hand at it nyther, till arter he failed in the timber-trade. You belong
to Poland? No, to Minot—you aint acquainted with a man by the name o'
Dodge, Joel Dodge, air ye?—all Yankees of one sort or another.
Thus far had I proceeded, taking down every remarkable phrase that
met my ear, upon the blank leaf of a new novel, which lay before me—a
page that I preserved for many years, and have now most faithfully
copied, when a passenger who came below for his umbrella and great
coat, informed us we should reach the wharf in a few minutes. I ran up
on deck and getting my luggage together, was standing over it and
listening to the noise of the steam, as it bellowed and roared through
the huge cylinder, when the boat reached the wharf, and the next
moment, dark as it was, two mortal enemies found each other out, as by
the instinct of unappeasable hate, and before a soul could interfere, a
splash was heard in the deep still water, accompanied by a loud
half-smothered cry, which made us all rush to the spot whence it
proceeded. A man was over-board. We drew him in. He was pale, and
speechless, and bloody.
Gracious God sir, cried I, going up to Middleton, who stood near the
edge of the water, with the light of a dozen lamps streaming upon his
face—his foot planted—his hat off—his collar open, his black hair
flying loose in the wind, and his eye fixed with a dreadful expression
of unrelenting wrath upon the rescued man, who lay stretched out like a
dead body upon the wharf, with a cloak thrown over him and a
portmanteau under his head—Gracious God sir, what have you done!
I have dirked him, was the reply.
I shuddered; for the spoke with a cheerful voice, and I could have
sworn that he smiled; for his black joyful eyes were shining with a
newer and more savage lustre.
We parted before I knew the whole truth; but not before I saw him in
custody, and heard him say with a light cheerful air—pho, pho, my
dear Gage, we are even now. What are you afraid of? the poor fellow may
thank his stars that he had me to deal with, instead of you—there's a
chance for him now.
Pho, pho, I know what you mean to say.
If that man should not recover—
Why then he'll be cured of gouging, that's all, putting his hand to
his forehead as he spoke, and showing how narrow had been his own
escape from the loss of an eye—the hair was literally torn from his
temples—and there was the mark of a thumb-nail.
Man! man! cried Gage, I wonder at you.
I told him what I would do, if he did'nt release me instantly—and
I did it—and there he lies!
God forgive you, said I; farewell!
And here we parted—He for a prison or a scaffold, and I for the
After this, my curiosity led me far to the south, where I was a long
while detained. On my return through Baltimore, I made some enquiries
about Middleton, the result of which was very satisfactory to me, for I
had begun to feel a deep solicitude concerning him. It appeared on
trial that his huge adversary drew a knife, as he stepped upon the
wharf where the blow was given, that he sprung at Middleton and'seized
him by the throat, apparently for the purposes of throwing him into the
river, that he twisted his right hand into his hair, and that something
was said by one or both about gouging, the very instant before the cry,
which was followed by the plunge overboard. Middleton was therefore set
free, though the man had not recovered, and it was probable never would
recover. I had the further satisfaction of hearing that he forgave
Middleton, and that he spoke of the affair to the judges of the court
in such a way as to excite the admiration of all who heard him. The
public sympathy when I arrived at Baltimore was divided between the
two; every body spoke well of the Tennessean, of his fortitude, courage
and magnanimity; and every body spoke well of Middleton, who might have
escaped a trial if he would; but he gave himself up after an accidental
rescue, and was only discharged in due course of law.
The more I knew of this man—the more I heard of his behavior from
the day that I saw him arrested, in a matter of life and death, up to
the hour of his acquittal by a jury, the more anxious I grew about
him. He appeared to me to be made for superior things— for great
things—and to have need of such advice and such help as a man a few
years older than himself might give, were he invested with the
authority of an elder brother. I would have done much for him, for he
appeared capable of doing much for the world. But whither had he gone?
where should I seek him, or that strange fellow that was with him,
Gage? Nobody could tell me, though I pursued the enquiry for a long
At last however, just when I had given up all idea of ever seeing
either of the two again, chance threw us together in a very odd way. I
was at New York waiting the arrival of a ship, in which I intended to
go on a voyage to the South-Sea. She was hourly expected, and I was
therefore obliged to hold myself in readiness, night and day; and not
knowing what else to do in such a state, I contrived to waste as much
of my time as I could in the society of beautiful women, who make up a
fifth part of the population of New-York, and among others, in that of
a widow—a magnificient creature—a lady too, if there was
ever a thing so delightful or so artificial on that side of the sea,
with a set-off in the shape of two great sprawling daughters. It may be
that I was in love with her; and it may be—I would not swear that I
was not—in love with all three at the same time, for I missed the
ship after all, and had two or three narrow escapes of one sort and
She was youthful at the avowed age of thirty-one or two, in a part
of the country where women at the age of two score generally contrive
to look as if they had never been less than fifty. She was a sort of
epicure—an epicure in every thing—I dare not say voluptuary, that
being a dis-logistic word. She breathed an atmosphere that was always
ready to kindle about her; and she passed her life in touching and
tasting for experiment sake, whatever it was not very safe either to
touch or taste. I never saw a woman so followed in America,
though she was not over wealthy; but then the was beautiful, the leader
of New-York fashion, rather witty and sufficiently pious for the period
I speak of. She appeared to me to have made up her mind—God forgive
her—to enjoy life as much as it is possible for a woman to enjoy it,
where men are legislators for every body. She knew that spies were set
on every side of her path; she knew that there is no out-living nor
escaping reproach, whether it be deserved or not, if a woman step over
the invisible boundary that we have made for her; and yet, she was
eternally trespassing where no other female would have the courage to
look—trespassing with one foot, while the other was anchored in
safety; peeping into prohibited places; or standing a-tiptoe and
looking over the barrier, and trembling and thrilling afar off.
She delighted in what are called innocent pleasantries, in pretty
little misunderstandings, in half whispered, half-acted inuendoes,
though she would look all the time as if she had no mischief in her
heart, and speak as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth; and she had a
way—it would be impossible for me to describe it—a way that no
young woman ever had, a way that few married women ever had (while they
were married) of entrapping hearts with a snare that every body could
see; now by flirting with a ribbon that shivered with every breath she
drew, or lay as if it were alive upon her superb shoulder; now by
gathering up her exuberant hair; now by permitting a bird to play with
her shut lips, or to plunge his beak into a mouth like a wet rose-bud;
now by coquetting with a child or a guitar; now by toying with a watch
in her bosom set with jewels, or a miniature, a chain, or a necklace,
the sparkle of which would be sure to attract the eye; now by pulling
up her slipper—halfsitting, half-lounging the while, upon a deep
couch covered with loose drapery.
I had seen her in my youth, I knew her when the war of 1812 broke
out, and I knew her at the close of that war, when it began to be
considered a very proper thing for people to go to church twice a
day—rain or shine—provided they were not able to keep a carriage. I
knew her at a period when fire and earth-quake had made it rather
fashionable to pray—and when very respectable and very genteel
people, were known to pray—and when the most beautiful women of
New-York were to be seen at church, though Broadway, the Battery, and
both rivers were open at the time; and she appeared to me to grow
younger and younger every year.
At the period I speak of, she had become rather devout; every body
spoke of her piety, and I had observed that there was a stir
among the British officers, who happened to be there on parole at the
same time— hardly one of them ever missing the church she frequented,
when it was understood that she was to be there, and very few the day
or the hour, as they paraded up and down before their favorite places
of worship, if they saw her carriage roll by; many of them showing the
most exemplary moderation, forbearance and self-denial, when the
weather would not allow them to break out in their holiday-uniforms, by
going to church, nevertheless, with any thing to cover them till they
were faily housed, when the loudness and solemnity of their responses
and the clangor of their kneeling, were enough to do your heart good.
Take it altogether, it was a very refreshing season—as we say there;
and I was repeatedly assured by Mrs. Amory the fair widow, that she had
seen a young naval officer, who sat behind her pew, so wrought upon by
the eloquence of Dr. Mason, that he was obliged to cover his face with
his hands—very pretty hands they were too, and remain with his head
in a corner till the Congregation were set free; and that she saw
another, a military man (with a new coat covered with new bullion, a
new hat, and no umbrella) betray a very becoming sense of his awful
situation, one day when it suddenly clouded overhead, as they come out
of church together, now by turning up his eyes to heaven, with a look
almost of despair, and now by muttering a few broken sentences, which
appeared to be heaved up from the very bottom of his heart. I was
futhermore assured by a clergyman that he had never known such a
revival at New-York—as that which took place while the British were
thundering at her gates; but then he acknowledged that soon after the
war broke out, there was a fearful awakening at the north; and I heard
from another quarter that the land shook, that armies were seen
parading over the sky, and great ships riding at anchor in the hollow
of the mountains, where the fog was like a sea, and the noise of the
wind like the roar of the sea.
It is a time of war, said another, and if a time of war will not
make people serious and regular in their attendance at
church—provided they have new clothes, no other place to go to, and
nothing else to do, why the devil is in it. Oh! for shame! cried
the beautiful widow, adjusting a magnificent shawl, and stepping away
so as to show the whole sweep of her person— you are too severe. Am I?
Yes.—You would not be at church this very day, but for the shawl
you received last night from India.
She was already on her way up the broad aisle, with every eye upon
her; and every pulse fluttering at the sight of her cashmere.
In spite of all we say in America about the patricians of Europe,
and their foolish pride of birth, we are not without our patricians
here—people of yesterday or the day before, who having had
grandfathers of their own, are not to be confounded with the people of
to-day. When I first knew the fair widow, she was manoeuvering for a
place among the former; when we parted she was manoeuvering still, but
I fear with little or no prospect of success, for some how or other, it
had come to be known that her father was nobody—neither a lawyer nor
a merchant, not even a retail-merchant—nothing but a tailor. Of
course the widow, but for the carriage and pair that she still
continued to keep, her beauty, and her supposed wealth, which gave her
the lead for a time in the little world of high fashion at New-York,
would never have been situated in what is called good-society
there—meaning the society of the few that live without work, or by a
profession, or by merchandize imported by the cargo, to say nothing of
the best society there, the ancient nobility of America, whose
fathers happen to have died where, if history be true, their
fathers happened to live.
It cannot be denied however that so long as the widow was able to
sport her cashmeres and her carriage, not a few of the second class of
republican nobility, were vastly condescending to her at church, where
it is understood that a whisper, a bow, or a shake of the hand, is to
go for nothing if it be not authenticated elsewhere.
Why do you live such a life? said I to her one day, as we sat
together in the deep couch I spoke of, she with her eyes fixed upon the
fire, and I studying the changes that I saw in her face—Why give
people such power over you?
Why!—her lip quivered, a shadow that I had never seen there
before, played about her mouth, and her forehead shook in the fire
light. Because I am a mother—
Well, and what if you are—
A mother; and every body knows that the first duty of a mother is to
be, when her daughters are old enough to appear in the world—what I
never shall be—heigho!
And what is that?
An old woman—my dear Mr. Fox.
I was very much struck by the tone of voice, in which these few
words were uttered. They appeared to issue from the very bottom of her
She continued—I am a widow.
Your own fault, if you are a widow long, said I.
A widow, and past the age, when, whatever we do is looked upon with
charity; a mother—and—and—
Her eyes filled—
With two grown-up daughters; a widow, with a feeling which, whatever
other people may say, she knows to be the feeling that agitated her in
youth, always at work in her heart—heigho! I wish I was in my
I tried to sooth her. You in your grave! said I—
what would you do there pray?
I might sleep—Mr. Fox.
Nonsense. You have it in your power to be happy, and to make others
happy; and yet you are wicked enough to wish yourself where—between
ourselves now, my dear madam—I doubt if you would have the same power
that you enjoy here.
If I had never been married at all, I—I beg your pardon—I—I do
wish you would go for Kate.
Certainly, said I, she's a dear good girl.
She looked at me—Well, why dont you go?
Lord bless you, said I, without moving a step, aint I going as fast
as I can?
Very well—turning away her head, as if she did not hear me, and
looking into the fire with a faint smile—And everybody knows that the
chief duty of a mother is to maintain her daughters, from the day they
are old enough, or large enough—Kate is very tall of her age—dont
you think so?—at every sacrifice—and both much younger than you
Keep them she must, at every sacrifice—and at every humiliation to
herself, in just exactly that rank of society, where they have no
clear, indisputable right to be.
Very true; what else
can she be good for?
After a certain age, I mean.
Of course—with a smile—heigho!
Whether she be married or a widow, old or young, beautiful as the
She drew a long breath.
Or ugly as the witch of Endor.
Very true, my dear friend—where they must live in a state of
warfare with everybody that comes in their way.
In bad humor with everybody—
And with themselves into the bargain; for nobody knows how to behave
to them in society, whether as equals, or humble companions, or as
people having as good a right as their neighbours, to make themselves
uncomfortable and ridiculous in a certain way.
And where everybody who, crosses their path will be sure to wonder
at them—said I.
For that proves that they are in a rank of society, where, but for
intrigue, electioneering, and sheer impudence, they never would be.
In this comfortable situation, they grow up, their hearts brimful of
bitterness and fear, and sickly hope; forever slipping back in their
up-hill ascent, and forever leaning forward.
Very true—and elbowing the less happy or the less ambitious at
every step, under pretence of keeping their places—
Bowing their way up, till they get a head or a toe into the group
just above them, shouldering them aside at the next breath, and then
turning their backs upon them, through every successive stage of
society; all whom they have out-stripped rejoicing in every humiliation
they meet with, and all whom they approach wondering aloud at their
audacity; but all— every where—above, below, and about their path,
uniting together against them, forever on the watch to discover their
faults, and forever disposed to magnify their failures, and rejoice
over their humiliations.
Ah my dear sir, I feel the truth of what you say— every word is
Then why persevere in that path? Believe me madam—it is not the
way to respectability, whatever you may suppose. Your children are made
unhappy to no purpose; they will not be suffered to remain where you
have tried to place them.
I believe you; but what am I to do?
Give up the society of people you do not care for.
Ah! you know not how much you ask!
And the society of those who do not care for you.
Oh Lord! what would become of me?
You would be happier than ever—
Query, as you say; I cannot bear solitude—heigho!
Yes; your plan would leave me—I very much fear—in a deplorable
Altogether alone. Here she heaved a sigh that went to my heart, and
her eyes fell, and her little snowy hand slipped away from the place on
which it rested, and fell upon the crimson drapery of the couch, like
a live bird escaped from a snare.
I wish you could be prevailed upon to see this matter as I do, said
I, slipping my hand after hers in such a way as to alarm neither—You
might be very happy.
She shook her head with a faint smile.
And why not, pray?
How can you ask! am I not the mother of two grown-up girls?
And what if you are?
And am I not younger at the heart, this very day, than either of the
two, my dear friend?
Upon my word, I believe you are.
Still young, without the privileges of youth?
I could have wept a tear or two here, at the very sound of her voice.
A mother of women, without a share of that insensibility which I
regard as their highest prerogative.
I understand you—I pity you.
Excuse me, I cannot bear to be pitied—heigho.
Pho, pho—that is the talk of your every-day novelreader.
But I am very serious.
Pho, pho; cannot bear to be pitied! you! why what are you made of?
There is not a creature alive in the shape of woman, ay, or of man
either, who in saying that, would say the truth. It were easier to live
without hope, than without pity.
To say all in a word—I am a widow.
If I were to withdraw from society at my age, what would people say?
Say! That you were a thousand times wiser than they ever thought you.
It would be ascribed to the jealousy of a mother; it would be said
every where that I withdrew to escape the mortification of being
rivaled, or it may be eclipsed by my own daughters. Ah my dear Mr.
Fox— do you know I have taken a great fancy to your
name—christian-name I mean—but proceed.
In which case, they would be thought older than they are, and you,
therefore, older than you are; and you might be obliged to go into your
grave a widow.
I mean to go into my grave a widow.
I know better.
She snatched away her hand, which some how or other—I never knew
how—I had contrived to clasp, and withdrew her foot which had strayed
into the middle of the hearth-rug, where it loitered with an expression
(feet have a deal of expression, love) that well might give me the
heart-ache, as I sat by her side.
We continued our conversation.
You go to church twice a day now.
Now! I have done so for a whole year.
Ever since your pulpit was furnished with a tall, handsome,
unmarried man, of high family.
So pious too—so severe of speech and so very devout, always in the
way of a prayer-meeting, or a lecture, now.
Why to tell you the truth, I have no great aversion to these matters
now; we see very good society at church—
The truth will out! You have no dislike to the church, nor to the
pious, nor to praying a little yourself in a private way—when there
are no cards out, nor much risk of your being caught by the ungodly;
nor would you refuse to appear at a public conference, or at a chapel I
dare say—if you were supported in the measure by the presence of
good-society. You are perfectly satisfied with yourself, you care not
whither you go, nor what you do—so long as you are in good-society.
You have two daughters to bring up, and being yourself neither very old
nor very ugly, you would endure any thing to preserve their place and
yours in good-society—
You are very severe—
Then what I say must be very true. Would you not—I ask you as I
would have you ask me—wo wo u you not wear a mob-cap, or say thee
and thou, if it were the fashion?
To be sure I would—why not? I see no harm in a mob-cap, nor in
saying thee and thou, if other people do.
Other people of high fashion. You would undergo a sociable private
awakening I dare say, or a snug revival at your own house, if it were
required of you?
To be sure I would—
Ay, or sing through the nose
"I'll take my staff and travel on
"The way that Zion's pilgrim's gone, with every other tune of the
conventicle, to the guitar, the harp, or the piano, if you were kept in
countenance by what you call good-society? You go to the house of the
Lord every sabbath-day, as you call it, Mrs. Amory, not because you
care a fig for what is done there, but because, now that the British
are nigh, you are pretty sure of meeting with good-society there; and
you go to the table of your Saviour (provided there be no other
engagement,) because there, even there, good-society may sometimes be
At this very time, that no part of your superfluous piety may run to
waste, you are a member of two or three little evangelical
associations, got up for the encouragement of the poor and the base,
for the promotion of tittle-tattle and the scriptures; and you are
secretary to a sort of club, where, at so many coppers a week (filched
out of your servants or your milkwoman) every member is entitled to a
cup of tea and a vote in the election of her favorites to power in this
world and the next; where you intermeddle with mysteries and work-bags
at the same time; where you rummage among the stars and the cherubim
with as familiar an air, as other bonnetted things do among paste
jewelry, Brazil diamonds, or changeable silk in a retail shop; where
you prattle about heaven and— the other place, very much as
you do about your puddings and pies; and select places for
good-society, in the sky, and for unbelievers—not in the sky;
as if each of you had a map of our Father's house—that house with
many mansions—with a plan of the pit and boxes.
You are a member, to my knowledge, of a tractsociety, and a part of
your pastime is a sort of wholesale piracy; you learn to make books,
not by combining letters and syllables, but paragraphs and periods; by
pasting together bits of newspapers, of little greasy story books, of
superannuated almanacks, of worn-out ballads; producing therefrom, by
slight changes of titles, names, dates and facts, or by transposing an
occasional period, the most affecting and well-authenticated
narratives, either of surprising conversions to your creed, or of
terrible judgments on the misbeliever, with certificates in blank for
all who are pious enough to vouch for their truth—
You are in a sweet humor, to be sure; we lay no claim to the
authorship of the works we put forth we merely abridge them for the
So! abridgement with you, means the tearing a book to pieces and
putting a few of the leaves together again?
She made no reply.
It is further lawful I hear, when you have no
the board, for the members to sigh in rotation over the particular
depravity of such or such a person, who, to prove your impartiality, or
your superiority to the prejudices of the world, is either a relation,
a friend, or a neigh bor.
But we always give our authority for what we say.
So as to prevent the possibility of its being attributed to envy, or
malice, or tea-gossip.
Why, what would you have!
I hear too, that she who has the readiest tongue, the shrillest
voice, and the greatest variety of anecdotes not generally known, of
domestic infidelities and squabbles in our city, is made
chair-woman—over sea they would call her a char-woman.
Lady president if you please.
Well, who is your lady president now, pray?
The lady of Mr. B—
The lady! pshaw—
Of Mr. B— the rich banker.
The rich banker! fiddle de dee, Mrs. A— we have no bankers here.
And a very pious lady she is too, and very charitable.
How dare you say so! She is a woman of no true piety, of no fixed
religious faith, and you know it; a mere gossip and the worst of all
gossips, a gossip in creeds, without knowledge, and without a spark of
true charity, if you mean the charity that seeth no evil—hopeth no
Thinketh, if you please—
A woman who believes that they who are not of her church must be—I
will not say what now; and that your good-for-nothing moral people,
who do their duty on earth for the sake of what may be had on earth,
and belong to no church at all, are hardly worth praying for; a woman
of no worth, of no character—
Of no character!
Of no principle; very like the majority of women though, educated as
they now are, not so positively bad, as negatively good. She
charitable! God forgive you! Her charity is confined to those who go to
her church, or visit where she visits, or to people whom she knows,
loves, or shares in the reputation of, whatever it may be; or it is
that kind of give-and take-charity which induces her to excuse every
thing in every body, partly that she may appear amiable, and partly in
the hope that one day or other, we may be ready to excuse every thing
in her. It is not the charity that engirdles the earth, embracing every
creature alive, our enemies—the whole human family, pressing them
together on every side as with a sort of moral atmosphere, by which,
and through which the pulsation of a heart here may sound through all
the hearts of Europe, and the throb of a heart there, sound through
every other quarter of the globe.
Ah, but how humble she is, and how meek!
Very! humble enough to go in the attire of a princess to beg for the
poor; humble enough to wash the clean feet of the youthful and the
healthy,—if she had a crown upon her head, or if a whole nation were
looking at her; humble enough I dare say, when the sea roars, when the
sky thunders, or the earth shakes—to hide herself in holes and
corners with abject humility.
Lord, how you talk!
She is not of them that are able to stand upright in the
earth-quake, yet fear to blaspheme their Maker, by calling any work of
his hands, least of all that which he has made in his own image,
utterly vile and worthless.
If you go on so, I
must leave you!
Thus much to give the reader an idea of Mrs. A's character, and that
of her conversation. It may be that he has heard a beautiful widow
reason before—if not, he will be gratified with what I affirm to be a
true report of the discourse that she indulged me with: let me add here
that Mrs. Amory was precisely of that age, whatever that may be, when a
woman is most to be feared by a full grown man. Young women, and
beautiful children of that age that all women wish to be, "Sweet
sixteen," seldom or never succeed in snaring a full-grown man; or if
they do, they are never able to keep him. The proud, the wise, and the
mature of the male sex are not much given (whatever the poets may say,
and whatever the fair may suppose) to doating upon women while they
doat upon green-apples and confectionary, chalk or charcoal, or
bread-and-butter, and skip the rope, hour after hour, with what is
called a sincere and innocent joy; they cannot abide the unfledged
nestling—they seek a braver appetite, a heavier plumage and a louder
note in the bird that is to sing them to sleep in the pride of their
strength—birds that are met with only in the far-quiet and shadowey
places of our earth, or along the sea-shore—the solitary spirits of
You are to be with us on Friday week, I hope, said Mrs. Amory,
laying her hand with a sweet careless air upon my shoulder, in the
midst of my revery.
On Friday week! I hope not.
Very civil, to be sure—
If the ship does not arrive soon—Good God! it is impossible for me
to stay here; I am wasting my life away, fretting myself to death.
Poor man—perhaps you are in love.
God forbid—ah; a knock—I must be off.
Off now! off in such a hurry! no, no, my dear sir, that will never
do. If you must leave me, wait till you see who it is—Ah—I know
that step!—dont escape now the moment the door is opened, I beseech
you—Ah, my dear Mr. G. how d'ye do; where's your Georgia friend?
Here to-morrow, said the new comer. It was Atherton Gage himself,
but so altered, so pale and so haggard, I scarcely knew him.
Will he indeed!
I thought you were determined never to admit the handsome
profligate, as I have heard you call him, into your house again, said
Ah, but he is not so bad now, I hope?
Worse than ever.
What can I do?
I beg your pardon! Mr. G. Mr. F.; Mr. F. Mr. G. Ha, ha, ha!
Happy to see you, Mr. F.
How d'ye do, Mr. G? And we both laughed at the oddity of the
Well, said Mrs. A.; hereafter you shall be Mr. F. and you Mr. G. You
shall go by no other names.
It was indeed the very Gage I saw on board the steam-boat; we
recognized each other immediately, and having laughed heartily together
at our absurd introduction by Mrs. Amory, we were on a very familiar
footing before we parted.
Ah, you appear to know each other! cried she.
We have met before, said I.
Under very peculiar circumstances, added Mr. G.; this gentleman saw
the whole of that unhappy affair, which led to the overthrow of our
plans for the South.
Indeed! How wonderful that I should never have heard either of you
speak of the other! Pray, Mr. Fox—turning to me.
We did not know each other madam; said I.
But you shall know each other now—the two best friends I have on
Gage smiled, I bowed, the widow returned my bow, and I was the
happiest man alive.
We passed the evening together, and a part of the next day, and the
whole of the next, and before the week was over, we were on the best
terms in the world, with the widow, with ourselves, and with each
other. But one thing puzzled me—I was anxious to hear about Elizabeth
Hale, the fair Quakeress—but whenever I alluded to her, he would
contrive to change the subject, so that up to the last hour of my being
with him, I was never able to learn whether she was dead or alive; and
yet some how or other, I had a suspicion that he knew, and was
determined not to gratify me.
On Friday you are to go with me to Mrs. A's great annual party—we
shall take no excuse; I want you to see Middleton, said Gage, one
evening as we sat lounging together at the play; I want you to see that
fellow in his glory—surrounded by all the finest women of New-York,
though they know and everybody else knows here, that he is a very sad
fellow among the women—a-sheer profligate.
Are you serious?
Quite. You will hear him declared to be so by all the mothers, and
all the daughters of the city.
Who avoid him of course.
Avoid him! pho—if he should be there on Friday evening, I would
have you watch their behaviour toward him; it will show you the true
character of many—of our beautiful widow among the rest.
Of our beautiful widow—I began to feel a misgiving.
Why sir, you must know that from my boyhood up, I have been reckoned
a very exemplary sort of a somebody—having the reputation of great
wealth (undeservedly I confess) yet being no way remarkable for the
vices of the age. Mr. Amory gave one of her large parties a month or
two ago—perhaps you were there?
No; I had gone up the North-River.
Well, I was invited, was unfashionable enough to go before
day-break, and received, so long as there was no other young man in the
room of more wealth or of a worse character, a deal of attention—To
say all in a word, Atherton, dear Atherton was particularly
distinguished by every body. So then, said I, interrupting him, your
name is Atherton Gage after all, and not Nehemiah?
Yes—But let me finish. Now I know of nothing so awful, as being
formally introduced to a jury of mothers, who have heard a deal of you,
who have been expecting you for a whole hour, and who have, God knows
how many daughters on their hands undisposed of—such daughters being
seated in a row, all about the room, every two flanking a mother, all
with their eyes fixed on the floor, and all, you would suppose holding
their breath, as you enter the room. To see the looks that are
interchanged as you draw near! Round you go—round the whole room
after the man of the house, repeating the names that you hear, but
always repeating them so that nobody knows what you say; bowing always
to the wrong person, to Miss Amory, when you are introduced to
the mother of ten boys, whom you are desirous of complimenting on her
family, or to the mother of ten boys when you are presented to Miss
Emily Bibb Tucker.
A real name, I'd swear—
A real name, you
may swear, and then the triumph of the
daughters, when the virtuous monster appears, about whom they have
heard so much, and the sheepish look of the mothers, who begin to see
they have a little overshot the mark, the compassionate drowsy
expression of their virtuous eyes, the solemn elevation of their
virtuous noses; for my own part sir, I do not wonder at all that modest
men grow desperate, after having been once in company with libertines
before modest women. Why sir, on the night I speak of, Middleton did
not appear till it was time for the better sort of people to go; but
from the instant he did appear—bless you—We modest
well-behaved young fellows, might as well have been at the bottom of
the red-sea. Nobody saw us—nobody heard us—nobody cared for us. We
were not treated with common decency by the virtuous women; we might
have starved, but for the humanity of the waiters, or commissaries
rather, whose instinct seems to lead them on such occasions to those
who are particularly virtuous or particularly modest; to all who, if
they were to pop off on the spot with an apoplexy, would never be
missed by the people about them, before they saw the name in the next
morning's paper; to every body male or female who never speaks a loud
word in company, nor ever at all, but when spoken to, nor ever then,
without laying just three fingers of the left hand flat upon the mouth
and fetching a sort of a-hem! thus—a—a—a-hem! You smile sir, but
what I say is very true; Mrs. Amory had just put a question to me for
the fifth time, which question I had answered four times, and was about
to answer a fifth time in precisely the same words, when Gerard
Middleton entered the room—the most notorious profligate of
New-York—Mrs. Amory never heard a syllable of my fifth answer.
I laughed heartily at the air with which this was said—it was so
natural, so true.
I did not much like this, you may be sure, continued Gage; for I
knew that I was generally spoken of as amiable, sweet tempered and
wholesome; so very sensible for my age, that it was quite a comfort
sometimes to hear me talk, and fitted of course to make any woman
happy. But will Gerard Middleton, now, luddy tuddy! it was directly the
reverse. But while everybody said so of me, nobody seemed to believe
it, even among the fair who said so to my teeth—every one appeared
disposed to except herself— so much for my virtue—I might make any
woman happy and welcome—if she would let me; all appeared to believe
this, and there the matter ended for any advantage my virtuous
character was to me. To be sure, they stuffed me with cake till I could
not speak so as to be understood, and scalded me with hot-water till I
could hardly see out of my eyes; and then if I made up to a fine woman,
however remarkable she might be, I found that she only lifted her head
for a moment—and after seeing who it was, went back to her
sweetmeats, or cake or ice-cream, as if she had done all that could
reasonably be expected of a virtuous woman toward a virtuous man. Flesh
and blood! I have seen such things! Why sir, the women go before such
as me in their dishabille, without a touch of remorse, or a throb of
self reproach—the dishabille of their minds I mean. But I am all out
of breath— after a short pause, he returned to the subject.
I felt rather curious to see how they would bear with Middleton, on
the night I alluded to; and the more, as I myself had heard our dear
delightful widow say that he was a young fellow, without either
religion or manners, or piety or good-breeding; I preserve her climax,
for I remember it well; she was puffing me to my face, her dear friend
Atherton, for being so superior to most people of my age.—But you
dont appear to relish what I am saying of the widow.
Not much to be sure, but still—I—I—should like to know the
Should you? Well, I admire your courage.
Go on, if you please—
Well, I have heard her wonder what other women could find in him so
attractive—a mere boy—
Ah, but boys are the devil with women of a certain age.
For her own part, he was the last person in the world whom she would
permit a child of hers to associate with, and so—and so—she
associated with him herself.
Of me, Mrs. Amory had always spoken in the highest terms, praising
me to the skies before Kate and Phoebe, (the first of whom I was dead
in love with); and yet when I came to see her and them together, I was
received with only that kind of attention which everybody pays to the
feeble and innofensive, to the helpless and the contemptible. Once, to
be sure, when there were to be only a few maiden ladies of no
particular age with her, some of the Bible-Society, who wanted a
secretary, and a few teachers of the Sunday-school who were on the look
out for help, I had a regular invite for the season, with the run of
the parlor and as much cake and tea as I could manage; but then,
whether we met once a week, or once a month, I always had to work hard
for my tea, was regarded as the least unfashionable of the set, and
generally passed my time at the board, jammed in between two pair of
bony hips that never stirred without stirring me. But then to give
the— glorious widow—her due, if she accedentally ran her head
against me at church, I was pretty sure to be seen by her; and some
times would be favored with a question or two on the way home, if she
walked, while I was trotting at her elbow and carrying my umbrella so
as to protect her and expose myself; but then she never heard my
reply—never—I will say that for the widow—never in all her
life, or else, if she did, she certainly had the most unlucky memory;
for at the very next breath, if she spoke at all, it would be to repeat
the very same question, probably in the very same words, looking at her
tidy feet, or dallying with her own pretty fingers the while—
Ah, what a long breath you drew just then!
Did I! sorry for it.
Well, everybody spoke of me in the same way, and treated me in the
same way; everybody praised my virtues, and everybody neglected me. I
passed for a young man, God forgive them, wholly superior to the
vanities of the day, the world, the flesh and the devil; wherefore the
ladies of a certain age were in the habit of speaking and acting before
me, very much as if I were a lady of a certain age myself; and the
girls, dear creatures,—why, they were as careless and slovenly (I
can't bear the word sluttish) in my presence—heigho—as if I were a
wooden youth, or a great lubberly younger brother of their own. After a
while, however, a sad story got abroad concerning myself and one of my
mother's chamber-maids—there was not a word of truth in it, I
confess, but so long as it was believed, I did not lack for
invitations—of that you may be sure; and if I appeared in company the
girls either opened their eyes at me, or made mouths, or pulled up
their slippers, or hid their feet, or would not see me till after they
had washed their faces and combed their hair.
Friday evening arrived, and Gage and I were together at the very
place where I had determined never to be again. My ship was ready to
sail, but I cared no longer for the ship; the South-sea voyage lay
before me, but I could not bear to think of the south-sea; I had but
one hope in the world—but one desire. I had not been able to sleep
for three nights— ever since our conversation at the play; I had put
off the hour of going to bed as long as I possibly could; knowing that
the night would be a sleepless one, a night of sorrow and fever, and
fear and bitter self-reproach, and every night the same till I should
be weary and sick of life; and I had risen morning after morning at a
very early hour, because I had found it so, morning after morning;
though every night when I laid my aching head upon the pillow, it was
with a determination to be very late on the following day—for what
else could I do? Hour after hour, would I lie with my eyes shut,
striving to wear away the time, to count myself asleep, to remember the
very words that she spoke to me, as we sat side by side on that
couch—hang that couch—the very day before I encountered her dear
friend Gage—hang her dear friend Gage—endeavouring to persuade
myself, though I dared not look at my watch, that I had wasted a goodly
portion of the day, while yet it lacked seven or eight hours of noon;
that she did care for me after all, though I had no courage to
think of her behaviour when the arrival of Middleton was mentioned, or
of the color that flashed up over her pale face when she heard Gage say
that we were acquainted. Perhaps, thought I, perhaps Gage may be a
rival of mine; perhaps he may not like her manner toward me, and if
so—by heaven! I will see them together!—I wish I could see her
alone with Gage or Middleton—no matter which—it would be easy for
me to behave like a man if I know the truth, much as I love her—love
her! yes I do love her! I love her as I never loved any other woman;
but so long as I am in doubt, I must behave like a boy—I must and
So, on Friday evening, though the ship was ready for sea, instead of
going abroad, I went where I might see the woman I most loved on earth
betray her love, not for me, but for another—a mere boy.
She saw me the moment I entered the room, and came up to me, and
gave me both her hands before all the company. How was it possible to
doubt her after that? She had never looked so well. Her large clear
eyes, of a color that no two persons were ever able to agree about,
were full of expression, full of subdued beauty, and her black
hair—massive and black as foliage carved in ebony, was like that of a
woman just hurried out of a bath to her own bridal, with hardly time
enough to coil up the magnificent profusion of her wet shining tresses.
To tell the truth however, the whole truth, I must own that although
she gave me both hands with a show of cordiality, which at any other
time would have made a fool of me, I was not altogether satisfied by
her manner; it was too eager, too hurried, too anxious— and her eyes
were upon the door all the time she was talking to me; and though she
flattered me to my face with a fine speech, and though I knew it was
flattery, and though it is very flattering to know that you are worth
flattering, still—still—my heart misgave me. I could not breathe as
I now breathe, and I could see nothing but eyes all about me, hear
nothing but a confused murmur, for the first minute or two after I
She—I do not like to say Mrs. Amory, or the widow, in this part of
my story, she was at the head of those who were thought to have a
peculiar knack at entertaining company. She had a word for everybody, a
smile for everybody, and a hand for everybody. Sometimes, to be sure, I
found that it was the very same word, and that while she was giving her
hand to A, she was talking to B, smiling to C, and bowing to D.
It would not be two much to say that her tongue was never idle, from
the first moment I saw her till the very last; hour after hour was
consumed in repeating the same or similar things over and over again to
every body she spoke to; and yet she appeared to me over-thoughtful and
over-anxious all the first part of the evening. She was called witty,
and smart, and showy, and clever (by an Englishman; pray observe this,
for in this country, to be clever is to be good-natured, as to
be a fine woman here is to be a woman of agreeable manners and pretty
good sense, whatever may be her shape, while in England a fine
woman is a large, dignified showy woman,) and I cannot deny that she
gave out her oranges and repartees, cakes and conundrums, riddles and
sweetmeats with a deal of propriety and grace.
And yet, (I will say
Mrs. Amory now, for I just begin to
remember how she treated me, and have worked myself up to the right
humor for telling the truth of her,) Mrs. A. was not very witty,
she was only rather so; her replies were quick, and therefore they
passed for repartees; whatever she said, was said with an air of
smartness and fire which took people by surprize, and therefore she
appeared to be witty. Her wit however, was only the wit of the
toy-shop, the retail-haberdashery of the drawing room, the every-day
retorts, which are to be met with on every-day conversation
cards—they could not go wrong, they could easily be invited, and
almost anybody might entrap another into saying that which would
justify a cut-and-dried repartee; it was nothing of that high-bred
sprightly playfulness of the tongue, that capricious, brilliant
coquetry of a superior understanding, the dear delightful nonsense of a
happy heart, which when it is natural, is so captivating. No,
no, my dear widow—it was the common, poor, conventional wit which
people use after having associated long together and got all their good
things in common— a sort of genteel cant of their own, which enables
any two of them, if they meet before a stranger, to play off, a certain
quantity of rehearsed and prepared lively dialogue as if it were
unpremeditated. Reader—perhaps you may have seen two weather-beaten
old-fellows, who had been at sea together some forty years before, sit
and laugh at each others unintelligible joke's "turn about" as they
say, for two or three hours together on a stretch; or perhaps you may
have met with two broken-down bachelors, on a raw day at a windy
corner, and heard them as they stood shivering in their light coats
(with the tails blowing over their heads) and plethoric trowsers,
holding on by their hats and complimenting each other on their good
looks, till you wondered how they were able to keep their countenances?
If so, you have an idea of what I mean by thorough-bred courtesy and
So—so—cried Gage, coming up to me as I stood in a far corner of
the room, watching the people about me as if they and I were not of the
same earth—So, so! how d'ye do, glad to see you; I like your way, you
mean to be of our side, I see.
Of your side—how—
You mean to be virtuous and meek; well, well, it gives you many
advantages. They permit us to linger after the rest are gone, to hear
what every body has to say of every other body—after every other
body's back is turned.
Quere—if that would be so agreeable?
You are getting serious!
No, no—I hope not.
Yes you are—so take hold of my arm, and come along with me, and
will try to entertain you.
I took his arm, and we walked away together; for I knew not how to
escape from the misery of my own thought; I longed to be away on board
the ship, or any where—at the very bottom of the South-Sea, and yet I
had not the courage to move. The woman that held such power over
me—God knows how and for what purpose, if she did not love me—stood
a little way off, and my heart died within me, as I saw her color come
and go, at every knock at the door, and at every step that approached
Why sir, continued Gage, as we drew near to a group of ladies all
talking together—I have seen our widow—ah! there she is now—I
have seen her pull that very group to pieces one by one, after they had
been prattling together as they are now, for a whole hour; I have seen
her laugh at and mimic the fat mother, who to give the lady her due, is
to be sure a terrible eater—a—a—a (mimicking) can't sleep ma'm,
can't upon my word after a late supper with you; very bad health just
now, very—thankee my dear; another leg o' the chicken, if you
please—very delicate indeed, I assure you; really now its quite
distressing to see how some people gorge—a jelly if you please, my
dear; one would think they were never able to get enough—upon my word
that cream looks nice, I'll trouble you sir, or that they never got any
goodies at home; with all my heart sir—though I never drink wine,
your very good health sir! a bit o' the breast my dear; thank you sir
for one of the sweet-breads— a—a—I have long had a desire to see
how they are got up; by the by, love—there's a cranberry-tart near
you—much obleeged to you—I have known people, and very
pretty-behaved people they were too, with such a stomach!—a
jelly my dear if you please, they would digest an ostrich—thank you
By this time, we had got into the middle of a magnificent room which
overlooked the North-River; and I stood there a while, studying the
characters about me, as they passed and eddied and whirled hither and
thither, like the shadows we see in a camera obscura. It appeared to be
crowded with strangers, people from abroad, British officers and
American officers, naval and military, here a judge and there a
shop-keeper; on my left a general who walked with his toes in and his
head forward, there a legislator unable to express himself in his
mother-tongue. Here a fat wealthy West-Indian, with a shape and a
complexion so like that of a huge overgrown toad, as to provoke every
body that saw her to cry out at the resemblance, there a dear little
mahogony daughter with hair blacker than the wing of a raven. The
mother you see, is a little tipsy—or so—hiccup—said Gage, and
does nothing you see but laugh now and then very oddly and abruptly, at
nobody knows what, pull forth a splendid watch with a deliberate
flourish, set it, or wind it up, and put it back into her feather-bed,
with another flourish, and a sparkle each time that never fails to
produce a dead silence, you see, among the ladies about her—who have
neither watches nor diamonds—it absolutely takes their breath away.
By her side was another large woman, who appeared very anxious I
thought concerning five great gawky girls who sat in a row at her
elbow; and I heard her whisper to one of the five that Mr.
somebody-or-other, who was then helping them to a batch of cake, was
not to be encouraged, being as she had reason to know, a young man of
Ah, said I, they are very rich I suppose, and the mother would keep
an eye on the cake-bearers.
Why, fifty thousand dollars each.
No—five thousand dollars or so, not more.
Among the whole five.
Who is that pray? said a neighbor to Mr. Gage, pointing as he spoke,
to a young fellow that stood near, of a noble aspect, with the wisdom
and sincerity of a good man so conspicuous in his broad clear forehead,
fine mouth, and composed carriage, that no one could have doubted his
goodness, it appeared to me— at least I could not, after I saw that
nobody went near him, except once or twice, to see if he had enough
bread-and-butter for the evening.
That, said Gage with a smile, which I understood, is a unitarian
preacher, a moral man of the North; and a very good fellow he is too.
That I am sure of, said I.
You know the discipline of the college where they are bred perhaps.
Perhaps I do; but a look at his plate would be enough to satisfy me;
you may estimate the moral character of every man here, by the degree
of attention he receives.
Bitter enough—you seem to have little or no use for your plate, I
see, and if I were you—ah!
He stopped in the middle of the sentence, left me, and hurried away
to the most extraordinary looking young man I ever saw, with a bright
olive complexion, a perfectly Greek face, and large black eyes. He
appeared to be full six feet high, and he wore his hair parted upon his
forehead and falling back over his shoulders with a slovenly savage air
that reminded me of something I had seen before.
Pray said I, turning to a neighbour, can you tell me the name of
A long deep breath at my elbow made me turn the other way. It was my
dear, dear Mrs. Amory—there she stood! within a step of me without
seeing me, her body bent forward, her hands half-locked in a superb
shawl, and her eyes rivetted—ay, rivetted on the stranger, who
threw up his head with a look of surprize when he saw me. It was Gerard
Middleton, but so altered, so grown, so superior to what he was when we
parted on the wharf, that I should have passed him on the high-way
without knowing him.
Oh Mrs. Amory! said I to myself, when I saw
her look, and
his carriage toward her. Oh, Mrs. Amory, Mrs. Amory, oh! High time
for you to be off Mr. Fox, and the sooner you are off the better, Mr.
Fox, and the sooner you are on your way to the bottom of the South-sea,
the better Mr. Fox. Another man would not have waited for this—but
you are a—what am I?— you are a fool Mr. Fox. Very true, said I,
Then why don't you go Mr. Fox. Because I am fool enough to desire
nothing but her happiness—and if I see that he is really dear to her;
if it be in my power to promote their union, I will do so, whatever be
the sacrifice to me. You are a d—d fool, to be sure Mr. Fox; and here
my soliloquy ended much to my relief. Now Middleton was undoubtedly the
handsomest man there; and though I felt a strong desire to cut his
throat, I could not help liking the brave haughty negligence, the
proud, happy freedom of his carriage and look, as he stood in the midst
of us with every eye upon him, and my dear widow biting her underlip at
What was to be done? Should I go—or should I stay? Should I run
off like a boy, and go a-board the ship, and behave like a fool for the
rest of the voyage; or should I carry the matter through like a man;
stay where I was, and outbrave the proud woman to her face?
Hey!—what!—in a brown study again? said Gage. Here Middleton!
this way—I wish you to be acquainted with Mr. Fox. We bowed to each
other, or more properly at each other, and after some talk
about, I never knew what, we were intruded upon by a lawyer—with a
light blue neck-cloth, rings and broaches, a tilter in his walk, and a
pretty wife—a fellow nevertheless of extraordinary black-letter
erudition, said Gage, who saw me staring at him, with a good heart, a
clear head, a genteel temper, and a huge library; quite a character,
studies hard, works faithfully at his profession, takes the most
comprehensive and profound views of the science—
Of the science of law! said I, bitterly enough I hope.
Perhaps you may not call it a science.
No faith—not I.
Ask any of these gentlemen here.
All of the bar, I suppose?
Well sir, as I was a saying.
He takes the most admirable and comprehensive views of the law.
In de main sair, said a Frenchman who stood near, but not in
And yet, ha, ha, ha! he wears rings, ruffles, breast pins, and a
stock that half-strangles him, the queerest colored cloth in the world
for his coat, and gets along the high-way with a sort of a tittupping
hitch, as if he had the spring-halt. In a ball-room, he would pass for
a man-milliner, or what is far more contemptible in a state where women
are helpless or not allowed to maintain themselves, for a retail
I bowed, and several of neighbours hurried away from our party, as
What say you Mr. Fox?
I say as you do Mr. Gage.
In a court of justice you would take him, if you were too far off to
hear what he said, for a travelling jeweller, from the North, trying to
put off some of his ware upon the judges. Look—look!—he is
eternally at play with his watch-chain, or wiping the inside of his
palms with a linen cambric handkerchief, or pulling his chin, or taking
off, wiping, and replacing his gold-mounted spectacles—let us go
nearer, and you shall hear what they have to say, that group of lawyers
you see there, our legislators, our masters; our law-makers and our
Yes sir, said one of the number as we drew near. But I maintain that
the words A. and B. were married on such a day, are sufficiently
precise to show that the said A. and B. were, on such a day, made
husband and wife.
Excuse me Judge Blarney.
And excuse me brother Lyman.
In every such case, all that we require should be certainty to a
common intent, a reasonable certainty.
Very true, Judge.
And Lord Coke says that, in pleading, which I regard as analogous,
we shall not be required to state things with more certainty than they
are capable of.
Does Lord Coke say that?
He dooze indeed—
And, that where pleading tends to infiniteness.
Well, well Judge; but how does it appear by the words in question
that A. and B. are male and female? And if they are not,
Judge—I put this to you, with great confidence—if they are not! how
can they be man and wife?
True brother—true, said another lawyer by the name of Sewall.
What if you save the point? said a third.
And—proceeded the speaker, and sir—and!—if that be the
case, and if it be demurrable to for uncertainty sir, as I hold it to
be sir—and sir!—and!—as you cannot travel out of the record,
sir—it appears to me sir, that the words A. and B. sir, were married
sir, are not enough to show that A. and B. are entitled to relief as
parties to the Bill in question!
Well put brother Lyman! well argued brother Blarney! cried a little
man who stood in the rear of the judge; nevertheless I submit (looking
over the the arm of the judge, and vociferating as if he were on trial,
in a matter of life and death,) I submit, I say, (The devil you do,
cried Gage, who'd a thought it?) that in addition to the words A. and
B. were married— the said A. and the said B. I suppose'—
To be sure—
—I assumed that, from my knowledge of the high legal character of
our learned brother; in addition to those words I say, I submit with
all due deference, that the word together might have been used,
or may hereafter be used—a hem!—with propriety.
So as to read thus, brother Parsons—A. and B. were married
together—hey? said Lyman.
Precisely, sir, That's the point I would make.
But how would that show what you are desirous to show; they may be
both men, or both women, and yet both married together.
Well, to be sure! and so they might brother Lyman.
In which case, added another, what if we say that A. married B. or
Well, and if we do, what then? said the learned brother in the blue
cravat; A. may have been a clergyman, a minister, or a magistrate,
(vide laws of the colony, Re-Co.)
Re-Co., said I, what does that mean?
—Or a notary (vide laws of France, code Napoleon etc. etc.) or a
blacksmith, (vide laws of Scotland) in which case, though A. were to marry B. still B. would not be A's. wife.
True, true, cried several of the group, nodding to each other all
round with a look of admiration.
Pray brother H.— continued the Judge, how would it work to
say,—perhaps you have authorities already on the point—
Brother H. made a very low bow.
—To say, in such a bill, that A. and B. married
in the active sense, you observe—not in the passive, brother H.; not were married together.
Why, it appears to me, if the court please—(a laugh)— I beg
pardon of the court, (another laugh) I mean to say, Judge Blarney, that
we have disposed of that point already, because if people are married
at the same time, they are married together, although as we have
it in Sir Matthew Hale, and in the great case of Perrin and Blake, they
are not married so as to become legally man and wife; which I take to
be the point in issue. Our bill being intended to shew that A. & B. are
in fact husband and wife, we say—
Ah! ha! but I have you now, brother H!— we shall adopt your idea,
we shall say that A. and B. were made husband and wife.
Liable to the same objection brother B. for they may be
so, not to each other, but to some other individuals.
Good God, sir! cried Gage, is there to be no end of this—no way of
telling the story on paper.
What if you say that A. and B. were united on such a day—
together, said I, not knowing what else to say.
Just as bad: for two people may be united
together— to two
different people, and at the same instant, you observe.
How are we to say it, I beseech you! said Middleton, who
began to get interested, in common with every body else, carried away
by the earnestness, perplexity, and subtlety of the disputants, who
looked to be sure as if they were discussing a matter of life and death
Why,... hesitating... why—a—a—
Tip him a fee Middleton, said Gage in a whisper.
You might say, continued the lawyer, that on such a day, (naming the
day) at such a place, (naming the place,) A. and B. (the said A. and
the said B.) were joined together in lawful wedlock—viz. the said A.
to the said B.
And why not say they were married to each other, or that they
married with each other, or that the man took the woman to wife?
Why to be sure—but you'll excuse me—the law sir, the
requires great nicety in these matters; mere common sense might allow
you to say—that is—that is—in short sir, there is no authority on
No authority, sir!
None, sir, none in the world sir.
Why, sir, it is the very language of the classics.
The lawyer smiled, and the Judge drew a long breath, which to my
ear, sounded like the monosyllable pooh!
Quere de hoc. Here we parted, I was thunder-struck. I had never seen
the exceeding efficacy of words before, never seen the mystery of
language so delicately obvious. Lord! how the study of the law, thought
I, must enlarge and elevate and sharpen the proud faculties of man.
My reflections were interrupted by a voice near me— Pooh, pooh,
love—pooh, pooh! said a large man to his little wife, who hung upon
his arm, like a heap of millinery, pooh, pooh love, how you talk—
Ah, but he's proper smart though...
Smart! a fellow with only one idea in his head.
One eye, dear!.. how can you say so! I'm sure he's got
Why, mother!... why, ma!... good lord, what a fool you are, love!
What for?... did'nt you say he'd got but one eye, dear? (to the
Yes ma, but father meant what you call an idee.
There now!... that's always with you; talking about forchune and
virtchue, and idee-ahs, how should I know what you mean, if you dont
talk like other people?
I tell you what, brother Joe, said a sweet girl near me, as we moved
away, he may pick and choose among the very women that make mouths at
him, and you'll find it so: he may marry any woman here he pleases.
And who may not, Miss Peggy. The ugliest and the silliest may marry
whom they please, may they not, my dear? added a joker by
Sister Peggy. I do beseech you to make more use of the relatives,
whispered her brother, a tall stiff young man, just away from Harvard
for the holidays. You never hear me say that I would marry any body I
No, indeed... you are not such a fool as that comes to, I hope.
But any body
whom I please, or that I please.
Do you mean, said the lawyer, in a blue stock, who had followed us
to the spot; pray sir, allow me to ask you—drawing out a rose-colored
handkerchief, with a low bow and a flourish, and taking off his
gold-mounted spectacles, and wiping them very deliberately before he
went any further—to ask you sir, if you hold a—a—
Permit me, interrupted a man whom I heard called master Gray, permit
me to observe sir, that the idiom of our language will admit of a... of
a sort of a—
To be sure, that is the very thing sir, I assure you sir, that I
intended to lay before the—to offer that is—for the consideration
me! added the grammarian—he stood six feet
four—the idiom of our language—raising his voice as the lawyer
tried to raise his, but the tall man having got the start of him by at
least eleven inches, the lawyer could never hope to overtake his
altitude—of our language I say sir, and I think I ought to know—
Yes, you ought to know, said somebody near me; there is no
doubt of that—
The idiom of our language I say, will permit us to employ either
Oh! very indifferently! cried the same voice; I knew by the very
key—the very pitch—that it belonged to somebody who had a
reputation for wit, so eager, and so sharp, and so decided, and so
well-timed for effect was it.
Every body laughed, and then, after the laugh had continued for a
minute or so, every body began to look about for the cause. O! but it
grieved me to hear the laugh that followed every speech and almost
every word that escaped from the mouth of this man. To see how eagerly
he was followed, how he was waited for, and how they would laugh as if
they were ready to die, if he but opened his mouth or pointed his
I withdrew from the place, and I know not how long I should have
kept away, though the woman of my heart was there and the southerner
who appeared to have got possession of hers, but for a strange quiet
which caused me to look up; when I beheld the latter standing near the
centre of the room, and literally holding forth, in a low voice to be
sure, but loud enough to fill the air with music, unabashed, unmoved by
the stare of a hundred eyes.
He never talked so well, nor so fluently, nor so eloquently, nor so
connectedly before, whispered Gage, who stood near me. And he is sure
to talk best, where no other man would be able to talk at all. No
matter where he is, nor how situated, he can bear the heavy, dead,
insupportable silence of a large company, better than any other talker
I ever heard.
He seems to me very sure of being heard with favor.
Pray, sir, how do
you define it? said a middle-aged young
lady, as if she had entered the course for a talk with him.
I should say, was the reply, though it would be no easy matter to
give a definition, that enthusiasm is a sort of moral electricity—
Pooh!—said Gage—his talking was for talk sake.
I knew it, I saw it in his air—I saw it in every word he spoke,
and yet he carried me away with him at last: he stood so bravely up to
the encounter of all the eyes in the room, and poured his heart out
with such unstudied, earnest, clear simplicity, in such a fine, free
colloquial style, with such impassioned sincerity; using with wonderful
aptitude the very words that seemed made for their places, and fitted
for the expression of a thousand subtle and exquisite meanings, which
became instantly perceptible to me, as he talked and reasoned.
But while we were gathered about him, his fine bold voice died away,
and immediately a pair of large glass doors were thrown open, and all
the company poured into the garden, which lay below us like a
theatrical show of wood and water.
Follow me, said Mrs. Amory, tapping Middleton on the arm—with a
smile which went to my heart.
He obeyed with a careless lounge, and we followed them to the river
side. Ah! cried Gage, one may look into the lighted water now, like the
disembodied— among the stars. Look! upon my word, I can see the fish
darting hither and thither like so many flashes of light, through the
dim shadowy depth; and you I hope will stick by us, he added glancing
at the plate of the preacher who lingered in the rear; and as for you
(in a whisper to the widow) my notion is that you had better have an
eye on that serious-looking pale man. I have been at his elbow this
half hour, and you may take my word it, he is not a fellow to be
quieted with nuts and gingerbread—
Hush, Atherton—hush, he'll hear you—
—Nor to be bribed into insignificance by a stray smile, or a great
piece of pound-cake.
We were now at the very edge of the water—a large green spot of
well-trodden turf on our right, and a group of old trees on our left.
Now, sir, said Gage, now if you desire to know the real character of
the woman who rules you, and would rule every body if she could, with a
sceptre of iron— twisted about with full blown roses—stick to my
side. If he does not bring her out, I will—what say you— yes or
no?—will you pitch me into the river, knock me down, or give me the
hug of a brother?
I could not reply—my heart was too heavy and my breathing too
You know, continued he, that your every-day women have a knack of
be-praising each other, till they provoke you either to laugh at or to
contradict them, which contradictions by the by, I never knew a woman
lose her temper about, although the dearest of her "dear five hundred
friends" were the sufferer. Now, if you will keep near me and watch the
widow, you shall see her play a game as much superior to that, as that
is superior to the bare-faced play of two fish-women, who hate each
other and abuse each other by the hour.
The younger part of the females were now dancing away, every one
with her heart in her eyes, much as we might expect from newly-born
creatures, never permitted, save under the most jealous and vigilant
guardianship, to feel the influence of shadow and greenness, or wind
and moonlight, or sky and water. Among them was one, who excited a
universal murmur of surprise wherever she went. Every eye was upon
her—every bound and every swing was followed by a leap of the heart
among those who stood near me (if they were to be believed) and by
correspondent inclinations of the part of those who were a little
further off. They persuaded her to sing, and I should say from the
little I heard, that—somehow or other, it was not music, but
something better than music— the melody of wild birds in the sky—it
issued I dare say from her benign mouth, but it appeared to issue from
her large dreaming eyes—I borrow this idea from Gage, who filled me
with poetry before I knew where I was. While we were looking after her,
she emerged for a moment from the shade of a drooping willow near us,
into the broad light of the moon.
Gracious God! breathed somebody at my elbow— it was the cry of a
heart overburthened with joy, brimful of prayer—instantaneously
delivered of some bright hope. Gracious God—what a face!—
Now for it, whispered Gage, now for the beautiful widow!
—Look into the depth of her eyes! you may see her very soul in
That you may! said the widow—
You may look down as it were into the deep of her heart—
Precisely, said the widow.
But how is this—you do not appear to like her so much—who is she?
Not like her! bless your heart, how mistaken you are! why that is
the very girl you have heard me speak so much of—
Not Rosa Moore!
—The same; but I see you like her, and I am so glad! for do you
know, my friend, that there are people, who some how or other, don't
appear to like that wild expression of the eye, which to me, and I dare
say to you, is the chief charm of her face—the pure poetry of the
I never saw so much poetry in a mortal's face before cried
Middleton; nor so much purity.
Well, I am glad to hear you say so—poor thing!
Poor thing, widow! is she so very much to be pitied?
Pitied—O, no! what could put such an idea into your head; to tell
you the truth, she is a prodigious favorite of mine—heigho.
Indeed, as you say,
—though for the last year or two I have not been able to see poor
Rosa, quite so—ah, we are overheard—
Well, what if we are—
Some other time if you please—
Nay, nay, my dear widow, if
you please; out with what you
have to say, if you mean to impeach her character—
Impeach her character!—I!—Heaven forbid!
But you might as well impeach it, as to say you have something to
tell me about her, which you dare not tell me before a third person—
How you talk! Hush, hush—don't talk so loud— all I meant to say
No, no, my dear Madam, no whispering here,
if you please.
—Well then—the dear girl does look rather too much like her
unfortunate mother; but—a—a—how do you like her dancing?
You do think so, don't you? I knew you would; and you have no idea
how delighted I am to have you—
Rather late in life?
Considering her age, I mean; her poor mother, as I told you, being a
sort of a—having a—but that's no fault of her's you know, and I
would not have our dear sweet Rosa reminded of it, no not for the
Ah! cried Gage, looking up to the sky, ah! upon my soul, widow, I
can see the rest of the family.
Oh fye, Mr. Gage.
Don't stare, widow, I mean the creatures of the blue sky, the angels
that keep watch over the pure and good—Ah, widow, widow! the Being
that made her must have been less terrible than you believe in your
Why, how you talk Atherton Gage! how dare you— are you not afraid
the sky will fall.
No indeed, not I.
All very true and very sublime, I dare say, continued Mrs. Amory,
but, I'll leave it to Mr. Fox— would'nt it have been as well for the
dear, dear creature, to learn a figure with live partners, before she
threw off with such people as you see there—
Madam, said I.
Widow! said her companion, letting go her arm.
A word more and I shall hate you—continued the latter.
And so shall I; whispered Gage.
In-deed! why, you know she must have learnt with chairs, for you see
that whenever the people change places the poor girl is all at sea—
Fire and fury!
If she would turn her toes out however, I do say, and I do not care
who hears me, that Rosa would be a most lovely dancer....
Whew!—whew!—whew! cried Fox, do the women up there, (pointing to
the sky) do they turn their toes out, think ye?
How do I know, said the widow—such mysteries are above our
But if they dance, you will say—
If they do dance, I humbly hope they do not dance parrot-toed.
Now as for me, said Middleton, I'd rather see all the cherubim at
work on all-fours parrot-toed, than beautiful creatures of earth
dancing after the fashion of our day.
Why Mr. Middleton! said somebody else, you are enough to scare every
body out o' the room.
Really, Mr. Middleton, added the fair widow, you make our blood run
I am sorry for
that, my dear widow; but when I see people who
ought to know better, praising a step in the dance of a pretty girl,
not because it is beautitiful or graceful, but because it is difficult,
I am—ah— ready to—ready for—'sdeath! it cannot be!
Well, sir, ready for what?
Heavens! how pale you are! cried the widow.
Pale! not I, indeed!
But you are pale Gerard, you are! whispered Gage and your lip
quivers, and I see a fine sweat on your forehead, which—my dear
fellow!—let us begone! you are ill—very ill, I am sure.
No, no—I am better now, that sweep of the fresh air, and the
voice, I don't hear it now—do you?
What voice, my dear Atherton, look at me.
Gage turned and looked—and then throwing up his hands with a
remarkable change of countenance, he added in a low voice, madman! all
eyes are upon you!
Atherton Gage! I did hear it, I tell you.
I heard a peculiar note in the uproar just now— don't laugh at
me—I would swear to it on my death-bed.
Nay, may, Gerard—recollect yourself—you are deceived.
The widow grew very pale now, and her breathing changed, and her
eyes wandered away into the shadow, with a look that made me wish
myself on board the ship once more, and once for all.
How do you like her singing? continued a pretty girl near me, who
had not opened her mouth for a whole hour, and she opened it now, in
the hope that nobody would hear what she said—just as I have seen a
youthful orator, who had made up his heart for a speech, wait—and
wait—and wait—and stew and wriggle, and wriggle and stew, till the
meeting was nearly over, when if a great uproar occurred, enough to
encourage him, up he would jump and call on the Moderator—Mr.
Moderator! Mr. Moderator! Mr. Moderator! in a big bold voice, which if
the Moderator saw him, or the mob grew still, in the hope of a speech,
would end with—I beg leave to say, uttered in a hurried far off
squeak, that nobody, not even the Moderator could be able to trace.
Very much, said I.
I did'nt speak to you, said she, putting up her lip at me, and
looking at the hero of the night, as if we all three belonged to the
Ah, but if you had been so lucky as to hear the sweet girl sing
before she took lessons, you would have liked her still better I am
sure, said Mrs. Amory.
Ah, she was
so natural then!
But what a fine figure though! said Gage, touching me with his elbow.
Very fine, said I—very! Superb!
True, said Mrs. Amory—that's precisely the word for
her—superb—and yet, would you believe it? she has not come to her
growth yet; she is only in her fifteenth year—
Yes—but her mother was very large; are you partial to large women,
Gerard—Mr. Middleton. I mean.
Large women! said Middleton—no indeed, not I— but who said any
thing about large women or fat women? She is what Mr. Fox
calls her, a superblooking girl—
And so she is, and I quite agree with you; a superb woman for a ride
on horse-back, for the head of a table, for a walk on the battery, or a
walk in the ball-room, though not perhaps petite enough
altogether, for a dance—a tea-table, or a fire-side, or a nursery.
There, there! that'll do—ah! what is that but a step, I should
like to know! as pretty a rigadoon as ever I saw in my life.
And so it is I declare! and see too how near she is to the music,
now—only a little too fast, a very little— dear Rosa!
She a little fast, no my dear widow—the music's a little
too slow, whenever they do not move together.
There again! cried Gage, the sound appears to come up out of the
earth where her foot falls, very much as if it waited for the step; and
her voice too— Lord, Lord! what a voice to be sure! Would you have
such a voice whimpering a lullaby over a heap of blue and white yarn;
with the toe of such a foot as you see there, on the tip-end of a
cradle-rocker? Why, it sounds like a—like a—a nest of canary-birds,
in a hawthorn bush, pure Italian coming up by starlight from the deep
sea—where now Gerard?
Mr. Middleton!—Mr. Middleton? what's the matter! what ails you!
stop, I beseech you!
Before you go that way, a word with you, and with our two friends
With me! said the haughty southerner.
With me, said I, and my heart was in my throat.
Why, Middleton! how agitated you are!—cried Gage.
Woman—woman!—are you playing tricks with me again!
Middleton—Gerard Middleton, hear me—recollect yourself, I
Woman! repeated he, in a low voice, woman—I feel a dread here—my
heart misgives me—you know the story—you know the whole of it, I
never asked you how; but you have heard my oath, and I should
hope—look at me—I hear a voice—you know what I mean.
I do—you have heard the voice of a broken-hearted girl; a girl
that should have been your wife, Gerard Middleton, years, ago, though
you are still a boy—
Here's a to-do! thought I—here's a blow up! hang me, if I don't
believe I shall suffer the ship to go sea without me, after all!
My wife! she my wife! a half-breed of the Creeks.
And what are you, but a half-breed?
Madam! say what you have to say, and let me go? I have not come here
to be insulted: my birth is pure— my blood is pure, though I may be
somewhat darker than your babies of the north.
You loved her, did you not?
You married her too, did you not, according to the laws of her tribe?
And what if I did?
Ah! you blush!
And what if I do?
It gives me hope, it gives me courage. That woman is now here. She
is not so dark as I am—will you see her—I beseech you to see her!
And why should I see her! You do not hope— surely,
you do not hope that I would marry a woman with a drop of indian-blood
in her veins! I loved her, and I love her yet—I love her too much to
risk her with my kindred—but you do not believe me—
No sir, I do not—
Well, then, hear the truth. I would not put my hand into hers
, I would not kiss her forehead now, for all the wealth of
America. Had you known me, you would never have dared to say what you
have now said—were she a white woman, I tell you, were she from among
the proudest of our proud white women, I would not marry her now. You
have an idea that because I love, because I have acknowledged to you
that I never should cease to love her; because I would drain my heart
here, before your face, to make her happy, you believe I would be
wretch enough to marry her—
No sir, not to marry her, but to acknowledge her. We know that she
is your wife now, your lawful wife—and a wife that you or any other
man might be proud of—
You do not know all.
I do, I do; I know that you deserted her, that after she knew our
law, you refused to marry her by that law, and that you left her a prey
to the white men—
If you knew all—all—you would not speak as you now do to me.
I know enough to justify me in saying that she deserves you, and
that she loves you so much that you will be the death of her, and
that—ah!—where is your courage now!
God be merciful to you! I feel that she is near me! Speak to her!
speak to her I conjure you! let her not see me!
Something approached here: and he folded his arms and waited for it
with his eyes fixed upon the earth; and after a few moments two females
drew near, one a little in advance of the other in a black satin dress
that glittered and shivered as if her very soul were escaping from her
body. She saw Middleton, and stopped short on her way, and held out
both her hands—but he would not see her, and I had only time to
observe, by a side view of her face and the turn of her neck, that she
was very beautiful and rather fair, with little or nothing to show that
she had the impure drop in her blood.
Madam, said Middleton, to the widow, in a voice that I should not
have known, so altered was it—I do not shrink nor quail, you
perceive. She does. Now is your time to save her—go to her—go to
her if you have any mercy; tell her that I forgive her, she will know
what you mean; but say that—so help me God!— I will never touch her
hand again, while I breathe the breath of life! She has made a devil of
me! and wo to her, and wo to you! if you do not check her now that she
is about crossing my path!
Let us go! said a voice, which appeared father off, as if it came
from her companion. There is no hope. I have made the trial, I have
done my duty, and now, he is yours—I have done with him forever. His
fate is in your hands—do with him what you will. I told you how it
would be. Let us go.
I started with astonishment, and was satisfied that the speech
issued, not from the lips of the girl I saw, but from the other. That
is no Indian, said I to Gage, as we walked away.
You are mistaken—she is a fourth breed.
Come this way—Her grand-father was a Spaniard; her grand-mother a
native Creek; she is a quadroon, therefore; she was brought up among
the Creeks: and there he met with her full five years ago. They were
married, and they were happy, for he did not know until they had been
married a few weeks, that her blood was not pure—
—No; and as they were married, not according to our law, he told
her that she should never be his wife—his real wife; and forsook her;
and his father sent him to college to complete his education: There!
you know the whole story now—poor fellow, I pity him; he'll never
marry another, and he cannot marry her by the laws of Georgia.
D—n the laws of Georgia!
So I say; for she's a noble creature.
And he!—what is he!—
He!—oh, he is of the blood-royal of the south.
By the Gods, if I knew her, I would offer myself to her—
Would you really!
Yes, I would!
Are you aware of the consequences?
Perfectly: if it were known to the whites of our free and equal
community, she and I both, and our children's children would be pointed
at and scoffed at, for the marriage. And yet, were we to cross the sea,
and take refuge in Europe, I should be greeted by princes for the sake
of my wife, and she would be the equal of their proudest women.
Not a wink of sleep did I get for the whole night, after the scene I
have described. I was too happy— my heart was too full; but then, to
be sure, I had no need of sleep, I could bear to be awake now, for my
mouth was no longer parched by my breathing, nor my blood heavy with a
heaviness which no mortal could bear, without feeling that if it
continued, he would soon have no business on earth. Ah, thought I, as I
lay hour after hour with my eyes shut and the window curtains
drawn—Ah! what a noble creature it is! How unjust I have been! how I
have wronged her admirable heart! and how meekly she has borne the
outrage! And what if she is a little given to coquetry, who
cares? And what if she is a little absent in her speech? And
what if she does a little overdo the character of a religious
woman, that she may keep well with society, and get rid of her two
daughters? Why should you blame her Mr. Fox? I'sn't she a mother? Mr.
Fox, and if she should ever become your—gulp, Mr. Fox—wouldn't that
be so much the better for you Mr. Fox? Talk of her bad faith too,
toward other women! Why, what a fool you are, Mr. Fox! and what a knave you are Mr. Fox, when, if either of you had half an eye, you would
see that she takes a very sincere pleasure in the society of the young
and beautiful of—of—of her own sex. And of our sex too, I should
have added at any other time, but now I was too happy. And what if
she—ah, a knock—who's there?
A boy from the ship, sir—
Well what does he want, sir?
He wants to see you—
Open the door; what do you want my lad?
Want you sir.
If you please; we're only waitin' for you; anchor's weighed sir;
fair a wind as ever blowed—
Give my compliments to captain Goff, and tell him I have had no
sleep for a week, that I can't think of a trip to the south-sea, before
I have had a nap, and that if the wind keeps fair, I shall try to be
aboard in the course of the day.
May be you'll write as much to the cap'n—that's rather a tough
message for him, jess when the ship is ready for sea.
You'll excuse me sir, but we never hear nobody damn the ship, and
it's my private opinion sir.
You rascal! if you dare to shake your head at me, I'll—odds bobbs!
I'll beat you to death—
Ah, you're abed now, an' so I've only to say that if you don't go
aboard the boat now, you'll never go aboard the ship—for we're tired
o' waitin' for you.
Be off, you dog you!—
Very well sir—
What are you laughing at?
Your things are aboard, you know?
D—n the things!
Very well sir, good by'e sir—a pleasant voyage to you sir; you'll
find your things on the wharf.
On the wharf!
Ay sir; cap'n Goff told us to take them up with us in the
jolly-boat, and if you did'nt see proper to be ready for this wind, to
leave 'em on the wharf, and wish you a pleasant voyage—in the wake o'
the widder Amory.
I could bear this no longer. To be jested with about the widow Amory
by the captain of a ship— the messenger a cabin boy, was a little too
bad. Out I jumped, with a full determination to pitch the rascal
through the window; but he slipped off, and I heard him laughing
outside of the door, which he flung in my face, and all the way down
stairs. I had half a mind to follow him in my shirt.
However—I was now out of bed, Jupiter be praised, though but for
him (the boy I mean) I should have whiled away another hour in that
place of all places for a man half mad with love; and being up, I had
the courage to stay up, though I was never addicted to air-baths, and
to occupy a full hour in getting my clothes on. Before I was rigged for
the day, another messenger arrived, with a note from the dear, dear
widow, calling me her dear dear friend, and praying me to give
her a call about five, and to bring with me some book, to justify me
for calling at such an hour of the day.
Ah, ha! said I to myself, now we are coming to it; our widow is in
the trap, the very trap she laid for us! now query, whether to give her
a little trout play before we let her feel the hook or not? So much for
perseverance—faint heart never won fair lady—d—n the ship!
As the clock struck five, on that memorable day— the happiest day
of my life, the knocker sounded with a double rap (such as the postmen
of England give) at No. — Broadway; and the next moment I was on a
sofa by the side of the beautiful widow. I have sent for you, said she,
that I may explain to you the cause of what you saw here last evening.
The truth is—heigho—and here she faltered, and some how or other, I
got hold of her hand again—it was like a live bird in my grasp—and
in short I was very happy, so happy I declare, that if she had proposed
to pledge me in a glass of laudanum, I would have pledged her, and gone
to sleep forever at her side. What I say will appear strange I know,
but I cannot help it. I say nothing but the truth. Most men would not
like to die at such a time, I dare say; but as for me—I did not care
half so much for life as for companionship—everlasting companionship.
My doubts were gone—she loved me, even as I loved her, and though she
did not actually promise marriage, I knew by the brilliant moisture in
her eyes, and by the swelling of her heart, and by the changes of
color, that I should prevail one day or other; and so, as I have said
before, I was happy.
Well—before we parted, she told me the story of the Indian girl.
It wore another shape now; she had been so well educated as to be able
to teach in a sort of missionary-school; her mother was only a half
breed, her father a white man, so that she had little or no impure
blood in her veins. Middleton had met with her first in the
neighbourhood of a plantation that his father had on the very outskirts
of Georgia. He fell in love with her and she with him, and so they were
separated. His father sent him to college, and her mother took her
into the wilderness, where she taught her to avoid the pale man. But
the boy grew tired of the north, and after many years, they met again
at a lodge in the creek territory, and there, the mother being dead and
the father away, the boy and the girl were married—he with no thought
of treachery, for he loved her; she in the deep seriousness of Indian
faith. After they had been married a few weeks, a missionary fell in
the way of the poor bride while her young husband was out in search of
his father, and persuaded her that she was living as the bad women of
Scripture lived ages and ages ago, as the pure of heart and proud of
soul should not live. The Indian wife grew sorrowful, and having
satisfied herself that by the law of the young white man's tribe she
was not a wife, she met him on his way back, and before she would
suffer him to lay his mouth to her forehead, being so taught by the
missionary at her elbow, she demanded of her boy-husband to be
acknowledged by the law of his tribe, even as he had been acknowledged
by the law of her tribe. At any other time, it may be, for the boy
loved her so much that he grew serious—it may be that he would have
done all that she prayed for— but now—now, while the prompter stood
at her elbow, and appeared to glory in the power of the church, the boy
said no. A week passed over, and still he said no—another
week, and he and his wife were apart forever, he mad with jealousy, she
stung to the heart, believing the boy to be even what the missionary
told her he was, a betrayer. But she was a proud girl and her spirit
awoke when the boy deserted her; and she prayed the missionary to tell
her how she might be worthy, as worthy as the proud white women were,
of such love as the proud white men bore toward such as they made their
wives by the law. He told her how to be what the white women are, he
educated her, and his wife trained her to the church, and they took her
away to the sea shore—such is her story.
But he deceived her, and deceived her at a time when she needed all
the consolation of hope and faith and charity, for she was beathing the
very air that her husband breathed, and hearing every day that he was
leading a life which would separate them forever. She inquired of the
church, and they told her with their hands on the bible and with tears
in their eyes, that if she could not reclaim the boy to the path of
truth, virtue, or in other words to the true faith, he would be
miserable, and she happy, in their future life, that both would be
apart, forever and ever. I will save him! said she—I will
save him, or—and she stopped, and her voice died away, and she spoke
not another word until the interview was arranged that I saw by the
But who was that other female with her?
I do not know—I never saw her face till she flung aside her veil
and stood before him with outstretched arms.
What!—was not she that came forward, that pale, slender creature,
the Indian wife you are speaking of?
No, indeed—she was a stranger to me; I never saw her before.
Indeed!—there is some mystery about this matter; I should like to
have some talk with Mr. Middleton about her.
Not for for your life, my dear friend—I am sure he did not see
her, and even I, intimate as we are, would not mention the subject to
him for the world.
After a little further conversation, I found that the interview was
planned by the dear creature at my elbow, the very woman that we had so
cruelly judged the night before. Upon my word, when I thought of the
conversation that Gage and I held together about her, and of the
dreadful misgiving I had—when I saw her studying the eyes of
Middleton, I was ready to go down on my knees before her, and bury my
head in her lap and—beg her pardon. However, to make all sure, I said
to her as I got up to go—
My dear Laura—
Well Peter! said she.
Peter!—Oh that unfortunate name of mine! I have kept it back as
long as I could—it has been the death of me.
I wish I knew exactly what your feelings are toward that young man—
Gerard Middleton, you mean. Oh, I look upon him as a sort of
child—poor fellow! he has very few friends in this part of the world,
very few, and he regards me in the light of a mother—
Oh, yes! I often speak of my three children; the truth is, I love
the poor boy very much.
And I love you the more! cried I, for having the courage to tell me
I cannot give him up.—You'll not require that?
Give him up! No indeed—poor fellow, I pity him as much as you do,
and for your sake I will do any thing to serve him.
Do you love me, Peter?
God! how I do love you! said I, and then I kissed her mouth
and her eyes, with a feeling of such pure and innocent joy, as I know
it is not in the nature of a bad man to feel. Laura—I added—Laura!
look at me, I beseech you, while I say that I have such confidence in
you, that if you were my wife—
Her head fell on my shoulder... heigho!
—My wife, dear, and I had to go to the ends of the earth, I should
leave you with such a fixed faith in your loyalty, that nothing would
be able to raise a doubt or a fear in my mind, save the avowal of
unworthiness from your own lips.
She wept; I could feel the tears trickle over my hand.
If it should be so, if you should ever be my wife, you shall not
have to reproach me with a lack of confidence in you—for if
there be truth in the heart of man, love, I would trust you any where
And well you might!
—With any body on earth...
Here she kissed me, and my heart threw a somerset.
Ay, and strange as it may look to you, were you my wife now,
while I speak to you, I would give you up to another man, if I saw
that I could not make you happy, and that that he could, or if I knew
that you loved him better than you loved me.
Ah! smiling through her tears, and shaking her head—ah my dear,
I could do so, Laura, for I have done so.
I believe you; and here she kissed me and clung to me, as
if—ah!—as if we had loved each other, and each other alone, up from
our very childhood.
But enough—enough—the catastrophe drew near, and I—I could
neither eat nor sleep for joy; I passed half my time with her. I saw
her every day of my life—and every day I loved her more and more; I
forgot her age, I forgot her widowhood—I forgot every thing but her
love and her ready-made family, and the hour that was to make me, not a
bridegroom for a day, but a bridegroom for life.
About a week before the consummation of our marriage that was to be,
my dear Laura grew so affectionate that I was afraid to trust myself
with her. And one morning as we sat on the deep couch together—
cooing and billing—very much as I am afraid other people do, when
they have a good opportunity, in spite of their mothers and the
preachers, and the story-books, I played off the hero in such a way,
that my dear, dear Laura, burst into tears, and called me a
I tried to get away, but her overpowering love and gratitude held
me, till we heard a knock at the door, when she darted out of the room,
saying with a sweet smile—a smile, that I am afraid, will haunt me to
my death-bed, that she would be with me, after the visiter, whoever he
might be, was chaired, and that I must not be alarmed again, as I had
been once before if she spoke to me on entering the room, just as if I
had not seen her before during the day. I agreed to this, for I love
propriety in every possible shape— hough not very fond of trick. By
the time she was out of one door, a stranger entered another. It was
Middleton—he turned very pale when he saw me, though I supposed he
knew every thing: and more pale, after I told him in reply to a direct
enquiry on his part, that I had seen the widow, and that she had
hurried away but a few moments before I waited until she made her
appearance, gave her my hand in a hurry, to show that I was not afraid
to leave her in such company, bowed to Middleton, and left her.
The next day I received a letter from her, just as I was going out
of the door toward her house. I do not give in the passages that
follow, the very words of her letter—word for word—simply because
it contained a request that I would return it, which I did, and the
passages that follow are given from memory. They are few—but they are
enough to show the character of the woman.
"I have deceived you and every body else. I loved Gerard Middleton a
year and a half before I knew you: I love him still, and I have given
him every proof of love I ever gave you, and more—yet I am not
I love him still better than any other man.—I hope you will hate
me—I esteem and admire you—I shall never see you again, if I can
help it— never alone certainly.—He knows every thing, and regards
me as he ought; I did intend to see you both together, to explain
myself to both, and to hear from you both how you scorn and loathe
me.—Do not call—I shall not see you, I have all confidence in
you— it is impossible to have more, but I cannot suffer you to keep
this terrible letter, for fear of accidents. I hope you will write and
say just what you think of my behaviour, you need not be afraid to say
any thing to me.—But oh!—I do not speak for myself—oh, my poor
children!—You need not fear that I will do any thing desperate—I
promise you I will not— when you next hear of me, I shall be more
worthy of your good opinion."
END OF FIRST VOLUME.