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Civil War Harper's Weekly, February 2, 1861

Other Pages From this Newspaper Include:

Biographies of Seceding Mississippi Delegation | Fort Monroe in Harper's Weekly | Fort Monroe Article | Secession of Georgia and Louisiana

 

 

 

HARPER'S WEEKLY.

[FEBRUARY 2, 1861.

70

"Biddy," said I, "how do you manage it? Either I am very stupid or you are very clever."

"What is it that I manage? I don't know," returned Biddy, smiling.

She managed our whole domestic life, and wonderfully too ; but I did not mean that, though that made what I did mean more surprising.

" How do you manage, Biddy," said I, "to learn every thing that I learn, and always to keep tip with me?" I was beginning to be rather vain of my knowledge, for I spent my birthday guineas on it, and set aside the greater part of my pocket-money for similar investment ; though I have no doubt now that the little I knew was extremely dear at the price.

" I might as well ask you," said Biddy, " how you manage ?"

" No ; because when I come in from the forge of a night, any one can see me turning to at it. But you never turn to at it, Biddy."

" I suppose I must catch it—like a cough," said Biddy, quietly ; and went on with her sewing.

Pursuing my idea as I leaned back in my wooden chair and looked at Biddy sewing away with her head on one side, I began to think her rather an extraordinary girl. For I called to mind now that she was equally accomplished in the terms of our trade, and the names of our different sorts of work, and our various tools. In short, whatever I knew, Biddy knew. Theoretically, she was already as good a blacksmith as I, or better.

"Yon are one of those, Biddy," said I, "who make the most of every chance. You never had a chance before you came here, and see how improved you are !"

Biddy looked at me for an instant, and went on with her sewing. " I was your first teacher though : wasn't I ?" said she, as she sewed.

"Biddy!" I exclaimed, in amazement. "Why, you are crying !

" No, I am not," said Biddy, looking up and laughing. "What put that in your head ?"

What could have put it in my head but the glistening of a tear as it dropped on her work ? I sat silent. recalling what a drudge she had been until Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt successfully over-came that had habit of living, so highly desirable to be got rid of by some people. I recalled the hopeless circumstances by which she had been surrounded in the miserable little shop and the miserable little noisy evening-school, with that miserable old bundle of incompetence always to be dragged and shouldered. I reflected that even in those untoward times there must have been latent in Biddy what was now developed or developing ; for in my first uneasiness and discontent I had turned to her, as a matter of course, to help me. Biddy sat quietly sewing, shedding no more tears, and while I looked at her, and thought about it all, it occurred to me that perhaps I had not been sufficiently grateful to Biddy. I might have been too reserved, and should have patronized her more (though I did not use that precise woad in my meditations) with my confidence.

" Yes, Biddy," I observed, when I had done turning it over, "you were my first teacher, and that at a time when we little thought of ever being together like this, in this kitchen."

" Ah, poor thing !" replied Biddy; and it was like her self-forgetfulness to transfer the remark to my sister, and to get up and be busy about her, making her more comfortable; " that's sadly true!"

"Well!" said I, "we must talk together a little more, as we used to do. And I must consult you a little more, as I used to do. Let us have a quiet walk on the marshes next Sunday, Biddy, and a long chat."

My sister was never left alone now ; but Joe more than readily undertook the care of her on that Sunday afternoon, and Biddy and I went out together. It was summer time and lovely weather. When we had passed the village and the church and the church-yard, and were out on the marshes, and began to see the sails of the ships as they sailed on, I began to combine Miss Havisham and Estella with the prospect, in my usual way. When we came to the river-side and sat down on the bank, with the water rippling at our feet, making it all more quiet than it would have been without that sound, I resolved that it was a good time and place for the admission of Biddy into my inner confidence.

"Biddy," said I, after binding her to secrecy, "I want to be a gentleman."

" Oh, I wouldn't, if I was you !" she returned. "I don't think it would answer."

"Biddy," said I, with some severity. "I have particular reasons for wanting to be a gentleman."

" Yon know best, Pip; but don't you think you are happier as you are ?"

"Biddy," I exclaimed, impatiently, "I am not at all happy as I am. I am disgusted with my calling and with my life. I have never taken to either since I was bound. Don't be absurd!"

" Was I absurd ?" said Biddy, quietly raising her eyebrows ; "I am sorry- for that; I didn't mean to be. I only want you to do well, and to be comfortable."

"Well, then, understand once for all that I never shall or can be comfortable—or any thing but miserable—there, Biddy!—unless I can lead a very different sort of life from the life I lead now."

" That's a pity !" said Biddy, shaking her head with a sorrowful air.

Now, I too had so often thought it a pity, that, in the singular kind of quarrel with myself which I was always carrying on, I was half inclined to shed teals of vexation and distress when Biddy gave utterance to her sentiment and my own. I told her she was right, and I knew it was much to be regretted, but still it was not to be help,

" If I could have settled down :" I said to Biddy, plucking up the short grass within reach, much as I had once upon a time pulled my feelings out of my hair and kicked them into the brewery wall : " if I could have settled down and been but half as fond of the forge as I was when I was little, I know it would have been much better for me. You and I and Joe would have wanted nothing then, and Joe and I would perhaps have gone partners when I was out of my time, and I might even have grown up to keep company with you, and we might have sat on this very bank on a fine Sunday, quite different people. I should have been good enough for you ; shouldn't I, Biddy ?"

Biddy sighed as she looked at the ships sailing on, and returned for answer, "Yes; I am not over particular." It scarcely sounded flattering, but I knew she meant well.

" Instead of that," said I, plucking up more grass and chewing a blade or two, " see how I am going on. Dissatisfied, and uncomfortable, and—what would it signify to me, being coarse and common, if nobody had told me so !"

Biddy turned her face suddenly toward mine, and looked far more attentively at me than she had looked at the sailing ships.

"It was neither a very true nor a very polite thing to say," she remarked, directing her eyes to the ships again. "Who said it?"

I was disconcerted, for I had broken away without quite seeing where I was going. It was not to he shuffled off now, however, and I answered, "The beautiful young lady at Miss Havisham's, and she's more beautiful than any body ever was, and I admire her dreadfully, and I want to be a gentleman on her account." Having made which lunatic confession I began to throw my torn-up grass in the river, as if I had some thoughts of following it.

" Do you want to be a gentleman to spite her or to gain her over ?" Biddy quietly asked me, after a pause.

" I don't know," I moodily answered.

"Because, if it is to spite her," Biddy pursued, "I should thick—but you know best—that might be better and more independently done by caring nothing for her words. And if it is to gain her over, I should think-'-but you know best—she was not worth gaining over."

Exactly what I myself had thought many times. Exactly what was perfectly manifest to me at the moment. But how could I, a poor dazed village lad, avoid that wonderful inconsistency into which the best and wisest of men fall every day?

"It may be all quite true," said I to Biddy, "but I admire her dreadfully."

In short, I turned over on my face when I came to that, and got a good grasp on the hair on each side of my head, and wrenched it well. All the while knowing the madness of my heart to be so very mad and misplaced, that I was quite conscious it would have served my face right if I had lifted it up by my hair and knocked it against the pebbles as a punishment for belonging to such an idiot.

Biddy was the wisest of girls, and she tried to reason no more with me. She put her hand, which was a comfortable hand though roughened by work, upon my hands, one after another, and gently took them out of my hair. Then she softly patted my shoulder in a soothing way, while with my face upon my sleeve I cried a little—exactly as I had done in the brewery yard—and felt vaguely convinced that I was very much ill-used by somebody, or by every body ; I can't say which.

"I am glad of one thing," said Biddy, " and that is, that you have felt yon could give me your confidence, Pip. And I am glad of an-other thing, and that is, that of course you know you may depend upon my keeping it and always so far deserving it. If your first teacher (dear ! such a poor one, and so much in need of being taught herself!) had been your teacher at the present time, she thinks she knows what lesson she would set. But it would be a hard one to learn, and you have got beyond her, and it's of no use now." So, with a quiet sigh for me, Biddy rose from the bank, and said, with a fresh and pleasant change of voice, "Shall we walk a little further, or go home ?"

"Biddy," I cried, jumping up, putting my arm round her neck, and giving her a kiss, "I shall always tell you every thing."

" Till you're it gentleman," said Biddy.

" You know I never shall be, so that's always. Not that I have any occasion to tell you any thing, for you know every thing I know—as I told you at home the other night."

" Ah !" said Biddy, quite in a whisper, as she looked away at the ships. And then repeated, with her former pleasant change: " Shall we walk a little further, or go home ?"

I said to Biddy we would walk a little further, and we did so, and the summer afternoon toned down into the summer evening, and it was very beautiful. I began to consider whether I was not more naturally and wholesomely situated, after all, in these circumstances, than playing beggar my neighbor by candlelight in the room with the stopped clocks, and being despised by Estella. I thought it would be very good for me if I could get her out of my head, with all the rest of those remembrances and fancies, and could go to work determined to relish what I had to do, and stick to it, and make the best of it. I asked myself the question whether I did not surely know that if Estella were beside me at that moment instead of Biddy she would make me miserable? I was obliged to admit that I did know it for a certainty, and I said to myself, "Pip, what a fool you are!"

We talked a good deal as we walked, and all that Biddy said seemed right. Biddy was never Insulting or capricious, or Biddy today and somebody else to-morrow ; she would have de-rived only pain, and not pleasure, from giving

me pain ; she would far rather have wounded her own breast than mine. How could it be, then, that I did not like her much the better of the two?

"Biddy," said I, when we were walking homeward, " I wish you could put me right." " I wish I could," said Biddy.

"If I could only get myself to fall in love with you—you don't mind my speaking so openly to such an old acquaintance."

" Oh dear, not at all !" said Biddy. "Don't mind me."

" If I could only get myself to do it, that would be the thing for me."

" But you never will, you see," said Biddy.

It did not appear quite so unlikely to me that evening as it would have done if we had discussed it a few hours before. I therefore observed I was not quite sure of that. But Biddy said she teas, and she said it decisively. In my heart I believed her to be right ; and yet I took it rather ill, too that she should be so positive upon the point.

When we came near the church-yard we had to cross an embankment, and get over a stile near a sluice-gate. There started up, front the gate, or from the rushes, or from the ooze (which was quite in his stagnant way), old Orlick.

"Hulloa!" he growled ; " where are you two going ?"

"Where should we he going, but home ?" "Well, then," said he, "I'm jiggered if I don't see you home !"

This penalty of being jiggered was a favorite supposititious case of his. He attached no definite meaning to the word that I am aware of, but used it, like his own pretended Christian name, to affront mankind, and convey an idea of something savagely damaging. When I was younger, I had had a general belief that if he had jiggered me personally he would have done it with a sharp and twisted hook.

Biddy was much against his going with its, and said to me in a whisper, "Don't let him come ; I don't like him." As I did not like him either, I took the liberty of saying that we thanked him, but we didn't want seeing home. He received that piece of information with a yell of laughter, and dropped back, but came slouching after us at a little distance.

Curious to know whether Biddy suspected him of having had a hand in that murderous attack of which my sister had never been able to give any account, I asked her why she did not like him ?

" Oh !" she replied, glancing over her shoulder as he slouched after us, " because I—I am afraid he likes me."

" Did he ever tell you he liked you ?" I asked, indignantly.

" No," said Biddy, glancing over her shoulder again, " he never told me so ; but he dances at me whenever he can catch my eye."

However novel and peculiar this testimony of attachment, I did not doubt the accuracy of the interpretation. I was very hot indeed upon old Orlick's daring to admire her : as hot as if it were an outrage on myself.

"But it makes no difference to you, you know," said Biddy, calmly.

" No, Biddy, it makes no difference to me ; only I don't like it ; I don't approve of it."

" Nor I either," said Biddy. "Though that makes no difference to you."

" Exactly," said I ; " but I must tell you I should have no opinion of you, Biddy, if he danced at you with your own consent."

I kept an eye on Orlick after that night, and, whenever circumstances were favorable to his dancing at Biddy, got before him to obscure that demonstration. He had struck root in Joe's establishment by reason of my sister's sudden fancy for him, or I should have tried to get him dismissed. He quite understood and reciprocated my good intentions, as I had reason to know thereafter.

And now, because my mind was not confused enough before, I complicated its confusion fifty thousand-fold, by having states and seasons when I was clear that Biddy was immeasurably better than Estella, and that the plain honest working life to which I was born had nothing in it to be ashamed of, but offered me sufficient means of self-respect and happiness. At those times I would decide conclusively that my disaffection to dear old Joe and the forge was gone, and that I was growing up in a fair way to be partners with Joe and to keep company with Biddy, when all in a moment some confounding remembrance of the Havisham days would fall upon me like a destructive missile and scatter my wits again. Scattered wits take a long time picking up; and often, before I had got them well together again, they would be dispersed in all directions by one stray thought, that perhaps after all Miss Havisham was going to make my fortune when my time was out.

If my time had run out, it would have left me still at the height of my perplexities, I dare say. It never did run out, however, but was brought to a premature end, as I proceed to relate.

FORTRESS MONROE, VIRGINIA.

WE publish on page 68 a view of the sea battery at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. This fort, which is one of the strongest in the United States, constitutes the north point of the entrance of James River. It is one mile from Fort Calhoun, on the Rip Raps; the two works command the entrance to the River. In summer, the spot, which is known as Old Point Comfort, is a favorite resort for bathers. A few weeks ago considerable apprehension was felt for the safety of Fort Monroe; it is now understood that it is garrisoned by some 500 men, and that ample measures have been taken for its protection in case of serious trouble or popular outbreaks.

Speaking of this fortress, a Virginian authority says:

It is very large. The walls are more than a mile in circuit, very thick and high, surrounded by a moat, which is from sixty to one hundred feet wide, with eight feet of water, drawbridge, and outer batteries. It mounts some three hundred heavy guns, has mortars for throwing shells, furnaces for heating balls, etc. Nothing could approach within three miles except under the fire of all these batteries. This is a magnificent place. The walls inclose some seventy-five acres. In the centre is the parade-ground, and all around are the quartets for the troops. Live oak and other trees make it very pleasant in summer. Outside the moat is a fine walk, with a view of the sea."

DOMESTIC INTELLIGENCE.

CONGRESS.

ON Saturday, January 19, in the Senate, a number of petitions, numerously signed, in favor of the adoption of the Crittenden adjustment, were presented. The Senate was engaged upon the bill to admit Kansas into the Union, but final action was staved off through the efforts of Senator Green, of Missouri.-The House passed the Army Appropriation Bill and the California War Debt Bill. The first involves expenditures to the amount of ten million dollars, and the latter four millions.

On Monday, 21st, in the Senate, Senator Hunter, of Virginia, after reporting from the Committee on Finance the Indian Appropriation Bill, was excused from further service on the Committee, of which he has been Chairman for fifteen years. Several petitions for the passage of the Crittenden resolutions were presented. Senator Slidell, of Louisiana, called up the President's Message, in answer to his inquiries relative to the appointment of Mr. Holt as Secretary of War, and offered a resolution censuring the President for his course, which was laid over. Senators Yulee of Florida, Clay of Alabama, and Davis of Mississippi announced the secession of their respective States from the Union, and their consequent withdrawal from the Senate. The bill for the admission of Kansas was taken up, and it was finally passed : yeas 36, nays 16. The Crittenden resolutions then occupied the attention of the Senate until the adjournment. In the House, Mr. Lovejoy, of Illinois, asked leave to present a memorial from Methodist clergymen of that State, asking for protection from religious persecution: laid on the table. Letters from the Alabama and Florida delegations announced their withdrawal. A bill was introduced by Mr. Colfax, of Indiana, and was referred to the Post-office Committee, which provides for the suspension of all the postal laws in those States which have passed ordinances of secession, on the ground that the Federal laws can not he enforced. Mr. English, of Indiana, introduced a resolution instructing the Committee of Thirty-three to take the necessary measures to carry into effect the Crittenden proposition. The Judiciary Committee was instructed to inquire into the propriety amending the neutrality laws so as to prevent the transportation of men and arms into a seceding State. Mr. Vandever, of Iowa, asked leave to offer resolutions declaring against the power of the Federal Government to interfere with Slavery in the States, and that any amendment of the Constitution is unnecessary. The Democratic members expressed a desire to vote on the resolutions immediately; but they were withdrawn to make way for the report of the Committee of Thirty-three, which Mr. Corwin, of Ohio, the Chairman, accompanied with a speech. He was followed by Mr. Millson, of Virginia, at the conclusion of whose remarks the House adjourned:

On Tuesday, 22nd, in the Senate, on a motion to fill the vacancies in the Committees caused by the withdrawal of the members from seceding States, the question of the exact relations between these members and the body from which they profess to have withdrawn, came up. The question was not decided, consideration of the matter being postponed, on motion of Senator Seward. The Crittenden resolutions were then taken up, and debated until the adjournment.-In the House, Mr. Harris, of Maryland, presented memorials from 17,000 citizens of that State, in favor of the passage of the resolutions adopted by the Border State Committee. He also gave notice that he should move these resolutions as an amendment to the propositions reported from the Committee of Thirty-three. Mr. Colfax reported from the Post-office Committee his bill for the stoppage of postal facilities in the seceding States. Mr. Branch, of North Carolina, suggested it substitute, which Mr. Colfax declined to accept. Mr. Stevens, of Pennsylvania, also proposed a substitute, when further consideration of the bill was postponed, to make way for the report of the Committee of Thirty-three, and Mr. Bingham, of Ohio, and Clemens, of Virginia, addressed the House. The latter took very strong ground against disunion. Mr. Washburne, of Wisconsin, also made a speech, advocating his minority report.

On Wednesday, 23d, in the Senate, after the presentation of a number of memorials, principally in favor of the Crittenden Compromise, Senator Slidell, of Louisiana, made a motion, which was agreed to, that his resolution censuring the President for appointing Mr. Holt as Secretary of War without consultation with the Senate, be referred to the Judiciary Committee. Senator Iverson, of Georgia, was excused from further service on the Committee on Claims. After considerable discussion, the Tariff Bill was taken up, and referred to a Special Committee of Five, to be reported back to the Senate on 30th inst. A motion to take up Senator Crittenden's resolutions was then defeated, 27 to 24, and the Pacific Railroad Bill was considered until the adjournment. - In the House, the Post-route Bill of last session, which then passed the House and was returned from the Senate with amendments, was taken up, and nearly all the amendments agreed to. A new one, offered by Mr. Sickles, authorizing the Postmaster-General to establish a daily or semi-daily delivery of letters throughout a circuit of nine miles from the New York City hall, was agreed to. Consideration of the bill was postponed, the Report of the Committee of Thirty-three being in order. Mr. Clemens, of Virginia, made a personal explanation relative to certain remarks made by his colleague, Mr. Martin, at the close of his speech on Tuesday. Mr. Etheridge, of Tennessee, then proceeded to make a speech, in which he took decided ground against disunion. A communication from all the Georgia Representatives, excepting Mr. Hill, was laid before the House by the Speaker, announcing their withdrawal in consequence of the secession of their State. Mr. Hill notified the House in writing that he had resigned his seat. Mr. Lovejoy, of Illinois, then proceeded to make a speech, in which he counseled firmness on the part of the Republicans. Mr. Montgomery, of Pennsylvania, followed with a proposition that all the members of the present House should resign, in order that a new House could be assembled before the 4th of March, so that the exact sense of the people could be ascertained. No action was taken on the proposition, though several members showed a disposition to agree to it.

On Thursday, 24th, in the Senate, the Red River Raft bill was passed. It gives the assent of Congress to acts passed by the States of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas, providing for the removal of the raft, and the collection of tolls to defray the expense. The Pacific Railroad bill was then taken up, after some objections from Senator Crittenden, who preferred that his resolutions should be discussed. In the course of his remarks he took occasion to deny that he had advocated coercion in secret session, a few days since, as reported. What he did say was that he believed Congress had the power of coercion, and that there might be cases in which it would be proper to use that power. The debate on the Pacific Railroad bill was interrupted by a motion to go into Executive session. -In the House consideration of the Post-route bill was resumed. An amendment was offered by Mr. Hamilton, of Texas, and accepted, to extend the existing contracts for Texas so as to connect with the Butterfield route. The morning hour having expired, the report of the Committee of Thirty-three came up, and was discussed by Messrs. Rust and Hindman of Arkansas, Dunn of Indiana, Gooch of Massachusetts, Ferry of Connecticut, and others. During the debate a personal misunderstanding arose between Messrs. Rust and Dunn, which may possibly lead to a hostile (Continued on Next Page)


 

 

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