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hem! — their friends; and not by
Hindoos." She added, charmingly, "This shows me my first words on coming here
ought to have been to offer my warmest thanks to the brave men who have defended
me and my child:" and swept them so queenly a courtesy, that the men's hats and
caps flew off in an instant. "Mr. Black," said she, turning with a voice of
honey to Vespasian, but aiming obliquely at Fullalove's heart, "would you oblige
me by kicking that dog a little; he is always smelling what does not belong to
him; why it is blood; oh!" and she turned pale in a moment.
Sharpe thought some excuse
necessary. "You see, ma'am, we haven't had time to clean the decks since."
"It is the blood of men; of the
poor fellows who have defended us so nobly!" faltered the lady, trembling
"Well, ma'am," said Sharpe, still
half apologetically, "you know a ship can't fight all day long without an
accident or two." He added with nautical simplicity, and love of cleanliness,
"However, the deck will be cleaned, and holy-stoned, to-morrow, long before you
Mrs. Beresford was too much
overcome to explain how much deeper her emotion was than a dislike to stained
floors. She turned faint, and on getting the better of that, went down to her
cabin crying. Thence issued a royal order that the wounded were to have wine and
every luxury they could fancy, without limit or stint; at her expense.
The next day a deep gloom reigned
in the ship; the crew were ranged in their Sunday clothes, and bare-headed; a
grating was rigged; Sharpe read the burial-service; and the dead, each man sewed
up in his hammock with a 32-pound shot, glided off the grating into the sea with
a sullen plunge; while their shipmates cried so, that the tears dripped on the
With these regrets for the slain,
too violent to last, were mingled a gloomy fear that Death had a heavier blow in
store. The surgeon's report of Captain Dodd was most alarming; he had become
delirious about midnight; and so continued.
Sharpe commanded the ship; and
the rough sailors stepped like cats over that part of the deck, beneath which
their unconscious captain lay. If two men met on the quarter-deck, a look of
anxious, but not hopeful, inquiry, was sure to pass between them.
Among the constant inquirers was
Ramgolam. The grave Hindoo often waylaid the surgeon at the captain's door, to
get the first intelligence. This marked sympathy with a hero in extremity was
hardly expected from a sage, who at the first note of war's trumpet had vanished
in a meal-bag. However, it went down to his credit. One person, however, took a
dark view of this innocent circumstance. But then that hostile critic was
Vespasian, a rival in matters of tint. He exploded in one of those droll rages
darkeys seem liable to: "Massa cunnel," said he, "what for dat yar nigger always
prowling about the capn's door? What for he ask so many stupid questions? Dat
ole fox arter no good; him heart so black as um skin: dam old niggar!"
Fullalove suggested slyly that a
person with a dark skin might have a grateful heart: and the colonel, who dealt
little in innuendo, said, "Come, don't you be so hard on jet; you ebony!"
"Bery well, gemmen," replied
Vespasian, ceremoniously, and with seeming acquiescence. Then, with sudden ire,
"Because Goramighty make you white, you tink you bery wise without any more
trouble. Dat ar niggar am an abommable egotisk."
"Pray what does that mean?"
inquired Kenealy, innocently.
"What him mean? what him mean?
"Yes. What does it mean?"
"What him mean? Yah! What, dinn't
you hear Missy Besford miscall him an abommable egotisk?"
"Yes," said Fullalove, winking to
Kenealy; "but we don't know what it means. Do you, Sir?"
"Iss, Sar. Dat ar expression he
signify a darned old cuss dat says to dis child, 'My lord Vespasium, take
benevolence on your insidious slave, and invest me in a bread bag,' instead of
fighting for de ladies like a freenindependum citizen. Now you two go fast
asleep, dis child he shut one eye and open de oder bery wide open on dat ar
niggar." And with this mysterious threat he stalked away.
His contempt for a black skin,
his ebullitions of unexpected ire, his turgid pomposity, and love of long terms,
may make the reader smile; but they could hardly amuse his friends just then:
every thing that touched upon Dodd was too serious now. The surgeon sat up with
him nearly all night: in the day time these two friends sat for hours in his
cabin, watching sadly, and silently moistening his burning brow and his parched
At length, one afternoon, there
came a crisis, which took an unfavorable turn. Then the surgeon, speaking
confidentially to these two stanch friends, inquired if they had asked
themselves what should be done with the body? "Why I ask," said he, "we are in a
very hot latitude; and, if you wish to convey it to Barkington, the measures
ought to be taken in time: in fact, within an hour or two after death."
The poor friends were shocked and
sickened by this horrible piece of foresight. But Colonel Kenealy said, with
tears in his eyes, that his old friend should never be buried like a kitten.
"Then you had better ask Sharpe
to give me an order for a barrel of spirits," said the surgeon.
"Yes, yes, for two if you like.
Oh don't die, Dodd, my poor old fellow. How shall I ever face his wife—I
remember her, the loveliest girl
you ever saw—with such a tale as
this? She will think it a cruel thing I should come out of it without a scratch,
and a ten times better man to be dead: and so it is; it is cruel, it is unjust,
it is monstrous; him to be lying there, and we muffs to be sitting croaking over
him and watching for his last breath like three cursed old ravens." And the
stout colonel groaned aloud.
When the surgeon left them they
fell naturally upon another topic: the pledge they had given Dodd about the
£14,000. They ascertained it was upon him: next his skin: but it seemed as
unnecessary as it was repugnant to remove it from his living person. They
agreed, however, that instantly on his decease they would take possession of it,
note the particulars, seal it up, and carry it to Mrs. Dodd, with such comfort
as they could hope to give her by relating the gallant act in which his precious
life was lost.
At nine P.M. the surgeon took his
place by Dodd's bedside; and the pair, whom one thing after another had drawn so
close together, retired to Kenealy's cabin.
Many a merry chat they had had
there: and many a gasconade; being rival hunters: but now they were together for
physical companionship in sorrow, rather than for conversation. They smoked
their cigars in moody silence; and at midnight shook hands with a sigh, and
parted. That sigh meant to say that in the morning all would be over.
They turned in: but, ere either
of them was asleep, suddenly the captain's cabin seemed to fill with roars and
shrieks of wild beasts, that made the whole ship ring in the silent night; the
savage cries were answered on deck by shouts of dismay and many pattering feet
making for the companion ladder: but the nearest persons to the cabin, and the
first to reach it, were Kenealy and Fullalove, who burst in, the former with a
drawn sword, the latter with a revolver, both in their night gowns; and there
saw a sight that took their breath away.
The surgeon was not there: and
two black men, one with a knife, and one with his bare claws, were fighting, and
struggling, and trampling all over the cabin at once, and the dying man sitting
up in his cot, pale, and glaring at them.
SOMETIMES I take from the
post-office a scanty news-sheet sent from New England to Illinois. It brings me
the tansy and sweet-brier flavor of life in the rough little town where lives
its sender, my cousin. This cousin (he is much my senior) once baited me for a
winter's entrapment among his hills by impressive declamation concerning
"school-keepin' which'll 'ford ye prime pay in grit, patience —Job's
kind—squints at human nature, cider, girls, and dough-nuts." I was then a
college-boy, vacation-free, and in a freak of adventure gulped the bait. When
through with my winter's work I tucked it away among my experience-records,
labeled quantum sufficit.
And this is how I come to know my
cousin, and why he sends me the paper, and I read it, particularly the death and
marriage record, and so write what is coming; for last night I read this:
"In Bleakbnrn, on the 6th inst.,
Haxa Bell, aged 20."
It is four years since I taught
there, and Haxa was the eldest girl in school. She had such a bleak time of it
in life, and doubtless left behind such cold scarcity of friends, I have thought
it would be a kind thing to heap a little mound for her, warm from this pitying
retrospect which I throw over it for green turf, and bright with the starry
hopes I would plant there for June's sweet blue-eyed grass.
We go to see fretted, harassed
creatures in the stenched circle of the menagerie—the worn tiger, the demented
lion—and go feelingless away to forget the forlorn craving of eye, the begging
droop of body. In the street every day we pass caged, nipped souls, who blink or
stonily stare from parched eyes, and we rarely take note. But at least one such
soul I have noted and remembered. The same would you have done, though young,
thoughtless, proud as I. If some dumb animal writhed up its head in your path
and moaned for food, and you had none to give, a pity deep as the creature's
need would etch the action on your memory. Haxa Bell—it is with tender soberness
I say it—asked me, in the masked beseeching I came at last to recognize, to
bless her life. There! I see the mocking leer of gay companions at such words
—words of old vintage smack, forsooth, too thick with meaning for jovial youth.
Begone! No jeers! I'll tell the truth that I dived early to find.
Of the thirty indigenous woolen
bundles found by me, in a rough and rosy snarl of chilled limbs over a green
wood fire, on that raw December morning when I first entered my twelve-by-twelve
educational kingdom, I saw none that called for any softening of heart on the
part of the master. All were well-jointed specimens, well fed, warmly clad,
tough as the rocks, and bubbling out mischievous fun as those same rocks bubbled
The seethe and simmer of
school-room study was well ageing when the door opened for tardy comers whose
snow-bedraggled clothes told of a long walk and snow-drift struggles. They were
two, Haxa Bell and her little brother Wip. She placed the boy on a low bench by
the fire, and then herself chose a seat without stopping for the stove's warmth.
She folded a thin red shawl somewhat closer about her at the wind's keen thrust
from a sheathing crack in the wall, put her reader and speller on the desk
before her, and sat waiting and looking at me. I assigned her lessons with
finger pointing to the page over which she drooped, but with eye scanning close
a face older in its lines than her stunted form warranted. Seemingly to prevent
any mistaken estimate of her knowledge, she said, in reply to my question
classes, "I'm nothin' quick, Suh,
at my book; mebbe ye'd put me with Betty Jones, but she's higher'n me. I reads
I further studied my late comers
in leisure moments that day. "Umph! poverty sprouts, usual town-beggars
necessary to keep home-charity alive," I thought, and glanced from the shrunken
look of the girl to the less nipped boy by the fire. "So far he has fared better
than she; some of childhood's juice left in him yet, thanks to her, no doubt."
Then I looked at the girl again. Hair coarse and crisp crept low on a forehead
wanly discolored like a dying moon in the morning west; eyes mongrel gray,
retreating in parrying glances, till from compassion one's own stopped the
pursuit and left them concealed in their bleared burrows; bloodless cheeks, and
lips gnarled and withered by pain, as you may see the torrent-rasped forks of
tree-roots, violet-forsaken by dried water-courses. I detected nothing uncommon,
one of the ordinary weeds of humanity fated to soil unusually sterile. She did
not even excite my interest by any noteworthy diligence; indeed, was rather
listless, watching Wip braid his tippet fringe, eying the gusty whirls of snow
at the window, or staring vacantly at the movements of classes. The cold torpor
of her manner was disturbed that day but by a single action. A sudden broadside
of the mountain wind stoutly shook our crazy little house, and loosened the
stove-pipe from its wire supports. The soot sifted out, and no large boys being
present to aid me, I was about to reach my hands up to refit the joint. She
started up with the words, "Master, yer hands are white!" and before I
understood her movement, was standing in my chair and had forced the blackened
parts together. In some confusion of mind I saw her wipe from her own hands the
stains mine had escaped, and resume her seat.
I believe as the winter passed on
I tried to be kinder to Haxa, and this out of simple pity at her slow progress.
I never inquired concerning her home affairs, but in my hearing remarks were
dropped about a dead mother, drunken father, younger brother and sister, cold,
rags, and hunger. So for all these ills I would fain have given the weak
antidote of a new idea, a new hope or emotion. I did not believe the child was
wholly numb to her situation. She was only hopeless and passive. And as hope
lifts many a wretch from sloughs that are old habitats I wished it to aid her.
Had she given more promise of improvement, more signs of mental germination, I
should never have dropped such frequent kind words. But a stolidity so permanent
was too painful to see in any human being.
One mid-winter's night of clear
moon and spicular air, the snow crisp with cold, and the temperature stinging
every nerve into acute but pleasurable sensations, my cousin's family and myself
drove home from a temperance lecture in the village. We had passed the
school-house, the strip of level on the river, the bit of gaunt grove, and our
load began to creak up the long hill while the sleigh-bells settled themselves
to a slower jangle and more unequal jerks of sound, when I vacated the sleigh
with a leap and the words, "The hill is long, I'll walk up." The cause of this
movement was the sudden view I got of a little figure dragging a load of scraggy
fagots through a field that bordered the road—I recognized Haxa Bell. She was
not far off, and had halted under the lee of a scathed pine pollard. I knew she
lived just ahead, half-way up the hill, and gallantry would as soon have let me
pass unaided the daintiest lady alive. I went to her. She looked up startled by
my voice: "Haxa, the deep snow makes this hard for you!" and I took a strong
hold of the rope which she now hastily began to pull.
"Yis, Suh, and I've missed the
old track. Ye'r right kind, master, but ye needn't 'a come. Nobody ever helped
We were in the road now. She
looked up the hill and said, "They've gained on ye; ye'd best leave me and run
She looked pleased at my answer.
"No, I'll help you up the hill. They will wait for me at the top."
At school Haxa never spoke to me
but when occasion required. Now she seemed anxious to show her sense of my
kindness by talk of some sort. She began immediately.
"Father's bad to-night, and
couldn't go for wood, and we're clean out or I'd a waited till mornin'. The
children has colds, too, and mebbe'll need a fire to-night."
I looked down upon her, straining
her thin arm in its hold upon the load, and something of my deep compassion must
have saturated my voice when I said, "It's a hard life you lead, Haxa; I wish
things might take a better turn."
Her mouth twisted out a sigh.
"But I'm used to't. Mebbe father'll do better bimeby, and Wip is growin'
big—he'll help a lot. The neighbors say he's smart, and I guess he'll come to
more'n me in the world." The sister's hopes and meagre dreams were all for the
"I've missed you lately at
school, Haxa," I said. She looked up with a broken, fleeting expression, a
shattered smile which I did not expect to produce.
"Have ye, Suh? The baby's ben
sick, but I'll try an' come soon."
My cousin had reached the summit
of the hill and was waiting for me. I hurried on to the shanty whose comfortless
air manifested a pressing need of the fuel Haxa had procured. I took her chill
hand, "Good-night, Haxa!"
What had I done? Was this poor,
forlorn soul so unaccustomed to kind words that her affections sprung up like
hepaticas in the snow if it did but thaw? I am generally on my guard. I know how
like the prepared negative-plates of the photographer lie many waiting hearts,
and I take care to reflect no rays. The more shame to him who plays with hearts
heaven-dowered with sweet buds that by their very nature open to fragrant
blossoms at the first fancied call.
The last day of my school
approached. On the night before I covered the coals in the cracked,
rheumatic stove, locked the door,
put the key on the entry shelf, and stood for a moment on the door-step to
stealthily forecatch the spirit of freedom that blew at me from out the south.
My winter's work had been marrow-destroying drudgery. I determined to wash my
hands of such forever. A thaw of several days had seamed the river's ice, now a
roughened pavement that stretched through the valley, under the bridge, and past
the school-house. The snow was sunken and discolored. The winter looked wan. Sky
and wind were very indeterminate, moody, out of sorts. Finally, it decided to
rain again. Fringes of mist netted my face like cobwebs as I picked my way
through the slush to my cousin's. A slip-shod, debilitated drizzle set in at
nightfall, and I heard its peevish murmur on the roof through the night.
It still dripped in the morning.
"There's a smart chance of your finding the river broken up and the meadows full
this side of the bridge," said my cousin as I started for school. So I thought;
and as the river now lay between me and the school-house it was possible my
winter's work was even now finished. In passing Haxa's house I saw no stir but
the sickly wriggle of a slender smoke-wreath from the chimney. Presently I came
in sight of the meadows, the river, the bridge, and beyond, a little pile of
blackened, huddled ruins, the charred bones, reeking with an ashy steam, of my
old school-house! Good Yankee grit the decrepit shell evinced, if burn it must,
to burn in spite of soaked timbers and falling rain. There was no stir about.
The nearest houses were behind the hills, half a mile away. Evidently nobody had
witnessed the death-struggle of the lonely, used-up idea-mill, the faithful,
rough old friend of tow-heads innumerable. With much difficulty and some danger
I slid, clambered, and jumped my way over the jostling ice cakes which crowded
the meadows, clogged the road, and heaved hard against the bridge. With wet
clothes and a bruise or two I reached the other side and the school-ground. I
had been mistaken; the place was not wholly deserted. A bedraggled, sooty
spectre crouched among the steaming brands—the visible genius of ruin. I pursued
an eclectic course through the hissing, gasping ashes, and approached this
embodiment of desolation.
"Haxa," said I, " what does this
mean? Did you set it on fire?"
The spectre did not move, but
answered, with the faintest shimmer of a smile:
"Most like ye'd think so, but I
loved it too well. Oh, master! it should a stood it one more day."
"Yes, indeed; and so rainy too.
How came you here?"
Then, still sitting there in the
ashes, she told me. She could not sleep for fear the ice would break, and the
river would flood the road, and keep her from school on the last day. So past
midnight she got up and came down to see. The light of the burning house flared
up through the fog, and when she reached the meadows the snaky flames were
crawling over it all. She determined to get to it over the ice, and she did. She
ventured inside the flames once, but cleared only one desk of its contents. Then
she dried herself by the lessening fire, and afterward found a warm place to sit
in the ashes.
"What do you keep so carefully
wrapped under your shawl?" I asked.
She slowly unfolded the thin
garment, safely shielding what was under from the rain. My port-folio, books,
and maps, lay there; it was my desk she had visited!
"Nothin' else is saved, master."
I did not take up the things at
once; I was too touched by her deed for me. I must have spoken tenderly—"Haxa,
you kind girl, I have no words to thank you."
"No need, Suh. Ye know now that
I've sensed yer kindness, an' leastwise ain't forgettin'."
We talked a little while. I gave
her a book, and buttoned the rest of my saved property under my over-coat. Then
"You'd better go home now, Haxa.
If you wait perhaps you can not cross on the ice. I will go over the hill the
other way to Mr. Bland's."
She slowly stood up, and put her
hand heavily in the one I offered.
"Mebbe yell never come this way
"Very likely not. I shall
remember you, Haxa."
"Folks is more like yerself down
there, ain't they?" she asked, nodding southward.
"Perhaps so. Would you like to
Her eyelids were heavy; I could
not see under them. The mouth was set now in a white, lifeless fixity. She
muttered "It's no use," and said good-by without looking at me again. I watched
her all the way across the ice, and out of sight. She never looked back.
Thank God that somewhere and
sometime all hunger shall be satisfied, all craving met by perfect supply! At
the last strange richness shall brim all voids, and God's kiss be the balmy
benediction upon mated love.
THE GREAT CANAL CONVENTION.
we reproduce a sketch—kindly sent us from Chicago—representing the MONSTER TENT
erected for the accommodation of the GREAT CANAL CONVENTION, which assembled in
that city last week to consider the needs of the Northwest in the shape of big
canals. The reporter of the Chicago Tribune, writing before the Convention met,
thus described the tent:
The tent is now in thorough
readiness for the purposes of the Convention, and it is believed will
comfortably accommodate all who attend. It is octagonal in form, 260X80 feet in
extent, and will seat about 4700 people The Speaker's platform, 32X40 in size,
occupies the centre of the east wall, the tables for the press filling a raised
platform immediately in front of the Speaker's, and accommodating eighty
reporters. There are five rows of seats running north and south, so arranged as
to bring all within good hearing distance of the stand.