BILLY BUMP IN BOSTON (from Robert Merry's Museum, August 1848, pp. 41-44)
It may perhaps please and instruct our youthful readers, to look over the correspondence of Master Billy Bump with his mother. The boy, it appears, was about fourteen years old when he left home for the first time in his life, and made his way by railroad and steamboat to Boston. His native place was Sundown, the precise situation of which we cannot tell, as it is not laid down on the maps. Somebody asked Bill where he was from. "From Sundown," was the answer. 'Sundown?" said the inquirer--"that must be in the western country." "Yes," said Bill, "and five hundred miles beyond!" This description of the place, though not very precise or minute, will be sufficient for all practical purposes. We must add that Bill had been born and brought up in a log hut, away from the refinements of society, and with no other education than what his mother had given him, which was confined to reading and writing. The only books he had seen were the Bible, Watts' Psalms and Hymns, Burns' Poems, Robinson Crusoe, Parley's America, and a stray number of Merry's Museum. He had also seen two or three newspapers. All these, however, he had read; and it is wonderful how much one may learn from so small a library. We need only say further, that Bill came to Boston to live with his uncle, Benjamin Bump, who had grown rich, and was now dwelling in a fine house in Beacon street.
Billy's first letter we omit, and begin with the second--remarking, by the way, that we shall take the liberty to make some little improvements in the original; though, in the main, the letters will be inserted as they were first written.
From William Bump to his Mother.
Boston, November 7, 184-.
My dear mother--I wrote you some days ago a bit of a letter, to say that I had got here, safe and sound, though my ideas were so joggled up by the lokymotys and the steamers, and the one thing and another, that I was not quite sartin that I was me. However, I've found myself out, and though it all seems like a dream, here I am at uncle Ben's--sure enough.
Now I must tell you every thing, as you told me to. Uncle Ben's house is a parfect curiosity. It's six lofts or stories high, and has as many rooms and entries, and turnings and windings, as
a woodchuck's burrow. It's all painted, every mite on't-- except what's covered up with paper, figgered and colored in a strange higglety-pigglety sort of way. Whether them figgers mean any thing or not, I don't know. I asked cousin Lucy about it, and she only said, "Bill, I guess you're a quiz!" When you write agin, mother, tell me what a quiz means.
But the most wonderful thing about uncle Ben's house is the stairs, which are a kind of ladder, to go up from one loft to another. These turn round and round like a screw--and why they don't tumble down I can't say--though I've studied 'em for hours together. It always makes me giddy to up these stairs, for in our log cabin there was no such thing. I can climb a tree, and run along the limbs as well as a squirrel; but there is something to make one's flesh creep in going up stairs, and I think going down is wus.
For the first week I used to get lost every day in this house. If I set out to go into the kitchen I'd find myself blundering into somebody's bedroom, or perhaps fetch up in the cellar. But I've got the geography of the place in my head now, and by counting my fingers, and looking right and left, I get along very well.
Some people may think it very well to live in such a fine, splendid house; but it makes a plaguy deal of trouble. I must tell you, dear mother, how I've been mortified. I ketched cold coming here, and it settled in my head; so I couldn't help hawking and spitting a good deal. Well, all the floors are covered with fine carpets, and when I spit on them aunt Lizzy rolled up her eyes; uncle Ben looked at me as if I'd been a rattlesnake; and cousin Lucy snickered right out. What it was all for, I couldn't tell. I saw that there was something in the wind. I felt a kind of perspiration all over; and to ease my awkwardness, I blowed my nose with my fingers. I expect I must have done it with considerable force, for every living soul rushed out of the room!
There I was all alone, feeling very queer; yet what the matter was I could not exactly say. I wished myself at Sundown, with all my heart. I wanted to see you, dear mother; and when I thought of you, the tears came down my cheeks. While I sat in the room crying, my aunt came in. She came up to me and sat down, and took my hand; and then she spoke kindly. She told me that she had not come to blame or scold me; but only to tell me something that it was necessary I should know. I thought my aunt a proud woman, and when she is dressed up in her silks and lace, and all that, she looks so. But, really, she is very good and kind; and when you forget her stately appearance, she reminds me of you, mother.
Well, what do you think she said to me? Why, she said that among well-bred people, hawking and spitting are disgusting, and are regarded as a kind of indecency; she said that well-bred people always did these things privately. She told me that blowing the nose with the fingers was really awful. "What
were the fingers made for, then?" said I. At this my aunt laughed, which placed me at my ease; and so I said, "Well, my dear aunt, I dare say I am a very ill-bred, awkward boy; but I hope you will forgive me. I was brought up there in Sundown, away from people like you and cousin Lucy; and though I could shoot wild turkeys, tree opossums, snare partridges, and ketch 'coons, I never heard much of the fine arts. But I desire to learn, and shall be very much obliged if you will tell me what is wrong and what is right."
"That's well said," was aunt's reply; and she added, "it is no fault of yours, Willy, that you are not acquainted with the manners of refined society, since you have not been in a situation to learn them."
"But," said I, "what is the use of these refined manners, as you call them? Why is not my simple way as good as yours? Why are not fingers as good to blow the nose with as a pocket-handkerchief?"
"Let me tell you, William," said my aunt, seriously, "that cleanliness is a source of great pleasure. One who has not been used to it can hardly imagine how much pleasure there is in personal neatness. Besides, such is the effect of the habit of keeping one's self neat, clean, tidy, that you generally find a dirty person coarse-minded, low, and vulgar in his tastes; while one who is scrupulously clean and neat, you generally find pure, elevated, and refined in mind and feelings. Neatness is, therefore, called a virtue. It is not a mere point of manners; it is an essential part of character. If you would be refined and elevated in your mind and heart, practice all those things which belong to personal neatness."
My aunt said a good deal more, which I can't well remember; but the substance of it all was, that my way of hawking and spitting before people was shocking, and would make my presence intolerable to well-bred people; that my way of blowing the nose was out of fashion, and would subject me to ridicule. She said these things showed an ignorance of, or insensibility to that neatness which is essential to refinement of taste and feeling, and essential also in order to qualify any one to associate with well-educated people. I thanked my aunt, and promised to follow her advice as well as I could.
But I had still other troubles. At dinner, the table was all shining with plated castors, and carvers, and platters; and there was such a variety of meats, and soups, and sauces, and fixings, that I couldn't well tell what ny thing was, nor indeed what I wanted. For the first day or two, at dinner, my head had a queer buzz in it, and there was a kind of watery mist over my sight. So I got into a heap of accidents. I will try to tell you all about it.
It was the first day, and we had just sat down to dinner. Lucy was next to me. The fellow who waited upon us brought some water to me in a pitcher, and asked me if I'd have some. "Yes," said I; and taking the pitcher, I drank a lot--for I was monstrous dry. When I looked up the servant was trying to suppress a smile; Lucy was red as a
beet; and every body else had a kind of choking appearance. What it was all about I could not imagine--but I began to feed dreadful hot.
Lucy saw that I was in trouble, and kindly handed me a glass, which they here call a tumbler. I then understood that I should hold it to the servant for some water: this I did; but the tumbler was clear as crystal, and not being used to the article, I did not distinguish between the bottom and the top. I held it bottom upward. The servant did not perceive my mistake, but poured the water out, which came all swashing into my lap. I jumped up, and in my leap turned over my chair, and carried away my plate, which was smashed into forty pieces.
It was some time before order was restored; and during the whole dinner, I did not know whether I was in the body or out of the body. The next day my aunt told me that I took salt with my fingers, and that this was esteemed bad manners. She said I should always take salt with the salt-spoon. "But suppose there aint any?" said I. At this she laughed outright, but said, "In such case, Will, I must allow you to do the best thing you can."
My aunt told me various other things; she said it was bad manners to eat fast and ravenously, like a dog; that I must not take meat in my fingers, for it was filthy; that I must not put my food into my mouth with a knife, for I might cut myself, and besides the taste of the steel blade was disagreeable. She said I must not help myself with my own knife and fork, to meat, or vegetables, or butter, or any thing of the kind. She told me all this very kindly; and though I felt humbled at finding myself so ignorant, I thanked her sincerely, and shall try to follow her advice.
I have many more things to say to you, dear mother, but I have filled my sheet. Pray write me soon. I ought to be very happy in this fine house, and among such good friends, and in a way to improve and learn so much; but, strange to say, our log cabin seems to me a thousand times more beautiful than this lofty mansion; and the hills, and woods, and streams of Sundown, are much pleasanter than the streets of Boston.
What would I not give to see you, dear mother! How is Rover? I thought I saw him one day in the streets of Boston; and it made my heart leap. I run up to the dog, and looked in the creature's face; but he did not know me, and turned away. This made me feel as if I was really in a strange land. Pray take good care of Tommy, the little lame duck. He ought to be shut up every night, or the foxes might get him.
Give my love to old Cocky-doodle. I'd give a dollar to hear him crow. It would do me good to see any thing from home--even the old broom-handle. Good-by, dear mother; and give my love to father, and to every body. I forgot to speak of old Trot; I hope his back has got well. Do tell father to have the saddle stuffed, so as not to rub the skin off agin. Farewell.
Your dutiful and affectionate son,
BILLY BUMP IN BOSTON (from Robert Merry's Museum, September 1848, pp. 82-84)
Letter from Billy to his mother in Sundown.
Boston, December, 184-.
My dear Mother--
I wrote you a long letter more than a month ago, and hoped before this to have had one from you. I am really very hungry for a letter. There's a great deal going on here, and every day I see thousands of people--but still, I want to hear the news at Sundown. How is old Trot? How are all the hens? How is the little lame duck? Is Rover well? Have the wolves caught any more of the sheep? Has any thing been seen of the black fox since I left? Has father shot any deer, wild turkies, or coons lately? Has the fire in the woods gone out? Do write me, mother, and tell me all these things. I am contented here, but if you do not send me a letter, I shall start, and try to find my way to you.
I must now tell you what has happened since I wrote. The funniest thing was this. One night I was suddenly awoke by a strange sound which seemed to come from my pillow. It went--dz-z-z-z--dz-z-z-z--dz-z-z-z!-- At first I thought myself in the woods, and imagined that I heard a rattlesnake. I fumbled about for a stick--but getting hold of the pillow, I knew I was in bed. Then I thought, "it is only a dream!"--and so I lay down again. But pretty soon I heard the same sound--dz-z-z-z--dz-z-z-z-z! "This is very droll," said I; "what in nater can it be?" It was dark as pitch, and after straining my eyes and feeling all round, I could discover nothing.
Well, I lay down again, and soon dropped to sleep. But suddenly I felt a terrible pain in my leg. I jumped out of bed and screamed like a wild-cat. I was half asleep, or I should not have made such a noise. The cry started the servants near by. Up they jumped, and rushed, pell mell, into my room. Two or three of them brought lights--and there we were altogether, cutting a pretty figure, I assure you. "What's the matter! what's the matter!" they exclaimed, all at once. "Why," says I, "there's a rattlesnake, or a snapping turtle, or some other varmint, there in my bed. It's half bit my leg off!"
At this, the women lifted up their eyes and hands--and the men began to look into the bed. They did this gingerly, and as if they really expected a rattlesnake to jump out of the sheets, and give 'em a mortal bite. It was a very droll sight, altogether; and frightened and bewildered as I was, I couldn't help smiling. John, the boldest of the men, after seeking about for some time, exclaimed, 'There he is! there he is!" At this awful moment the women scampered away; but John courageously proceeded to attack the monster who had caused the row. Taking up a hearth-brush, he made three or four furious plunges into the bed, and finally succeeded in subduing the viper. It was no great things after all--being merely a wasp; but the fellow made a considerable stir, for all that!
I get along very well at uncle Ben's.
I like Lucy very much, tho' I'm half afraid of her, she knows so much. She can tell all about geography, and grammar, and history, and every thing else. She makes a terrible racket on a big thing in the parlor, called a piano. This, they say, is music, and perhaps it is--but it sounds to me as if all the bull-frogs, and all the cat-birds, and all the wild-cats, and all the king-fishers in creation had got together in a box, and every one was trying to see which could make the most noise.
Lucy is trying to teach me a curious game, called chess. It is played on a board, nicely painted in squares. On these we put a parcel of queer things, beautifully carved in ivory. Some of them are called bishops; these have a sly, sideways motion, and do great execution, if you don't look out. Some are called knights; these have horses' heads, and go leaping, and jumping, and gambading right and left over every body. Its a droll game, and I am getting to like it.
Well, we have other games and dances, and all sorts of things, to make time pass away. Here, in a big house, all this is quite necessary, else every body would be weary and unhappy. In Sundown, we can go into the woods, and there no one can ever fail of amusement. There are so many things to see there--so many things that set one a-thinking--that time runs rapidly away; and we have no regret, except that the days are so short.
I must now tell you about the library. This consists of at least five hundred books; and Lucy says they tell about every thing under the sun. She says there is one book there that gives a description of the manner in which the world was made! I hardly dared to look at it, but I took a peep just to see what it was called, and saw on the back of it, the word Geology. Now, would you believe it, mother, Lucy has read that book thro' from A to &!
I'm going to school soon, and I mean to know as much as Lucy in time. For the present, I read Merry's Museum and Parley's Tales. You remember that I had Parley's America at home, and in this you taught me to read. I love it better than any other book in the world. And I must tell you, mother, one very interesting thing--I believe I have seen Peter Parley!
The other day I was going along in Beacon street, and I met an old man walking with a cane. He was very handsome, and appeared so pleasant, that I stopped and looked at him. He stopped too, and though he was very richly dressed and seemed a fine gentleman, he spoke to me. "Good morning, sir!" said he, in a mild voice, and bowing to me. "Good morning, sir," said I--and just at that moment it flashed into my mind that he must be Peter Parley, for nobody else could be so gentle and kind to a poor boy like me. So, said I, "Are you Peter Parley?" At this the old gentleman laughed very heartily, and after a few more words, went along. I followed to see where he went. He entered a very splendid house, and I could see Otis on the door. I have no doubt it was Peter Parley,
though some of the boys told me his name was Harrison Gray Otis!
I have a great deal to write, mother, but I have not time now. It takes me a great while to write a letter, and I am afraid you can hardly make it out, after all. But do write to me very soon. I send my love to every body. Give my thanks to the old Indian, Bottle Nose, for the coon-skin cap he sent me, just before I left. It got me into a scrape here--but I can't tell you about it now. I will do so in my next, if I can. Farewell, dear mother! From your affectionate son,
BILLY BUMP IN BOSTON (from Robert Merry's Museum, October
1848, pp. 121-124)
Letter from Mrs. Bump to her son.
Sundown, January, 18--.
My dear son--I have received your three first letters, and they have given me both pleasure and pain. I am pleased to know that you have reached Boston, and are safely at your uncle's house. I am also pleased that you find yourself comfortable there, and that you like your uncle and aunt, and cousin Lucy. I cannot but hope that it will all go well with you. At the same time, I have been pained at the mortifications you have experienced, in consequence of your ignorance of the manners and customs of genteel and refined people.
You must know, Willy, that your father and myself started in life with as fair prospects as your uncle and aunt. We lived in Boston, and for ten years we knew nothing but prosperity. But in consequence of a bad turn in business, your father lost his property, and became what is called a bankrupt; that is, he could not pay his debts. He owed a proud, rich man, by the name of Quincy, some money; and this man threw him into prison. Now your father had been a kind and generous man, and had done nothing but good in the world; and to be shut up in prison as if he was too bad and wicked to see the light and breathe the fresh air, and go abroad among his fellow-creatures, made him sick at heart.
He was in prison for a whole year, and when he came out he was sadly changed. He spoke bitterly of the state of things in Boston; for, he said, a hard, cruel man, like this Mr. Quincy, because he was rich and bore a great name, could do a very wicked thing, and nobody thought of blaming him. Your father said he would not live among people who were mere worshipers of riches and power; and so he prepared to go to a new country, where he could forget his troubles.
Well, I had saved a little money by hard work, and I got more by selling a watch that my grandmother gave me. With this we set off; but our troubles had only begun. When we reached the town of Worcester, your father was arrested for a debt to a bank. He was carried back to Boston, and again shut up in prison. I went to the president of the bank, whose name was M--t. He was a wicked-looking man; but he pretended to be very righteous. I begged him to let my poor husband out of prison; but he replied, "It is impossible." "And why?" said I. "Because," said he, "it is the custom of a bank never to release any body." I pleaded hard; but the president was deaf to my entreaties, and I went away.
After six months, your father was again set at liberty; and we were about to start upon our journey, when another president of a bank, by the name of F--, sent a writ against him; and a third time he was put in prison. I went to Mr. F. to beg for the release of my husband; but he said he had nothing to do with it, and I must go to the lawyer of the bank. I went accordingly; but the lawyer told me he had nothing to do with it--I must go to
the president. It seemed very strange that men of such high station should be guilty of this kind of meanness and falsehood; but so it was.
All this time your poor father's health was failing, and I found it almost impossible to keep up my spirits. A sense of sorrow and desolation, which no words can express, weighed me down to the earth. I should have given up in despair, had it not been for the support I obtained from the source of all goodness, mercy, and truth. Forsaken of all beside, I was not forsaken of God. The bank president could not hear me; but a greater than he listened to my prayer. The lawyer shuffled me away with a poor evasion; but God is very unlike a lawyer, and he never sent me away without a blessing.
And thus I was sustained through this dark hour. I was able to earn enough for my own support, and to contribute something toward making your father's prison fare more tolerable. I often went to him, and had the pleasure to find that his despondency would give way to cheerful and hopeful conversation.
But I must not lengthen out these details: it will be enough to say, that after a long period of suffering, we set out upon our journey, and reached this distant spot. Here, in the wilderness, your father built our log cabin; here you were born; and here, for fifteen years, has been our home. We are, for ourselves, content. Your father looks upon Boston with a kind of dread--a feeling like that with which a voyager remembers the rocky and dangerous shore upon which he has been wrecked. I do not, myself, desire to return there; but when your uncle, who had become rich, and could do so much for you, offered to take you and give you an education in Boston, we did not feel that we ought to neglect the opportunity.
And now, my dear William, I have told you our history, for the sake of enforcing the counsel and warning which I am about to give you. Remember that a great city is full of great good and great evil. You will there find wealth, splendor, elegance, luxury, knowledge, refinement. These are by no means to be despised; on the contrary, it is lawful, it is laudable, to strive to possess them. They are good things in themselves; but the possession of them is dangerous, because it is apt to puff up the heart with pride and conceit. A rich man, surrounded with the signs of his power, hardly feels responsible to God; he almost feels as if he was a god himself, and ought to be looked up to, if not worshiped.
This is one source of danger. Another is, that amid the excitement which a life of luxury brings, we are likely to forget God; likely to forget that we are every hour liable to go astray; every moment in danger of sin and death. Nor is even this all, dear Willy--there are such things as truth, honesty, candor, frankness, manliness. These are the true ornaments of character: these give beauty to the soul, as bloom and fine features give beauty to the countenance. There is danger that city life should efface these, and cultivate art, cunning, and duplicity, in
their place. Oh, I had rather see my son a rough woodsman of the west, with honest, blunt truth upon his face and lip, than to see him the richest man in Boston, at the expense of his integrity, his honor, and his manliness.
There are other dangers in a great city, springing from low and vicious company. I hope your position may prevent you from this danger; but still let me beg you to be on your guard, even here. If you are ever tempted to do any thing, the propriety of which you may doubt, ask yourself, "How will mother like it?" and be governed accordingly. There is still another and higher rule, which I commend to your observance. In doubtful cases, inquire, "How will God like it?" Take him always into your counsel: he is your best friend, and safest adviser. He will never lead you into the wrong path; he will never desert you, in the hour of trial and trouble.
My dear boy, do not be weary of a mother's long and anxious words. Let me tell you all I feel. Continue the habits in which you have been trained, of morning and evening prayer, and of daily reading in the Bible. These are great duties and great privileges, as well in the city as the country. Keep all of good that you learned here, and change only in as much as you improve in goodness.
And now that I have said so much on these high and important points, let me express my pleasure at finding you likely to improve your manners, by learning the customs of genteel people. These are desirable, and if regarded as secondary to real virtues, they are surely to be commended. Every thing that makes us more agreeable, can make us more useful, and of course more happy. Study, therefore, to learn the agreeable ways of refined and elegant people.
And do not think, William, that in talking so much about duty, and virtue, and religion, I wish you to overlook the lawful pleasures and amusements of life. Far from it. I wish you to be cheerful, gay, happy, as befits your years. I do not desire to see my boy with an old man's air or face. Be a boy--lively, earnest, playful, in the hours allotted to amusement: be a boy,--earnest, thoughtful, studious, in the hours assigned to study. Be a good boy, always.
And now I must say a word as to news. Old Bottle Nose has just returned from his buffalo hunt. He brought with him about a dozen Indians, who remained here some days. They had a sort of war-dance near our house, and a droll scene it was. One was called Grisly Bear, and he was dressed in a skin of that animal. All were dressed so as to appear as fierce and hideous as possible. Their dance was a kind of play, or pantomime, in which they described, by their actions, the scenes which had befallen them in war. One of them was a great wag. He described himself as pursuing his enemy in the woods, when he came across a skunk, standing in his path. The manner in which he put his finger on his nose was very significant, and made us understand what he meant
as well as if he had said it all in words.
The owls have lately made sad havoc with the chickens, and the turkeys we had raised have all run off with a flock of wild ones, that came near the place. Your father is in good health, but he is getting less fond of hunting than he used to be. He has, however, shot several deer, and the other day he brought home a beautiful young fawn, which he found in the woods. He had quite a battle with a panther last week. The creature sprang at him from a tree as he was passing by, and gave him a scratch in the arm; but your father beat him over the head with a club, and the fellow made off. Old Trot is well as ever, and I have no doubt would send his love if he could.
I have got quite to the end of my paper, and so I must say farewell, and God bless you, my dear Willy.
Your affectionate mother,
BILLY BUMP IN BOSTON (from Robert Merry's Museum, November 1848, pp. 140-142)
Letter from Billy to his Mother.
Boston, May, 18--.
Dear Mother--It is a very long time since I have written to you; for it was winter, and no one was going to Sundown who would carry a letter. I have many things to say, but I must first thank you kindly for your letter of January last. Dear mother, it made me weep, again and again, to think of the hardships you and father suffered in Boston, many years ago. O, I could not believe such people lived in the world, as would put my good father, so gentle, so kind, in prison. I never heard the story before, mother, and it made me quite sick of Boston when I had read it. It is, indeed, a sad thing to be rich, if it makes us cruel and hard-hearted. It is equally sad to be poor, and suffer the opprobrium of the haughty and the proud.
I suppose a poor boy like me can hardly get rich; but if I can be, I will be, so as to make you and father happy and at ease, and to show that riches do not always spoil the heart. And, believe me, mother, I will not forget your counsel. I read the Bible every day, and, to say truly, I do not know that there is much merit in my doing so, for to me it is the most interesting book in the world. The stories in the Old Testament are so beautiful and so wonderful, that they quite charm me. And the New Testament is not the less interesting. What a wonderful story is that of Jesus Christ! There is nothing in the world like it. I have been reading history; and though Alexander was a great man, and Caesar was a great man, and Bonaparte was a great man, still Christ seems to me as much above them all, as are the heavens above a house, built by human hands. These conquerors were all full of self; they conquered nations to puff up their own pride and love of power. Now, I see nothing very great in this; it is indeed rather commonplace. But Christ sought to bless the world. He saw that mankind had strayed from their good and great Father, and that they had become wicked and estranged from him. And he died; he gave his life to restore them, to reconcile them. How poor is all the genius of conquerors by the side of this! How original, how deep, how high, how truly glorious and godlike was Jesus! how flat and contemptible is the whole race of conquerors in comparison.
And believe me, dear mother, I will try to avoid bad company, and to keep you in remembrance, so that you may be a good angel, ever present to protect me. And now I must give you a journal of some things that have happened to me.
You remember the coonskin cap old Bottle Nose gave me, just before I set out for Boston. Well, when it came cold weather, I put it on, and went into the Common. You know this is a large, open place, set out with trees, where people walk. Perhaps you remember the pretty sheet of water in the Common, called the Frog Pond. Well, at the time I speak of, this pond was frozen over, but the ice was not strong enough to bear people. However, the boys were all round the pond, and some were venturing upon the ice. I went among them, but no sooner
did they see my cap, than they seemed to pick me out as a curiosity. One young fellow came up, and said, very rudely, "What's the news in Coontown?"
"What do you mean?" said I.
"What's your name?" said the fellow.
"Rattlesnake's Teeth!" I replied; "and you'd better keep out of the way."
"Indeed," said the boy; and giving a wink to two or three of the chaps, who had gathered round, he added, "we'll see! we'll see!" In an instant, one of the rogues took hold of the long coon's tail that hung to my cap behind, twitched it off, and tossed it upon the ice. As I set out to give him chase, another boy caught the long tail of father's coat, that you had fixed up for me, and in an instant, just one half of it was torn off. I cut a pretty figure; but i was so angry I did not mind any thing. I flew at the fellows, but they scattered like so many partridges; however, they came up behind, and, in a short time, I had only one leg to my pantaloons. At this time, I was near the edge of the Frog Pond, and seeing the fellow who first set upon me near by, I clutched at him, caught him by the hand, and jumped upon the ice. In we went, with a swash, breaking the ice and sprawling about in the water. The fellow screamed, but I dragged him along to my cap, and I made him pick it up and put it on my head. He was as tame and obedient as a caged opossum. I then took him ashore, and, strange to say, all the boys came up and shook me by the hand, and said, "How are you, Rattlesnake's Teeth?" and "You are a good fellow, Rattlesnake's Teeth;" and ever since then, we have been the best friends in the world, though some of them call me Rattlesnake's Teeth to this day.
I expected uncle Ben would give me a peeling for getting into such a scrape and losing my clothes. But, to my great astonishment, he laughed heartily, and told me I had done just right. "These Boston boys," says he, "are pretty rough customers, and are very uncivil to strangers; but if they find a person who gives them as good as they send, they allow him credit for spunk and take him into favor. It is a good deal so, all the world over, Bill; a man who will stand by himself when wronged, is apt to gain respect."
The next day uncle Ben took me to a place called Oak Hall, a building in Ann Street, painted to resemble oak boards. It makes no great figure outside, but it is one of the seven wonders of Boston, within. Why, the man there has more pantaloons, I should think, than there are human legs in all creation. He has heaps of coats and jackets, piled up like hay- stacks. The place is a perfect hive of tailors, clerks, and apprentices. I wanted to see the man who was head of this establishment, for I expected to see somebody, at least, as big and proud as Golia[t]h. What was my amazement to find, on seeing him, that he was a mild, amiable, gentlemanlike person, with black eyes and black hair, and without any more pretence than if he kept a common shop.
Well, uncle Ben told him I wanted some clothes, and I was very soon fitted out. He bought me three coats, five waistcoats, and four pair pantaloons. I told uncle Ben I did not know what on airth to do with so many things, for I had
never before had but one suit at a time. He only said it was time for me to alter my habits; and, having the clothes packed up, we went home. But I do wish you could see Oak Hall. It beats Babel all hollow.
Boston is so full of wonderful things, that I shall not attempt to describe them, particularly as you have lived here. What a difference between this and Sundown! Of all the things I have seen, the sea strikes me most. It is so vast, so blue, so beautiful. It is always in motion, too, and seems, therefore, to have a kind of life. It never looks the same two days in succession. And then it has a movement, called the tide; the waters rising and falling every twelve hours. This really looks as if the earth was breathing; and Lucy tells me that it has led some learned men to consider the world as a great animal. If so, I suppose the woods are the hair; volcanoes are, no doubt, the sores; and perhaps, wild beasts are the vermin.
And then the ships, what monsters some of them are! And they go quite round the world, too! Some of the ships I have seen have been to China, and some have been to India, and other places on t'other side of the world.
There is a funny place here called the Museum. The building is large and handsome, and it is full of all sorts of curiosities. I have not room to tell about them here; but I shall try to describe some of them in my next.
I must now bid you farewell. Give my love to father, and believe me ever, your faithful and affectionate son,
BILLY BUMP IN BOSTON (from Robert Merry's Museum, January 1849, pp. 13-15)
Letter from William Bump to his Mother.
Boston, April, 18--.
My dearest Mother: When I sit down to write to you, I have so many things to say, that at first I can say nothing. My head is full of thoughts, all trying to get out at once--and so none of them get out. I think my mind is like a garret full of rats, with only one hole by which they can escape: when the rats are frightened, they all rush for the hole, and try to get out together; but pushing, shoving, and squealing, they get stuck fast, and don't get out at all. It is just so with my ideas--they are so eager to escape, that they get wedged into a heap, and there they stay. Now, if i could see you--and if I could see you looking at me--I should get along very well, even without words.
But, after all, pen, ink, and paper are good things, when one is fifteen hundred miles away from home and friends; and in spite of my awkwardness in using them, I would not, for the world, give up the privilege of writing to you.
Since my last letter, nothing of great importance has occurred in Boston, though many things have taken place interesting to me. I go regularly to school, and hope I am improving. I am studying geography, grammar, history, and arithmetic, beside reading, spelling, and writing. I love geography very much; it is like travelling all over the world, and seeing different countries and nations. I like to think of being in Europe, and seeing London and Paris, and all the great cities and the splendid buildings. And I like to think of being in Africa, where the negroes hunt lions and elephants. But it seems to me that Asia is the most wonderful part of the world. It is there where Adam and Eve lived, and it is there where Christ also made his appearance. O, how I should like to go to Jerusalem, and see where he used to walk--where he preached his Sermon on the Mount; where he turned the money- changers out of the Temple, and where he was crucified!
And then the strange people of Asia--the Tartars, who are such splendid horsemen; the Arabs, who travel over the deserts upon camels and at night stop and tell stories to each other; and the Hindoos, who burn their widows and drown their children, thinking these things are pleasing to God; and the Chinese, who eat puppies and rats, and furnish all the world with tea; and the Turks, with their big turbans: what a wonderful thing it is, that in one little book we may learn all about these queer people.
Perhaps I like geography the more for this reason: uncle Ben has a great many pictures of different countries, with the people who live there; and when I am studying about a country, I look over these pictures. Lucy studies with me, and we learn a great deal by talking together about our studies. I don't know what the reason is, but I find that I remember a thing we have talked about much better than if I have only read about it. And, then, Lucy has a great knack at drawing pictures with a pencil, and she has taught me to draw. I find I can imitate her very well, even when I
could not imitate a book-drawing. We have just been studying about the Turks, and I send you, enclosed, a sketch of a Turk's head and turban, which Lucy has drawn. It is very neatly done, and no doubt gives a good idea of the appearance of a bearded and turbaned Turk.
I do not like grammar so well as geography. I hardly see the use of it yet. It seems to me almost absurd to be giving names to all the little words--as Adam did to the elephants, and lions, and tigers, just after the creation. there is a monstrous deal of fuss about a, and the, and but, and if, and to, and for. Now, it seems to me that a word means the same, whether you call it a verb, or a noun, or an adjective; and the object of words is to tell our meaning. Lucy says that there is something more in the use of words, and that precision, accuracy, and elegance, are desirable in the use of language; and that the study of grammar teaches these things. It may be so: I do not despise grammar--but it is a kind of mystery to me. I really do not get hold of it. The ideas are always like squirrels, half hid behind the branches and leaves; I can't get a fair sight at them; and in study, as in hunting, it is bad not to have a plain mark.
I have heard a funny story about a boy who seems to have had the same difficulty in grammar as myself. He read in the book, "A noun is the name of a thing; as, horse, hair, justice." Now, he took it wrong, and read, "A noun is the name of a thing; as, horsehair justice!" "Well," said he to himself--"what on airth is horsehair justice!"
He thought, and pondered, and studied, and considered, but all to no purpose. The more he tried to puzzle it out, the deeper he got in the mire. He was like a boy in the woods of Sundown--that you have heard of--one Bill Bump--who sometimes got lost--and always found, in such circumstances, that when he worried himself, he was only the more sure to miss his way.
Well, the boy at last said to himself, "Here I am, in the bogs and fogs of grammar; and the more I study the more am I bewildered." So he gave it up as a bad job; and from nouns he went on to verbs. Now, it chanced that the boy's father was a justice of the peace; and one day, when the youth went home, the old gentleman was holding a justice's court. there he sat, straight as a mullein-stalk, on the family settee, the people being all around. Now, this settee had come down for many generations, and was cushioned with horsehair. As soon as the boy looked at his father, a new light flashed upon him. "I've got it!" said he. "My father there--the old gentleman on the settee--is a horsehair justice, and therefore a noun!" Wasn't that droll?
Well, dear mother, I want to tell you about history, for I like that very much; and I want to tell you about arithmetic, for I like that very much. But I must wait till another letter. I hope you are not tired of my long stories. If you are, pray tell me so in my next. I promised to speak of the Boston Museum; but it is so full of curious things, I must take a whole letter for it. The keeper of the Museum is a very queer man, and has a wonderful way of getting up interesting sights. They say he is going to have a representation of Noah entering the ark, with all sorts of animals, birds, reptiles, insects, and fourfooted beasts. I guess he has creatures enough in his Museum to make it all out. I suppose he can hire Shem, Ham, and Japhet, for the occasion. I don't know whether he is to have fishes in his possession; but when I see him, I shall ask him whether the fishes were drowned in the great deluge, or whether Noah kept a supply on board. If he can't tell, I don't know who can.
Pray give my love to father. It is now coming spring. Dear me! how I should like to be at Sundown for a week! However, that cannot be, and so I must rest content.
Good-by, and God bless you,
I am your dutiful son,
BILLY BUMP IN BOSTON (from Robert Merry's Museum, February 1849, pp. 51-56)
Letter from William Bump to his Mother.
Boston, May, 18--.
Dear Mother: It is not a great while since I wrote to you; yet I now send another letter, because I have a good opportunity to send it. A man by the name of Smith is going to Oregon, and he says he shall take Sundown on his way. He will deliver the letter himself, and you will see him, and he will tell you about me. I hope he will have nothing bad to say.
By the way, this Mr. Smith is a very remarkable man. He has been all over the world, and yet he was a poor boy from Vermont. He spent an evening at uncle Ben's, not long since, and told a heap of stories. It was very queer how he got his education. His father died when he was young, and he was put out to work, with a farmer. During nine months of the year, he never went to school; the other three months he went to a school on Saturday forenoons, kept by a woman named Betty Blaze. According to his account, she was as fiery as her name.
However, here he learnt his letters. He had no book but the New England Primer. During the day, he had no time to read; at night, he studied his lessons by the light of the fire, for the people never heard of a lamp, and only allowed candles when company came.
When he got to be seventeen years old, he ran away, for the farmer was very hard with him. He went to Burlington, but was afraid to show himself, lest the
farmer should be able to trace him out. He got employ on board a lumber boat for a time; then he landed on the west side of lake Champlain, and determined to make his way to New York. In passing the Peru Mountains, he had a terrible adventure. It was evening, and he saw, trotting along by the path, a creature like a large kitten. He ran after it, and caught it. It mewed lustily; and immediately a huge beast, as big as seven or eight cats, came down, bang! from the tall trees right over his head. The monster seemed to have, at least, a dozen legs--all standing out straight--with eyes of fire--and a tail as big round as a quart mug. Mr. Smith made a funny story of the scene. He threw the young creature, which was a catamount, at its mother, and ran away with all his might. The old one came bounding after him for a dozen rods, but at last she left him, and went back to take care of her child.
Smith pursued his journey. He reached New York, became a sailor, then captain of a ship, and finally got to be a rich man. He is going to settle in Oregon, which, he says, will be a great country, some time or other.
Now, isn't this a very curious story? But uncle Ben says that it is not uncommon. He declares that his own education was so bad, that, when he was full seventeen years old, he thought the earth was stationary, and the sun, moon, and stars, moved round it every day. He said, that when a fellow told him the earth turned round, he laughed at him, and said, "Nonsense! If the earth revolved, as you say, all the wells would be turned bottom up, and the water would run out."
Uncle Ben told another story, to show how men of poor education get along in the world. He said that, many years ago, he knew a captain from Marblehead, who was sent to Europe with a ship. It was at a time when there was some trouble there. The owner of the ship got a letter from this captain, which had the following passage: "Oin tu the blockhead, the wig was spilt;" by which the writer meant to say, Owing to the blockage, the voyage was spoiled."
I must tell you another of uncle Ben's anecdotes, about poor education. A rich man, who had a ship going to India, and who wrote a bad hand, among other things, ordered the captain to bring home two monkeys. Now he wrote the word two thus--too; and as the captain ws no great scholar, he read it 100 monkeys. Well, after a year, the ship came back, and the owner of the vessel went down the harbor, greatly rejoiced to see his ship again. But what was his amusement, as he stepped upon the deck, to see a whole regiment of apes, of every size and shape, jumping, frisking, and frolicking, along the planks, ropes, and rigging of the vessel! He scolded the captain severely for his blunder; but when he saw his own instructions, he perceived that he was not to blame; so he pretended that the monkeys were brought on speculation; and uncle Ben says that they sold well, and paid a good profit.
I could tell you many other stories of this kind; but as I have promised to describe the Boston Museum, I may as well set about it. The building is very large,
and one immense room, with a gallery running all round, is filled with curiosities. These are of various kinds--stuffed birds, and beasts, and creeping things; gigantic bones; dresses and weapons of savages; portrait sof famous men, and pictures of many strange and wonderful things.
It is a very queer place, altogether, a nd who makes it very interesting, is, that the birds and beasts are so prepared as to seem really alive. And beside, they are arranged in separate apartments, those of a kind being generally together. For instance, in one place, there is a congregation of owls, of all kinds, little and big, handsome and ugly. These creatures differ very much from each other, yet they have a droll family likeness. After looking at this group for a time, I could nto help laughing, they all looked so solemn, and stiff, and starch. I seemed as if they were dressed up for a great occasion, and thought it proper to look as wise as possible.
In one place there were wild swans, and wild geese, and wild ducks; in another, there were pigeons and doves; in another, partridges, quails, &c. There was a collection of gay parrots; toucans, which seemed at least half bill; birds, shining like gems, hardly bigger than the thumb; cranes, with necks as long as a hoe handle; birds of paradise, which seemed to glory chiefly in their tails; vultures, which looked as if they could swallow red- hot pokers; and ostriches, as tall as old Bottle Nose, eagle feathers and all.
Beside the birds, there were foxes, and wolves, and woodchucks, and panthers, and lions, and tigers, and other four-footed beasts, quite too numerous to mention. Some of these, especially the opossums, and woodchucks, and coons, seemed to me like old acquaintances. When I looked at them, I was very strongly reminded of home, for I have had many adventures with these creatures in Sundown. I believe that, while I was gazing at these fellows, I looked sad; for Lucy, who was with me, said, "Why, cousin Will, what is the matter?"
"O, nothing, nothing of consequence," said I.
"But really, tell me what ails you. I insist upon knowing," said she.
"Well," said I, "to speak the truth, these coons and 'possums make me think of mother!" Lucy is a real witch, and she laughed so as to make all the people in the Museum look straight at us. I really felt as hot as if I had been simmering in a tea-kettle.
Well, we saw a lot of other things--enormous crocodiles, which really looked like cast-iron; and they had an expression about the mouth that injured their beauty very much. There are specimens of sharks which made me shiver to look at; and serpents which made the flesh creep even to think of, and tortoises, whose shells are big enough for canoes.
It is quite impossible even to name all the curiosities collected together in this Museum. I was, in truth, quite bewildered at first, and it was not until I had visited the place several times, that I began really to enjoy it. I do not know the reason, but when I am there, I always fancy myself in the ark, and imagine all these birds, and beasts, and reptiles to belong to Noah. There is one difference,
however, between these creatures and those in the ark: these are perfectly quiet; but I suppose those that were shut up, during the deluge, must have had something to say. What an uproar there must have been, with the singing of canaries, the screaming of gulls, the quacking of ducks, the crowing of cocks, the yelling of guinea-hens, the gobbling of turkeys, the whistling of quails, the growling of bears, the chatting of monkeys, the hissing of serpents, the bellowing of bulls, and the roaring of lions!
Beside the curiosities, in the Museum, there is a place connected with it whre they have plays every night. It is, in fact, in a little theatre. I hardly know if you would like to have me go there, for some people believe theatres are very bad. Uncle Ben has let Lucy and me go here, but he does not wish us to get too fond of the theatre. He says it would take our attention from our studies; and though he thinks pretty well of this theatre, he believes theatres, in general, are bad, because they are chiefly designed for foolish and wicked people, and therefore communicate vain and wicked thoughts.
I hope you will not blame me for going to the theatre, nor be displeased, when I tell you that I liked it very much. It seemed half like a dream, and half like a reality. I would tell you more about it, but I have not room. I remember nearly every word of all the plays. I did not know what power of thought and feeling there was in the bosom before I saw a play. It seems to me that the theatre ought to do good, for it may make us feel more deeply the beauty and value of truth and duty, and may make us also more deeply feel the wickedness of falsehood and vice.
I still go to school, and believe I am improving. I find, day by day, that I am acquiring new ideas, and, what pleases me very much, I am getting more able to express my thoughts. I wish you could hear Lucy speak. She utters every word so perfectly that it is a real pleasure to hear her. She reads beautifully. I was never before aware of the charm there is in mere words, well spoken. Nor should I have thought of it, perhaps, had not our teacher told us about it, in giving us reading lessons. He says every spoken word should be like a piece of gold coin, distinct and clear, so that its beauty and value may be readily seen. Perhaps I think the more of this, from the fact that when I came here I had a sort of lisp, for which I got laughed at. Our teaches used to say that I had a mitten on my tongue. I know, at any rate, I had a strange confusion in my brain. I hope I am improving in respect to both.
Perhaps you will laugh at me--but I have been writing poetry! Don't, pray, whisper it to any body, for I should die of shame if it was to leak out. I never write until evening, and not then till I am alone in the chamber, with the door locked. I send you my first piece. I have written it over eleven times. It seems to me pretty good. I believe I like my first poem as much as a cow does her first calf; and if I make some fuss about it to you, I know you will find an excuse. I want, dreadfully, to show it to Lucy, but I dare not, she is so knowing. Well, here it is:--
ADDRESS TO THE MOON. O glorious Luna! fair and bright! Thou art to me a pleasant sight. When I was yet a little boy, I thought thee but a splendid toy; But now I better know thy state-- A world thou art, though not first rate, Because this earth of ours is bigger, And Jupiter cuts a greater figure. Still, glorious Luna, fair and bright, Thou art to me a pleasant sight; The reason why I cannot tell, Although I know it very well: I know that poets bow before thee-- I know that lovers all adore thee; And oft my thumping heart confesses Fair Luna's silvery, soft caresses. While here, in famous Boston town, I think of thee at far Sundown, And often dream, with fond delight, Of coons I've catched there by thy light. O gentle Moon! Shine soft and gay On my dear parents, far away; And let thy gentlest rays fall clear On hills and streams to me so dear. This night thy dancing beams willplay On those fond scenes so far away; They'll shed their light o'er that lone dell Where father, mother humbly dwell; Perhaps they'll shine upon the shed Where the old horse and cow are fed; Perchance they'll wake old cock-a-doodle, And make him say it's morn--the noodle! They'll go where Bottle Nose's wig Warm from the hill-side's peeping, While snug within the warrior's sleeping! O Moon! Could I but share thy flight To those dear scenes, this lovely night, How blest my aching heart would be! But, ah, such joys are not for me! Here I, poor Billy Bump, must stay, In weary exile far away; And only see, in dreamy view, The loveliest spot I ever knew. Sweet Moon, good-by! But grant me this: Give all and each I love a kiss! Father and mother--dog and cat, The cow, the calf, the pig, the rat, The horse, the hens, the bread, the butter, The door, the window, and the shutter; And all the rest, if you have time to, Which I can't stay to get a rhyme to.
There, mother--that's my very first! I know you'll laugh, but you are a good way off, and I shan't hear it. Don't read it to father, for the world. You may say it all over to the horse and cow; tell 'em it's from me, and they'll take it in good part. I tried very hard to bring lucy into the poem, but I could get no word to rhyme with her name, but juicy, and that didn't sound right. I really think my first effort is pretty good, considering. I intend, next to address some lines to the Muse, but I but I must first find out what the Muse is. I have read about the nine Muses, but whether the Muse is their father or mother, their aunt or uncle, is what I am unable to determine. I think the subject a good one, there are so many rhymes to it, such as shoes, blues, ooze, noose, lose, snooze, &c., &c. I can bring Lucy into this poem thus:--
Spirit of air, they call thee gentle Muse-- Alas! I seek thy angel face in vain! Forgive me then, if, thus in doubt, I choose Fair Lucy for the subject of my strain.
You see I got over the difficulty, arising from my not being acquainted with the Muse. Perhaps, after all, as poetry is a matter of fancy, the less we know of what one is talking about, the better. When you write, tell me what you think of my verses. It's very hard work, this writing poetry, and reminds me of an Indian
cutting down an oak-tree with the horn of a buffalo. There's a monstrous deal of hacking and hewing, and counting the fingers, and trying this way and that; but, yet, there's a great deal of poetry turned out every year. What the use of it all is, I can't say; probably the poets find amusement in writing, even if their verses are good for nothing. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and I suspect the fun of poetry lies in making it.
Well, good-by, dear mother! give my love to all, and believe me ever yours,
BILLY BUMP IN BOSTON (from Robert Merry's Museum, March 1849, pp. 90-92)
Letter from William Bump to his Mother, at Sundown.
Boston, July, --.
My dear Mother: I have just been reading your long letter of March 7th. Like all your letters, it made me both sad and glad-- sad, to think how many hardships and privations my parents have suffered, and still suffer; and glad, to think how kind and good they are, and have ever been to me. It also gives me pleasure to see how cheerful you are amid your trials; how you seem to dwell rather on the sunny than the shady side of objects, and even to draw consolation from what might be deemed misfortunes.
I should derive more satisfaction from all this, if I felt that I had deserved your kindness, and had duly profited by your counsel and example. but alas! I must confess that I have come short of my duty, and--what will grieve you more--I have even been guilty of faults, of which I hardly dare to tell you. But as I have promised to open my heart to you, dear mother, I shall never have any peace till I have made a full confession.
It is now about a year and a half since I came to Boston;-- but I must go back to the first week or two after my arrival. You know, mother, I never had been to meeting or to church when I came here. I had an idea of public worship, for I had heard about it, but I did not know exactly what it was.
Well, the next Sunday after my arrival, uncle Ben took me to Trinity Church, with his family. This is a very curious building, and, when I entered it, the scene was so strange that it bewildered me. I went along looking up at the lofty ceiling, and gazing at the people. I finally got to the pew, and sat down; but all this time I was in a maze, and quite forgot to think how I looked or acted. In fact, I kept my hat on; and so every body began to look at me. Some rolled up their eyes, and some smiled, and I saw several boys and girls titter. What it all was about I could not imagine: there I sat, my eyes staring about, and my mouth gaping like an oyster on a gridiron. But by and by I saw Lucy put her hand quietly up to her head, as a sign of something. I looked about, and then observed, for the first time, that all the people had their hats off, except me. In an instant the ridiculous figure I was making flashed upon my mind. It seemed as if I should die with shame. I was on the point of rushing out of the house and setting off immediately for Sundown, when I chanced to see a young fellow in the next pew pointing his finger at me. That made me mad, and, though it was Sunday, and the people had begun to sing a psalm, I said to myself, "If I ever ketch that fellow, I'll lick him!"
Now, it chanced that I often met this youth, as I passed through the streets of Boston; and never did this happen but I felt a rush of blood to my face, and a sort of tingling in my fist. About a fortnight ago, he came to our school, and, as ill luck would have it, he sat on a bench right opposite to me. This brought to mind my mortification in the church, and my special indignation against him for
pointing his finger at me. As I was going home from school, I overtook him, and, stepping up, hit him a pretty smart slap on the side of the head.
This was very wrong, I know, but it really seemed to me I could not help it. The fellow was as much amazed as if he'd met a catamount. He looked at me for explanation, and I replied, "That's for pointing your finger at me, and you may take it for your breakfast; if you ever do such a thing again, I'll give you dinner and supper out of the same dish." I was really wild with anger, for I'd kept my bile bottled up eighteen months, and now it bust out like ginger beer in dog days.
The fellow made his escape, and I went home. The next day, I was called up by the master, on a charge of striking this boy. He had greatly exaggerated what happened; and partly on this account, and partly because I had not courage to confess the truth, I denied it. This led to a close examination, and the result was, that the boy was turned out of school, as having told a falsehood. I triumphed and my enemy was disgraced.
At first, I felt very proud and happy; but pretty soon I began to feel uneasy. I felt something heavy at my heart. I went to sleep in sadness, and when I awoke, it seemed as if all around was dark and gloomy. I had not the pleasure I before experienced in the society of my companions; I enjoyed to sports; I did not relish my meals. It seemed as if some horrible thing had crept into my breast, and was always saying, "You are a liar!" So I grew fearful, and when any body looked at me, I suspected that they heard the voice, and saw my sin in my face. I even became jealous of Lucy, and her presence ceased to please me. Her happiness, her truth, her purity, offended me, for I felt them to be a reproach.
My manners and appearance changed. Lucy noticed this, and, I suppose, talked with aunt about it; for one day, as I was coming in from school, she met me, and asked me to go into the garden with her. I could not refuse. When we were alone, "So," said she, "you are going back to Sundown!"
"How?" said I, in amazement.
"Why, you are miserable here, and of course we suppose you wish to go back, and hunt coons and 'possums in your native place."
"Well, I am ready to go, if that is the decision. I had not thought of it, but I shall be happier any where than here."
"Indeed! How so?"
"I have lost the confidence and affection of all around me-- of my uncle, and my aunt, and, what is still worse, of you."
"Of me? Heaven forbid! Am I not still your cousin? What have I done to show loss of affection, or a defect of confidence?"
I saw the tears gathering in Lucy's eyes. I felt the wickedness and folly of my conduct; but what could I do? Should I confess my guilt--humble myself in the eyes of one whose esteem I prized above every thing else? These cruel questions pierced my breast as with arrows. My pride prevailed for a moment, and I was on the point of becoming a hardened sinner. But, as I again looked at Lucy, a better thought came
over me. "I will confess all," said I, mentally.
I told her my story without disguising the truth, or mitigating my fault. When I had done, "Now," said I, "I am ready to go. Having no title to the good opinion of my friends here, nothing is left but for me to hide my shame in the far-off west. To-morrow I shall say farewell." I went to the house, and shut myself in my room. I refused to leave it, even for my meals. Night came, and I heard a tap at my door. It opened, and my aunt entered.
She sat down, and told me that Lucy had given her an account of what had passed. She spoke of my error as a sad and grievous fault; but said that my sorrow went far to atone for it. She soothed my feelings, though she did not spare my guilt. I asked her advice. She said, I must make due confession to the schoolmaster, as well as to the youth, whose character had suffered through my misrepresentation. Bitter as all this was, such was my humiliation, such the real agony of my heart, that I was glad to purchase peace at so dear a price.
I went to the schoolmaster, and told the whole story. He was grieved, yet he said, as my confession was voluntary, my repentance was, of course, sincere; he hoped therefore that my fault was not likely to be repeated. "Do you forgive me?" said I. "Certainly," said he, "certainly; for my faults in boyhood were greater than yours. And besides, this error is likely to be a warning to you, and I think you will hereafter walk more steadily and securely in the path of virtue, now that you know the danger that besets you. Yes, I forgive you; and what is more, Heaven will forgive you, too, in view of your sorrow and humiliation. But let me call upon you to be thankful that this sin came out. Had it remained concealed, it is likely that your whole soul had been ruined, just as the body may become fatally diseased, by a concealed poison."
You may well believe, dear mother, that in writing this letter, I am discharging a painful duty. I still feel sad and humbled, though my friends here are very kind. They do all they can to make me cheerful, and to efface the remembrance of my misfortune. Lucy, good, and true, and pure, as she is, seems not to love me the less; nay, she takes every opportunity to make me feel at ease--to assure me that we are still cousins in heart, as well as in name.
Do write me soon, mother, and pray forgive your erring boy,
BILLY BUMP IN BOSTON (from Robert Merry's Museum, April 1849, pp. 121-123)
Letter from Mrs. Bump to her Son William.
Sundown, July, 18--.
I have received several letters from you since I have had an opportunity of writing. I am very glad to notice the improvement you are making. This gives me the more pleasure, from the belief that your progress is owing as much to your industry and faithfulness in study, as to your natural gifts and capacity. It is desirable, certainly, to have talents or genius; but it is still more desirable to have industry and the habit of application. The reason is, that many persons who have genius fail of success in life, while those who have industry and application are almost always successful. This truth is set forth by an ancient fable, which I will tell you.
Once upon a time, a Hare, who was on a journey, overtook a Tortoise. They entered into conversation, and it turned out that both were going to the same place--Dismal Swamp--a number of miles distant.
At length the hare said,--
"Really, Mr. Tortoise, excuse me for laughing; but positively it seems to me ridiculous, for a squat, short-legged, lumpy, dumpy, rumpy little gentleman like you, to undertake such a long journey."
"And why so?" said the turtle.
"Because you never will get there," said the long-legged hare.
"'Never' is a long day," said Totty quietly.
"That may be," said the other, all the time jumping, frisking, and throwing himself about as if impatient to be doing something. "But I should die, if I had to waddle and waddle and waddle like you. Why, I can go farther at one jump, than you can in a hundred steps."
"Nevertheless," said the turtle, "I will get to Dismal swamp first."
"I'll bet you ten thousand heads of clover of it,' said the hare.
"I do not like betting," was the reply.
"You dare not!"
"Yes, I dare; and to humor you, I will take your wager.["]
"Done!" said the hare; and after some further talk, the two parted. The hare bounded forward, throwing up his short white tail at the tortoise, as much as to say, "Do you see that? Why, I shall beat you all hollow. My legs are ten times as long as yours, Mr. Waddle. I am a genius, and can do any thing; you are a drudge, and can do nothing." With these ideas the hare seemed to sweep forward like a strip of light.
The tortoise toiled on, beguiling the time by various reflections. "That creature," said he to himself, "seems to have great advantages; but will the gift of long legs cover the frailty of a giddy brain? After all, I shall win the wager. He knows his powers; he knows he can go to Dismal Swamp in a few hours, while it will cost me three days and nights of hard travel. His confidence will ruin him; while my sense of neces-
sity will insure my success. He will be drawn away by tempting heads of clover, and lovely little valleys by the way-side. He will stop to nibble and gambol, and now and then he will doze. Perhaps, too, as he passes through the woods, he will find companions, in whose company he will forget his wager. For myself, conscious that I have short legs, and that industry is my only strength, my only hope, I shall never forget my wager. It will be in my mind day and night, at sunrise and at sunset. Fortunately, as short-legged people have good constitutions, I need not stop long, either for food or rest."
With these ideas, the tortoise crept steadily along, and, slow as his progress might seem, it was really wonderful to see what a distance he had got by sunset. He did not stop, but went ahead. About midnight, as he was passing through a little valley, he heard a rustling sound. Peeping through an opening in the bushes, he saw about a dozen hares, having a row in the moonlight. Among them, he recognized his betting acquaintance, who was freaking, frisking, and frolicking, like the rest. The tortoise put his finger to the side of his nose, significantly, and, saying not a word, went forward.
At the end of three days, the tortoise was at the swamp, and, crawling under a stone, went to sleep with one eye, keeping a lookout with the other for the hare. At last, the latter came, all out of breath. "Whew!" said he; "what a heat I am in! I was really frightened lest that waddling tortoise should have got here first. Fool that he was to bet with me!" At this moment, the tortoise, who was just behind, called out, "O, ho, Mr. Hare! you have come at last. Really, I was afraid something had happened to you!"
"Clover and cabbage!" said Bunn, in utter amazement. "What, you here?"
"Certainly," said Tot; "and I've been here these six hours. I have won the bet. but don't mind--I never eat clover, and so shall not claim the wager. But promise me one thing, Mr. Hare."
"What is it?"
"Never presume upon your long legs, and never laugh at people with short ones. Take a hint from past experience. Those who perform the greatest tasks, and do the greatest good in life, are not the gifted sons of genius, but the humble children of industry and toil. The Deity, who knows every thing, and judges the actions of his creatures, laughs rather at the silly and presumptuous hare, than at the patient and plodding tortoise. He sees the end from the beginning, and judges accordingly."
Such is the fable, and I leave you to make due application of it. I have read your poetry with satisfaction, for, although it would be poor stuff for a man, it is very clever for a schoolboy. It is good to exercise yourself in making verses, even though you never can be a true poet; for it gives you command of language, enlarges your stock of ideas, and serves to refine and give elegance to the mind.
I have read your account of your unfortunate difficulty at school. I will not say that your fault was light. It was wrong to strike the youth as you did, and it shows a dangerous spirit of revenge to
harbor anger so long. For eighteen months, you carried that evil thought in your bosom; and one evil thought never lives alone. It will beget others. So it was with you. you gave way to your revenge. this brought upon you the danger of punishment. To avoid this you told a lie. The lie was the natural fruit of your revenge. Thus one evil ever brings another.
But how happy am I that, in this hour of trial, the kindness and wisdom of friends, through the blessing of God, saved my son! It was a moment of great danger, my dear William, to your whole life and being. Had you been permitted to go on covering up your guilt, probably you had grown up faithless, hypocritical, and contemptible. I can never be too thankful for your escape.
I have no news to tell you. Bottle-nose was here last evening, and told us some curious Indian tales and fables. I shall try to send you an account of them hereafter. Your father is well. Adieu, and may God bless you.
From your affectionate mother,
BILLY BUMP IN BOSTON (from Robert Merry's Museum, June 1849, pp. 184-188)
Letter from Mrs. Bump to her Son William.
Sundown, May 18--.
My Dear Son: I did not expect to write you again so soon, but a good opportunity is offered by a party going from Oregon to New England, to send letters, and so here you have another. I promised to send you some of Bottle Nose's Indian Tales, and so I give you some of them. I shall first tell you the story of
THE HAUNTED CHIEF.
Many winters ago, there dwelt a small tribe along the banks of the Susquehanna, who were so famous in war, that they acquired the name of the Grisly Bears. Every chief was above the ordinary size; they had such strength that they could rend the trees of the forest, and such speed that the wild deer could hardly escape from their pursuit. In battle they had no fear; and terrible was the slaughter they made of their enemies. Their arrows were not only swift, but aimed with deadly certainty. Fierce and fatal were their tomahawks--as the talons of the eagle when stooping upon
the partridge. Keen was their eye to see the foe afar off--as that of the crow when he searches amid forest and thicket for his food. Terrible was their war whoop--as the scream of a thousand panthers!
Near the abode of the Grisly Bears dwelt another tribe, who were so famous for their cunning, that they received the title of the Double Faces. These people were often at war with the Grisly Bears; but so artful were their chiefs, that they often got the advantage, even in battle.
At length, after a long interval of peace, a quarrel arose among these tribes, and they had many skirmishes with each other. In one of them, the Grisly Bears rushed suddenly into the village of the Double Faces and carried off the daughter of the head chief. She was a girl of sixteen, and such was her beauty, that she captivated all the young Indians who gazed upon her. When once an Indian had seen her, it was said that he could not help dreaming about her; and in his dreams, it was believed that the maiden won his heart by magic. At the same time, she was so swift and light of foot, that, as she sped through the forest, she resembled a bird, rather than a human being. For these reasons, she became known far and near, and received the title of Neena Moneka, or the Dream Antelope.
Well, the Grisly Bears had made a capture of the famous Neena Moneka, and great was the joy of the young chiefs in the possession of such a valuable prize. The old chiefs shook their heads, and seemed to fear that some mischief would accrue from the arts and wiles of the beautiful Double Face. "Wisdom," said they," is the gift of age, and folly is the companion of youth."
The very morning after the Dream Antelope had been taken to the village of the Grisly Bears, every young chief in the tribe awoke desperately in love with her. The old chiefs and the old squaws hereupon declared her to be a witch: the facts were proof positive. After long deliberation, it was determined, in grave council, to put her to death. Accordingly, she was tied to a tree, and the best bowmen were summoned to perform the execution. A young chief was called upon first. He was never known to miss his mark: even the flying swallow fell by his fatal arrow. The whole tribe were assembled--the grave warriors, the women, and the children. An Indian values his fame above life; and surely the young chief who is now called upon for a display of his skill, though he may love Neena Moneka, will not disgrace himself, even to save her. He draws his bow, while a breathless silence reigns around. The string twangs, but no one sees the arrow. Where is it? The maiden is unharmed. Surely she is a sorceress!
Another chief is called. He sends his arrow, but it flies wide, and goes sailing on, till it is lost in the distance. Other arrows are sped, but still Neena Moneka is safe. All the young chiefs have tried their hand. "They are bewitched!" said an aged warrior named Stony Heart: "let an old man try his skill!" He seized his bow; he drew the string to his ear, but it snapped at the instant the arrow was about to leave it. Amazed and
ashamed, Stony Heart retired, and Fire Demon, the foremost chieftain of the tribe, took the stand, and prepared to try his skill. His arrow whirled through the air; it grazed tho head of the maiden, and stood trembling in the bark of the tree. The young warriors smiled; the old men and old women shook their heads.
Several other arrows were now tried, and with no better success. At length Neena Moneka spake. "Warriors of the Grisly Bear," said she, "listen! You are strong against men, but feeble against a woman. Your arrows will not touch the heart of a maiden. Unbind me, set me free, and I will be the bride of the chief who captures me!"
A yell of joy burst from the crowd. They all desired to see the race. The girl was unbound; she was set free. Away she flew; but it was not the young warriors only that joined in the chase. The old warriors seemed as much fascinated as the rest, and away they scampered, each one striving to get possession of the beautiful maid. Up hill and down hill, over plain and through thicket, puffed and panted full fifty warriors, some gray with years and scarred with a hundred battles. In vain did their wives scream, jeer, and gibe; their clamor was soon lost in the distance. Light and swift sped the Dream Antelope, always seeming about to be snatched by the eager grasp of one or the foremost, yet, always escaping; and often, when it was fancied that she must inevitably be taken, she would suddenly bound away, leaving her followers far behind.
Over hill and valley flew the chase. Shout, and yell, and halloo at first awoke the forest. But the warriors grew fatigued, and nothing but the crushing shrub, and the panting bosom was heard. On flew the maid--on flew her pursuer. Over mountain and stream, over cliff and cataract they sped. The morning dawned; the noonday passed; the evening came; the night was gone. Another day, and another, and another--the Dream Antelope fled, and the chiefs still pursued. But one by one they fell off. In a short time, but a single chief followed the flying maiden. He seemed to know no fatigue. For some days and some nights, he continued the chase. They came to a broad stream, where the water was rushing onward at a fearful rate. The maiden plunged into the wave. Close at hand, the chief plunged after her. Down the hurrying tide they were borne. They came to the brink of a fearful cataract. The waters broke over it in foam and thunder. In the mist was lost the maiden, and in the mist was lost the warrior also. It was said that their forms were seen a moment in the snowy bubbles below. But death could not divide them. They are now in the land of spirits. On flew the maid, and on flew her pursuer. And thus, still they continue the chase. She is beautiful, but dim and dreamlike, with the form of the lovely Neena Moneka, but ghostly as a strip of moonlight, or a group of stars seen through the summer mist. He, the youthful chieftain, has still the fire of the warrior; but he is rather a shadow, gliding over the land, than a man planting his foot upon the earth. Day and night, summer and
winter, the Dream Antelope speeds onward; and day and night, summer and winter, the beguiled Indian follows the entrancing shadow.
But what became of the other warriors? After many wanderings, one by one, they returned to their village. But, alas! their wigwams were a heap of ashes; and the bones of their women and children were bleaching upon the sod. The Double Faces had taken advantage of the absence of the warriors, and had made their homes a scene of desolation. Such was the fate of the Grisly Bears; and it shows that cunning is an over-match for strength. Such is the legend of the Dream Antelope; and it teaches this lesson--that the beauty of woman is the most fatal of all witchcraft.
This is a long story; but I must tell you another, for it is very curious.
Far away to the south is a land of perpetual summer. Here, in the midst of a beautiful plain, a mountain rises to the clouds. On the top is a forest of flowing trees, which am constantly in bloom. The air is ever fragrant with odors; and the songs of singing birds may be heard by day and by night. No tempests ever visit this lovely plain. Here winter is unknown, and fruits, ever ripe and ever ripening, furnish a constant repast. The ground is soft with mossy turf, and no thorn or prickly pear springs up to injure the foot. And what is most wonderful is, that the inhabitants of this paradise are immortal. Subject to no disease, they never die; time flows on, and they continue from age to age in a perpetual enjoyment of indescribable bliss.
Such is the lovely land, which, among the Indians, bears the title of the Happy Hill. But how is this mountain top to be reached? Ah, that is the question! Seen from a distance, its sides look smooth and gentle; but when the traveller ascends, he finds it encircled by dizzy precipices and dark ravines, filled with hideous serpents. Here, in the deep recesses, the moccasin, the rattlesnake, and the adder, collect in heaps, and fill the air with their hisses. Panthers, wolves, and vultures infest these horrid regions. Grisly shapes of monsters, with long black wings, are seem flitting in the mouths of the caves, or along the deep, shady hollows of the mountain.
It would be madness to attempt to pass such awful barriers, set by the demons to keep mankind from this lovely paradise. One only chance of reaching this mountain top is presented. This is by a bridge, consisting of a single thread, strung across a wide and roaring torrent. It is a terrific feat to cross this airy line, and demands not only great courage, but long and tedious training. And even this is not enough. The adventurer must come to his work with a pure heart. If he has ever been false to his friend, or his tribe, his doom is terrible; he falls into the torrent, and is borne within the bowels of the mountain. Here he lives forever, roaming amid gloomy caverns, hating every thing, and hated by every body. His hair is by degrees turned into the writhing tails of serpents, his tongue becomes a serpent's head, and when he would speak, he can only hiss. Every finger shoots into a hooked claw, and he goes on all fours, like a beast.
Such is said to be the doom of the
treacherous. But who can paint tho joys of those who succeed in gaining the top of the Happy Hill! It is true no one has ever come back, either from the mountain top or the cataract, to reveal his experience; but faith supplies the want of evidence, and every day, and every hour, adventurers are seen on the airy bridge, striving to reach the land of immortal bliss.
Such are some of the tales which our old Indian neighbor has lately told me. They are at least curious, because so different from our own fables and fairy tales. Nor are they without good intention; for after all, the Indians have a conscience, and seem to set a high value upon rectitude of conduct.
I have filled my sheet so full as only to have room to say that we are all well; and may Heaven bless my dear boy.
BILLY BUMP IN BOSTON (from Robert Merry's Museum, July 1849, pp. 20-22)
Letter from William Bump to his Mother.
Boston, July 18--.
My Dear Mother: I have received two letters from you since I last wrote, and pray accept my thanks for them. They were very amusing, and contained some excellent advice. I suppose, by your story of the rabbit and tortoise, you fear that I may have some self-conceit, and be likely to rely upon my own superior abilities, rather than my own industry.
Perhaps I am naturally vain, but I think I am getting cured of this. When I first came from Sundown, I thought I knew almost every thing, and could do almost every thing. I felt as tall as a church steeple when I left home, but a month after I got here I seemed as flat as a pancake. Ever since that, I have been growing less and less in my own estimation.
I believe the more a person knows, the more he is aware of his real ignorance and littleness. Why, mother, there is a library here, called the Athenaeum: in this there are forty thousand volumes, and some of them are as big as a good-sized baby. Most of them are in English; but some are in Greek, and some in Hebrew, some in Latin, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, &c. They tell about all sorts of subjects--history, geography, astronomy, chemistry, and a thousand other things I never even heard of. I was in this library one day with another boy, and he saw a book entitled Numismatics. "Well," said he, "I've heard of Matthew Matocks, but I never heard of this New Miss Mattocks before!"
Well, you see, mother, if I came from Sundown very conceited, it was because I did not know how many wonderful things there were in the world. I have learned better now, and hope, as I gain more knowledge, I shall be still more modest. Uncle Ben told a story, the other day, that touched my case. He said that, some years ago, a famous Indian chief came from the Rocky Mountains to Washington. He was a great warrior, and when he was introduced to the president of the United States, he made a speech. "I am the Big Buffalo," said he. "What hunter can roar so loud as I? What Indian is so swift of foot? Whose arrow is so true as mine? Who knows so well as I how to hunt the grisly bear? Who can follow the trail of a skulking enemy like me? I am indeed a great Brave. Who can compare with me in skill? Who is so wise in council as the Big Buffalo?"
Well, mother, when I first came here, I was a kind of Big Buffalo. I believe all Indians imagine that they are the greatest and wisest people in the world; and I am sure that all boys think they know more than any body else. They are all Big Buffaloes till they become wiser.
It seems to me one of the objects of education is, to find our true position, to estimate ourselves aright, and, with the increase of knowledge, to acquire an increase of modesty.
You may think I am talking very wisely, but I am telling what I have heard our teacher say. He not only makes us learn what is in books, but he talks to us, gives us good advice, and tells us stories, so as to make us understand and remember what he says. He told us, some time ago,
that we ought to be modest and humble, and he gave this as one of his reasons. No one," said he, "who thinks he is on the top of the hill, will attempt to climb higher. He fancies that there is nothing more to be done; he is above every body else. But if you can show him that he is in fact on a very little, low mound, and that there are lofty regions above him, from which he may see sights the most glorious,--cities, nations, kingdoms, empires,-- there is some chance that he may be roused to new efforts, and climb higher and still higher in the path of life, usefulness, duty, and glory."
I was very much pleased with old Bottle Nose's fables, which you sent. How I would like to see the old fellow! It is near three years since I left home, but it seems twice as long. Yet I remember every thing as clearly as if I was there yesterday. I often dream of you, and father, and old Trot, and every thing else at Sundown. You can't conceive how sad I am when I wake, after such a dream, and find that I am still in Boston. Pray, mother, did you ever read some lines called the "Soldier's Dream"? They represent a soldier, far, far away from his wife, and his children, and his home. At night, after a battle, he lays himself down to rest, surrounded by the dead and the dying. He falls asleep, and then, in a dream, he seems to return to his home. The story is beautifully told, and is very affecting.
"When reposing that night on my pallet of straw, By the wolf-scaring fagot that guarded the slain, At the dead of the night a sweet vision I saw, And thrice ere the morning I dreamed it again. "Methought from the battle-field's dreadful array, Far, far, I had roamed on a desolate track; 'Twas autumn, and sunshine arose on the way To the home of my fathers that welcomed me back. "I flew to the pleasant fields, traversed so oft In life's morning march, when my bosom was young, I heard my own mountain-goats bleating aloft, And I knew the sweet strain that the corn-reapers sung. "Then pledged we the wine-cup, and fondly I swore, From my home and my weeping friends never to part; My little ones kissed me a thousand times o'er, And my wife sobbed aloud in her fulness of heart. "'Stay, stay with us,--rest; thou art weary and worn;' And fain was the war-broken soldier to stay; But sorrow returned with the dawning of morn, And the voice in my dreaming ear melted away."
Is it not a sad story? Perhaps I feel it the more, because it reminds me of my own case. I have written a poem in which I have tried to tell one of my dreams. I send it to you, though, by the side of the one I have just repeated, it will seem very flat.
A DREAM OF HOME. Far, far from home, my heart oppressed, I laid me down and sought for rest; I slept, but longing fancy drew A lovely vision to my view.
Methought I roamed by wave and wood, When, lo! my home before me stood. The scenes familiar to my gaze Seemed lovelier than in other days; The elm that o'er the humble shed Its leafy boughs protective spread, The moss-brown roof, the clambering vine, The window where the roses twine, And O, that blest old open door, With narrow, beaten path before!-- So dear, so truthful seemed the view, No shading doubt my bosom knew. As nigh the door, with listening ear And beating heart, I paused to hear Those voices, more than music dear-- I heard my name, and O, how blest, When, to my mother's bosom pressed! With ardent lip my love I spoke! And lo! the glorious vision broke!
Now, mother, don't laugh. The poetry is no doubt foolish enough, but still, I feel so much what I am writing, that I cannot keep the tears out of my eyes. My heart is sadder than usual, for something bad seems to hang over this family. Uncle Ben is very gloomy, aunt is thoughtful, and cousin Lucy looks anxious and pale. What all this means I don't know. I hope nothing bad is going to happen. But to tell you the truth, dear mother, I wish I was at Sundown. Pray give my best love to father, and believe me your dutiful son.
BILLY BUMP IN BOSTON (from Robert Merry's Museum, August 1849, pp. 58-60)
Letter from William Bump to his Mother.
Boston, July --, 18--.
My Dear Mother: It is now five long months since I have written to you. The truth is, I have not had the heart to write. I believe I said, in one of my letters, that there seemed a cloud over this family! Alas, the storm has burst, and sad is the desolation which has followed.
I wish I could pass over the details of the story; but this may not be. About three months since, my aunt came to my room. She was very pale, and looked as if she could hardly stand. She sat down. "My dear Willy," said she, "I must tell you that great and sad misfortunes have fallen upon us."
"O, do not say so," said I, in great terror.
"Nay, but my dear coz, you must know it," continued my aunt. "All the world will know it to-morrow. Your uncle has failed!"
"Failed--failed?" said I. "What does that mean?"
"It means that your uncle cannot pay his debts. He has lost two ships at sea. Several persons, who owed him money, have become unable to pay him. The times are very bad for men in business; and your uncle has suffered by great and heavy losses."
"But, my dear aunt," said I, much relieved, "is that all? Why, you, and Lucy, and uncle are all the same. Why not be happy, then, as before?"
"Ah, William," said aunt, with a sad smile, "when you know the world better, you will learn to judge things more wisely. We are not the same in the eyes of the world. We must quit this house; we must give up all this furniture; we must go to a cheaper dwelling, and live in a very humble way. This I do not mind. But do you know, Willy, that when rich people become unfortunate, they are sure to be treated with contempt?"
"Yet such is the fact. Many envious people rejoice in their downfall, because they think the more others are down, the
better is their chance of getting up. You have seen many people courting and flattering us, while we were deemed prosperous, and while we were in fashion; and most of them will turn their backs upon us, and say evil things of us, as soon as our calamity is known. We shall hear no more of their flattering speeches; we shall see no more of their admiring looks. But all this is not my chief source of trouble. I can bear to become the scorn of the world, if so Providence decrees; but I have great anxiety for others. How my poor husband will bear this, Heaven only knows. He is proud, and has too much set his heart upon wealth, and the position which wealth gave him. I fear the impossibility of meeting his engagements will break his heart, strong as it is. And poor Lucy, too--how sadly are her prospects blasted! But I have cause to be thankful, for the dear child seems an angel sent to cheer us in this hour of gloom. And you, my dear Willy--I suffer on your account. I know your poor mother must feel disappointed to find that we are not able to do as we intended: that is, to establish you in business."
My aunt was going on in this way,--the tears streaming down her cheeks,--when I begged her not to be unhappy for me. I thanked her for being so kind as to tell me her sorrows, and besought her to point out some way in which I might be useful. We went and found Lucy, and talked the matter all over. Lucy was very cheerful, and almost put her mother in good humor. We parted at last, for it was late at night. I did not sleep, but walked my room, revolving all sorts of plans for the future.
The next day uncle Ben's bankruptcy was the town talk. All the gray, old, wrinkled men, who have plenty of money and nothing to do, talked it over in State Street, at placed called insurance offices. His business and character were all thoroughly discussed. Some people were charitable, but the majority turned up their noses. there were a set of shallow fellows, who, being conscious of knowing less than other people, looked wise, and said, "It's just what we expected: we knew this would happen three months ago!"
Well, it was a very bad business. uncle Ben owed ever so much money, and had not more than half enough to pay it. His creditors were very hard with him; and the richest were, of course, the hardest. And beside, there were some cases very aggravating. Uncle Ben had taken the money of widows and orphans to keep, and this was gone with the rest. He did not intend to do any harm; very far from it. But people said he had speculated, and run too great risks. These things cut him to the heart. He put a brave face upon it, especially in the streets. There was a stern smile about his lip, and one deep cloud-spot across his brow; but beside this he seemed the same as ever. He met his creditors; he spoke and acted calmly. Some of them said cruel things to him; but he replied without irritation. He came home; he spoke cheerfully to us all, at least in words. He retired to his room, and begged to be alone. No one dared to intrude upon him. We could hear groans and sobs, though low and stifled. It was fearful to hear these agonies of a great and proud man.
The next day, uncle Ben was found to be in a high fever. He became delirious, and remained for two weeks in a critical state. The disease at last took a bad turn, and at the end of three weeks from the first attack, he breathed his last. O mother, it was dreadful to see poor aunt. I know she would have died, had it not been for Lucy. I cannot tell you about the funeral, it was so sad. Dear me! it makes me wretched to think that there are such melancholy things in the world as death and funerals, and losing friends whom we shall meet no more.
I must now close this sad letter. I do not know what we shall all do. The furniture is to be sold next week. When I write again, we shall all have left the big house in Beacon Street. It makes me feel very, very bad; not for myself, for I could go back to Sundown. If I could forget aunt, and Lucy, and all the sad things that have happened, I should rejoice to go home; but I cannot leave them now. They have been kind to me, and I am ready to die for them, if so God wills it. The only pleasure I take is in thinking of some great thing I can do for them. But I fear this is only idle fancy. However, I am now nearly eighteen, and I shall try to do something.
Give my love always to father, and take ever so much for yourself; and a good-by, dear mother.