MY OWN LIFE AND ADVENTURES, by "Robert Merry" (Samuel Goodrich) (from Robert Merry's Museum, February 1841, pp. 9-15)
[Note: Part of this chapter is drawn from Goodrich's memories of his own first day at school]
I am inclined to think, that, among the various pleasures of life, talking is one of the greatest. Eating and drinking are very good things, especially when one is hungry and thirsty, and has a good meal before him. But they are very short in their duration. The heartiest supper is over in a few minutes, and drinking, in as many seconds. Beside, these are selfish pleasures, and afford only the single satisfaction of an immediate appetite. But talking is not confined to self, nor is it limited to the body. It exercises the mind, and extends alike to the speaker and the listener.
The love of talking exhibits itself in very infancy. The little prattler, even before he can speak words, tries to amuse you with his inarticulate gabble. And when he has learned a word, with what glory does he repeat it to you! A young soldier touches off a cannon with
less exultation than the infant pronounces his first articulate syllable.
And then, look at a group of children! How eager are they to speak to each other! How their little tongues rattle! Sometimes all will speak at once, whether anybody listens or not. It is often hard to get a word in edgewise among such a set of orators.
Suppose some child has been away, and comes home with a piece of news. How does he rush into the room, scarcely taking time to hang up his hat or cap, and with staring eyes and ruddy cheeks, set forth the wondrous tale! Suppose a child has seen something new, as a lion or an elephant; how does he talk of it to his companions! Or, suppose he has been rambling in the woods, and has seen an eagle, or a gray squirrel, or a woodchuck,--something he had never seen before,--how eager is he to talk about it!
Thus it is with the young: they love to talk of things that interest them; and thus it is with those who have pased from the morning of life toward its setting sun. It may be that old people are less talkative than young ones; but still we all love to speak to others of that which excites our own feelings, or occupies our minds. Talking, then, is one of the great pleasures of life, and God has no doubt made it so for good and wise purposes. How large a portion of the happiness of life would be cut off, if we were all dumb!
For myself, I was a great rattler in youth, and, even now that my hair is grizzled with years, I must confess that I am not greatly altered in this respect. My life has been a varied one, and I have seen a good deal of the world. I cannot pretend to be so great a traveller as Peter Parley, nor can I match him in telling stories to babies. But still give me a good listener, and something to speak about, and I can talk from sunrise to sunset.
I love better to talk to youth than to others. Those who are from eight to sixteen years old, are my chosen friends. I always find some way of entertaining them. Several bright-eyed girls and boys are in the habit of coming to see me, and I tell them my long stories. They come again and again, and I infer that they are pleased with them. I tell them sometimes of giants and fairies; but it is curious, that, while most young people prefer these tales of fancy, I succeed much better in pleasing my listeners by talking to them about things that really exist, or have really happened. Truth, after all, is more attractive than fiction, if it is only dressed in a proper guise.
My own adventures seem to give my listeners the most pleasure; for I have been all over the United States; have been a soldier, and seen service; have been a pedler, and travelled thousands of miles on foot; have met with strange accidents and hairbreadth escapes from danger; and have had my share of what is called hard luck. Still, I have reason to thank Heaven that my heart is happy, and my mind cheerful. I love sunshine as well as when I was a boy, and see much more occasion to laugh than to cry. I have indeed my serious moods, for there are some subjects that demand seriousness and reverence. Religion claims some of our time, and much of our thought. The Sabbath is with me a day of solemn reflection and prayer. I bend over the Bible, with a feeling that I am listening to the voice of God. These things make me serious, but not sad. As the sun seems to shine brighter, when it comes out from a cloud, so my heart is ever more serene
and cheerful, for its communion with holy things.
But this is enough for an introduction. I am now going to tell the story of my own life, which I hope may prove both amusing and instructive.
About my Birth.--The Death of my Parents.--My first Journey.--My Wonder at seeing the Country.--Lambs.--I find out where Milk comes from.--Reflections and good Advice.
I was born in the city of New York, in the year 1790. My parents were both English people. At first, they were in poor circumstances, but my father became a merchant, and acquired some property. He died, however, in the midst of success; and in a few months after my father followed. I was thus left an orphan, at the age of six years, but with a fortune of about ten thousand dollars.
My mother had a brother living in the small town of Salem, situated upon the eastern border of the State of New York, and touching the line of Connecticut. He kept a tavern; and, as it was upon the great road that was then the route between Boston and New York, he had a good situation and a thriving business.
To the care of this uncle I was committed by my mother's will, and immediately after her death I was taken to my uncle's residence. I had never been out of the city of New York, and had never seen the country. I had supposed the world one great city, and never fancied that there were hills, and forests, and rivers, and fields without any houses. I still remember my journey from New York to Salem very well. I remember that the sight of so many new things, put the recollection of my father and my mother out of my mind, and banished the sorrow I had felt at seeing my parents laid into the coffin, and carried away, to return to me no more. I was delighted at everything I met, and particularly remember some lambs that I saw playing on a hill-side. They were scampering about, jumping from rock to rock, and chasing each other at full speed. I had never seen a lamb before, and I thought these the prettiest creatures that were ever made. I have since seen lions and tigers, and many other strange creatures; but I have never met with any animal that excited in me half the admiration that I felt when I saw those little lambs.
I suppose some of my young friends in the country will laugh at what I am now going to tell them; but it is nevertheless true. As I was going from New York to Salem, we stopped one night at a small inn. When we arrived at this place, the sun was an hour high, and I had some time to play about the house. As I was running around, peeping at every new and strange thing, I saw some cows in the barn-yard. I had seen cows before, but still I went up to the gate and looked through, and there I saw a woman, sitting upon a little stool, and milking one of the cows. Now I had never seen a cow milked before, nor, indeed, did I know where milk came from. I had not thought about it at all. If I had been asked the question, I shoudl probably have said, that we got milk as we do water, by pumping it from the cistern, or drawing it out of the well.
I looked at the woman for some time, wondering what she could be about. When she had done, she came out of the yard, and I saw that her pail was full of milk. "What is that that you
have got?" said I. "It is milk," said the woman. "Where did you get it?" said I. "I got it from the cow, you little simpleton!" said the woman; and then she went into the house.
I did not like to be called a simpleton, for I had come all the way from the great city of New York, and supposed that I knew everything. I soon found, however, that I was ignorant of many useful things that children of my age in the country were well acquainted with.
The little incident, however, that I have just related, was not without its use to me. It set me thinking about other things, and I began to ask questions about every article of food and dress--where they came from, and how they were made; and in this way, I obtained a great deal of knowledge. I would recommend it to my young readers to follow my example in this respect. They will find it very amusing to study into these matters. Let them one day inquire about hats, what they are made of, where the materials come from, how they are obtained, and how they are wrought into hats. Another day, let them take up the subject of coats, and learn all about the cloth, the buckram, silk, twist, and buttons, that are used in making them. So let them go through with dress; and then they may inquire about bread, and other articles of food; and then they may learn all about the furniture in the house. From this subject, they may go on and learn how houses are built. I can assure my young readers, that, in this way, they may spend their time very pleasantly, and become well acquainted with all those useful things with which we are surrounded. If I had done this before I went to Salem, I should have known where milk came from, and not been called simpleton by a milkmaid.
Wise Observation.--Story of the Hat.
I fancy that some of my readers imagine, that it would be a dull business to study into the history of hats and coats, bread and butter, and such other common-place things. But there is an old proverb which says, "Look ere you leap;" and another which says, "Think twice and speak once." These admonish us never to be over-hasty in speaking or acting; and, on the present occasion, I shall endeavor to show,t hat this good rule has been transgressed by those who despise my advice about hats and coats, bread and butter.
Here, Philip! give me a hat; let it speak for itself. Come, old
hat, tell us your story! tell us what you are made of; where the materials
of which you are made were obtained, how they were put together, and the
price at which you were sold. Come, old beaver, speak out! What! dumb?
Not a word? Then I will speak for you. So here is
"I am made partly of wool, which is the hair of sheep, and partly of furs, of different kinds. There is some beaver's fur, some musquash's, and some wildcat's in me.
"I suppose that everybody knows how we get wool,--by shearing it from the sheep's back; but we do not get furs in the same way. Musquashes, beavers, and wildcats are not tame, like sheep, and they will not let you take them into a barn, and shear off there nice, soft fur. These creatures live far away from the abodes of men; they seek the distant solitudes beyond the hills and mountains, and those who
would catch them must go and find them in these wild retreats.
"Sometimes, it is true, a beaver is found nearer to our houses, and now and then a wildcat, that has strayed from his native forest, is found in the neighboring woods. The musquash builds his habitation on the banks of streams, and is not very uncommon even in districts frequented by man.
"But these animals are, on the whole, so scarce, that, in order to obtain a supply of their fur, a great many hunters and trappers spend their time in roaming through the mountains, valleys, and prairies of the far West, in order to obtain them. These people meet with a great many strange adventures. Sometimes they will follow the branch of a river for five hundred miles, in a boat, during which time they will not meet with a human habitation, save the wigwams of the Indians. Sometimes they will sleep at night upon the ground, with no covering but a blanket; sometimes they will meet with a party of Indians, and have a fight with them. Sometimes they will meet with friendly Indians, who receive them into their lodges, and entertain them kindly; sometimes they are confronted by a grizzly bear, who places himself in their path, and must receive at least a dozen bullets in his breast before he is killed. Sometimes they will roam over wide deserts, and suffer very much for want of water. Sometimes they will be in the midst of a vast prairie, the grass of which is on fire, and then they have the greatest difficulty to escape from the flames. Sometimes they are robbed of all their furs by hostile Indians, and sometimes they meet with Indians who sell them large quantities of fur.
"After a great many cares, and trials, and dangers, and often after an absence of two years, the fur-hunter comes back with his load of skins; and a pretty figure he is. The clothes he carried with him are worn out, and he is now attired in the skins of various wild beasts. On his head you see the grizzled fur of a racoon, with his tail hanging down behind. His coat is made of a wolf's skin, and his vest of the skin of an otter. But his trowsers are the drollest part of his attire. They are made of a bear's skin, and each leg looks like a great, shaggy, black dog, standing upright! Altogether, the hunter is a most curious object. He looks like three or four wild animals all sewed into one!
"What a great variety of adventures has this man met with in his wanderings of two years. How many pleasant stories could he tell, if he would sit down of a long winter night, and recount all that happened to him; all about the bears, the foxes, the wolves, and the wild Indians that he saw. How much this poor man must have suffered; what toil, hunger, thirst, danger and privation; and all this, that master Philip might have a hat; all this to get furs to make hats of.
"The wool and fur being obtained, these are prepared by the hatter, who, in the first place, makes a sort of cap, shaped something like a sugar-loaf. This is then soaked in hot water, and, being put upon a block, the crown is made of a proper shape. The whole is stiffened with gum, colored, dressed, put in boxes, and sent to the hat-seller. The price paid for me was two dollars. Philip has worn me for about a year, but I am in a sad condition. The hole in my crown was made by a stick, which went through me one day when Philip threw me at a red squirrel on the fence. The rent on my brim was caused by a saucy fellow, that tried to pull me off one day,
but I chose to be torn, rather than see Philip insulted by having his hat knocked off; for, though the boy has his faults, I like him better than anybody else."
Such is the story of the hat. My object in giving it to you is, to show, that the commonest article of daily use has its history, if we will only inquire into it.
Arrival at my Uncles.--The Village.--Bill Keeler.--My First Day at School.--Trouble.
I must now return to the story of myself. The morning after I left the little tavern where I discovered how milk was obtained, we proceeded on our journey, and at evening arrived at my uncle's house. It was an old-fashioned building, painted red, with a large sign swinging in front, upon one side of which was the picture of a stout barn-yard cock, and on the other side was the head of a bull. So my uncle's tavern went by the name of the "Cock and Bull."
I soon became acquainted with the family, and in a few weeks was quite familiar with the main street and all the by-lanes in the village. My uncle had no children, but there was living with him a boy about ten years old, by the name of Bill Keeler. He became my principal companion, and, being a very knowing sort of lad, gave me an insight into many things, which i could not otherwise have understood.
After I had been at my uncle's about six months, it was concluded to send me to school. I was now seven years of age, but, strange as it may seem to boys and girls of the present day, I did not know my letters, and, what is more remarkable, I had a great dislike to the idea of going to school. I believe it is the case that ll people who grow up ignorant acquire a settled dislike to learning and learned people. As an owl can see best in the dark, because the light seems to put his eyes out, so ignorant people love ignorance and darkness, because truth and knowledge offend and distress them. I mention these things as a warning to my reader against growing up in ignorance, and thereby becoming a lover of darkness, rather than light.
Well, I went to school for the first time, and I remember all about it to this day. The schoolhouse was situated in a large space, where four roads met. It was a bleak and desolate hill-side, partly covered with heaps of stones, thrown out of the path, or gathered from the neighboring fields. There were a few groups of tangled briers and stunted huckleberry bushes amid these heaps of stones. On the lower side of the hill, there was an old gnarled oak growing out of a heap of splintered rocks, at the foot of which there babbled forth a small stream of pure water. This fountain went by the pretty name of Silver Spring.
Bill Keeler led me into the school, which was then kept by Mistress Sally St. John. She looked at me through her spectacles, and then patted me on the head, told me I was a good boy, and sent me to a seat. In about an hour I was called up, the spelling-book opened, and the alphabet being placed before me, the mistress pointed to the first letter, and asked me what it was.
I looked at the letter very carefully, and then gazed in the face of Mistress St. John, but said nothing. "What's that?" said she, peremptorily, still pointing to the first letter of the alphabet.
Now I hadn't been used to being scolded, and therefore felt a little angry at the manner in which the school-mistress addressed me. Beside, at that moment I saw Bill Keeler at the other end of the room, looking at me with a saucy twinkle in his eye, which made me still more angry.
"What's that?" again said the school-mistress, still harper than before. It was time for me to do something. "I'll not tell you!" said I. "Why not?" said the school-mistress, greatly amazed at my conduct. "Because I didn't come here to teach you your letters; but I came here to learn them."
The school-mistress shut up her book. Bill Keeler rolled up his eyes, and made his mouth into a round O. "Go to your seat!" said the school-mistress. I turned to go. "Stop!" said the school-mistress, fetching me a slap on the side of the head; at the same moment she opened the book, and again presented the alphabet to my view. "Look, there!" said she, pointing with her finger to the top letter; "do you see that?" I answered, "Yes." "Well, that's A," said she. "That's A?" said I, doubtingly. "Yes," said the mistress sharply. "I don't believe it!" said I. "Why don't you believe it?" said she. "Because I never heard of it before," I replied. "Go to your seat!" said the school-mistress, and away I went.
Such was my first day's schooling. In the evening, Mistress St. John called upon my uncle, and told him I was the most stupid creature she ever saw, and very ill-mannered beside; and she hoped I would by no means be permitted to come again to her school. My uncle was greatly offended, not with me, but with the school-mistress. He declared I should not go near her again; and, for more than a year, I was permitted to amuse myself in my own way. I was greatly pleased with all this at the time, but I have since often thought how severely I was punished for my ill behavior at school. For more than a year, I was left to run about in idleness, getting bad habits, and losing the precious time that should have been devoted to the acquisition of knowledge. Thus it always happens, that, soon or late, we are made to suffer for our misconduct.
MY OWN LIFE AND ADVENTURES, by "Robert Merry" (Samuel Goodrich) (from Robert Merry's Museum, March 1841, pp. 33-35)
About Bill Keeler--The Fox-Trap, and Mistress Sally St. John.--A Hunting Excursion.--Extraordinary large Game!--A remarkable Story to Come.
The little town of Salem was situated at the foot of a mountain, consisting of wild and broken ridges, forming the boundary between the states of New York and Connecticut. Being now almost entirely at liberty, I spent a great part of my time in rambling among the mountains. In these excursions, Bill Keeler was my almost constant attendant. My uncle, disposed to humor me in everything, allowed me to dispose of my time as I chose, and permitted Bill to leave his work or school, whenever I desired his company, and this was almost every day.
This boy was, in general, very good-natured. He was ingenious in making whistles, and setting snares and traps for quails, partridges, and rabbits; in cutting fish-poles, attaching the hook to the line, digging worms for bait, and putting the bait on the hook. He had also a knack of putting the hook and line into the water in such an insinuating manner, that he always caught more and bigger fish than any one else. He was a dexterous swimmer, expert in strapping skates, formed the best flying kites in the village, made bows and arrows to perfection, and could gather more chestnuts, butternuts, and shagbarks, than any boy in the town.
All these various accomplishments rendered Bill Keeler a delightful companion to me, who, having been brought up in the city, had little acquaintance with those arts, so well understood by boys in the country. He was particu-
larly devoted to me, partly because of his good nature, and partly because my uncle was so indulgent to me, that all around had caught his habit of yielding to my wishes.
But although Bill was thus clever, and thus obliging to me, he was so restless and enterprising, as always to be in some scrape or other. One day, he had seen the burrow of a woodchuck in a field behind the house of Mistress Sally St. John. So he took a large fox-trap, and sunk it to the level of the ground, and in the very path where the woodchuck was accustomed to go. He then sprinkled it over with earth, so as to make it appear as if no trap was there. Next morning, pretty early, Bill went to see his trap, expecting of course to find that he had caught the woodchuck. But what was his dismay, on approaching the place, to find Sally St. John herself, standing bolt upright, screaming and piping with all her might, and throwing up her hands in despair! Bill went near enough to see that she had one foot fast in the trap. He then turned about, and left the poor school-mistress to be extricated by her neighbors. For this Bill got a sound flogging from my uncle, but he felt well compensated by being released from school for a month; for, during that period, poor Sally was too lame to resume her duties at the schoolhouse.
My companion's next exploit was equally serious. If there was anything on earth that he loved better than another, it was gunpowder. Why he had such a fancy for it, I cannot tell, unless because it was a noisy, tearing, dangerous thing, like himself. But be this as it may, he spent more than half the little money he could get in guying it. Every day he was touching off some old pistol-barrel, rammed full of powder; or he was trying to split a pepperidge loge with it, by filling some knot-hole, and exploding it. But his greatest delight was to get my uncle's gun, one of the real old "King's arms," taken at the battle of Princeton, and go forth with as big a feeling in him as that which inspired Nimrod, the first hunter that history tells about.
Well, one afternoon he got the gun, and he and I went among the mountains to hunt for something. Pretty soon we saw a squirrel, but Bill was so intent on killing a bear, a raccoon, or some large animal, that he scorned to shoot a squirrel. So we went on, and met with various kinds of small game, but none worthy of the attention of my heroic friend. We proceeded for some time, and finding no large game, Bill determined to shoot a squirrel if he could met with one. But no squirrel was now to be seen. He gradually lowered his pretensions, until, at length, he was so anxious to shoot something, that he drew up at a wren, and was on the point of discharging his piece at it, when the bird flew away, and we saw no more of it.
It was now evening, and we were at a considerable distance from home. We walked along as fast as we could, and Bill, who was never out of spirits, beguiled the time by telling what he would have done, if something had fallen in his way. "If a wolf had come along in the woods," said Bill, drawing up the old piece, and taking aim at a mullen stalk, "and if he had come near enough, how I would have peppered him!"
Just at that instant we heard a rustling sound in a meadow, that we were passing. It was too dark to see distinctly, but Bill peeped through the rail-fence, and, saying to me with an emphatic whisper, "Be still; I see one!" he cocked the gun and brought the heavy old piece to a level with his eye. After a long, portentous aim, during which I winked so hard as nearly to put my eye out--whang! it went, and Bill was stretched backward upon the grass in an instant, by the kicking of the gun! He very soon got up, however, and jumped over the fence to pick up his game. He was gone but a minute, and when he came back he only said, "Well, I peppered him!" "Peppered what?" said I. "No matter," said he; and that was all I could get out of him. But the next morning one of Deacon Kellogg's cows was found in a thicket, shot through the head, and dead as a hatchet! Bill was obliged to confess, and my uncle settled the affair by paying thirteen dollars and forty-two cents. It was not till several years after, that Bill would tell me what he took the cow for when he fired at her. He then said, that his fancy was so full of shooting a wolf, and he was so ravenous to shoot something, that he really took the poor old cow to be a wolf, or a creature very like one.
The next event of my life, that seems worth recording, was very interesting to me. But I must reserve this story for another chapter.
MY OWN LIFE AND ADVENTURES, by "Robert Merry" (Samuel Goodrich) (from Robert Merry's Museum, April 1841, pp. 65-71)
[Note: Part of this chapter is drawn from Goodrich's memories of Sarah Bishop, who lived as a Connecticut hermit.]
My new Gun.--Obstinacy.--Setting out on a Hunting Expedition.--A Strange Character.--Mountain Sport.--A Snow-Storm.--Getting lost.--Serious Adventures.
I have said enough as to the indulgent manner in which I was treated at my uncle's, not only by him, but by others, to who that no very great restraints were laid upon my wishes, or even my caprices. At the time, I thought it very pleasant to be permitted to have my own way; but I have since been led to believe that most of the serious evils of my life have flowed from this defect in my early education. We all of us need to be brought up to follow duty rather than pleasure, or, to speak more properly, to find our pleasure in doing our duty. If parents send their children to school, it is the duty of their children not only to go, but to improve all the advantages offered them. It is their duty to learn their lessons well and thoroughly, and to obey the rules of the school; and children that are properly educated, and who have right feelings, will do this with cheerfulness and satisfaction. Thus they will find pleasure in following the path of duty.
This is very important for the happiness of children, while they are children,--for there is no pleasure so sweet as that which is found in doing something useful and right; but it is still more important in another point of view. In early life, we form habits, and they are likely to guide us ever after. It is easy for us to act according to habit, and it is difficult for us to act otherwise. A child who is brought up in the habit of finding pleasure in doing his duty, is likely to go on so through life; and thus he will secure happiness in this
world and that which is to come: while a child who is brought up without a sense of duty, and at the same time is permitted to follow his fancy, is apt always to be guided rather by his whims, his caprices, and his passions, than by any right feeling or right principle. Such a person is almost sure to meet with much trouble in life, and there is great danger that he will turn out an unhappy and unfortunate man.
Now I was brought up in this manner, and though my uncle intended me the greatest kindness by his system of indulgence, it was, in point of fact, the most mischievous that could have been devised. I grew up headstrong and passionate, and though my temper was naturally good, it seemed rather to be injured than benefited by the manner in which I was treated. I could not bear anything that thwarted my wishes. I was very easily offended, and became selfish, unreasonable, and unjust, in proportion as I was petted and flattered. Thus it happened in my case, as it always happens, that having my own way made me what is called a spoiled child; and accordingly, I became disagreeable to myself and almost everybody else.
I am particular in telling all this for two reasons:--first, to show to parents, that if they do not wish their children to be miserable and disagreeable--if they do not wish to lay the foundation of selfishness, caprice, and injustice in the hearts of their offspring--let them govern their children, make them mind, make them do right. If parents do not wish to have their children ruined, let them avoid a system of indulgence. My other reason for giving these details is, that I hope to persuade children to do their duty cheerfully, because this is really the best, the happiest way. It is not only the best for the future, but the present; not only best in view of manhood, but for childhood itself.
I am now going to relate some circumstances, which will illustrate some things I have been saying. It will show not only how much my temper had been injured, but into what evils a thoughtless and headstrong youth will rush, if given up to his own guidance.
On a certain day in January, it had been agreed between Bill Keeler and myself, that we would proceed to the mountain for the purpose of hunting. My uncle had bought me a new fowling-piece, and on this occasion I was to take it with me. I looked forward to the day with great impatience, and when at last it arrived, Bill and myself were up by day-break, ready to depart. The winter had thus far been remarkably mild and open. There was as yet no snow on the ground. But when we were about to leave the house on our expedition, my uncle, who had been out of doors, told us that it was going to snow, and we had better not venture among the mountains. I was immediately angry at this advice, and told my uncle that I would go, whether he thought it best or not. With more than ordinary spirit, he replied that I should not go! This resistance set me in a blaze. I seized my gun, uttered some words of defiance, and rushed out of the house. Finding me thus determined and incorrigible, my yielding uncle told Bill, who stood still all the time, seeming to know how it would turn out, to go with me, and take good care of me. Accordingly he soon joined me, and we went on together, laughing heartily at the scene which had just passed.
We soon reached the forests that lay at the foot of the mountain, and while it was yet somewhat dark, we began to climb up the ledges. As we wer passing through a small copse of tall trees without underwood. I heard the step of something near by, and immediately discovered a dark object passing slowly
on before me. I drew up my piece, and was on the point of firing, when Bill struck down the barrel of my gun, and exclaimed, "For Heaven's sake, don't fire!--it's Old Sarah!" This was said and done in season to prevent my shooting the object at which I aimed, but not to stop the discharge of my firelock. The shot struck the ground at the very feet of my companion, thus coming very near taking his life.
The noise of my gun aroused the attention of the singular old woman, whom, with the ardor of a youthful hunter, I had taken for a wild-cat or a wolf. She turned round, and began to speak in a warning voice. "Go back!" said she, at the pitch of her lungs, "go back! for the snow is already falling, and you will both get lost in the woods. In one hour the paths will be covered, and then you cannot find your way among the mountains!"
Bill and I both laughed at all this, and I am sorry to say that we returned the kind anxiety of the old woman for our safety, with jeers and gibes. "Take care of yourself! and we will take care of ourselves," said I. "Keep your breath to cool your porridge," said Bill. with this and similar impertinence, we passed up the acclivity, leaving the decrepit old woman to climb the mountain as she might.
I had seen this personage before, and had heard something of her story; but I was now curious to know more. Accordingly, I asked Bill about her, and he proceeded to tell me all that was known of her character and history. She was a native of Long Island, and during the war of the Revolution had become attached to a British officer, who was stationed there. He wronged her cruelly, and then deserted her. With a mind somewhat bewildered, she wandered into the country, and took up her abode in a cave of the very mountain we were now ascending. Here she had lived for years, visiting the villages in the vicinity in the open seasons, but retiring to her den and subsisting on nuts and roots during the winter. Many wild stories were told of her. It was said that she had lived so long in the mountain, that the foxes had become familiar with her, and would come and lick her hands. It was said the crows would sit on her bread, and the rattlesnakes coil in her lap. Beside all these tales, it was said that "Old Sarah," as she was called, was a witch, and many persons declared that they had seen her just at dark, or before a thunder-storm, flying through the air on a broomstick.
Bill's narrative was cut short by the sudden whizzing of a partridge from a bush just before me. Another and another soon followed. These creatures are very cunning. They are always on the watch, and when they hear or see any one coming, they get on the opposite side of some rock, or thicket, or tree, and remain concealed till the person comes near. Then they burst away with a startling, rushing sound, taking good care to keep the rock, or tree, or thicket between them and their enemy, until they are at a distance.
At least a dozen of these fine birds broke away from their cover, but neither Bill nor myself had a chance for a shot. So we went on, greatly excited, however, by the game we had seen. It was not long before we met with another covey of partridges, and firing at random, I killed one of them. Great was my exultation, for I had never killed a partridge before; and beside, I had shot it with my new gun; and, more than all, Bill, who was expert at every kind of sport, had as yet met with no success. As I picked up the large and beautiful bird, still fluttering and whirling round in my hand, and held it forth to my companion, I imagine that I felt of as much
consequence as Bonaparte did when he had conquered the Austrians in the famous field of Austerlitz.
Excited by this triumph of skill and my new gun, we continued to push forward, though it was now snowing fast; and the ground was already covered to the depth of two or three inches. Frequently meeting with some kind of game, though we got little of it, we traversed one ridge after another, until we were involved in a sea of small and thickly wooded ridges and ravines, that crowned the top of the mountain. Scarcely heeding the course we took, or thinking of return, we proceeded for several hours. At last we came to a small hill, and it was agreed between Bill and myself that he should take the valley on one side, and I on the other, and we would meet beyond it.
I had not gone far before a rabbit rushed by me with prodigious bounds, and entered a thicket at a little distance. I followed it, but as I approached, it plunged farther into the bushes. Intent upon the pursuit, and guided by its footsteps in the snow, I pursued it from place to place, from thicket to thicket, but without being able to get a shot at it. At last it disappeared amid a heap of stones. As these were loose and not large, I began to pull them away, expecting every moment to reach the object of my pursuit. But after working here for some time, I was obliged to give up the effort in despair, and leaving the place, I set out to join my companion. So intent had I been upon my object, that I had not marked my route or noticed the lapse of time. As soon as I began to think of joining him, however, I became conscious that I had gone a considerable distance out of my way, and had spent a long time in the chase of the rabbit. I therefore proceeded with as much rapidity as the rugged nature of the ground and the dense forest would allow, and in the direction as I supposed, toward the extremity of the ridge, where Bill and I were to meet.
It was not long, however, before I became assured that I had lost my way--and that, instead of approaching the point designated, I had wanderd a great way from it. I now began to retrace my steps, and for a time was guided by my tracks in the snow. But the storm had set in in earnest. The large flakes fell thick and fast, filling the air with a dense cloud, and seeming to pour down upon the earth as if shovelled from some reservoir in the skies. In a few minutes after I had passed along, my tracks were completely covered up, and no trace of them could be seen.
My situation was now serious, and I began to consider what was to be done. The advice of my uncle came in my mind, and the warning of the grizzly old woman crept over me with a sort of shudder. I fired my gun, hoping to make Bill hear it, and waited in breathless anxiety for a reply. But the wind was roaring in the tops of the tall trees, and neither the mountain nor the tempest seemed to heed my distress, any more than if I had been an insect. I was never in my life so struck with my utter helplessness. I was not accustomed to take care of myself. In any difficulty heretofore, I had hitherto always found some one to extricate me. But I was now alone. No one was here to aid me. At first I gave way to despair. I threw my gun to the ground in a pet, and lay down myself, and with bitter lamentations bewailed my fate. But the gray, gnarled old trees and sturdy rocks around took not the slightest notice of my distress. I fancied that I could almost see them smile at my vain wailings. They did not, at any rate, rush to my relief, and soothe my agony. For once, I was
obliged to rely upon myself; and it was a stern lesson, which I have never forgotten.
After a few moments, I rose from the ground, brushed off the snow from my clothes, and began seriously to devise some plan of action. But here, again, my habit of dependency came in my way. Little accustomed to think or act for myself in any emergency, I was a poor hand for contrivance. My convenient friend, Bill Keeler, had been accustomed always to save me the trouble of making any mental or bodily exertion. O how ardently did I now wish that he was with me! How did I fill the mountain with cries of his name! But there was no return. Even the throat of the mountain, that had ever before been so ready with its echoes, was now choked up with the thickening shower of snow. Nothing could be heard but one deafening roar of the gale, chafing the uneasy tops of the trees.
I concluded to set out in what seemed to me the direction of my home, and to push straight forward till I was extricated from the wilds of the mountain. I began to put this scheme in execution, and for more than an hour I plodded on through the woods. I proceeded with considerable rapidity for a time, but the snow was now a foot in depth, and as it impeded my progress, so it diminished my strength. I was, at length, obliged to slacken my pace, and finally, being completely wearied out, I sat down beneath the branches of a large hemlock tree, to rest myself. This spot was so sheltered by the thickly woven branches as to be free from snow, and here I continued for some time. When I got up to proceed, I found my limbs so stiffened that it was difficult for me to move. At the same time a dizziness came over me, and I fell to the ground.
It was not till the next day that I had any consciousness of existence. When I awoke, I was in a dark, rocky cavern, with a grizzly old woman by my side. At first, I fancied it all to be some strange dream, and expected to awake and find myself in my comfortable bed at my uncle's. But pretty soon, remembrances of the preceding day came back, and guessing at the truth, I asked--"Is that you, Sarah?" "It is me," said the old woman; "and you are in my cave." "And you have saved my life, then?" said I, half rising from my recumbent position. "Yes--yes," said she; "I found you beneath the hemlock, and I brought you here. But you must be quiet, for you have suffered, and need care and rest."
I need not attempt to tell how gratefully I thanked the poor old hermitess, and how I begged pardon for my impertinence on the preceding morning. I then began to inquire about other things--the depth of the snow; whether anything was known of my companion; and how and when I could return to my uncle. In reply, I was told taht there was at least four feet of snow on the ground; that it was therefore impossible to attempt to leave the cave; that Bill Keeler, being an expert woodsman, had no doubt found his way home; and that in all probability I was given up by my friends as lost.
I was obliged to be content with this recital, though it left me much cause of anxiety, especially on account of my companion, for whom I entertained a sincere affection. Being, however, in some degree pacified, I began to consider my condition. Here I was, in a cave formed by nature in a rock, and my only companion was a gray old dame, her long hair almost as white as the snow-drift, her form bent, her eyes bleared and colorless, her face brown and wrinkled. Beside all this, she was esteemed a witch, and while feared and shunned by mankind, she was regarded
as the familiar companion of the wild fox and the rattlesnake.
Nor was this all that rendered my situation singular. There was no fire in the place I inhabited, yet, strange to say, I did not suffer from the cold. Nor were there any articles of furniture. The only food that was given to me consisted of butternuts and walnuts, with a little dried beef and bread which Old Sarah had brought from the village.
For two days and two nights I remained at this place, the greater part of the time lying upon the bottom of the cave on my back, with only a ray of light admitted through the cleft of the rock, which served as a door, and which was partially closed by two large pieces of bark. On the third day I was looking from the mouth of the cave upon the scene around, when I saw a figure at a considerable distance, attempting to make its way through the snow, in the direction of the cave. At first sight I knew it to be Bill Keeler! I clambered upon the top of a rock, and shouted with all my might. I was soon discovered, and my shout was answered by Bill's well-known voice. It was a happy moment for us both. I threw up my arms in ecstasy, and Bill did the same, jumping up and down in the deep snow, as if he were light as a feather. He continued to work his way toward us, and in half an hour we were in each other's arms. For a short time I thought the fellow was stark mad. He rolled in the snow as you sometimes see an overjoyed and frisky dog--then he exclaimed, "I told 'em so! I told 'em so! I knew we should find you here!" Then the poor fellow got up, and looking me in the face, burst into an uncontrollable fit of tears.
I was myself deeply affected, and Old Sarah's eyes, that had seemed dry with the scorching of sorrow and time, were now overflowing. When I noticed her sympathy, however, she shrunk from notice, and retired to her cave. Bill then related all that had happened; how he hunted for me on the mountain till midnight, and then, with a broken heart, went home for help; how he had since toiled for my discovery and deliverance, and how, against the expectations of everybody, he had a sort of presentiment that I should be found in the shelter of Old Sarah's cave. He farther told me that my uncle and four men were coming, and would soon be with us.
I need not give the details of what followed. It is enough to say, that my uncle soon arrived, with sufficient assistance to take me home, though the depth of the snow rendered it exceedingly difficult to proceed. I left Old Sarah with abundant thanks, and an offer of money, which, however, she steadily refused. At last I reached home. Not a word was said to remind me of my obstinacy and folly, in going upon a sporting expedition, against counsel and advice; nothing but rejoicing at my return was heard or seen. My uncle invited in the neighbors at evening; there was hot flip in abundance, and ginger and cider for those who liked it. Tom Crotchet, the fiddler, was called, young and old went to dancing, and the merriest night that ever was known, was that in which young Bob Merry who was lost in the mountain, came to life, having been two days and two nights in the cave of "Old Sarah the hermitess."
I am not sure that I did not appear to share in this mirth; but in truth I felt too sober and solemn for hilarity. The whole adventure had sunk deep into my mind, and though I did not immediately understand its full effect upon my character, I had at least determined never again to scorn the advice of those more experienced than myself. I had also been made in some degree aware of that
weakness which springs from being always dependent upon others; and a wholesome lesson had been taught me, in finding my life saved by an old woman, whom a few hours before I had treated with rudeness, impertinence, and scorn. I could not but feel humbled, by discovering that this miserable old creature had more generous motives of action, a loftier and more noble soul than a smart young fellow from New York, who was worth ten thousand dollars, and who was an object of envy and flattery to more than half the village of Salem.
MY OWN LIFE AND ADVENTURES, by "Robert Merry" (Samuel Goodrich) (from Robert Merry's Museum, May 1841, pp. 129-133)
My uncle's influence.--The influence of the tavern.--State of society forty years ago.--Liquor opposed to education.--The church and the tavern.--The country schoolhouse.--Books used in the school.--A few words about myself.
I pass over a space of several years in my history, and come to the period when I was about fifteen. Up to this time, I had made little progress in education, compared with what is done at the present day. I could indeed read and write, and I knew something of arithmetic, but my advance beyond this was inconsiderable. A brief detail of certain circumstances will show the reason of this.
In the first place, my uncle had no very high estimation of what he called larnin; he was himself a man of action, and believed that books render people dull and stupid, rather than efficient in the business of life. He was therefore opposed to education in general, and particularly so in my case; and not only was his opinion equivalent in law with respect to me, but it was of great force in the village, on account of his character and position.
He kept the village tavern, which in those days of rum and punch was an institution of great power and authority. It was common, at the period of which I speak, for the church or meeting-house and tavern to stand side by side; but if one day in the week, sobriety and intemperance were preached in the former, hard drinking and licentiousness were deeply practised in the latter during the other six. The tavern, therefore, not only counteracted the good effect of the preacher, but it went farther, and in many cases corrupted the whole mass of society. The members of the church
thought it no scandal to make regular visits to the bar-room at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, and at four P. M.; the deacon always kept his jugs well filled, and the minister took his toddy or his tansy bitters, in open day, and without reproach.
In such a state of society as this, the tavern-keeper was usually the most influential man in the village, and if he kept good liquors, he was irresistible. Now my uncle was a prince of a tavern-keeper for these jolly days. He was, in fact, what we call a whole-souled fellow: generous, honest, and frank-hearted. His full, ruddy countenance bespoke all this; and his cheerful, hearty voice carried conviction of it to every listener. Beside, his tavern was freely and generously kept: it was liberally supplied with good beds, and every other luxury or comfort common to those days. As I have said before, it was situated upon the great road, then travelled by the mail stages between Boston and New York. The establishment was of ample extent, consisting of a pile of wooden buildings of various and irregular architecture--all painted a deep red. There was near it a large barn with extensive, cow-houses, a corn-crib, a smoke-house, and a pig-sty, arranged solely with a view to ease of communication with the house, and consequently all drawn closely around it. The general effect, when viewed at a distance, was that of two large jugs surrounded with several smaller ones.
Before this heap of edifices swung the tavern sign, with a picture of a barn-yard cock on one side, and a bull upon the other, as I have told you before: and though the artist that painted it was only a common house-dauber, and though the pictures were of humble pretensions when compared with the productions of Raphael, still, few specimens of the fine arts have ever had more admirers than the cock and bull of my uncle's sign. How many a toper has looked upon it when approaching the tavern with his feverish lip, as the emblem and assurance of the rum that was soon to feed the fire kindled in his throat; how many a jolly fellow, staggering from the inn, has seen that sign reeling against the sky, and mixing grotesquely with the dreamy images of his fancy!
If we add to this description, that in the street, and nearly in front of the tavern, was a wood-pile about ten feet high, and covering three or four square rods of ground; that on one side was a litter of harrows, carts and ploughs, and on the other a general assortment of wagons, old sleighs, broken stages, and a rickety vehicle resembling a modern chaise without a top; and if we sprinkle between all these articles a good supply of geese and pigs, we shall have a pretty fair account of the famous Cock and Bull tavern that flourished in Salem nearly forty years ago.
The proprietor of such an establishment could not, in those days, but be a man of influence; and the free manners and habits of my uncle tended to increase the power that his position gave him. He drank liberally himself, and vindicated his practice by saying that good liquor was one of the gifts of providence, and it was no sin--indeed it was rather a duty--to indulge in providential gifts freely. All this made him a favorite, particularly with a set of hard drinkers who thronged the bar-room, especially of a wet day and on winter evenings.
As I have said, my uncle was opposed to education, and as he grew older and drank deeper, his prejudice against it seemed to increase; and though I cannot easily account for the fact, still every drunkard in the place was an enemy to all improvements in the school. When a town-meeting took place, these per-
sons were invari[a]bly in opposition to every scheme, the design of which was to promote the cause of education, and this party was usually headed by my uncle. And it is not a little curious that the tavern party also had its influence in the church, for my uncle was a member of it, and many of his bar-room cronies also. They were so numerous as to cast a heavy vote, and therefore they exercised a good deal of power here. As in respect to the school, so in the house of worship, they were for spending as little money as possible, and for reducing its power and influence in society to the lowest possible scale. They even held the minister in check, and though he saw the evil tendency of intemperance in the village, he had not nerve enough to attack it, except in a very soft and mild way, which probably served to increase the vice at which he aimed; for vice always thrives when holy men condemn it gently.
Now I have said that my uncle was a kind-hearted, generous man, by nature: how then could he be so narrow-minded in respect to education and religion? The answer to this question is easy. He was addicted to the free use of liquors, which not only tends to destroy the body, but to ruin all the nobler parts of the mind. As he came more and more under the influence of ardent spirits, he grew narrow-minded, sottish and selfish. And this is one of the great evils of taking ardent spirits. The use of them always tends to break down the mind; to take away from us those noble feelings and lofty thoughts, which are the glory of man; in short, to sink us lower and lower toward the brute creation. A determined drunkard is usually a great part of the time but little elevated above a beast.
Now I have been particular about this part of my story, for I wished to how you the natural influence of the habits of my uncle, and their operation upon my own fortunes. I have yet a sadder story to tell, as to the effect of the village tavern, not only upon myself, but upon my uncle, and several others. That must be reserved for some of the sad pages through which my tale will lead you. For the present, I only point out the fact, that a man who encourages the sale of liquors is usually unfriendly to the education and improvement of mankind; that his position tends to make him fear the effect of light and wish for darkness; that hard drinking will ruin even a generous and noble mind and heart; and that the habit of dealing in liquor is one to be feared, as it induces a man to take narrow, selfish, and low views of human nature and human society. It appears to me that a trade which thrives when men turn drunkards, and which fails when men grow temperate, is a trade which is apt to injure the mind and soul of one who follows it. Even my noble-hearted and generous uncle fell, under such sinister influences.
But to return to the school. I have already described the situation of the house. The building itself was of wood, about fifteen feet square, plastered within, and covered with benches without backs, which were constructed by thrusting sticks, for legs, through augur holes in a plank. On one side, against the wall, was a long table, serving as a desk for the writers.
The chimney was of rough stone, and the fire-place was of the same material. But what it lacked in grace of finish, was made up in size. I believe that it was at least ten feet wide, and five in depth, and the flue was so perpendicular and ample, that the rain and snow fell down to the bottom without the risk of striking the sides. In summer, the school was kept by a woman, who charged the town a dollar a week, boarding herself; in winter it was kept by a man, who was paid five dollars a month and found.
Here about seventy children, of all sizes, were assembled during this latter portion of the year; the place and manner of treatment being arranged as much as possible on the principle that a schoolhouse is a penitentiary, where the more suffering, the more improvement.
I have read of despots and seen prisons, but there are few of the former more tyrannical than the birch-despot of former days, or of the latter, more gloomy than the old-fashioned schoolhouse, under the tyrant to which it was usually committed.
I must enter into a few details. The fuel for the school consisted of wood, and was brought in winter, load by load, as it was wanted: though it occasionally happened that we got entirely out, and the school was kept without fire if the master could endure the cold, or dismissed if the weather chanced to be too severe to be borne. The wood was green oak, hickory, or maple, and when the fire could be induced to blaze between the sticks, there was a most notable hissing and frying, and a plentiful exudation of sap at each end of them.
The wood was cut into lengths of about five feet, by the scholars, each of the larger boys taking his turn at this, and at making the fire in the morning. This latter was a task that demanded great strength and patience; for, in the first place, there must be a back-log, five feet in length, and at least fifteen inches in diameter; then a top-stick about two-thirds as big; and then a forestick of similar dimensions. It required some strength to move these logs to their places; and after the frame of the work was built, the gathering of chips, and the blowing, the wooing, the courting that were necessary to make the revolting flame take hold of the wet fuel, demanded a degree of exertion, and an endurance of patience, well calculated to ripen and harden youth for the stern endurances of manhood.
The school began at nine in the morning, and it was rare that the fire gave out any heat so early as this; nor could it have been of much consequence had it done so, for the school-room was almost as open as a sieve, letting in the bitter blast at every window and door, and through a thousand cracks in the thin plastering of the walls. Never have I seen such a miserable set of blue-nosed, chattering, suffering creatures as were these children, for the first hour after the opening of school, on a cold winter morning. Under such circumstances, what could they do? Nothing, and they were expected to do nothing.
The books in use were Webster's Spelling Book, Dilworth's Arithmetic, Webster's Second and Third Part, the New Testament, and Dwight's Geography. These were all, and the best scholars of the seminary never penetrated more than half through this mass of science. There was no such thing as a history, a grammar, or a map in the school. These are mysteries reserved for more modern days.
Such was the state of things--such the condition of the school, where I received my education, the only education that I ever enjoyed, except such as I have since found in study by myself, and amid the active pursuits of life. But let me not blame the schoolhouse alone; I was myself in fault, for even the poor advantages afforded me there, I wilfully neglected; partly because I was fond of amusing myself and impatient of application; partly because I thought myself worth ten thousand dollars, and fancied that I was above the necessity of instruction; and partly because my uncle and his bar-room friends were always sneering at men of education, and praising men of spirit and ac-
tion--those who could drive a stage skilfully, or beat in pitching cents, or bear off the palm in a wrestling-match, or perchance carry the largest quantity of liquor under the waistcoat.
Such being the course of circumstances that surrounded me at the age of fifteen, it will not be surprising if my story should at last lead to some painful facts; but my succeeding chapters will show.
MY OWN LIFE AND ADVENTURES, by "Robert Merry" (Samuel Goodrich) (from Robert Merry's Museum, June 1841, pp. 161-167)
Youth a happy period.--My young days.--A summer morning.--A day's adventures.
It is a common remark that youth is the happiest portion of life, but, like many other wise and deep sayings, it passes by us unheeded, till, at some late period in the great journey, we look back upon our track, and, by a comparison of the past with the present, are forced to feel and confess the truth, which we have before doubted. Mankind are ever tempted to think that there is something better before them; if they are not happy yet, they still indulge bright expectations. They are reluctant, even when advanced in years, to believe that the noon of life's joys is past; that the chill of evening is already mingling in every breeze that feeds the breath; that there is no returning morn to them; that the course of the sun is now only downward; and that sunset is the final close of that day that has dawned upon them, and lighted up a world full of hopes, and wishes, and anticipations. It is not till the shadows, dark and defined, are creeping around us, and forcing us to deal honestly with ourselves, that we admit the truth--that life is made up of a series of illusions; that we are constantly pursuing bubbles, which seem bright at a distance and allure us on to the chase, but which fly from our pursuit, or, if reached, burst in the hand that grasps them. It is not till we are already at the landing and about to step into the bark that is to bear us from the shore, that we come to the conclusion that human life is a chase, in which the game is nothing, and the pursuit everything; and that the brightest and best portion of this chase is found in the spring
morning, when the faculties are fresh, the fancy pure, and all nature robed in dew, and chiming with the music of birds, and bees, and waterfalls.
It is something to have enjoyed life, even if that enjoyment may not come again, for memory can revive the past, and at least bright back its echoes. It is a pleasure to me, now that I am crippled and gray--a sort of hulk driven a-wreck upon the shore, and if incapable of further adventures upon the main, at least inaccessible to the surges that rise and rave upon its bosom--to look out to sea--to mark the rails that still glide over its surface--and, above all, to busy my fancy with the incidents of my own voyage upon the great ocean of life.
I love particularly to go back to that period at which my last chapter closed. I was then full of health, animation, and hope. As yet, my life was tarnished with no other vices or follies than those that belong to an ungoverned and passionate boy. My health was perfect. I can hardly describe the elation of my heart of a spring morning. Everything gave me delight. The adjacent mountains, robed in mist, or wreathed with clouds, seemed like the regions of the blest. The landscape around, tame and commonplace as it might be, was superior to the pictures of any artist that ever laid his colors upon canvass, to my vision. Every sound was music. The idle but joyous gabble of the geese at the brook--the far-off cawing of the crows that skimmed the slopes of the mountains--the multitudinous notes of jays, robins, and blackbirds in the orchard--the lowing of cattle--the cackle of the fowls in the barnyard--the gobble of the ostentatious turkey--were all melody to me. No burst of harmony from an Italian orchestra, even though Rossini composed and Paganini performed, ever touched the heart as those humble melodies of morn, in the little village of Salem, touched mine at the age of fifteen. At such times my bosom actually overflowed with joy. I would sometimes shout aloud from mere pleasure; and then I would run for no other object than the excitement of the race. At such times it seemed almost that I could fly. There was an elasticity in my limbs like that of a mountain deer. So exuberant was this buoyant feeling, that in my dreams, which were then always blissful, I often dreamed of setting out to run, and after a brief space of stepping upward into the air, where I floated like some feather upon the breeze.
At evening, I used again to experience the same joyous gust of emotion, and during the day, I seldom felt otherwise than happy. Considering the quiet nature of the place in which I dwelt, my life was marked with numerous incidents and adventures--of little moment to the world at large, but important to a boy of my years. Saturday was, in that golden age, a day always given up to amusement, for there was no school kept then. A description of a single day will give a sufficient idea of my way of life at this period.
The day we will suppose to be fine--and in fact it now seems to me that there was no dull weather when I was a boy. Bill Keeler and myself rose with the sun--and we must, of course, go to the mountain. For what? Like knights of the olden time, in search of adventures. Bound to no place, guided by no other power than our own will, we set out to see what we could see, and find what we could find.
We took our course through a narrow vale at the foot of the mountain, crossed why a whimpling brook, which wound with many a mazy turn amid bordering hills, the slopes of which were covered with trees, or consisted of smooth, open pastures. The brook was famous for trout, and as Bill usually carried his
hooks and lines, we often stopped for a time and amused ourselves in fishing. On the present occasion, as we were passing a basin of still water, where the gush of the rivulet was stayed by a projecting bank, Bill saw an uncommonly large trout. He lay in the shadow of the knoll, perfectly still, except that the feathery fins beneath his gills fanned the water with a breath-like undulation. I saw Bill at the instant he marked the monster of the pool. In a moment he lifted up and waved his hand as a sign to me, and uttered a long, low she-e-e-e! He then stepped softly backwards, and at a little distance knelt down, to hide himself from the view of the trout. All this time Bill was fumbling with a nervous quickness for his hook and line. First he ran his hands into the pockets of his trowsers, seeming to turn over a great variety of articles there; then he felt in his coat pockets: and then he uttered two or three awkward words, with signified much vexation.
There was Bill on his knees--it seems as if I could see him now--evidently disappointed at not finding his hook and line. At last he began very deliberately to unlade his pockets. First came out a stout buck-handled knife, with one large blade, and the stump of a smaller one. Then came a large bunch of tow, several bits of rope, a gimblet, four or five flints, and a chestnut whistle. From the other pocket of the trowsers he disclosed three or four bits of lead, a screw-driver, a dough-nut, and something rolled into a wad that might have been suspected of being a pocket-handkerchief, if Bill had ever been seen to use one. The trowsers pockets being thus emptied, our hero applied himself to those in the flaps of his coat. He first took out a ball covered with deerskin, then a powder-flask and tinder-box, two or three corks and sundry articles difficult to name. From the other pocket he took his stockings and shoes, for it was May, and we were both indulging ourselves in the luxury of going barefoot--a luxury which those only can know who have tried it.
Nothing could exceed the pitch of vexation to which Bill was worked up, when, turning the last pocket inside out, and shaking it as if it had been a viper, he found that he had not a hook or line about him. Gathering up his merchandise, and thrusting the articles back into their places, he cast about, and picking up a stone, approached the place where the trout lay, and hurled it at him with spiteful vengeance, exclaiming--"If I'm ever ketched without a fishhook agin--I hope I may be shot!"
"Stop, stop, Bill!" said I; "don't be rash."
"I say I hope I may be shot if I'm ever ketched without a fishhook agin!--so there!" said he, hurling another stone into the brook.
"Remember what you say now, Bill!" said I.
"I will remember it," said my companion; and though nothing more was said of it at the time, I may as well observe now that the fellow kept his word; for ever after I remarked that he carried a fishhook in his hat-band, and, as he said, in fulfilment of his vow. Such was the eccentric humor of my friend, and such the real depth of his character and feelings, that a speech, uttered in momentary passion and seeming thoughtlessness, clung to his mind, and never parted from him till death. Could that poor boy have had the advantages of wise cultivation, what a noble heart had now beat in his breast! But, alas! he was bound to a briefer and more inglorious destiny!
We pursued out way up the valley, though loth to leave the rivulet; for there is a fascination about running water that few can resist--there is a beauty in
it which enchants the eye--a companionship like that of life, and which no other inanimate thing affords. And of all brooks, this that I now describe was to me the sweetest.
After proceeding a considerable distance, the valley became narrowed down to a rocky ravine, and the shrunken stream fretted and foamed its way over a rugged and devious channel. At last, about half way up the mountain, and at a considerable elevation, we reached the source of the rivulet, which consisted of a small lake of as pure water as ever reflected the face of heaven. It was surrounded on three sides by tall cliffs, whose dark, shaggy forms, in contrast, gave a silver brilliancy and beauty to the mirror-like water that lay at their feet. The other side of the lake was bounded by a sandy lawn, of small extent, but in the centre of which stood a lofty white-wood tree.
The objects that first presented themselves, as we approached the lake, was a kingfisher, running over his watchman's rattle from the dry limb of a tree that projected over the water, by way of warning to the tenants of the mountain that danger was near; a heron, standing half-leg deep in the margin of the water, and seeming to be lost in a lazy dream; a pair of harlequin ducks that were swimming near the opposite shore; and a bald eagle, that stood upon the point of a rock that projected a few feet out of the water near the centre of the lake. This object particularly attracted our attention, but as we moved toward it, it heavily unfolded its wings, pitched forward, and with a labored beating of the air gained an elevation and sailed gloriously away beyond the reach of sight.
Those were days of feeling, rather than speech. Neither my companion nor myself spoke of the beauty of that scene at the time; but we felt it deeply, and memory, to me, has kept a faithful transcript of the scene. When the kingfisher had sounded the alarm, he slunk away, and all was still. The morning overture of the birds had passed, for it was now near ten o'clock. The mournful metallic note of the wood-thrush was perchance faintly heard at intervals--the cooing of a pigeon, the amorous wooings of the high-hole, the hollow roll of the woodpecker at his work, might occasionally salute the ear, but all at such distance of time and place as to give effect to the silence and repose that marked the scene. I had my gun, but I felt no disposition to break the spell that nature had cast on all around. The harsh noise of gunpowder had been out of tune there and then. Bill and myself sauntered along the border of the lake, musing and stepping lightly, as if not to crumple a leaf or crush a twig, that might break the peace, over which nature, like a magistrate, seemed to preside.
But as we were slowly proceeding, Bill's piercing eye discovered a dark object upon the white-wood or tulip tree, that stood in the sandy lawn at some distance. He pointed to it, and both quickened our steps in that direction. As we approached it, we perceived it to be an enormous nest, and concluded it must be that of an eagle. As we came nearer, the nest seemed roughly composed of large sticks, and occupying a circumference equal to a cart-wheel. It was at the very top of the tree, which rose to the height of sixty or seventy feet, and at least half of that elevation was a smooth trunk without a single limb. But Bill was an excellent climber, and it was resolved, without a council of war, that he should ascend and see what was in the nest.
Accordingly, stripping off his coat, and clinging to the tree as if by suction, he began to ascend. It was "hitchety hatchety up I go!" By a process diffi-
cult to describe--a sort of insinuation, the propelling power and working machinery of which were invisible--he soon cleared the smooth part of the trunk, and taking hold of the branches, rose limb by limb, till, with breathless interest, I saw him lift his head above the nest and peer into its recess. The best expression of his wonder was his silence. I waited, but no reply. "What is it?" said I, incapable of enduring the suspense. No answer. "What is it, Bill--why don't you speak?" said I, once more. "Look!" said he, holding up a featherless little monster, about as large as a barn-door fowl--kicking and flapping its wings, and squealing with all its might. "Look! there's a pair on 'em. They're young eagles, I'll be bound, but I never see such critters afore! The nest is as big as a trundle bed, and there's a heap of snake-skins, and feathers, and fishes' tails in it: and there's a lamb's head here, that looks in the face like an acquaintance--and I should n't wonder if it belonged to Squire Kellogg's little cosset that he lost last week--the varmint!"
As Bill uttered these last words, his attention, as well my own, was attracted by a rushing sound above, and looking up, we saw an eagle, about a hundred yards in the air, descending like a thunderbolt directly toward Bill's head. The bird's wings were close to its body, its tail above and its head beneath, its beak open and its talons half displayed for the blow. Entirely forgetting my gun, in my agony of fear, I exclaimed, "Jump, Bill! for Heaven's sake jump!" But such was the suddenness of the proceeding, that ere I could fairly utter the words, the formidable bird, with a fearful and vengeful scream, swept down upon his mark. I shut my eyes in very horror. But not so Bill Keeler; there was no taking him by surprise. As the eagle came down, he dodged his head beneath the nest, exposing only a portion of his person, together with the seat of his trowsers. The clash of the eagle's beak as he swept by, though it seemed like the clangor of a tailor's shears when forcibly shut, did no harm; but we cannot say as much of the creature's talons. One of the claws struck the part exposed, and made an incision in the trowsers as well as the skin, of about two inches in length.
The rent, however, was too superficial to prove mortal, nor did it deprive Bill of his presence of mind. Taking no manner of notice of the damage done, he cocked his eye up at the eagle, and seeing that he was already preparing for another descent, he slid down between the limbs of the tree with amazing dexterity, and had approached the lowest of the branches, when again we heard the rushing sound, and saw the infuriate bird falling like an iron wedge almost perpendicularly upon him. Although he was full five and thirty feet from the ground, such was my agony, that again I cried out, "Jump, Bill--for Heaven's sake, jump!"
Bill was a fellow to go on his own hook--particularly in a time of imminent peril, like the present. Evidently paying no attention to me, he cast one glance at the eagle, and leaping from the branch, came down upon the wind. The eagle swept over him as he fell, and striking his talons into his brimless beaver, bore it away in triumph--dropping it however at a short distance. As Bill struck the ground on his feet, I immediately saw that he was safe. After sitting a moment to recover his breath, he put his hand to his head, and finding that his hat was gone, exclaimed, "There, the critter's got my clamshell--why did n't you fire, Bob?"
The hat was soon found, and after a little while Bill discovered the success of the eagle's first attack upon his per-
son; but although some blood was shed, the incident was not considered serious, and we proceeded in our ramble.
We had not advanced far, when, on passing through some bushes near a heap of rocks, I heard a rustling in the leaves. Turning my eye in the direction of the sound, I saw a black snake, covered by leaves except his head and about two feet of his body. He was directly in my path, and, brandishing his tongue, seemed determined to oppose my progress. Bill had my gun, but I called to him, and he soon appeared. I pointed out the snake, but, refusing to tire, he approached the creature with a bold front; who, seeing that he could gain nothing by his threats, turned and fled through the leaves with amazing speed. Bill followed upon his trail, and came up with him just as he was seeking shelter in the crevice of a rock. He had buried about two feet of his length, when Bill seized his tail, and, holding fast, prevented his farther progress. We then both of us took hold and tried to pull him out--but as he had coiled himself around the protuberances of the rock within, he resisted all our efforts.
Bill now directed me to bend down to him a pretty stout walnut sapling that was growing near. I complied with the command, and my companion, taking a piece of rope from his pocket, doubled the tail of the snake, and firmly lashed it to the top of the young tree. This being done--"We'll let go now," said Bill, "and see which will hold on the longest." So, loosing our hold of the tree and serpent, we stood by to see the result. The snake was so firmly tied as to render it impossible for him to escape, and the sapling pulled with a vigor and patience that were likely to prevail at last. We waited at the place for nearly an hour, when the serpent slowly yielded, and the sapling jerked him into the air. There he hung, dangling and writhing, and thrusting out his tongue, but all to no purpose. Taking a fair aim with the gun, Bill now fired, and cut the reptile in twain.
We pursued our rambles until late in the day, when, on our return, we saw a gray squirrel leaping about upon the ground at some distance. The appearance of this animal in its native woods is singularly imposing. Its long, bushy tail imparts to it an appearance of extraordinary size, and renders its wonderful agility a matter of surprise. In the present instance, as the squirrel saw us from a distance, he ran to a tree, ascended the trunk, and flew along its branches. From these it leaped to those of another tree, seeming actually to move like a spirit of the air. At last it reached a large oak, and disappeared in a hole in the trunk.
Bill's jacket was off in an instant, and almost as nimbly as the squirrel himself he ascended to hits retreat. I stood below with my gun, ready to fire if the creature should attempt to escape. At last Bill, peeping into the hole, and saying, in a subdued voice, "I see the varmint!" thrust his hand into the place. It was but a moment before he hauled him out, and holding him forth with one hand, while he held on to the tree with the other, he exclaimed, "Fire, Bob--fire--he bites like--like a sarpent!" Accustomed to obey orders, I immediately fired, and the squirrel dropped dead to the ground. At the same time I saw Bill snapping his fingers, as if some stray shot had peppered them. He soon descended, and showed me that one of the little leaden missiles had passed through the ball of his thumb; he only remarked, however, "I should think, Bob, you might kill a squirrel without shooting a friend!"
Such are the adventures of a day in my youth; and such, or similar, no doubt, have been the experiences of many
a Yankee youth before. I record them here, partly for the satisfaction of reviewing the sweet memories of the past, and partly to point the moral of this chapter--that youth is a portion of life to which, in after years, we usually look back with fond regard, as the happiest, if not the most useful, part of our existence. Let my youthful friends mark the observation, and not be unmindful of their present privileges. Let them enjoy their young days, with thankfulness and moderation, and not be too sanguine of that future, which will disclose the melancholy truth that life is a journey, which affords the cares and toils and dangers of travel, without a resting-place. A resting-place is indeed found, but it is only given as life ceases. While we live we are journeying; there is no fixed habitation for man on the earth: he is an emigrant to another country, and not a settler here. Let us, in attempting to make our journey as cheerful as we may, still be careful that the place to which we migrate, and where we must abide, be in a happy country.
MERRY'S LIFE AND ADVENTURES, by Samuel Goodrich (from Robert Merry's Museum, July 1841, pp. 17-20)
Completion of my education.--Many sports.--An accident.--The bed of pain.--Recovery from sickness.--A new companion.
In the last chapter I have given an account of a day in spring. I might now proceed to relate the adventures and amusements of a day in summer, then of autumn, and lastly of winter; and each of these, it would appear, had its appropriate occupations and diversions. But I am afraid that I shall weary my readers with long stories. I shall therefore proceed with matters more immediately affecting my fortunes, and tending to get to the end of a long journey.
I must go forward to the period when I was about sixteen years of age, and when I had finally taken leave of the school. I had passed through the branches taught there at the time; but these were few, as I have already stated, and I was far from having thoroughly mastered even them. I had, in fact, adopted a habit of skimming and slipping along, really learning as little as possible. Not only was I indulged by my uncle and his household, but there was a similar system of tolerance extended toward my faults and follies, even by the schoolmaster. It is true that sometimes he treated me harshly enough; but it was generally in some fit of spleen. If he was gloomy and tyrannical to the school, he was usually lenient to me. He even excused my indolence, and winked at my neglect of study and duty.
It would seem that such general favor, should cultivate in the heart of a youth only kind and generous feelings; but it was not so with me. The more I was indulged, the more passionate and headstrong I grew; and perhaps, in this, I was not unlike other young people. It seems that there are wild passions in our very nature, which are like weeds ever tending to overgrow the whole soil. These passions need to be eradicated by constant care and correction, just a weeds must be pulled up by the roots and thrown away. Of what use is it to plant a garden, if you do not hoe it and rake it, thus keeping the weeds down, and allowing the proper plants to flourish? And of what advantage is it to go to school, to be educated, if the thorns and briers of vice and passion are not destroyed, and the fruits and flowers of truth and virtue cultivated and cherished?
Being no more a school-boy, I now thought myself a man. Bill Keeler had left my uncle, and was apprenticed to a shoemaker; but in the evening I often contrived to meet him, and one or two other companions. Our amusements were not such as would tell well in a book. Too often we went to the bar-room of my uncle's inn, and listened to the vulgar jokes and coarse fun that were always stirring there, and sometimes we treated each other with liquor. I cannot now but wonder that such things should have given me any pleasure; but habit and example have a mighty influence over us. Seeing that others drank, we drank too, though at first the taste of all spirits was odious to me. I got used to it by degrees, and at last began to like the excitement they produced. And strange to say, the bar-room, which originally disgusted me, became rather a favorite place of resort. I was shocked at the oaths and indecency for a time: the huge puddles of tobacco spittle over the floor, and the reeking flavors of tobacco smoke and brandy, disgusted me; the ragged, red-nosed loungers of the place, the noise, the riot, the brutality, which frequently broke out, and which was called by the soakers, having a "good time," were actually revolting; but my aversion
passed away by degrees. Under the strong infection of the place, I partially adopted its habits; I learned to smoke and chew tobacco, though several fits of nervous sickness warned me of the violence I was doing to my nature. I even ventured to swear occasionally; and, if the truth must be told, I followed out, in various ways, the bad lessons that I learnt.
It is painful to me to confess these things, but I do it for the purpose of warning those for whose benefit I write, against similar errors. Wherever young people go frequently, there they are learning something; and as a bar-room is a place to which young men are often tempted, I wish to advise them that it is a school, in which profanity, coarseness, intemperance, and vice, are effectually taught. It is a seminary where almost every thief, robber, counterfeiter, and murderer, takes his first and last lesson. A man who loves a bar-room where liquors are sold, has reason to tremble; a young man who loves bar-room company, has already entered within the very gate that leads down to ruin. That I have escaped such ruin myself, is attributable to the kindness of Providence, rather than to any resistance of evil which originated in my own breast. If Heaven had deserted me, I had been lost forever.
It was one night after we had been drinking at the tavern, that my companions and myself issued forth, bent on what was called a spree. Our first exploit was to call up the doctor of the village, and ask him to hasten to Miss Sally St. John, who has been noticed before in these memoirs, insinuating that she was desperately ill. Our next adventure was to catch the parson's horse in the pasture, and tie him to the shipping-post, which stood on the green before the meeting-house. We then proceeded to a watermelon patch, and, prowling about among the vines, selected the largest and finest, and ripping them open, strewed the contents over the ground. We then went to a garden belonging to a rich old farmer, who was celebrated for producing very fine pears. The window of the proprietor looked out into the garden, and as he had the reputation of exercising a vigilant watch over his fruit, we felt the necessity of caution. But we were too much elated by our liquor and success in sport, to be very circumspect. We got over the tall picket fence, and two or three of us ascended one of the trees. We had begun already to pluck the fruit, when the window of the old farmer slid silently upward, and a grizzled head was thrust out. It was soon withdrawn, but in a few moments the barrel of a long gun was pushed forth, and a second after it discharged its contents, with a sound which, at that silent hour, seemed like the voice of thunder.
I was on the tree, with my back to the marksman, and presented a fair target to his aim. At the very instant of the discharge, I felt a tingling in my flesh; immediately after a dizziness came over my sight, and I fell to the ground. I was completely stunned, but my companions seized me and hurried me away. Clambering over stone walls, and pushing through a nursery of young trees, they secured their retreat. At a safe distance the party paused, and after a little space I recovered my senses. I found myself in great pain, however, and after a little examination it appeared that my left arm was broken. As carefully as possible I was now taken toward my home. It was about midnight when we reached it, and my uncle, being informed that I was hurt, attempted to come to me. But he had been in bed but a short time, and according to his wont, about this period, he had taken a "night-cap," as he called it, and was
utterly incapable of walking across the floor. Some of the people, however, were got up, and one went for the physician. The answer returned was, that some madcaps had been there and played off a hoax upon the doctor, and this application was no doubt intended as another, and he would not come. I therefore lay till morning in great distress, and when at last the doctor came, he found that not only my arm was broken, but that my back was wounded, as if I had been shot with bullets of salt! Several small pieces of salt were actually found imbedded in my skin!
I was hardly in a state to give explanations; in fact, my reason already began to waver. Strange visions soon flitted before my eyes: an old grizzled pate seemed bobbing out of a window, and making faces at me; then the head seemed a watermelon with green eyes; and then it turned into a bell-muzzled fowling-piece, and while I was trying to look down its throat, it exploded and scattered my brains to the four winds! Here my vision ended, and with it all remembrance. I fell into a settled fever, and did not recover my senses for two weeks. When my consciousness returned, I found myself attended by a man of the village, named Raymond, a brother of the minister, and whom I had long known. He was sitting by my bedside, with a book in his hand; but as I opened my eyes, I noticed that, while he seemed to be reading, his eyes were fixed on me with an anxious interest. In a moment after he spoke. "Are you better, Robert?" said he, in a tone of tenderness. I attempted to reply, but my tongue refused to move. Raymond saw my difficulty, and coming to the bedside, told me to reamin quiet. "You have been ill," said he, "very ill, but you are better. You life depends upon your being kept perfectly quiet."
Thus admonished, I closed my eyes, and soon fell asleep. The next day I was much better, and entered into some conversation with Raymond, who I then found had been my regular attendant. The physician soon after came, and pronounced me out of danger. "You are better, my young friend," said he; "I think you are safe; but this getting salted down like a herring, and tumbling off of pear trees at midnight, is an awkward business, and cannot be often repeated with impunity." This latter remark being uttered with a significant smile, recalled to my mind the occasion of my sickness, and a sudden blush of shame covered my face. Raymond noticed my confusion, and by some remark immediately diverted my attention to another topic.
In a few days I was able to sit up in my bed, and was nearly free from pain. My arm, however, was still useless, and I was in fact very feeble. I could talk with Raymond, however, and as his conversation was always engaging, the time did not pass heavily. Raymond was a man of extensive reading, and great knowledge of the world, but, owing to excessive sensitiveness, he had settled into a state of almost complete imbecility. He thought and spoke like a philosopher, yet in the active business of life, in which he had been once engaged, he had entirely failed. He was indeed regarded in the village as little better than insane or silly. He had no regular employment, and spent his time almost wholly in reading--his brother, the minister, having a good library. As he was very kind-hearted, however, and possessed a good deal of medical knowledge, he was often employed in attending upon sick persons, and for his services he would never receive any other compensation than his own gratification, in the consciousness of doing good, might afford.
It was a mercy to me that I fell into the hands of poor Raymond, for my
mind and heart were softened by my sickness, and by the humiliation I felt at having been detected in a disgraceful act, and so signally punished. His counsel, therefore, which was full of wisdom, and which he imparted in a way, at once to instruct and amuse, sunk into my mind like the seed sown in spring time; and upon a prepared soil; and I have reason to believe that I may attribute not only the recovery of my body from disease, but the correction of some of the vices of my mind, to his conversations at my sick bedside. I believe I cannot do my readers a better service than to transcribe some of these conversations, as nearly as my memory will restore them, and this I shall do in a subsequent chapter.
MERRY'S LIFE AND ADVENTURES, by Samuel Goodrich (from Robert Merry's Museum, August 1841, pp. 39-43)
A conversation about wealth and poverty.--People to be respected according to their character, not according to their circumstances.
As Paul Raymond was one of the best friends I ever had, it is my desire to make my reader well acquainted with him. He was tall, thin, and bent over, his figure seeming to indicate great humility; his face was meagre and exceedingly pale; his hair black as jet, and hanging in long, thin curls down his neck. His eye was very large, and of a deep blue.
The whole aspect of my friend was marked with a childlike gentleness and timidity, though his high forehead and prominent Roman nose bespoke a manly intellect. A worldly person, judging only by outward form and a first sight, had passed him by with indifference; but one who looks upon mankind as beings of soul and mind, would have been attracted by his appearance. It was so in some degree with myself, for when I first saw poor Paul, as he was called in the village, I scarcely noticed him. And for years after, I saw nothing of particular interest in his person: but now that I was on a sick bed, and had opportunity, as well as occasion, to observe him closer, he seemed to me very interesting, both in looks and manner.
It was one morning after he had been putting my room in order, and, taking his book, had sat down by my bedside, that I mentioned to Paul the change of feeling I had undergone in respect to himself. "I cannot but wonder," said I, "how different you seem to me now, from what you used to do, Mr. Raymond."
Raymond. Call me Paul, boy, call me Paul! said he. We are friends now, and mister is always a mischief-maker between friends. You say I seem different now from what I once did. The change is in you, not in me. I am the same poor Paul Raymond, as before. You are something better than before this accident happened.
Merry. How am I better? I think I am worse: I have been guilty of folly, and, though thoughtlessly, of crime; I have been disgraced before the whole village; my poor arm broken; I am sick and emaciated; and after all this, you tell me that I am better than before.
R. And I tell you the truth, boy. You have suffered, it is certain; but that suffering has been like medicine to your mind and heart. You were well in body, you were full of health and spirits, but there was disease within. Your heart was full of selfishness and pride; you felt that you could take care of yourself, and you cared not for the sympathy of others. You have now learnt a good lesson; that pride has been humbled, and you see your dependence upon others. You see how poor and paltry pride is; and how vain is that independence, which leads us to think only of self, and to be regardless of the feelings of our fellow-men. You are more humble than before, and therefore I say you are better than before.
M. Then you think humility is a good thing?
R. Certainly, and pride a bad thing. God looks down upon the humble man with approbation and favor, and he sends to the humble man peace and consolation which the world cannot give or take away. God looks down upon the proud man as a fool, a creature as sillly as the moth that buzzes in the flame of the lamp, only to perish in his folly.
M. But this is very different from the view generally taken by mankind. The rich, the haughty, those who are successful in life, who know no sickness or misfortune, and who are seldom or never visited by sorrow--these are those
who are esteemed happy by the world at large. The proud are envied and the humble are despised. You would reverse this, and regard the humble as the happy, and the high and haughty as the miserable.
R. Yes, and this is nearly the truth. Health is given us for good; but, strange to say, men seem to turn it to bad account. A person who has always good health, is usually unfeeling: he sneers at those who are feeble, and laughs those to scorn who cannot eat and drink and work as well as he does. He is therefore deficient in one of the greatest of blessings, a kind and tender heart, a heart that feels for the misfortunes and sorrows of others, and that always is seeking to soften them.
Riches are given for good, but these too are abused. The rich man is likely to have very little regard for the poor; he is apt almost to feel that the poor are not human: at all events, he knows and cares little about them. He estimates men by their wealth: if a man is rich, he respects him; if poor, he despises him. Thus wealth begets in its possessor a gross stupidity of mind; it blinds a man to the most useful pleasures and important truths. It makes a man ignorant of his real duty and his true happiness.
M. You think then that health and wealth are misfortunes.
R. Certainly not, if rightly used: they are blessings in the hands of the virtuous, and some such there are. But in too many cases, mankind abuse them. The fortunate are very apt to be vicious; those who go on in an unchanging tide of success, at last fancy that they may indulge their pride and their passions with impunity. Such persons have hard hearts; and though the world, judging of the outside only, call them fortunate, and envy them--still, if we look within and see their real character, we shall pity them, as in fact poor, and destitute, and miserable in all that constitutes real goodness, real wealth--a good heart.
It is for this reason that the Bible--a book more full of virtue in mankind generally think--tells us that "whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth." In other words, God sends sorrow and misfortune upon men in real kindness. He takes away health, but he gives gentleness and humility of soul, as a compensation; he takes away worldly wealth--houses, lands, and merchandises--but he gives charity, good will, kindness, and sympathy, in their stead. He takes away external and earthly riches, and gives in exchange spiritual riches, of infinitely greater price. He takes away dollars and cents, which only pass in this world, and are wholly uncurrent in another, and gives coin that bears upon it an image and superscription, which not only makes it available in time, but in eternity.
M. Most people think very differently from you, on these matters: they seem to imagine that the rich are not only the happiest, but the wisest and best part of mankind.
R. Shallow people may think so, but wise men do not. Our Savior appealed to the poor, not to the rich. Poverty, not wealth, was the soil in which he sowed the seeds of truth; and he knew all things. History justifies Christ's judgment of human life, for all, or nearly all great improvements in society have been begun and carried on by the poor. For almost all useful inventions; for almost all that is beautiful in poetry, and music, and painting, and sculpture, and architecture; for almost all that has contributed to diffuse truth and knowledge and liberty among mankind--we are indebted to those who have been born and nursed in poverty. If you were to strike out of existence
all that the poor have created, and leave only what the rich have created, you would make this world one vast scene of desolation, vice, and tyranny.
Look around, and remark, who are the people that are tilling the soil and producing the comforts and luxuries of life? The poor, and not the rich. Who are paying the taxes and supporting the government? The poor, for they pay, in proportion to their property, much more than the rich. Who are the supporters of religion? The poor, for it is by their prayers, and sacrifices, and efforts, that it is propagated, not only at home, but in foreign lands. No Christian Mission, no Bible Society, no Society for the distribution of Tracts, was ever begun and carried on and supported by the rich.
The simple truth is, that, as the poor are the producers of all the substantial comforts of life, of food, raiment, houses, furniture, roads, vehicles, ships, and merchandises, so are they the cultivators of those spiritual staples which make up the social wealth of the world--religion, knowledge, charity, sympathy, virtue, patriotism, liberty, and truth. Destroy the poor, and you destroy not only the source of worldly wealth, but of that mental, spiritual, and social wealth, which are far higher and better.
M. You think, then, that the poor are not only the wisest, but the best part of mankind.
R. Certainly; but do not misunderstand me. I do not say all rich men are bad, or that all poor ones are good. There are rich men who are good, wise, kind, and virtuous--and those who are so, deserve great praise, for, as a class, the rich are otherwise; and the reasons are plain. In the first place, most men who become rich, do so by being supremely selfish. They keep what they get, and get what they can. A man who has no generosity, who seldom or never gives away anything, who is greedily seeking all the time to increase his possessions, is almost sure, in a few years, to accumulate large stores. Such a man may be very stupid in intellect, and yet successful in getting rich. Riches are no proof of wisdom, but they are generally evidence of selfishness.
A man, by cultivating any passion, increases it. An avaricious man, indulging his avarice, grows more and more so. He not only becomes more greedy, but less regardful of the rights, feelings, and interest of his fellow-men. Thus, as a man increases in riches, he usually becomes vicious and depraved. His vices may not be open--he may not break the laws of the land, but he breaks the laws of conscience, and of God. There is hardly a spectacle more revolting to the eye of virtue, then the bosom of the rich and avaricious man. It is a machine, which grinds in its relentless wheels the limbs, the bowels, the nerves, the hearts of such among his fellow-men as fall within his grasp. He is a kind of moral cannibal, who feasts and grows fat, not on the bodies of his species, but on their peace and happiness.
M. You are severe.
R. But I hope not unjust: remember that Christ forgave the thief on the cross, but declared that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. He knew by what means men generally grow rich; he knew the effect of riches on the heart; and, as a class, he denounces the rich, as in the view of Heaven among the least favored of mankind. They have their good things in this world, but a fearful penalty is attached to the abuse of these good things--an abuse which is but too tempting and too common.
But the only evil of wealth lies not in the dangers which it threatens to the future
welfare of the soul; it is very apt to destroy or prevent some of the sweetest pleasures of this life. Humility is the source of more true happiness than wealth. A rich man may possess humility, though he is more likely to be proud; poverty, disappointment, sorrow, and misfortune, are the great producers of humility: and it often happens that God, in taking away wealth and worldly prosperity, and giving humility in return, greatly increases a person's true wealth and genuine peace. It is thus that he often deals with those he loves. He thinks that a man may well afford to part with his wealth, if he parts with pride at the same time, and obtains humility as a reward; and surely he knows what is best for us.
Nor is peace of mind the only effect of humility. It not only wakes up the heart of man to many kindly exercises of charity to his fellow-men, but is clears his mind and his intellect, so that it is brighter and stronger. Pride dims, dulls, and cheats the mind; the judgment of a proud man is seldom good. Not only does pride beget meanness of soul, but meanness of intellect. Greatness of mind, as well as of soul, is usually associated with humility. For this reason it is, that you find among the poor, who are usually humble, more true greatness of both mind and heart, than among the rich; and it is thus that we see the fact explained, which I have before stated, that for almost all the great religious, benevolent, and social progress of the world, we are indebted to the wisdom, charity, disinterestedness, and patriotism of the poor.
M. Is it then a sin to be rich, or a virtue to be poor?
R. Certainly not: there is no virtue or vice in either poverty or wealth. All I say is this, the usual means taken to get riches are supreme selfishness or craft, or uncommon want of principle; and riches, when once obtained, tend to corrupt and degrade the heart, and stultify the mind. While, therefore, we admit that a rich man may be wise and virtuous, still, as a class, the rich are the least to be respected and trusted. We are borne out in this view by the remarkable words of Jesus Christ, and by the testimony of history. The rich, therefore, are to be sunned and feared, till we know, by positive proof, that they are worthy of our confidence and esteem, by the possession of virtue and wisdom.
On the contrary, if a man is poor, we have reason to believe that he is humble, and if humble, that he is virtuous. I know that this is not the way that the world usually judge, but I know that it is true. If you wish to find sympathy for sorrow or misfortune; or if you wish to find those who will make sacrifices to alleviate your distress, you must go to those who know sorrow and are acquainted with grief. You must go to those who are in the humble walks of life, and have learnt humility--an estimate of ourselves which makes us regard others as our equals, and which renders us willing to do to them as we would have them do to us. No man can feel the sorrow of others, unless he has suffered himself.
"'T is the poor man alone, When he hears the poor's moan, Of his morsel a morsel will give."
M. You seem to think, then, that men are to be judged according to their character, and not by their circumstances.
R. Just so: you have stated the case exactly. When the Bible says that God looketh on the heart, it means to affirm, that the wisest and best of beings pays no respect to riches or poverty. In choosing his friends, he does not consider what sort of a house a man lives in, or how he is dressed; he looks to his heart, to his real character: and, be
he rich or poor, if he finds that selfishness, greediness, and avarice, occupy the soul, he condemns him; but if he finds that he has a humble heart, one that is kind, and full of love and charity, he approves of him.
M. The great thing for a man to aim at, is to have a good heart, and a good character: you think a man should be more careful to be humble, than to be rich.
R. Assuredly: and he is more likely to be humble if he is poor, than if he is rich.
M. Should a man avoid riches, then?
R. No: I have said that riches are intended for good, and that in the hands of the virtuous they are beneficial. But wealth is not necessary to happiness; it is indeed a snare to thousands. Instead, therefore, of seeking for it greedily as the first thing, we should only regard it as secondary, and of infinitely less consequence than virtue. And though we should seek to avoid poverty, if it come, we may enjoy the reflection that it is safer to walk in the humble valley, than to climb along the dizzy pinnacles of prosperity and power. At all events, in wealth or poverty, in prosperity or adversity, let us cultivate humility, and judge ourselves and others by looking on the heart; let us consider that we are good or bad, respectable or despicable, not according to our circumstances, but according to our wisdom and our virtue.
M. I believe what you tell me, Paul, for you are wise, and all you tell me sounds true; but it would be hard to make the world believe that poverty and misfortune are desirable.
R. Perhaps not; but I could tell you a story of real life, in which it would appear that misfortune, or what the world calls such, actually promoted happiness.
M. Pray tell it to me.
R. I will do so to-morrow, if you desire it; you have heard enough for to-day.
Here the conversation ended for the time. Raymond's story, which he entitled the School of Misfortune, I shall give to my readers in the next chapter.
MERRY'S LIFE AND ADVENTURES, by Samuel Goodrich (from Robert Merry's Museum, September 1841, pp. 65-68)
Raymond's story of the school of misfortune.
I shall now proceed to repeat, as accurately as I am able, Raymond's story promised in the last chapter. It was as follows.
"There once lived in a village near London, a youth whom we will call R. His parents died when he was young, leaving him an ample estate. He was educated at one of the universities, travelled for two years on the continent, and, at the age of twenty-four, returned to the paternal mansion, and established himself there. Being the richest person in the village, and the descendant and representative of a family of some antiquity, he became the chief personage of the place. Beside all this, he was esteemed remarkably handsome, possessed various accomplishments, and had powers of pleasing almost amounting to fascination. He was, therefore, courted and flattered by the whole neighborhood, and even lords and ladies of rank and fashion did not disdain to visit him. The common people around, of course, looked up to him; for in England, where distinctions in society are established by government, and where all are taught to consider such distinctions as right and best, the great, as they are called, are usually almost worshipped by the little.
"Surrounded by luxuries, and flattered by everybody, it would seem that R. might have been happy; but he was of a discontented turn, and though, for a time, these things pleased him, he grew tired of them at last, and wished for some other sources of pleasure and excitement. At the university he had imbibed a taste for reading; but he could not now sit down to its quiet and gentle pleasures. He had been in the gay society of London and Paris, and had drank the cup of pleasure so deeply, that nothing but its dregs remained.
"R. was therefore restless, discontented and miserable, while in the possession of all that usually excites the envy of mankind. He was rich beyond his utmost wishes; he was endowed with manly beauty and the most perfect health; he was admired, flattered, cherished and sought after; yet he was unhappy. The reason of this he did not know; indeed, he did not look very deeply into the matter, but went on from one scene to another, seeking enjoyment, but turning with distaste and disappointment from everything. He was, however, too proud to let the world see his real condition; he kept up a fair outside, sustained his establishment with magnificence, and dressed himself, when he went abroad, with elegance and care; he affected gayety in company, often led in the dance, was ever foremost in the chase, and was usually the life of the circle wherever he went.
"There were few, perhaps none, who
imagined that, under this aspect of prsoperity, the canker of discontent was gnawing at the heart. Yet such was the fact: of all the people of the village, R. was esteemed the most happy and fortunate; but he was in truth the veriest wretch in the place. And though this may doubtless seem a rare instance, yet we have good reason to believe that often, very often, there is deep misery, untold and unsuspected, in the great house, where only elegance and luxury are seen by the world at large; very often the beggar at the door would not exchange conditions with the lord of the lofty hall, if he could know his real condition.
"R. had now reached the age of thirty years, and instead of finding his condition or the state of his feelings to grow better, they seemed rather to grow worse. He became more and more unhappy. Every morning when he rose, it was with a kind of dread as to how he should contrive to kill time, to get through the day, to endure his own listlessness, or dissatisfaction, or disgust. The idea of setting about some useful or honorable employment, that would occupy his thoughts, give excitement to his faculties, and bring satisfaction to his conscience, never entered his head. He had never been taught that no one has a right to lead an idle or useless life, and that no man can be happy who attempts to live only for himself.
"It is indeed a common opinion among rich people that they are under no obligation to engage in the active duties of life; that they are not bound to labor, or toil, or make sacrifices for society; that they are in fact privileged classes, and may spend their time and money with an exclusive regard to themselves. R. was educated in this foolish and narrow-minded opinion; and here was the real foundation of all his misery. Could he only have discovered that happiness is to be found in exercising our faculties; in using the means, and employing the power, that Providence has placed in our hands, in some useful pursuit, and in this way alone, he might have been saved from a gulf of misery, into which he was soon plunged.
"At this period, which was soon after the revolutionary war, America was attracting great attention, and R. having met with one of his college mates who had been there, and who gave him glowing accounts of it, he suddenly took the determination to sell his estates and set out for America, with the view of spending the remainder of his days there. He knew little of the country, but supposed it to be the contrast in everything to that in which he had lived, and thinking that any change must bring enjoyment, he sold his property, and taking the amount in gold and silver, set out with it in a ship bound for New York.
"The vessel had a prosperous voyage till she arrived in sight of the highlands near the entrance of the harbor of New York. It was then that, just at evening, smart gusts began to blow off the land, and the captain showed signs of anxiety, lest he should not be able to get in before the storm, which he feared was coming, should arise. The passengers had dressed themselves to go on shore, and most of them, anxious to see friends, or tired of the sea, were anticipating their arrival with delight. R., however, was an exception to all this. He went upon the deck, looked a few moments gloomily at the land that was visible low down in the horizon, and then retired to the cabin, where he gave himself up to his accustomed train of discontented and bitter thoughts.
"'I alone,' said he to himself, 'of all this company, seem to be miserable; all are looking forward with pleasant anticipations of some happiness, some enjoy-
ment in store for them. But for me--what have I to hope? I have no friends here; this is a land of strangers to me. It is true, I have wealth; but how worthless is it! I have tried its virtues in England, and found that it could not give me pleasure. Wealth cannot bestow happiness upon me; and I should not mourn if every farthing of it were lost in the sea. Life is indeed to me a burthen. Why is it that everything is happy but myself? Why do I see all these people rejoicing at the sight of the land, while I am distressed at the idea of once more mingling with mankind? Alas! life is to me a burthen, and the sooner I part with it the better.'
"While R. was pursuing this train of reflections in the cabin, the heaving of the vessel increased; the creaking of the timbers grew louder, and there was a good deal of noise on the deck, occasioned by running to and fro, the rattling of cordage, and the clanking of heavy irons. The commands of the captain became rapid and stern, and the thumping of the billows against the sides of the ship made her shiver from the rudder to the bowsprit.
"R. was so buried in his own gloomy reflections that he did not for some time notice these events; but at last the din became so tremendous, that he started to his feet and ran upon deck. The scene that now met his eyes was indeed fearful. It was dark, but not so much so as to prevent the land from being visible at a little distance; the wind was blowing with the force of a hurricane, and urging the vessel, now perfectly at its mercy, into the boiling waves that fretted and foamed along its edge. The captain had given up all hope of saving the ship, and the passengers were kneeling and throwing up their hands in wildness and despair.
"R. was perfectly calm. The thought of losing his wealth crossed his mind, but it cost him not a struggle to be reconciled to its destruction. He then thought of sinking down in the waves to rise no more. To this, too, he yielded, saying briefly to himself, 'It is best it should be so.' Having thus made up his mind and prepared himself for the worst, as he fancied, he stood surveying the scene. The force of the gale was fearful; as it marched along the waters, it lashed their surface into foam, and burst upon the ship with a fury that seemed every moment on the point of carrying away her masts. At last, the vessel struck; a moment after, her masts fell, with their whole burthen of spars, sails, and rigging; the waves then rose over the stern of the helpless hulk, and swept the whole length of it. Several of the passengers were hurried into the tide, there to find a watery grave; some clung to the bulwarks, and others saved themselves in various ways.
"R. was himself plunged into the waves. His first idea was to yield himself to his fate without an effort; but the love of life revived, as he saw it placed in danger. He was an expert swimmer, and exerting himself, he soon approached the masts, which were still floating, though entangled with the wreck. It was in vain, however, to reach them, owing to the rolling of the surf. Several times he nearly laid his hand upon them, when he was beaten back by the dashing waves. His strength gradually gave way, and he was floating farther and farther from the wreck, when he chanced to see a spar near him; with a desperate effort, he swam to this, and was thus able to sustain himself upon the water.
"The night now grew dark apace, and R., being driven out to sea, was parted from the wreck, and could distinguish nothing but the flashing waves around him. His limbs began to grow cold, and he feared that his strength would
be insufficient to enable him to keep upon the spar. His anxiety increased; an awe of death which he had never felt before sprung up in his bosom, and an intense desire of life, that thing which he had so recently spurned as worthless, burned in his bosom. So little do we know ourselves until adversity has taught us reflection, that R., a few hours before fancying that he was willing and prepared to die, now yearned for safety, for deliverance, for life, with an agony he could not control. His feelings, however, did not overpower him. Using every effort of strength and skill, and rubbing his chilled limbs from time to time, he was able to sustain himself till morning. He could then perceive that the vessel had become a complete wreck, and that the fragments were floating on the waves; he could not discern a single human being, and was left to infer that all beside himself had perished.
"In this situation, benumbed with the cold, faint and exhausted with exertion, he was on the point of yielding himself a prey to the waves, when a pilot-boat came into view. It gradually approached the place where he was, and at last seemed so near him as almost to be within the reach of his voice. At this critical moment she made preparations to tack, and thus change her direction. R. noticed these movements with indescribable anxiety: if she were to advance a few rods more, he should be discovered and saved; if she were to change her route ever so little, she would pass by, and he, unobserved and helpless, would perish. The experience of years seemed now crowded into one moment of agony. Weary, cold, exhausted, the poor sufferer wished not now to die, but to live. 'Help, help!' cried he with all his strength. 'O God, send me deliverance from these waves!' This earnest and agonizing petition was the first prayer he had uttered for years, and it was in behalf of that existence which, in the days of luxury and splendor, he had thought a burden and a curse.
"Watching the pilot-boat with the keenest interest, poor R. now sat upon the spar, almost incapable of moving, on account of his sufferings and his weakness. He saw at last the helm put down; he saw the vessel obey the impulse; he saw her swing round, the sail flapping in the wind, and then filling again; he then saw her shoot off in another direction, thus leaving him destitute of hope. His heart sank within him, a sickness came over his bosom, his senses departed, and he fell forward into the waves. It was at this moment that he was discovered by the pilot. The vessel immediately steered towards him, and he was taken on board. In a few hours, he was at New York, and put under the care of persons who rendered him every assistance which he needed for his immediate comfort.
MERRY'S LIFE AND ADVENTURES, by Samuel Goodrich (from Robert Merry's Museum, October 1841, pp. 97-99)
Raymond's story of the School of Misfortune--concluded.
"It was several hours after his arrival at the city before R. had fully recovered his senses. When he was completely restored, and began to make inquiries, he found that all his ship companions had perished. He, who had probably cared least for life--he, who had no family, no friends, and who was weary of existence--he only, of all that ship's company, was the one that survived the tempest!
"There was something in this so remarkable, that it occupied his mind, and caused deep emotions. In the midst of many painful reflections, he could not, however, disguise the fact, that he felt a great degree of pleasure in his delivery from so fearful a death. Again and again he said to himself, 'How happy, how thankful I feel, at being saved, when so many have been borne down to a watery grave!' The loss of his property, though it left him a beggar in the world, did not seem to oppress him: the joy of escape from death was to him a source of lively satisfaction; it gave birth to a new feeling--a sense of dependence on God, and a lively exercise of gratitude towards him. It also established in his mind a fact before entirely unknown, or unremarked--that what is called misfortune, is often the source of some of our most exquisite enjoyments. 'It seems to me,' said R., in the course of his reflections, 'that, as gems are found in the dreary sands, and gold among the rugged rocks, and as the one are only yielded to toil, and the other to the smelting of the fiery furnace,--so happiness is the product of danger, suffering, and trial. I have felt more real peace, more positive enjoyment from my deliverance, than I was able to find in the whole circle of voluptuous pleasures yielded by wealth and fashion. I became a wretch, existence was to me a burthen, while I was rich. But, having lost my fortune, and experienced the fear of death, I am happy in the bare possession of that existence which I spurned before.'
"Such were the feelings and reflections of R. for a few days after his escape; but at length it was necessary for him to decide upon some course of action. He was absolutely penniless. Everything had been sunk with the ship. He had no letters of introduction, he had no acquaintances in New York; nor, indeed, did he know any one in all America, save that a brother of his was a clergyman in some part of the United States; but a coldness had existed between them, and he had not heard of him for several years. R. was conscious, too, that this coldness was the result of his own ungenerous conduct; for the whole of his father's estate had been
given to him, to the exclusion of his brother, and he had permitted him to work his own way in life, without offering him the least assistance. To apply to this brother was, therefore, forbidden by his pride; and, beside, he had every reason to suppose that brother to be poor.
"What, then, was to be done: Should he return to England? How was he to get the money to pay his passage? Beside, what was he to do when he got there? Go back to the village where he carried his head so high, and look in the faces of his former dashing acquaintances--acknowledging himself a beggar! This was not to be thought of. Should he seek some employment in America? This seemed the only plan. He began to make inquiries as to what he could find to do. One proposed to him to keep school; another, to go into a counting-room; another, to be a bar-keeper of a hotel. Any of these occupations would have given him the means of living; but R.'s pride was in the way;--pride, that dogs us all our life, and stops up almost every path we ought to follow, persuaded R. that he, who was once a gentleman, ought to live the life of a gentleman; and of course he could not do either of the things proposed.
"But events, day by day, pressed R. to a decision. His landlord, at last, became uneasy, and told him that for what had accrued he was welcome, in consideration of his misfortunes; but he was himself poor, and he begged him respectfully to make the speediest possible arrangements to give up his room, which he wanted for another boarder. 'I have been thinking,' said R. in reply to this, 'that I might engage in the practice of physic. In early life I was thought to have a turn for the profession.' This suggestion was approved by the landlord, and means were immediately taken to put it in execution. Dr. R., late of England, was forthwith announced; and in a few weeks he was in the full tide of successful experiment.
"This fair weather, however, did not continue without clouds. Many persons regarded Dr. R. only as one of the adventurers so frequently coming from England to repay the kindness and courtesy of the Yankees with imposition and villany [sic]. Various inquiries and stories were got up about him; some having a sprinkling of truth in them, and, for that reason, being very annoying. R., however, kept on his way, paying little heed to these rumors, fancying that, if left to themselves, they would soon die. And such would, perhaps, have been the result, had not a most unfortunate occurrence given matters another turn.
"In the house where R. boarded, several small sums of money, and certain ornaments of some value, were missed by the boarders, from time to time. Suspicions fell upon a French servant in the family; but as nothing could be proved against him, he was retained, and a vigilant watch kept over his actions. Discovering that he was suspected, this fellow determined to turn the suspicion against R.; he, therefore, in the dead of night, took a valuable watch from one of the rooms, and laid it under the pillow of R.'s bed. This was done with such address, that neither the gentleman from whom the watch was stolen, nor R. himself, saw anything of it at the time. The watch was missed in the morning, and the French servant was arrested. But as soon as the chambermaid began to make up R.'s bed, behold, the pilfered watch was there! The French servant was at once released, and R. was arrested, briefly examined, and thrown into prison.
"The circumstances in which he had come to the country now all made against him. The unfavorable rumors
that had been afloat respecting him were revived; all the stories of swindlers that had visited the country for twenty years back, were published anew, with embellishments. In short, R. was tried and condemned by the public, while he lay defenceless in prison, and long before his real trial came on. The subject became a matter of some notoriety; the circumstances were detailed in the newspapers. A paragraph noticing these events met the eye of R.'s brother, who was settled as a minister of the gospel in a country parish not far distant, and he immediately came to the city. Satisfying himself by a few inquiries that it was indeed his brother who was involved in difficulty and danger, he went straight to the prison, with a heart overflowing with sympathy and kindness. But pride was still in the way, and R. haughtily repulsed him.
"The pious minister was deeply grieved; but he did not the less seek to serve his brother. He took care to investigate the facts, and became persuaded that the French servant had practised the deception that has been stated; but he was not able to prove it. He employed the best of counsel; but, in spite of all his efforts, and all his sympathy, R. was found guilty, condemned, and consigned to prison.
"Up to this time, the pride of R. had sustained him; but it now gave way. He had borne the loss of fortune, but to be convicted of a low, base theft, was what his spirit could not endure. His health sunk under it, and his reason, for a time, departed. His sufferings during that dark hour, God only knows. He at last recovered his health and his senses, and then he heard, that, on his death-bed, the French servant had confessed his iniquity. It was from the lips of his brother, and under his roof, where he had been removed during his insanity, that R. learnt these events. He was released from prison, and his character was cleared of the imputation of crime.
"From this period R. was an altered man. His pride was effectually quelled; no longer did that disturber of earth's happiness,--the real serpent of Eden,--remain to keep him in a state of alienation from his brother. The two were now, indeed, as brothers. But there were other changes in R.; his health was feeble, his constitution was broken; his manly beauty had departed, and he was but the wreck of former days. But, strange as it may seem, he now, for the first time, found peace and happiness. He had now tasted of sorrow, and was acquainted with grief. This enabled him to enter into the hearts of other men, to see their sorrows, and to desire to alleviate them. A new world was now open to him; a world of effort, of usefulness, of happiness. In the days of prosperity, he had no cares for anybody but himself; and mere selfishness had left him a wretch while in possession of all the supposed means of bliss. He had now made the discovery,--more important to any human being than that of Columbus,--that pride in the curse of the human race, and humility its own cure; that trial, sorrow, and misfortune are necessary, in most cases, to make us acquainted with our own hearts, and those of our fellow-men; and that true bliss is to be found only in a plan of life which seeks, earnestly and sincerely, the peace and happiness of others."
Here ended R.'s story of the School of Misfortune; and I had no difficulty in discovering that he had been telling the story of his own life, though he had, in some respects, as I had reason to suppose, departed from its details.
MERRY'S LIFE AND ADVENTURES, by Samuel Goodrich (from Robert Merry's Museum, November 1841, pp. 149-151)
Sick-room incidents and reflections.
In my last chapter I concluded the story which Raymond told me, and which I entitled the "School of Misfortune." At the time, I supposed he only related it for my amuseument, but I have since believed that he had a farther design; which wa, to show me that wealth, used to puff up the heart with pride, is a source of positive evil; and that poverty, sickness, misfortune, humiliation--provided they make the heart tender toward mankind, and open new springs of sympathy in the soul--are like kind and gentle schoolmasters, teaching us the true art of happiness. I believe now, that Raymond intended to impress this great lesson on my heart, as well because it is useful to all, as because he probably foresaw approaching events, in relation to my own circumstances, which might make it specially needful to me.
There is nothing which more shows the advantages of civilization, than the care and kindness bestowed upon the sick, among Christian nations. With savages, the sick person is usually left to himself, where, like a wild beast, he must await, in solitude, the result of his disease. There is little sympathy offered to him--there is no kind hand to wipe the cold sweat from his brow; no watchful friend at his bedside to supply every want, and alleviate, as far as may be, every pain. Sickness with the savage is solitary and desolate; with Christians, though it has its pains, it has its alleviations. I suffered much during the period of my confinement, as well from my broken limb as the fever that raged in my veins. After this was past, I also suffered from excessive languor.
But still, in the midst of all this, and though my mind was pained with shame and mortification, for the folly which had brought these evils upon me. I had a sense of peace and happiness shining through it all. This was wholly derived from the kindness of my friends. When Raymond sat by my bed, his benignant eye resting upon me, I felt an indescribable degree of delightful emotion, composed, I believe, partly of gratitude, and partly of a confidence that all that could be done, would be done, in my behalf. Often, as I awoke from my sleep, and saw him patiently watching by me, the tears would gush to my eyes: but they were not tears of unhappiness. I think he perceived my emotion, and I believe he understood my feelings. One thing is certain--that sick-bed was the best schoolmaster of my life; it brought me Raymond's wise counsel; it brought me wholesome shame for my folly; it taught me my dependence on others. It also taught me one other lesson--and that is, never to distrust the kindness and virtue of my fellow-men. It seemed to open a window into the human heart, letting light and sunshine in, where people are too apt to see nothing by selfishness and darkness.
This latter lesson was enforced by many circumstances. Not only was my bosom touched by the kindness of Raymond, but also by that of my uncle. Twice each day did he come to see me, and he always treated me with more tenderness than seemed to belong to his nature. He was a hale man himself, and it was his boast that he had never had a sick day in his life. Indeed, he had little sympathy for sickness, and usually expressed himself in terms of contempt toward everybody that chanced to be less robust than himself. When I was at the height of my fever, he insisted that all I wanted, in order to make me well again, was some roast beef and raw brandy! Still, he did not interfere with the course prescribed by the physi-
cian, and took pains to see that every thing was done for me that was deemed useful or necessary.
My companions of the village often sent to inquire after me, and Bill Keeler frequently stole in just to look at me, and say, "God bless you, Bob!" All these things went to my heart; but nothing affected me more than an event which Imust notice with some detail.
The schoolmaster of the village was one of those men who seek to accomplish every object by sme indirect means. He was what is called a cunning man, and was, withal, exceedingly fond of power, in the exercise of which he was capricious, tyrannical and unjust. At first he treated me with the greatest attention, and in fact picked me out as one of his favorites, upon whom he lavished his smiles and his praises. He had great faith in flattery, and believed that any person, young or old, might be caught by it; and while it seemed to be his object to propitiate me, he laid it on pretty thick. I was well enough pleased with this for a time, though I had a sort of distrust of the man who could condescend to such means, and enter into such schemes of policy; and even though I yielded to his views, in many things, I had still no respect for, or confidence in, him.
There was in the school a boy by the name of William Bury, son of a poor Irishman, that lived in the village. He was remarkably small of his age, but exceedingly active, and withal lively and intelligent. At the same time he was shrewd and witty, and, perceiving the weak points of the schoolmaster's character, occasionally made them the target of his wit. As the master rendered each boy in the school a spy upon his fellows, he knew everything that was said and done; and poor Bill Bury was often punished for the freedom with which he indulged his tongue.
In process of time, Will and myself became the antipodes of the school: I was the favorite, and he the reprobate. Whatever he did was wrong: whatever I did was right. Under such circumstances, it was natural that we should be rivals, and it was, no doubt, a part of the plan of the politic schoolmaster, to keep us thus divided, that he might rule the more effectually.
During this state of things, several of the school boys were one day skating upon a river that ran along the western border of the town--Will and myself being of the number. It had been filled with heavy rains, and was now of considerable width and depth. In the deepest part there was a breathing-hole in the ice, which, of course, we all sought to avoid. As I was swiftly skating toward this place, with the intention of turning aside as I approached it, one of my skates struck a small stick, which brought me down, and--carried forward by the impetus of my course--I was instantly plunged into the opening of the ice. I sunk beneath the surface of the water for a moment, but then rose, and caught hold of the ice, which, however, broke in my hands as I grapsed it.
It was but a few seconds before I was completely chilled; but, by this time, the boys around had raised a shout of terror, and several of them had gathered at a little distance, and were soon either silent with dismay, or raising idle screams for help. Among the number I noticed Bill Bury, and though I had been accustomed to speak lightly of him, I confess that at that fearful moment my only hope rested in him. Looking at me intently for a moment, and then casting a searching glance around, he sped away like an arrow. In the space of a minute, he returned, bringing a rail which he had plucked from a neighboring fence. Calling aloud for all around to give place, he laid the rail down upon the ice, and dex-
terously slid it across the opening, pushing it so close as to bring it within my reach. I was, however, so benumbed, that, in attempting to take hold of it, I lost my grasp of the ice, and sunk senseless beneath the wave.
Will hesitated not an instant, but plunged into the water, and, as I rose, he caught me in his arms. Grasping me tight by the right arm while he held on to the rail by the left, he supported himself and me; at the same time he commanded the boys to get two more rails. These were brought and laid across the opening, and thus support was furnished for two of them to come and lift us out.
In this way my life was saved: I owed it to the courage, skill, and devotedness of Will Bury--my rival, and, as I had esteemed him, my enemy. I was not so base as to overlook his generous conduct, or to permit the relation in which we stood to abate my praises of his noble action. But the schoolmaster, being one of those people who have always a selfish object in everything they say and do, fearing that his entire system of tactics would be broken up, if Will and I should become friends, took a different course. He indeed praised Will for an act that no one, it would seem, could fail to admire; but, at the same time, he sought every occasion, from that day, to ruin him in my estimation. At the same time he tried, in many cunning and sly ways, to poison Will's mind with jealousy of me.
It was not long, therefore, before we were again in antagonist positions, and at last an open breach took place between us. In process of time, Will went to learn a trade of a carpenter, at the distance of a mile or two, and then I seldom saw him. Whenever we met we did not speak to each other. This was the state of things, when the accident happened which laid me on a bed of sickness. While I was recovering, I often thought of Will Bury, and my heart reproached me keenly for permitting my better feelings to be turned against him. In short, I yearned to see him, and it was while I was one day thinking about him, that I saw him come softly to the door and ask Raymond how I was. I instantly called him to my bedside, and I never felt a warmer emotion than when he came, and I threw my arms around his neck. He, too, was much affected, and tears--the first I ever saw the gay-hearted fellow shed--fell upon my cheek. From that day we were friends; and I thus learned to put a just value upon a generous heart--though it may belong to a poor boy.
MERRY'S LIFE AND ADVENTURES, by Samuel Goodrich (from Robert Merry's Museum, December 1841, pp. 178-181)
Recovery from sickness.--Change of character.--Story of a quack.
In about two months after my accident, I rose from the sick bed, and was permitted to walk abroad. Although it was autumn, and the sere and yellow leaves were now nearly stript from the trees, the face of nature bore an aspect of loveliness to me. I had so long been shut up, and excluded alike from fresh air and the out-door scenes of life, that I was like a man long deprived of food, with a ravenous appetite and a full meal before him. I enjoyed everything; the air, the landscape, the walk--each and all delighted me. My fever was entirely gone, and, having nothing but weakness to contend with, I recovered my former state of health and strength in the course of a few weeks.
But I was not restored to my full flow of spirits--nor, indeed, from that day, have I ever felt again the joyous gush of boyhood emotions. My accident, attended by the wholesome shame it produced, had in no small degree abated my self-appreciation. I was humbled, if not before the world, at least in my own esteem. My sick-bed reflections, too, had served to sober my mind, and give me a sense of responsibility I had never felt before. I had, in short, passed from the gay thoughtlessness of a boy to somewhat of the sobriety of manhood.
I did not, myself, remark the changes in my manners or my character; but others did. My uncle, particularly, noticed it, and became uneasy, or, rather, vexed about it. He was a jolly old man, and wished everybody else to be jolly too. Nor could he readily comprehend why such a change should have come over me: he did not easily appreciate sickness, or its effects; nor did he estimate the sobering influences of reflection. He insisted upon it that I was "in the dumps" about something; and, half in jest and half in earnest, he scolded me from morn to night.
In spite of all this, I continued to be a much more serious personage than before, and my uncle at last became alarmed. Though a man of pretty good sense, in general, he entertained a contempt for physicians, especially those engaged in regular practice. If he had faith in any, it was in those who are usually called quacks. He believed that the power of healing lay rather in some natural gift, than in the skill acquired by study and practice. As usually happens in such cases, any impudent pretender could deceive him, and the more gross the cheat, the more readily ws he taken in, himself. Having made up his mind that I was, as he expressed himself, "in a bad way," he was casting about as to what was to be done, when, one evening, a person,
notorious in those days, and an inhabitant of a neighboring town, chanced to stop at the tavern. This person was called Dr. Farnum, and, if I may use the expression, he was a regular quack.
I happened to be in the bar-room when the doctor came. He was a large, stout man, with grizzled hair, a long cue adown his back, and a small, fiery, gray eye. This latter feature was deep-set beneath a shaggy eyebrow, and seemed as restless as a red squirrel upon a tree, of a frosty morning. It was perpetually turning from object to object, seeming to take a keen and prying survey of everything around, as we sometimes see a cat, when entering a strange room. The doctor's dress was even more remarkable than his person: he wore small-clothes--the fashion of the time--and top-boots, the upper portion being not a little soiled and fretted by time and use. His hat had a rounded crown, in the manner of an ancient helmet; and the brim, of enormous width, was supported on each side by strings running to the crown. His over-coat was long and ample, and of that reddish brown, called butternut color. I noticed that the hat and boots were of the same hue, and afterwards learned that this was a point of importance, for the person in question assumed and maintained the designation of the "but'nut doctor."
Having greeted my uncle heartily, and said "good day" to the loungers around the fire, he took a seat, spread his feet apart, and, sliding his hands up and down his legs, from the thigh to the shin-bone, called for a glass of flip. This was soon provided, and taking a large quid of tobacco out of his mouth--which he held in his hand, to be restored to its place after the liquor was discussed--he applied himself to the steaming potation. Having tasted this, and smacked his lips, a lickerish smile came over his face, and turning round to the company he said, in an insinuating tone--"Does any on ye know of any body that 's sick in these parts?"
There was a momentary paause--and then Mat Olmstead, the standing wag of the village, replied: "Nobody, I guess, unless it 's Deacon Kellig's cow."
"Well," said the doctor, not at all abashed at the titter which followed--"well, I can cure a cow; it 's not as if I was one of your college-larnt doctors; I should then be too proud to administer to a brute. But, the scriptur' says, a marciful man is marciful to a beast--and I prefer follerin' scriptur' to follerin' the fashion. If Providence has given me a gift, I shall not refuse to bestow it on any of God's critters that stand in need on 't."
"Well," said Matthew, "do you cure a cow with the same physic that you cure a man?"
"Why not?" said Farnum; "it 's better to be cured by chance, than killed by rule. The pint is, to get cured, in case of sickness, whether it 's a beast, or a man. Nater 's the great physician, and I foller that."
"What is nater?" said Olmstead.
"Nater? Ah, that 's the question! Nater 's--nater!"--
"Indeed?--but can't you tell us what it is?"
"I guess I could, if I tried: it 's the most mysteriousest thing in the univarsal world. I've looked into 't, and I know. Now, when a cow has lost the cud, so that it won't work up or down, I go to a place where there 's some elder; then I cut some strips of the bark up; and I cut come on 't down; and I cut some on 't round and round. I then make a wad on 't, and put it down the cow's throat. That part of the bark that 's cut up, brings the cud up; that part that 's cut down, carries it down; and that part that 's cut round and round,
makes it work round and round: and so, you see, there 's a kind of huzzlety muzzlety, and it sets everything agoin', and all comes right, and the critter 's cured as clean as mud. That 's what I call nater!"
This speech was uttered with a very knowing air, and it seemed to derive additional authority from the long cure and broad brim of the speaker. He looked around, and perceived a sort of awful respect in the countenances of the hearers. Even the shrewd and satirical Matthew was cowed by the wisdom and authority of the doctor. My uncle, who had hitherto stood behind the bar, now came forward, and, sitting down by his side, inquired how it was that he had gained such a wonderful sight of knowledge.
"Why," says Farnum, "there 't is agin, squire; it 's nater--it 's clear nater. I never went to college, but I had a providential insight into things from my childhood. Now, here 's my but'nut physic--it 's true, an Indian give me the fust notion on 't; but I brought it to perfection, from my own study into nater. Now, all them doctors' stuffs that you git at the pottekary's, is nothin' but pizen; thur 's no nater in 't. My physic is all yarbs--every mite on 't. I can cure a man, woman, or child, jest as sure as a cat 'll lick butter! There 's no mistake."
"Well, how did you find it out, doctor?" said my uncle, seeming anxious to give him an opportunity to unfold his wisdom.
"Can you tell why a duck takes to water?" said Farnum, with a look of conscious importance. "It 's because it 's in him. 'T was jest so with me. I had a nateral instinct that telled me that there was something very mysterious in the number seven. I expect I got some on 't from the scriptur', for there 's a great deal there about it. Well, one dark, rainy night, as I was goin' along thro' some woods, thinkin' about somethin' or other, I came to a bridge over a river. The wind was blowin' desput hard, and it seemed to go through me like a hetchel through a hand of flax. I stood there a minit, and then I looked down into the dark water, wolloping along; and, thinks I, it 's all exactly like human nater. Well, now, if you 'll believe me, jest as that are thought crossed my mind, I heerd a hoot-owl in the woods. He hooted jest seven times, and then he stopped. Then he hooted seven times more, and so kept goin' on, till he'd hooted jest forty-nine times. Now, thinks I to myself, this must mean somethin', but I could n't tell what. I went home, but I did n't sleep any. The next day I could n't eat anything, and, in fact, I grew as thin as a June shad. All the time I was thinkin' of the bridge, and the wind whistlin', and the river, and the dark rollin' water, and the hoot-owl that spoke to me seven times seven times.
"Well, now, there was an Indian in the place, who was famous for curin' all sorts of diseases with yarbs. I went to see him one day, and tell'd him I was sick. He ax'd me what was the matter, and I related the story of the owl. 'You are the man I have been seeking for,' said he. 'The spirit of the night has told me that I shall soon die; and he has commanded me to give my secret to one that shall be sent. In seven weeks from the time that you were at the bridge, meet me there at midnight.'
"True to the appointment, I went to the bridge. It was a rainy night agin, and agin the wind howled over the bridge--agin the owl was there, and agin he lifted up his voice forty-nine times. At that moment I saw the dark Indian come upon the bridge. He then told me his secret. 'man,' said he, 'is subject to seven times seven diseases
and there are seven times seven plants made for their cure. Go, seek, and you shall find!' Saying this, the dark figure leaped over the bridge, and disappeared in the waters. I stood and heerd a gurgling and choking sound, and saw somethin' strugglin' in the stream; but the Indian disappeared, and I have never seen him sence. I went from the place, and I soon found the forty-nine yarbs, and of these I make my pills. Each pill has seven times seven ingredients in it; though but'nut 's the chief, and that 's why it 's called but'nut physic. You may give it in any disease, and the cure for 't is there. I've tried it in nine hundred and thirty-seven cases, and it haint failed but six times, and that, I reckon, was for want of faith. Here 's some of the pills; there 's forty-nine in a box, and the price is a dollar."
Such was the doctor's marvellous tale, and every word of it was no doubt a fiction.
It may seem strange that such an impostor as this should succeed; but, for some reason or other, mankind love to be cheated by quacks. This is the only reason I can assign for the fact that Dr. Farnum sold six boxes of his pills before he left the tavern, and one of them to my uncle. The next day, he insisted upon my taking seven of them, and, at his urgent request, I complied. The result was, that I was taken violently ill, and was again confined to my room for a fortnight. At length I recovered, and my uncle insisted that if I had not taken the pills, I should have had a much worse turn; and, therefore, it was regarded as a remarkable proof of the efficacy of Farnum's pills. Some two or three years after, I saw my own name in the doctor's advertisement, among a list of persons who had been cured in a wonderful manner, by the physic of the butternut doctor.
I have thought it worth while to note these incidents, because they amused me much at the time, and proved a lesson to me through life--which I commend to all my readers--and that is, never to place the slightest confidence in a quack.