TE DEUM LAUDAMUS! The Lord's name be praised! The dead pain in the semilunar ganglion (which I must remind my reader is a kind of stupid, unreasoning brain, beneath the pit of the stomach, common to man and beast, which aches in the supreme moments of life, as when the dam loses her young ones, or the wild horse is lassoed) stopped short. There was a feeling as if I had slipped off a tight boot, or cut a strangling garter,--only it was all over my system. What more could I ask to assure me of the Captain's safety? As soon as the telegraph office opens tomorrow morning we will send a message to our friends in Philadelphia, and get a reply, doubtless, which will settle the whole matter.
The hopeful morrow dawned at last, and the message was sent accordingly. In due time, the following reply was received: "Phil Sept 24 I think the report you have heard that W [the Captain] has gone East must be an error we have not seen or heard of him here M L H"
DE PROFUNDIS CLAMAVI! He could not have passed through Philadelphia without visiting the house called Beautiful, where he had been so tenderly cared for after his wound at Ball's Bluff, and where those whom he loved were lying in grave peril of life or limb. Yet he did pass through Harrisburg, going East, going to Philadelphia, on his way home. Ah, this is it! He must have taken the late night-train from Philadelphia for New York, in his impatience to reach home. There is such a train, not down in the guide-book, but we were assured of the fact at the Harrisburg depot. By and by came the reply from Dr. Wilson's telegraphic message: nothing had been heard of the Captain at Chambersburg. Still later, another message came from our Philadelphia friend, saying that he was seen on Friday last at the house of Mrs. K________, a well-known Union lady in Hagerstown. Now this could not be true, for he did not leave Keedysville until Saturday; but the name of the lady furnished a clew by which we could probably track him. A telegram was at once sent to Mrs. K_______, asking information. It was transmitted immediately, but when the answer would be received was uncertain, as the Government almost monopolized the line. I was, on the whole, so well satisfied that the Captain had gone East, that, unless something were heard to the contrary, I proposed following him in the late train leaving a little after midnight for Philadelphia.
This same morning we visited several of the temporary hospitals, churches and school-houses, where the wounded were lying. In one of these, after looking round as usual, I asked aloud, "Any Massachusetts men here?" Two bright faces lifted themselves from their pillows and welcomed me by name. The one nearest me was private John B. Noyes of Company B, Massachusetts Thirteenth, son of my old college class-tutor, now the reverend and learned Professor of Hebrew, etc., in Harvard University. His neighbor was Corporal Armstrong of the same Company. Both were slightly wounded, doing well. I learned then and since from Mr. Noyes that they and their comrades were completely overwhelmed by the attentions of the good people of Harrisburg,--that the ladies brought them fruits and flowers, and smiles, better than either,--and that the little boys of the place were almost fighting for the privilege of doing their errands. I am afraid there will be a good many hearts pierced in this war that will have no bulletmark to show.
There were some heavy hours to get rid of, and we thought a visit to Camp Curtin might lighten some of them. A rickety wagon carried us to the camp, in company with a young woman from Troy, who had a basket of good things with her for a sick brother. "Poor boy! he will be sure to die," she said. The rustic sentries uncrossed their muskets and let us in. The camp was on a fair plain, girdled with hills, spacious, well kept apparently, but did not present any peculiar attraction for us. The visit would have been a dull one, had we not happened to get sight of a singular-looking set of human beings in the distance. They were clad in stuff of different hues, gray and brown being the leading shades, but both subdued by a neutral tint, such as is wont to harmonize the variegated apparel of travel-stained vagabonds. They looked slouchy, listless, torpid,--an ill-conditioned crew, at first sight, made up of such fellows as an old woman would drive away from her hen-roost with a broomstick. Yet these were estrays from the fiery army which has given our generals so much trouble,--"Secesh prisoners," as a bystander told us. A talk with them might be profitable and entertaining. But they were tabooed to the common visitor, and it was necessary to get inside of the line which separated us from them.
A solid, square captain was standing near by, to whom we were referred. Look a man calmly through the very centre of his pupils and ask him for anything with a tone implying entire conviction that he will grant it, and he will very commonly consent to the thing asked, were it to commit hari-kari. The Captain acceded to my postulate, and accepted my friend as a corollary. As one string of my own ancestors was of Batavian origin, I may be permitted to say that my new friend was of the Dutch type, like the Amsterdam galiots, broad in the beam, capacious in the hold, and calculated to carry a heavy cargo rather than to make fast time. He must have been in politics at some time or other, for he made orations to all the "Secesh," in which he explained to them that the United States considered and treated them like children, and enforced upon them the ridiculous impossibility of the Rebels attempting to do anything against such a power as that of the National Government.
Much as his discourse edified them and enlightened me, it interfered somewhat with my little plans of entering into frank and friendly talk with some of these poor fellows, for whom I could not help feeling a kind of human sympathy, though I am as venomous a hater of the Rebellion as one is like to find under the stars and stripes. It is fair to take a man prisoner. It is fair to make speeches to a man. But to take a man prisoner and then make speeches to him while in durance is not fair.
I began a few pleasant conversations, which would have come to something but for the reason assigned.
One old fellow had a long beard, a drooping eyelid, and a black clay pipe in his mouth. He was a Scotchman from Ayr, dour enough, and little disposed to be communicative, though I tried him with the "Twa Briggs," and, like all Scotchmen, he was a reader of "Burrns." He professed to feel no interest in the cause for which he was fighting, and was in the army, I judged, only from compulsion. There was a wild-haired, unsoaped boy, with pretty, foolish features enough, who looked as if he might be about seventeen, as he said he was. I give my questions and his answers literally.
"What State do you come from?"
"What part of Georgia?"
--[How odd that is! My father was settled for seven years as pastor over the church at Midway, Georgia, and this youth is very probably a grandson or great grandson of one of his parishioners.]
"Where did you go to church when you were at home?"
"Never went inside 'f a church b't once in m' life."
"What did you do before you became a soldier?"
"What do you mean to do when you get back?"
Who could have any other feeling than pity for this poor human weed, this dwarfed and etiolated soul, doomed by neglect to an existence but one degree above that of the idiot?
With the group was a lieutenant, buttoned close in his gray coat,-- one button gone, perhaps to make a breastpin for some fair traitorous bosom. A short, stocky man, undistinguishable from one of the "subject race" by any obvious meanderings of the sangre azul on his exposed surfaces. He did not say much, possibly because he was convinced by the statements and arguments of the Dutch captain. He had on strong, iron-heeled shoes, of English make, which he said cost him seventeen dollars in Richmond.
I put the question, in a quiet, friendly way, to several of the prisoners, what they were fighting for. One answered, "For our homes." Two or three others said they did not know, and manifested great indifference to the whole matter, at which another of their number, a sturdy fellow, took offence, and muttered opinions strongly derogatory to those who would not stand up for the cause they had been fighting for. A feeble; attenuated old man, who wore the Rebel uniform, if such it could be called, stood by without showing any sign of intelligence. It was cutting very close to the bone to carve such a shred of humanity from the body politic to make a soldier of.
We were just leaving, when a face attracted me, and I stopped the party. "That is the true Southern type," I said to my companion. A young fellow, a little over twenty, rather tall, slight, with a perfectly smooth, boyish cheek, delicate, somewhat high features, and a fine, almost feminine mouth, stood at the opening of his tent, and as we turned towards him fidgeted a little nervously with one hand at the loose canvas, while he seemed at the same time not unwilling to talk. He was from Mississippi, he said, had been at Georgetown College, and was so far imbued with letters that even the name of the literary humility before him was not new to his ears. Of course I found it easy to come into magnetic relation with him, and to ask him without incivility what he was fighting for. "Because I like the excitement of it," he answered. I know those fighters with women's mouths and boys' cheeks. One such from the circle of my own friends, sixteen years old, slipped away from his nursery, and dashed in under, an assumed name among the red-legged Zouaves, in whose company he got an ornamental bullet-mark in one of the earliest conflicts of the war.
"Did you ever see a genuine Yankee?" said my Philadelphia friend to the young Mississippian.
"I have shot at a good many of them," he replied, modestly, his woman's mouth stirring a little, with a pleasant, dangerous smile.
The Dutch captain here put his foot into the conversation, as his ancestors used to put theirs into the scale, when they were buying furs of the Indians by weight,--so much for the weight of a hand, so much for the weight of a foot. It deranged the balance of our intercourse; there was no use in throwing a fly where a paving-stone had just splashed into the water, and I nodded a good-by to the boy- fighter, thinking how much pleasanter it was for my friend the Captain to address him with unanswerable arguments and crushing statements in his own tent than it would be to meet him upon some remote picket station and offer his fair proportions to the quick eye of a youngster who would draw a bead on him before he had time to say dunder and blixum.
We drove back to the town. No message. After dinner still no message. Dr. Cuyler, Chief Army Hospital Inspector, is in town, they say. Let us hunt him up,--perhaps he can help us.
We found him at the Jones House. A gentleman of large proportions, but of lively temperament, his frame knit in the North, I think, but ripened in Georgia, incisive, prompt but good-humored, wearing his broad-brimmed, steeple-crowned felt hat with the least possible tilt on one side,--a sure sign of exuberant vitality in a mature and dignified person like him, business-like in his ways, and not to be interrupted while occupied with another, but giving himself up heartily to the claimant who held him for the time. He was so genial, so cordial, so encouraging, that it seemed as if the clouds, which had been thick all the morning, broke away as we came into his presence, and the sunshine of his large nature filled the air all around us. He took the matter in hand at once, as if it were his own private affair. In ten minutes he had a second telegraphic message on its way to Mrs. K at Hagerstown, sent through the Government channel from the State Capitol,--one so direct and urgent that I should be sure of an answer to it, whatever became of the one I had sent in the morning.
While this was going on, we hired a dilapidated barouche, driven by an odd young native, neither boy nor man, "as a codling when 't is almost an apple," who said wery for very, simple and sincere, who smiled faintly at our pleasantries, always with a certain reserve of suspicion, and a gleam of the shrewdness that all men get who live in the atmosphere of horses. He drove us round by the Capitol grounds, white with tents, which were disgraced in my eyes by unsoldierly scrawls in huge letters, thus: THE SEVEN BLOOMSBURY BROTHERS, DEVIL'S HOLE, and similar inscriptions. Then to the Beacon Street of Harrisburg, which looks upon the Susquehanna instead of the Common, and shows a long front of handsome houses with fair gardens. The river is pretty nearly a mile across here, but very shallow now. The codling told us that a Rebel spy had been caught trying its fords a little while ago, and was now at Camp Curtin with a heavy ball chained to his leg,--a popular story, but a lie, Dr. Wilson said. A little farther along we came to the barkless stump of the tree to which Mr. Harris, the Cecrops of the city named after him, was tied by the Indians for some unpleasant operation of scalping or roasting, when he was rescued by friendly savages, who paddled across the stream to save him. Our youngling pointed out a very respectable- looking stone house as having been "built by the Indians" about those times. Guides have queer notions occasionally.
I was at Niagara just when Dr. Rae arrived there with his companions and dogs and things from his Arctic search after the lost navigator.
"Who are those?" I said to my conductor.
"Them?" he answered. "Them's the men that's been out West, out to Michig'n, aft' Sir Ben Franklin."
Of the other sights of Harrisburg the Brant House or Hotel, or whatever it is called, seems most worth notice. Its facade is imposing, with a row of stately columns, high above which a broad sign impends, like a crag over the brow of a lofty precipice. The lower floor only appeared to be open to the public. Its tessellated pavement and ample courts suggested the idea of a temple where great multitudes might kneel uncrowded at their devotions; but from appearances about the place where the altar should be, I judged, that, if one asked the officiating priest for the cup which cheers and likewise inebriates, his prayer would not be unanswered. The edifice recalled to me a similar phenomenon I had once looked upon,-- the famous Caffe Pedrocchi at Padua. It was the same thing in Italy and America: a rich man builds himself a mausoleum, and calls it a place of entertainment. The fragrance of innumerable libations and the smoke of incense-breathing cigars and pipes shall ascend day and night through the arches of his funereal monument. What are the poor dips which flare and flicker on the crowns of spikes that stand at the corners of St. Genevieve's filigree-cased sarcophagus to this perpetual offering of sacrifice?
Ten o'clock in the evening was approaching. The telegraph office would presently close, and as yet there were no tidings from Hagerstown. Let us step over and see for ourselves. A message! A message!
"Captain H. still here leaves seven to-morrow for Harrisburg Penna Is doing well Mrs HK--."
A note from Dr. Cuyler to the same effect came soon afterwards to the hotel.
We shall sleep well to-night; but let us sit awhile with nubiferous, or, if we may coin a word, nepheligenous accompaniment, such as shall gently narcotize the over-wearied brain and fold its convolutions for slumber like the leaves of a lily at nightfall. For now the over- tense nerves are all unstraining themselves, and a buzz, like that which comes over one who stops after being long jolted upon an uneasy pavement, makes the whole frame alive with a luxurious languid sense of all its inmost fibres. Our cheerfulness ran over, and the mild, pensive clerk was so magnetized by it that he came and sat down with us. He presently confided to me, with infinite naivete and ingenuousness, that, judging from my personal appearance, he should not have thought me the writer that he in his generosity reckoned me to be. His conception, so far as I could reach it, involved a huge, uplifted forehead, embossed with protuberant organs of the intellectual faculties, such as all writers are supposed to possess in abounding measure. While I fell short of his ideal in this respect, he was pleased to say that he found me by no means the remote and inaccessible personage he had imagined, and that I had nothing of the dandy about me, which last compliment I had a modest consciousness of most abundantly deserving.
Sweet slumbers brought us to the morning of Thursday. The train from Hagerstown was due at 11.15 A. M: We took another ride behind the codling, who showed us the sights of yesterday over again. Being in a gracious mood of mind, I enlarged on the varying aspects of the town-pumps and other striking objects which we had once inspected, as seen by the different lights of evening and morning. After this, we visited the school-house hospital. A fine young fellow, whose arm had been shattered, was just falling into the spasms of lock-jaw. The beads of sweat stood large and round on his flushed and contracted features. He was under the effect of opiates,--why not (if his case was desperate, as it seemed to be considered) stop his sufferings with chloroform? It was suggested that it might shorten life. "What then?" I said. "Are a dozen additional spasms worth living for?"
The time approached for the train to arrive from Hagerstown, and we went to the station. I was struck, while waiting there, with what seemed to me a great want of care for the safety of the people standing round. Just after my companion and myself had stepped off the track, I noticed a car coming quietly along at a walk, as one may say, without engine, without visible conductor, without any person heralding its approach, so silently, so insidiously, that I could not help thinking how very near it came to flattening out me and my match-box worse than the Ravel pantomimist and his snuff-box were flattened out in the play. The train was late,--fifteen minutes, half an hour late, and I began to get nervous, lest something had happened. While I was looking for it, out started a freight-train, as if on purpose to meet the cars I was expecting, for a grand smash- up. I shivered at the thought, and asked an employee of the road, with whom I had formed an acquaintance a few minutes old, why there should not be a collision of the expected train with this which was just going out. He smiled an official smile, and answered that they arranged to prevent that, or words to that effect.
Twenty-four hours had not passed from that moment when a collision did occur, just out of the city, where I feared it, by which at least eleven persons were killed, and from forty to sixty more were maimed and crippled!
To-day there was the delay spoken of, but nothing worse. The expected train came in so quietly that I was almost startled to see it on the track. Let us walk calmly through the cars, and look around us.
In the first car, on the fourth seat to the right, I saw my Captain; there saw I him, even my first-born, whom I had sought through many cities.
"How are you, Boy?"
"How are you, Dad?"
Such are the proprieties of life, as they are observed among us Anglo-Saxons of the nineteenth century, decently disguising those natural impulses that made Joseph, the Prime Minister of Egypt, weep aloud so that the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard, nay, which had once overcome his shaggy old uncle Esau so entirely that he fell on his brother's neck and cried like a baby in the presence of all the women. But the hidden cisterns of the soul may be filling fast with sweet tears, while the windows through which it looks are undimmed by a drop or a film of moisture.
These are times in which we cannot live solely for selfish joys or griefs. I had not let fall the hand I held, when a sad, calm voice addressed me by name. I fear that at the moment I was too much absorbed in my own feelings; for certainly at any other time. I should have yielded myself without stint to the sympathy which this meeting might well call forth.
"You remember my son, Cortland Saunders, whom I brought to see you once in Boston?"
"I do remember him well."
"He was killed on Monday, at Shepherdstown. I am carrying his body back with me on this train. He was my only child. If you could come to my house,--I can hardly call it my home now,--it would be a pleasure to me."
This young man, belonging in Philadelphia, was the author of a "New System of Latin Paradigms," a work showing extraordinary scholarship and capacity. It was this book which first made me acquainted with him, and I kept him in my memory, for there was genius in the youth. Some time afterwards he came to me with a modest request to be introduced to President Felton, and one or two others, who would aid him in a course of independent study he was proposing to himself. I was most happy to smooth the way for him, and he came repeatedly after this to see me and express his satisfaction in the opportunities for study he enjoyed at Cambridge. He was a dark, still, slender person, always with a trance-like remoteness, a mystic dreaminess of manner, such as I never saw in any other youth. Whether he heard with difficulty, or whether his mind reacted slowly on an alien thought, I could not say; but his answer would often be behind time, and then a vague, sweet smile, or a few words spoken under his breath, as if he had been trained in sick men's chambers. For such a youth, seemingly destined for the inner life of contemplation, to be a soldier seemed almost unnatural. Yet he spoke to me of his intention to offer himself to his country, and his blood must now be reckoned among the precious sacrifices which will make her soil sacred forever. Had he lived, I doubt not that he would have redeemed the rare promise of his earlier years. He has done better, for he has died that unborn generations may attain the hopes held out to our nation and to mankind.
So, then, I had been within ten miles of the place where my wounded soldier was lying, and then calmly turned my back upon him to come once more round by a journey of three or four hundred miles to the same region I had left! No mysterious attraction warned me that the heart warm with the same blood as mine was throbbing so near my own. I thought of that lovely, tender passage where Gabriel glides unconsciously by Evangeline upon the great river. Ah, me! if that railroad-crash had been a few hours earlier, we two should never have met again, after coming so close to each other!
The source of my repeated disappointments was soon made clear enough. The Captain had gone to Hagerstown, intending to take the cars at once for Philadelphia, as his three friends actually did do, and as I took it for granted he certainly would. But as he walked languidly along, some ladies saw him across the street, and seeing, were moved with pity, and pitying, spoke such soft words that he was tempted to accept their invitation and rest awhile beneath their hospitable roof. The mansion was old, as the dwellings of gentlefolks should be; the ladies were some of them young, and all were full of kindness; there were gentle cares, and unasked luxuries, and pleasant talk, and music-sprinklings from the piano, with a sweet voice to keep them company,--and all this after the swamps of the Chickahominy, the mud and flies of Harrison's Landing, the dragging marches, the desperate battles, the fretting wound, the jolting ambulance, the log-house, and the rickety milk--cart! Thanks, uncounted thanks to the angelic ladies whose charming attentions detained him from Saturday to Thursday, to his great advantage and my infinite bewilderment! As for his wound, how could it do otherwise than well under such hands? The bullet had gone smoothly through, dodging everything but a few nervous branches, which would come right in time and leave him as well as ever.
At ten that evening we were in Philadelphia, the Captain at the house of the friends so often referred to, and I the guest of Charley, my kind companion. The Quaker element gives an irresistible attraction to these benignant Philadelphia households. Many things reminded me that I was no longer in the land of the Pilgrims. On the table were _Kool Slaa_ and _Schmeer Kase_, but the good grandmother who dispensed with such quiet, simple grace these and more familiar delicacies was literally ignorant of _Baked Beans_, and asked if it was the Lima bean which was employed in that marvellous dish of animalized leguminous farina!
Charley was pleased with my comparing the face of the small Ethiop known to his household as "Tines" to a huckleberry with features. He also approved my parallel between a certain German blonde young maiden whom, we passed in the street and the "Morris White" peach. But he was so good-humored at times, that, if one scratched a lucifer, he accepted it as an illumination.
A day in Philadelphia left a very agreeable impression of the outside of that great city, which has endeared itself so much of late to all the country by its most noble and generous care of our soldiers. Measured by its sovereign hotel, the Continental, it would stand at the head of our economic civilization. It provides for the comforts and conveniences, and many of the elegances of life, more satisfactorily than any American city, perhaps than any other city anywhere. It is not a breeding-place of ideas, which makes it a more agreeable residence for average people. It is the great neutral centre of the Continent, where the fiery enthusiasms of the South and the keen fanaticisms of the North meet at their outer limits, and result in a compound that turns neither litmus red nor turmeric brown. It lives largely on its traditions, of which, leaving out Franklin and Independence Hall, the most imposing must be considered its famous water-works. In my younger days I visited Fairmount, and it was with a pious reverence that I renewed my pilgrimage to that perennial fountain. Its watery ventricles were throbbing with the same systole and diastole as when, the blood of twenty years bounding in my own heart, I looked upon their giant mechanism. But in the place of "Pratt's Garden" was an open park, and the old house where Robert Morris held his court in a former generation was changing to a public restaurant. A suspension-bridge cobwebbed itself across the Schuylkill where that audacious arch used to leap the river at a single bound,--an arch of greater span, as they loved to tell us, than was ever before constructed. The Upper Ferry Bridge was to the Schuylkill what the Colossus was to the harbor of Rhodes. It had an air of dash about it which went far towards redeeming the dead level of respectable average which flattens the physiognomy of the rectangular city. Philadelphia will never be herself again until another Robert Mills and another Lewis Wernwag have shaped her a new palladium. She must leap the Schuylkill again, or old men will sadly shake their heads, like the Jews at the sight of the second temple, remembering the glories of that which it replaced.
There are times when Ethiopian minstrelsy can amuse, if it does not charm, a weary soul,--and such a vacant hour there was on this same Friday evening. The "opera-house" was spacious and admirably ventilated. As I was listening to the merriment of the sooty buffoons, I happened to cast my eyes up to the ceiling, and through an open semicircular window a bright solitary star looked me calmly in the eyes. It was a strange intrusion of the vast eternities beckoning from the infinite spaces. I called the attention of one of my neighbors to it, but "Bones" was irresistibly droll, and Areturus, or Aldebaran, or whatever the blazing luminary may have been, with all his revolving worlds, sailed uncared-for down the firmament.
On Saturday morning we took up our line of march for New York. Mr. Felton, President of the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad, had already called upon me, with a benevolent and sagacious look on his face which implied that he knew how to do me a service and meant to do it. Sure enough, when we got to the depot, we found a couch spread for the Captain, and both of us were passed on to New York with no visits, but those of civility, from the conductor. The best thing I saw on the route was a rustic fence, near Elizabethtown, I think, but I am not quite sure. There was more genius in it than in any structure of the kind I have ever seen,--each length being of a special pattern, ramified, reticulated, contorted, as the limbs of the trees had grown. I trust some friend will photograph or stereograph this fence for me, to go with the view of the spires of Frederick already referred to, as mementos of my journey.
I had come to feeling that I know most of the respectably dressed people whom I met in the cars, and had been in contact with them at some time or other. Three or four ladies and gentlemen were near us, forming a group by themselves. Presently one addressed me by name, and, on inquiry, I found him to be the gentleman who was with me in the pulpit as Orator on the occasion of another Phi Beta Kappa poem, one delivered at New Haven. The party were very courteous and friendly, and contributed in various ways to our comfort.
It sometimes seems to me as if there were only about a thousand people in the world, who keep going round and round behind the scenes and then before them, like the "army" in a beggarly stage-show. Suppose I should really wish, some time or other, to get away from this everlasting circle of revolving supernumeraries, where should I buy a ticket the like of which was not in some of their pockets, or find a seat to which some one of them was not a neighbor?
A little less than a year before, after the Ball's-Bluff accident, the Captain, then the Lieutenant, and myself had reposed for a night on our homeward journey at the Fifth-Avenue Hotel, where we were lodged on the ground-floor, and fared sumptuously. We were not so peculiarly fortunate this time, the house being really very full. Farther from the flowers and nearer to the stars,--to reach the neighborhood of which last the _per ardua_ of three or four flights of stairs was formidable for any mortal, wounded or well. The "vertical railway" settled that for us, however. It is a giant corkscrew forever pulling a mammoth cork, which, by some divine judgment, is no sooner drawn than it is replaced in its position. This ascending and descending stopper is hollow, carpeted, with cushioned seats, and is watched over by two condemned souls, called conductors, one of whom is said to be named Ixion, and the other Sisyphus.
I love New York, because, as in Paris, everybody that lives in it feels that it is his property,--at least, as much as it is anybody's. My Broadway, in particular, I love almost as I used to love my Boulevards.
I went, therefore, with peculiar interest, on the day that we rested at our grand hotel, to visit some new pleasure-grounds the citizens had been arranging for us, and which I had not yet seen. The Central Park is an expanse of wild country, well crumpled so as to form ridges which will give views and hollows that will hold water. The hips and elbows and other bones of Nature stick out here and there in the shape of rocks which give character to the scenery, and an unchangeable, unpurchasable look to a landscape that without them would have been in danger of being fattened by art and money out of all its native features. The roads were fine, the sheets of water beautiful, the bridges handsome, the swans elegant in their deportment, the grass green and as short as a fast horse's winter coat. I could not learn whether it was kept so by clipping or singeing. I was delighted with my new property,--but it cost me four dollars to get there, so far was it beyond the Pillars of Hercules of the fashionable quarter. What it will be by-and-by depends on circumstances; but at present it is as much central to New York as Brookline is central to Boston. The question is not between Mr. Olmsted's admirably arranged, but remote pleasure-ground and our Common, with its batrachian pool, but between his Eccentric Park and our finest suburban scenery, between its artificial reservoirs and the broad natural sheet of Jamaica Pond, I say this not invidiously, but in justice to the beauties which surround our own metropolis. To compare the situations of any dwellings in either of the great cities with those which look upon the Common, the Public Garden, the waters of the Back Bay, would be to take an unfair advantage of Fifth Avenue and Walnut Street. St. Botolph's daughter dresses in plainer clothes than her more stately sisters, but she wears an emerald on her right hand and a diamond on her left that Cybele herself need not be ashamed of.
On Monday morning, the twenty-ninth of September, we took the cars for _Home_. Vacant lots, with Irish and pigs; vegetable-gardens; straggling houses; the high bridge; villages, not enchanting; then Stamford; then NORWALK. Here, on the 6th of May, 1853, I passed close on the heels of the great disaster. But that my lids were heavy on that morning, my readers would probably have had no further trouble with me. Two of my friends saw the car in which they rode break in the middle and leave them hanging over the abyss. From Norwalk to Boston, that day's journey of two hundred miles was a long funeral-procession.
Bridgeport, waiting for Iranistan to rise from its ashes with all its phoenix-egg domes,--bubbles of wealth that broke, ready to be blown again, iridescent as ever, which is pleasant, for the world likes cheerful Mr. Barnum's success; New Haven, girt with flat marshes that look like monstrous billiard-tables, with haycocks lying about for balls,--romantic with West Rock and its legends,--cursed with a detestable depot, whose niggardly arrangements crowd the track so murderously close to the wall that the _peine forte et dure_ must be the frequent penalty of an innocent walk on its platform,--with its neat carriages, metropolitan hotels, precious old college-dormitories, its vistas of elms and its dishevelled weeping-willows; Hartford, substantial, well-bridged, many-steepled city,--every conical spire an extinguisher of some nineteenth-century heresy; so onward, by and across the broad, shallow Connecticut,--dull red road and dark river woven in like warp and woof by the shuttle of the darting engine; then Springfield, the wide-meadowed, well-feeding, horse-loving, hot-summered, giant-treed town,--city among villages, village among cities; Worcester, with its Diedalian labyrinth of crossing railroad-bars, where the snorting Minotaurs, breathing fire and smoke and hot vapors, are stabled in their dens; Framingham, fair cup-bearer, leaf-cinctured Hebe of the deep-bosomed Queen sitting by the sea-side on the throne of the Six Nations. And now I begin to know the road, not by towns, but by single dwellings, not by miles, but by rods. The poles of the great magnet that draws in all the iron tracks through the grooves of all the mountains must be near at hand, for here are crossings, and sudden stops, and screams of alarmed engines heard all around. The tall granite obelisk comes into view far away on the left, its bevelled capstone sharp against the sky; the lofty chimneys of Charlestown and East Cambridge flaunt their smoky banners up in the thin air; and now one fair bosom of the three-hilled city, with its dome-crowned summit, reveals itself, as when many-breasted Ephesian Artemis appeared with half-open _chlamys_ before her worshippers.
Fling open the window-blinds of the chamber that looks out on the waters and towards the western sun! Let the joyous light shine in upon the pictures that hang upon its walls and the shelves thick-set with the names of poets and philosophers and sacred teachers, in whose pages our boys learn that life is noble only when it is held cheap by the side of honor and of duty. Lay him in his own bed, and let him sleep off his aches and weariness. So comes down another night over this household, unbroken by any messenger of evil tidings,--a night of peaceful rest and grateful thoughts; for this our son and brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.