THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art, and Politics.
VOL. XVII. — MAY, 1866. —NO. CIII.
MY brother Josiah I call a successful man,—very successful, though only an attorney in a manufacturing town. But he fixed his goal, and reached it. He belongs to the ruling class,— men with slow, measuring eyes and bull-dog jaws, — men who know their own capacity to an atom’s weight, and who go through life with moderate, inflexible, unrepenting steps. He looks askance at me when I cross his path ; he is in the great market making his way : I learned long ago that there was no place there forme. Yet I like to look in, out of the odd little corner into which I have been shoved, —to look in at the great play, never beginning and never ending, of bargain and sale, for which all the world’s but a stage ; to see how men like my brother have been busy, since God blessed all things he had made, in dragging them down to the trade level, and stamping price-marks on them. Josiah looks at me grimly, as I said. Jog as methodically as I will from desk to bed and back to desk again, he suspects some outlaw blood under the gray head of the fagged-out old clerk. He indulges in his pictures, his bronzes: I have my high office-stool, and a bedroom in the fifth story of a cheap hotel. Yet he suspects me of having forced a way out of the actual common-sense world by sheer force of whims and vagaries, and to have pre-empted a homestead for myself in some dream-land, where neither he nor the tax-gatherer can enter.
“ It won’t do,” he said to-day, when I was there (for I use his books now and then). “ Old Pere Bonhours, you ’re poring over? Put it down, and" come take some clam soup. Much those fellows knew about life ! Zachary ! Zachary ! you have kept company with shadows these forty years, until you have grown peaked and gaunt yourself. When will you go to work and be a live man?”
I knew we were going to have the daily drill which Josiah gave to his ideas ; so I rolled the book up to take with me, while he rubbed his spectacles angrily, and went on.
‘‘ I tell you, the world’s a great property-exchanging machine, where everything has its weight and value ; a great, inexorable machine. — and whoever tries to shirk his work in it will be crushed ! Crushed ! Think of your old friend Knowles ! ”
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1866, by TICKNOR AND FIELDS, in the Clerk's Offic of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
I began to hurry on my old overcoat ; I never had but two or three friends, and I could not hear their names from Josiah’s mouthBut he was not quick to see when he had hurt people.
“Why, the poet,” — more sententious than before, — “ the poet sells his song; he knows that the airiest visions must resolve into trade-laws. You cannot escape from them. I see your wrinkled old face, red as a boy’s, over the newspapers sometimes. There was the daring of that Rebel Jackson, Frémont’s proclamation, Shaw’s death ; you claimed those things as heroic, prophetic. They were mere facts tending to solve the great problem of Capital vs. Labor. There was one work for which the breath was put into our nostrils, — to grow, and make the world grow by giving and taking. Give and take; and the wisest man gives the least and gains the most.”
I left him as soon as I could escape. I respect Josiah : his advice would be invaluable to any man ; but I am content that we should live apart, — quite content. I went down to Yorke’s for my solitary chop. The old prophet Solomon somewhere talks of the conies or ants as “a feeble folk who prepare their meat in the summer.” I joke to myself about that sometimes, thinking I should claim kindred with them ; for, looking back over the sixty years of Zack Humphreys’s life, they seem to me to have pretty much gone in preparing the bread and meat from day to day. I see but little result of all the efforts of that time beyond that solitary chop ; and a few facts and hopes, may be, gathered outside of the market, which, Josiah says, absorb all of the real world. All day, sitting here at my desk in Wirt’s old counting-house, these notions of Josiah’s have dogged me. These sums that I jotted down, the solid comforts they typified, the homes, the knowledge, the travel they would buy, — these were, then, the real gist of this thing we called life, were they? The great charities money had given to the world, — Christ’s Gospel preached by it. — Did it cover all, then ? Did it ?
What a wholesome (or unwholesome) scorn of barter Knowles had! The old fellow never collected a debt; and, by the way, as seldom paid one. The “dirty dollar” came between him and very few people. Yet the heart in his great mass of flesh beat fiercely for an honor higher than that known to most men. I have sat here all the afternoon, staring out at the winter sky, scratching down a figure now and then, and idly going back to the time when I was a younger man than now, but even then with neither wife nor child, and no home beyond an eating-house ; thinking how I caught old Knowles’s zest for things which lay beyond trade-laws ; how eager I grew in the search of them ; how he inoculated me with Abolitionism, Communism, every' other fever that threatened to destroy the commercial status of the world, and substitute a single-eyed regard for human rights. It occurred to me, too, that some of those odd, one-sided facts, which it used to please me to gather then, — queer bits of men’s history, not to be judged by Josiah’s rules, — it might please others to hear. What if I wrote them down these winter evenings ? Nothing in them rare or strange ; but they lay outside of the market, and were true.
Not one of them which did not bring back Knowles, with his unwieldy heat and bluster. He found a flavor and meaning in the least of these hints of mine, gloating over the largess given and received in the world, for which money had no value. His bones used to straighten, and his eye glitter under the flabby brow, at the recital of any brave, true deed, as it it had been his own ; as if, but for some mischance back yonder in his youth, it might have been given to even this poor old fellow to strike a great, ringing blow on Fate’s anvil before he died,-—to give his place in the life-boat to a more useful man, — to help buy with his lite the slave’s freedom. Let me tell you the story of our acquaintance. Josiah, even, would hold the apology good for claiming so much of your time for this old dreamer of dreams, since I may give you a bit of useful knowledge in the telling about a place and people here in the States utterly different from any other, yet almost unknown, and, so far as I know, undescribed. When I first met Knowles it was in an obscure country town in Pennsylvania, as he was on his way across the mountains with his son. I was ill in the little tavern where he stopped ; and, he being a physician, we were thrown together, — I a raw country lad, and he fresh from the outer world, of which I knew nothing,—a man of a muscular, vigorous type even then. But what he did for me, or the relation we bore to each other, is of no import here.
One or two things about him puzzled me. “ Why do you not bring your boy to this room ?” I asked, one day.
His yellow face colored with angry surprise. “ Antony ? What do you know of Antony ? ”
“ I have watched you with him,” I said, “on the road yonder. He ’s a sturdy, manly little fellow, of whom any man would be proud. But you are not proud of him. In this indifference of yours to the world, you include him.
I ’ve seen you thrust him off into the ditch when he caught at your hand, and let him struggle on by himself.”
He laughed. “Right! Talk of love, family affection ! I have tried it. Why should my son be more to me than any other man’s son, but for an extended selfishness ? I have cut loose all nearer ties than those which hold all men as brothers, and Antony comes no closer than any other.”
“ I ’ve watched you coming home sometimes,” I said, coolly. “ One night you carried the little chap, as he was sound asleep. It was dark ; but I saw you sit by the pond yonder, thinking no one saw you, caressing him, kissing his face, his soiled little hands, his very feet, as fierce and tender as a woman.”
Knowles got up, pacing about, disturbed and angry; he was like a woman in other ways, nervous, given to sudden heats of passion, — was leaky with his own secrets. “ Don’t talk to me of Antony ! I know no child, no wife, nor any brother, except my brother-man.”
He went trotting up and down the room, then sat down with his back to me. It was night, and the room was dimly lighted by the smoky flame of a lard lamp. The solitary old man told me his story. Let me be more chary with his pain than he was ; enough to say that his wife was yet living, but lost to him. Her boy Antony came into the room just when his father had ceased speaking, — a stout little chap of four years, with Knowles’s ungainly build, and square, honest face, but with large, hazel, melancholy eyes. He crept up on my bed, and, lying across the foot, went to sleep.
Knowles glanced at him, — looked away, his face darkening. “ Sir,” he said, “I have thrust away all arbitrary ties of family. The true life,”—his eye dilating, as if some great thought had come into his brain, — “the true life is one where no marriage exists,— where the soul acknowledges only the pure impersonal love to God and our brother-man, and enters into peace. It can so enter, even here, by dint of long contemplation and a simple pastoral work for the body.”
This was new talk in that country tavern : I said nothing.
“ I ’m not dreaming dreams,” raising his voice. “ I have a real plan for you and me, lad. I have found the Utopia of the prophets and poets, an actual place, here in Pennsylvania. We will go there together, shut out the tradeworld, and devote ourselves with these lofty enthusiasts to a life of purity, celibacy, meditation, — helpful and loving to the great Humanity.”
I was but a lad ; my way in life had not been smooth. While he talked on in this strain my blood began to glow.
“ What of Tony ? ” I interrupted, after a while.
“ The boy ? ” not looking at the little heap at the foot of the bed. “They will take him in, probably. Children are adopted by the society ; they receive education free from the personal taints given by father and mother.”
“ Yes,” not very clear as to what he meant.
The moon began to fleck the bare floor with patches of light and shadow, bringing into relief the broad chest of the man beside me, the big, motionless head dropped forward, and the flabby yellow face set with a terrible, lifelong gravity. His scheme was no joke to him. Whatever soul lay inside of this gross animal body had been tortured nigh to death, and this plan was its desperate chance at a fresh life. Watching me askance as I tried to cover the boy with the blankets, he began the history of this new Utopia, making it blunt and practical as words could compass, to convince me that he was no dreamer of dreams. I will try to recall the facts as he stated them that night ; they form a curious story at all times.
In 1805, a man named George Rapp, in Würtemberg, became possessed with the idea of founding a new and pure social system, — sowing a mere seed at first, but with the hope, doubtless, of planting a universal truth thereby which should some day affect all humanity. His scheme differed from Comte’s or Saint Simon's, in that it professed to go back to the old patriarchal form for its mode of government, establishing under that, however, a complete community of interest. Unlike other communist reformers, too, Rapp did not look through his own class lor men of equal intelligence and culture with himself of whom to make converts, but, gathering several hundred of the peasants from the neighborhood, he managed to imbue them with an absolute faith in his divine mission, and emigrated with them to the backwoods of Pennsylvania, in Butler County. After about ten years they removed to the banks of the Wabash, in Indiana ; then, in 1825, returned to Pennsylvania, and settled finally in Beaver County, some sixteen miles below Pittsburg, calling their village Economy.
“ A great man, as I conceive him, this Rapp,” said Knowles. “ His own property, which was large, was surrendered to the society at its foundation, and this to the least particular, not reserving for his own use even the library or gallery of paintings pertaining to his family ; nor did the articles of association allow any exclusive advantage to accrue to him or his heirs from the profits of the community. He held his office as spiritual and temporal head, not by election of the people, but assumed it as by Divine commission, as Moses and Aaron held theirs ; and not only did the power of the man over his followers enable him to hold this autocratic authority during a long life, unimpaired, but such was the skill with which his decrees were framed that after his death this authority was reaffirmed by the highest legal tribunal of the country.1 With all his faith in his divine mission, too, he had a clear insight into all the crookedness and weakness of the natures he was trying to elevate. He knew that these dogged, weak Germans needed coercion to make them fit for ultimate freedom ; he held the power of an apostle over them, therefore, with as pure purpose, it ’s my belief, as any apostle that went before him. The superstitious element lay ready in them for him to work upon. I find no fault with him for working it.”
“ How ? ” I asked.
Knowles hesitated. “ When their stupidity blocked any of his plans for their advancement, he told them that, unless they consented, their names should be blotted out from the Book of Life,—which was but a coarse way of stating a great truth, after all; telling them, too, that God must be an unjust fudge should he mete out happiness or misery to them without consulting him, — that his power over their fate stretched over this life and the next,— which, considering the limitless influence of a strong mind over a weak one, was not so false, either.”
Rapp’s society, Knowles stated, did not consist altogether of this class, however. A few men of education and enthusiasm had joined him, and carried out his plans with integrity. The articles of association were founded in a strict sense of justice ; members entering the society relinquished all claim to any property, much or little, of which they might be possessed, receiving thereafter common maintenance, education, profit, with the others ; should they at any time thereafter choose to leave, they received the sum deposited without interest. A suit had just been decided in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania2 which had elicited this point.
Knowles, more and more eager, went on to describe the settlement as it had been pictured to him ; the quaint, quiet village on the shores of “ the Beautiful River,” the rolling hills of woodland, the quiet valleys over which their flocks wandered, the simple pastoral work in which all joined ; the day begun and ended with music ; —even the rich, soft tints of the fresh Western sky about them were not forgotten, nor the picturesque dresses of the silent, primitive people.
“A home in which to forget all pain and sore, boy,” ended the old man, gulping down a sigh, and then falling into a heavy silence.
It was long before I broke it. “ They do not marry ? ”
“ No,” anxiously, as if I had reached the core of the truth in this matter at last. “ It was their founder’s scheme, as I believe, to lift them above all taint of human passion, — to bring them by pure work, solitude, and contact with a beautiful nature into a state of being where neither earthly love, nor hate, nor ambition can enter,—a sphere of infinite freedom, and infinite love for Him and all His creatures.”
There was no doubting the fire of rapt enthusiasm in his eye, rising and looking out across the moonlit fields as if already he saw the pleasant hills of Beulah.
“ Thank God for George Rapp! he has found a home where a man can stand alone,” — stretching out his arms as if he would have torn out whatever vestige of human love tugged at his sick old heart, his eye hunting out Tony as he spoke.
The boy, startled from his sleep, muttered, and groped as a baby will for its mother’s breast or hand. No hand met the poor little fingers, and they fell on the pillow empty, the child going to sleep again with a forlorn little cry. Knowles watched him, the thick lips under his moustache growing white.
“ I purpose,” he said, “ that next week you and I shall go to these people, and, if possible, become members of their community, — cut loose from all these narrow notions of home and family, and learn to stand upright and free under God’s heaven. The very air breathed by these noble enthusiasts will give us strength and lofty thoughts. Think it over, Humphreys.”
He moved to the door, — held it open uncertainly. “ I ’ll leave the boy here to-night. He got into a foolish habit of sleeping in my arms when he was a baby; it’s time he was broke of it.”
“ He must learn to stand alone, eh ? ” anxiously. “Good night”; — and in a moment I heard his heavy steps on the stairs, stopping, then going on faster, as if afraid of his own resolution.
In the middle of the night I was wakened by somebody fumbling for Tony at my side, — “ Afraid the child would prove troublesome,” — and saw him go off with the boy like a mite in his arms, growling caresses like a lioness who has recovered her whelp. I say lioness, for, with all his weight of flesh and coarseness, Knowles left the impression on your mind of a sensitive, nervous woman.
Late one spring afternoon, a month after that, Knowles and I stood on one of the hills overlooking the communist village of Economy. I was weak and dizzy from illness and a long journey ; the intense quiet of the landscape before me affected me like a strain of solemn music. Knowles had infected me with his eager hope. Nature was about to take me to her great mother’s bosom, for the first timeLife was to give me the repose I asked, satisfy all the needs of my soul : here was the foretaste. The quaint little hamlet literally slept on the river-bank ; not a living creature was visible on the three grass-grown streets ; many of tire high-gabled brick houses, even at that date of the colony, were closed and vacant, their inmates having dropped from the quiet of this life into an even deeper sleep, and having been silently transferred to rest under the hat grass of the apple-orchards, according to the habit of the society. From the other houses, however, pale rifts of smoke wavered across the cold blue sky ; great apple and peach orchards swept up the hills back of the town, quite out of sight. They were in blossom, I remember, and covered the green of the bills with a veil of delicate pink. A bleak wind, as we stood there, brought their perfume towards us, and ruffled the broad, dark river into sudden ripples of cut silver : beyond that, motion there was none. Looking curiously down into the town, I could distinguish a great, barn like church, a public laundry, bakery, apiary, and one or two other buildings, like factories, but all empty, apparently, and deserted. After all, was this some quaint German village brought hither in an enchanted sleep, and dropped down in the New World? About the houses were silent, trim little gardens, set round with yew and box cut in monstrous shapes, and filled with plants of which this soil knew nothing. Up a path from the woods, too, came at last some curious figures, in a dress belonging to the last century.
Knowles had no idea, like mine, of being bewitched ; be rubbed his hands in a smothered excitement. “ We too shall be Arcadians ! ” he burst out. “ Humphreys ! ” anxiously, as we plodded down the hill, “we must be careful, very careful, my boy. These are greatly innocent and pure natures with which we have come in contact: the world must have grown vague and dim to them long ago, wrapped in their high communings. We must leave all worldly words and thoughts outside, as a snake drops his skin. No talk of money here, lad. It would be as well, too, not to mention any family ties, such as wife or child : such bonds must seem to this lofty human brotherhood debasing and gross.”
So saying, and dropping Tony's hand in order that the child even might stand alone, we came into the village street ; Knowles growing red with eagerness as one of the odd figures came towards us. “ Careful, Zachary ! ” in a hoarse whisper. “ It all depends on this first day whether we are accepted or not. Remember their purity of thought, their forms gathered from the patriarchs and apostles ! ”
I had a vague remembrance of a washing of feet, practised in those days ; of calf-killing and open tents for strangers ; so stood perplexed while the brother approached and stood there, like an animate lager-bier barrel, dressed in flannel, with a round hat on top. “Was brauchen Sie ? ” he grumbled.
I don’t know in what words Knowles’s tremulous tones conveyed the idea that we were strangers, going on to state that we were also world-weary, and —
“Ach! want der supper,” he said, his face brightening, and, turning, he jogged on, elephant-like, before, muttering something about himself, “ Bin Yosef, an keepit der tavern,” — to the door of which, one of the silent brick dwellings, he speedily brought us ; and, summoning some “Christ-ina” in a subdued bellow from the bowels of the cellar, went into the neat bar-room, and swallowed two glasses of wine to revive himself, dropping exhausted, apparently, into a chair.
Christina, an old dried-up woman, in the quaint, daintily clean dress of blue, emerged from the cellar-door, bringing with her a savory smell of frying ham and eggs. She glanced at us with suspicious blue eyes, and then, with “ Ach ! der Liebling ! mein schöner Schatz !” caught up Tony to her shrivelled breast in a sudden surprise, and, going back to the door, called “ Fredrika !” Another old woman, dried, withered, with pale blue eyes, appeared, and the two, hastily shoving us chairs, took Tony between them, chattering in delighted undertones, patting his fat cheeks, his hands, feeling his clothes, straightening his leg, and laughing at the miniature muscles.
Knowles stared dumbly.
“You will haf der supper, hein?” said the first old woman, recollecting herself and coming forward, her thin jaws yet reddened. “ Der ham ? Slackens ? It is so long as I haf seen a little shild,” apologetically.
I assented to the ham and chicken proposition, answering for myself and Tony at least. As they went down the stairs, they looked wistfully at him. I nodded, and, picking him up, they carried him with them. I could presently distinguish his shrill little tones, and half a dozen women’s voices, caressing, laughing with him. Yet it hurt me somehow to notice that these voices were all old, subdued ; none of them could ever hold a baby on her lap, and call it hers. Joseph roused himself, came suddenly in with a great pitcher of domestic wine, out again, and back with ginger-cakes and apples, — “ Till der supper be cookin’,” with an encouraging nod, — and then went back to his chair, and presently snored aloud. In a few minutes, however, we were summoned to the table.
Knowles ate nothing, and looked vaguely over the great smoking dishes, which Tony and I proved to be marvels of cookery. “ Doubtless,” he said, “ some of these people have not yet overcome this grosser taste ; we have yet seen but the dregs of the society; many years of Rapp’s culture would be needed to spiritualize German boors.”
The old women, who moved gently about, listened keenly, trying to understand why he did not eat. it troubled them.
“We haf five meals a day in der society,” said Christina, catching a vague notion of his meaning. “ Many as finds it not enough puts cheese and cakes on a shelf at der bed-head, if deygets faint in de night.”
“ Do you get faint in the night ?” I asked.
“ Most times I does,” simply.
Knowles burst in with a snort of disgust, and left the table. When I joined him on the stoop he had recovered his temper and eagerness, even laughing at Joseph, who was plying him in vain with his wine.
“ I was a fool, Humphreys. These are the flesh of the thing; we ’ll find the brain presently. But it was a sharp disappointment. Stay here an hour, until I find the directors of the society, — pure, great thinkers, I doubt not, on whom Rapp’s mantle has fallen. They will welcome our souls, as these good creatures have our bodies. Yonder is Rapp’s house, they tell me. Follow me in an hour.”
As he struck into one of the narrow paths across the grassy street, I saw groups of the colonists coming in from their field-work through the twilight, the dress of the women looking not unpicturesque, with the tight flannel gown and broad-rimmed straw hat. But they were all old, I saw as they passed ; their faces were alike faded and tired ; and whether dull or intelligent, each had a curious vacancy in its look. Not one passed without a greeting more or less eager for Tony, whom Christina held on her knees, on the steps of the stoop.
“It is so long as I haf not seen a baby,” she said, again turning her thin old face round.
I found her pleased to be questioned about the society.
“ I haf one, two, dree kinder when we come mit Father Rapp,” she said. “ Dey is dead in Harmony ; since den I just cooken in der tavern. Father Rapp say the world shall end in five years when we come in der society, den I shall see mein shilds again. But I wait, and it haf not yet end.”
I thought she stifled a quick sigh.
“ And your husband ? ”
She hesitated. “John Volz was my man, in Germany. He lives in yonder house, mit ein ander family. We are in families of seven.”
“ Husbands and wives were separated, then ? ”
“ Father Rapp said it must to be. He knows.”
There was a long pause, and then, lowering her voice, and glancing cautiously around, she added hurriedly, ‘‘Frederick Rapp was his brother: he would not leave his wife.”
“ Well, and then ? ”
The two old women looked at each other, warningly, but Christina, being on the full tide of confidence, answered at last in a whisper, “ Father Rapp did hold a counsel mit five others.”
“ And his brother ? ”
“ He was killed. He did never see his child.”
“ But,” I resumed, breaking the long silence that followed, “ your women do not care to go back to their husbands ? They dwell in purer thoughts than earthly love ? ”
“ Hein ? ” said the woman with a vacant face.
“Were you married ?” —to Fredrika, who sat stiffly knitting a blue woollen sock.
“ Nein,” vacantly counting the stitches. “ Das ist not gut, Father Rapp says. He knows.”
“ She war not troth-plight even,” interrupted the other eagerly, with a contemptuous nod, indicating by a quick motion a broken nose, which might have hindered Fredrika’s chances of matrimony. “There is Rachel,” pointing to a bent figure in a neighboring garden ; “she was to marry in the summer, and in spring her man came mit Father Rapp. He was a sickly man.”
“ And she followed him ? ”
“ Ya. He is dead.”
“ And Rachel ? ”
“ Ya wohl! There she is,” as the figure came down the street, passing us.
It was only a bent old Dutch woman, with a pale face and fixed, tearless eyes, that smiled kindly at sight of the child ; but I have never seen in any tragedy, since, the something which moved me so suddenly and deeply in that quiet face and smile. I followed her with my eyes, and then turned to the women. Even the stupid knitter had dropped her work, and met my look with a vague pity and awe in her face.
“It was not gut she could not marry. It is many years, but she does at no time forget,” she mumbled, taking up her stocking again. Something above her daily life had struck a quick response from even her, but it was gone now.
Christina eagerly continued: “And there is — ” (naming a woman, one of the directors.) “ She would be trothplight, if Father Rapp had not said it must not be. .So they do be lovers these a many years, and every night he does play beneath her window until she falls asleep.”
When I did not answer, the two women began to talk together in undertones, examining the cut of Tony’s little clothes, speculating as to their price, and so forth. I rose and shook myself. Why ! here in the new life, in Arcadia, was there the world, — old love and hunger to be mothers, and the veriest gossip ? But these were women: I would seek the men with Knowles. Leaving the child, I crossed the darkening streets to the house which I had seen him enter. I found him in a wellfurnished room, sitting at a table, in council with half a dozen men in the old-time garb of the Communists. If their clothes were relics of other times, however, their shrewd, keen faces were wide awake and alive to the present. Knowles’s alone was lowering and black.
“These are the directors of the society,” he said to me aloud, as I entered. “Their reception of us is hardly what I expected,” nodding me to a seat.
They looked at me with a quiet, business-like scrutiny.
“ I hardly' comprehend what welcome you anticipated,” said one, coolly'. “ Many persons offer to become members of our fraternity ; but it is, we honestly tell you, difficult to obtain admission. It is chiefly an association to make money: the amount contributed by each new-comer ought, in justice, to bear some proportion to the advantage he obtains.”
“ Money ? I had not viewed the ciety in that light,” stammered Knowles.
“You probably,” said the other, with a dry smile, “ are not aware how successful a corporation ours has been. At Harmony, we owned thirty thousand acres; here, four thousand. We have steam-mills, distilleries, carry on manufactures of wool, silk, and cotton. Exclusive of our stocks, our annual profit, clear of expense, is over two hundred thousand dollars. There are few enterprises by which money is to be made into which our capital does not find its way.”
Knowles sat dumb as the other proceeded, numbering, alertly as a broker, shares in railroad stocks, coal-mines, banks.
“You see how we live,” he concluded ; “ the society’s lands are self-supporting,— feed and clothe us amply. What profits accrue are amassed, intact.”
“To what end?” I broke in. “You have no children to inherit your wealth. It buys you neither place nor power nor pleasure in the world.”
The director looked at me with a cold rebuke in his eyes. “ It is not surprising that many should desire to enter a partnership into which they bring nothing, and which is so lucrative,” he said.
“ f had no intention of coming empty-handed,” said Knowles in a subdued voice. “ But this financial point of view never occurred to me.”
The other rose with a look of pity, and led us out through the great warerooms, where their silks and cottons were stored in chests, out to the stables to inspect stock, and so forth. But before we had proceeded far, I missed Knowles, who had trotted on before with a stunned air of perplexity.
When I went back to the tavern, late that night, I found him asleep on the bed, one burly arm around his boy. The next morning he was up betimes, and at work investigating the real condition of the Harmonists. They treated him with respect, for, outside of what Josiah called his vagaries, Knowles was shrewd and honest.
Tony and I wandered about the drowsy village and meadows, looking at the queer old gardens, dusky with long-forgotten plants, or sometimes at their gallery of paintings, chief among which was one of West's larger efforts.
It was not until the close of the second day that Knowles spoke openly to me. Whatever the disappointment had cost him, he told nothing of it, — grew graver, perhaps, but discussed the chances in the stock market with the directors,— ate Christina’s suppers, watching the poor withered women and the gross men with a perplexed look of pity.
“ They are but common minds and common bodies, perhaps,” he said one evening, as we sat in our corner, after a long, quiet scrutiny of them: “in any case, their lives would have been meagre and insignificant, and yet, Humphreys, yet even that little possibility seems to have been here palsied and balked. I hope George Rapp cannot look back and see what his scheme has done for these people.”
“ You were mistaken in it, then ? ”
His dark face reddened gloomily. “ You see what they are. Yet Rapp, whatever complaints these people may make of him, I believe to have been an enthusiast, who sacrificed his property to establish a pure, great reform in society. But human nature ! human nature is as crooked to drive as a pig tied by a string. Why, these Arcadians, sir, have made a god of their stomachs, and such of them as have escaped that spend their lives in amassing dollar after dollar to hoard in their common chest.”
I suggested that Rapp and he left them nothing else to do. “ You shut them out both from a home and from the world ; love, ambition, politics, are dead words to them. What can they do but eat and grub ? ”
“ think ! Go back into Nature’s heart, and, with contemplation, bear fruit of noble thoughts unto eternal life ! ” But he hesitated ; his enthusiasm hung fire strangely.
After a while, — “Well, well, Zachary,” with a laugh, “ we ’d better go back into the world, and take up our work again. Josiah is partly right, may be. There are a thousand fibres of love and trade and mutual help which bind us to our fellow-man, and if we try to slip out of our place and loose any of them, our own souls suffer the loss by so much life withdrawn. It is as well not to live altogether outside of the market; nor — to escape from this,” lifting Tony up on his knee, and beginning a rough romp with him. But I saw his face work strangely as he threw the boy up in the air, and when he caught him, he strained him to his burly breast until the child cried out. “ Tut! tut! What now, you young ruffian ? Come, shoes off, and to bed; we’ll have a little respite from you. I say, Humphreys, do you see the hungry look with which the old women follow the child ? God help them ! I wonder if it will be made right for them in another world ! ” An hour after, I heard him still pacing the floor up stairs, crooning some old nursery song to put the boy to sleep.
I visited the Harmonists again not many months ago ; the village and orchards lie as sleepily among the quiet hills as ever. There are more houses closed, more grass on the streets. A few more of the simple, honest folk have crept into their beds under the apple-trees, from which they will not rise in the night to eat, or to make money, — Christina among the rest. I was glad she was gone where it was sunny and bright, and where she would not have to grow tired for the sight of “a little shild.” There have been but few additions, if any, to the society in the last twenty years. They still retain the peculiar dress which they wore when they left Wiirtemberg : the men wearing the common German peasant habit ; the women, a light, narrow flannel gown, with wide sleeves and a bright-colored silk handkerchief crossed over the breast, the whole surmounted by a straw hat, with a rim of immense width. They do not carry on the manufactures of silk or woollen now, which were Rapp's boast ; they have “ struck oil ” instead, and are among the most successful and skilful land-owners in Pennsylvania in the search for that uncertain source of wealth.
The “ Economite Wells ” are on the Upper Alleghany, nearly opposite Tidionte. In later years, I believe, children have been brought into the society to be cared for by the women.
It needs no second-sight to discern the end of Rapp’s scheme. His single strength sustained the colony during his life, and since his death one or two strong wills have kept it from crumbling to pieces, converting the whole machinery of his system into a powerful money-making agent. These men are the hand by which it keeps its hold on the world, — or the market, perhaps I should say. They are intelligent and able ; honorable too, we are glad to know, for the sake of the quiet creatures drowsing away their little remnant of life, fat and contented, driving their ploughs through the fields, or smoking on the stoops of the village houses when evening comes. I wonder if they ever cast a furtive glance at the world and life from which Rapp’s will so early shut them out ? When they finish smoking, one by one, the great revenues of the society will probably fall into the hands of two or three active survivors, and be merged into the small currents of trade, according to the rapid sequence which always tollows the accretion of large properties in this country.
Rapp is remembered, already, even by the people whom he meant to serve, only as a harsh and tyrannical ruler, and his very scheme will not only prove futile, but be forgotten very soon after Fredrika and Joseph have drank their last cup of home-made wine, and gone to sleep under the trees in the appleorchard.