Thirty-Seven Hundred and Fifty-Eight: In Two Parts. Part I
IN the year 1879 I died, but was allowed to revisit the earth just eighteen hundred and seventy-nine years after as an impalpable soul which could be neither seen nor heard. Invisible as the wind, unheard as the song of the morning star, I floated above the spot where I had been born and lived.
In 1879 it was a flourishing city on the banks of a great river, with thirty thousand inhabitants; its sails whitened the water to the sea; the smoke from its chimneys and factories darkened the sky. In 3758 it was a ruin; nameless, houseless, soulless. The river had changed its course; the blue sky arched over an uneven plain, dotted here and there with a hillock, a projecting stone, or a brick, — all that was left to show that man had once dwelt there.
In one place an excavation had been made, and I recognized the ruined steps of the church in which I had often listened to prayer and psalm. I hovered over the spot with a melancholy interest a moment, and then saw a group of men and women gathered at the bottom of the opening, and one, a man, standing apart from the rest seemed to be making an address.
He and all the others were of a higher type than any human beings I had ever seen. I observed with pleasure how equally soul and body were balanced in them, so that neither predominated over the other. Evidently they were the descendants of an ancestry who for many centuries had been well fed, both in mind and body. The person making the address seems best worth description. He spoke in a language which resembled English, but it was that tongue refined, strengthened, melodified, broadened, until there was only a resemblance to the speech of 1879. I understood, because I had been in that celestial sphere near to the Creator, from whom flows all knowledge. The man’s head, broad in the forehead and upper part, was set squarely on a full neck, showing that the higher nature was enthroned on an animal foundation strong and enduring. The face was lighted by eyes serene and commanding, and was sealed by firm, curved lips; the oval outline of the countenance was strengthened by the form of the jaw and chin, which showed force and combativeness: the shoulders and chest were broad and full, and the whole figure that of the perfect physical man. But through his face shone the soul which makes the perfect man, and it animated his countenance, fired his eyes, and gave his whole body a rhythmical perfection such as the animal alone never could have.
Copyright, 1879, by HOUGHTON, OSGOOD & Co.
Evidently the others had asked him to tell them of the buried city among whose ruins they stood. Floating near, I easily caught his words and eagerly listened: —
“ What I have to offer you seems like a revelation of my own ignorance, instead of a contribution to your knowledge of this people which has so entirely perished from the face of the earth. So few traces are left behind that I am constantly forced to make my own deduc tions from mere fragmentary evidence, so that I am in danger of becoming what may be called a comparative archæologist, instead of one who is able to state facts with absolute certainty. Speaking in a general way, this was a race of woodbuilders. Even in a city as large as this must have been, many of the houses were built of wood, and when the outside walls were of brick or stone there was still much wood in the frame-work and floors. This accounts for the scarcity of articles to be found among the ruins, and is a great grief to the archæologist. The crumbling wood has allowed many precious things to perish, which houses of stone would have preserved even where the sides have fallen.
“ The city was probably built eighteen hundred or two thousand years ago; we cannot be precise about the dates, because np volumes or papers have been found as yet. I judge from the remains of one or two buildings recently excavated, one of which has a stone panel that may have been on the architrave above the door. On this panel is cut the figures 187-; but the soft brown sandstone, exposed to the corrosions of the earth, has worn away almost as if it were of wood, and the next figure cannot be verified. On a shieldshaped panel of another building, which happily is of syenite, and so better prepared to withstand the gnawings of time, are letters bearing a faint resemblance to some of our modern Maori letters, and I read the words Hartford Fire Insurance. Probably this was the name of the city, and the edifice from which it was taken may have been a temple, or devoted to the reception and preservation of the city archives, though this is conjecture.
“ One of the first things to which I look in judging a people is their architecture. Behold what I have found among the ruins of this building in which we now stand! ”
He held up, as he spoke, a bit of plaster, — one of the Corinthian capitals which crowned the pillars of the porch.
“ It was found among the ruins of the building in which we now are. Probably when it was built, and for many years after, the rejoicing native walked under its shadow into the temple, and deemed it a fitting and glorious tribute to the god he worshiped. Yet it is, as you see, of plaster, and a copy of something else. The original may have been beautiful; this feeble imitation is not even pretty. I have questioned whether this was a young or an old nation, and have decided at last that it was a descendant of an old nation in a new country. The wooden buildings are one proof. The land must have been covered with forests, and the people used that building material which was most convenient. It is in an old and long - settled country, whose wood has been cut off, that buildings of stone are found. But I argue this most strongly from my Corinthian capital ; it is borrowed from a nation older than this,— the Greeks, of whom we actually know more than we do of the Yankees. From these and some other evidences, I infer that the Yankee had to conquer a new country, develop its mines, open a new commerce, and acquire a certain necessary degree of wealth before he could attend to the higher requirements of civilization, — before he could develop an art of his own. He had, in short, for a few centuries to devote himself to a wrestle with the conditions of life, and wring from these the material wealth which should give him a refined leisure.
“ You will see in the excavations we shall enter to-day whether I am sustained in this conclusion or not. Meanwhile, the Yankee was not without an appreciation of art. He had not time for it himself, and he borrowed from other nations not waiting to assimilate to his own use, nor even to copy well, but striving blindly to satisfy that in him which craved an expression in works of art and beauty. The Greek temple was beautiful; why would not the Yankee temple be also beautiful, if built in the same way? He argued that was; that his soul must be satisfied when he fed it with brick and stucco columns and capitals, and devoted his talents and energies to obtaining the best food, the best clothing, and the inventions which made his home comfortable. As the race grew older and richer, there most have been awakened longings for some more fitting architecture, more suitable ornamentation, a more definite expression of their strongest, characteristics in a real national art. It is probable that if this nation had not been cut off by some awful catastrophe,— the extent and horror of which we cannot now conceive,— if it had survived but a century longer, we should have found it with an art so characteristic, combining strength and beauty in such an original way, that wherever we came upon any trace of it we should say at once, That is of the extinct race, the Yankee. It is this dawning desire of something better for which I look with the keenest interest in every building we enter, and I hope yet to come upon traces of it.
“ Here are the remains of a picture which tells the same tale. It is a copy of some older work, and not a good copy. Had the artist worked earnestly from his own heart on this canvas, the strength and fire he put into it would have survived as long as a shred of canvas or a flake of color remained.
“ When we come to metals there is a different story. They may not have known art, but they knew how to make good metal. Here is a blade which seems to be the antique form of our modern razor. The steel is as fine as the best we make now. Thirty-seven hundred and fifty-eight has not improved in this respect on eighteen hundred and seventynine. The barber of that and of the present day cut beards with an equally good blade. In some things we are not a step beyond them.
“In the use of machinery it is to be supposed they had attained a tolerable degree of perfection; but of that more anon. We may come upon something today which will show us more fully than anything yet the height they had reached, and I prefer to wait until I have more facts from which to argue.
“ I am obliged to suppose that their agriculture was rude and imperfect; they lacked entirely valuable knowledge on many points as common to us as the air we breathe. They had not discovered how to assist agricultural processes in the way familiar to the Maori farmer of to-day. They did not know, in short, how to govern the rain guage and the thermometer as we do, and, failing this, they were at the mercy of every wind that blew. Probably the native of the year 1879 shivered through six months of his year, when the cold and the rains and storms were such that not a leaf grew out-doors, and even the cattle of the field must have been housed as well as himself; while during the other six months he suffered nearly as much from heat and drought as in the previous cold period, and although vegetation could flourish out-of-doors, he was unable to prevent it from perishing with the heat and lack of moisture. The agriculturist of that time must often have lost his crops, and found his business at best a very uncertain one.
“ How much more fortunate the Maori of the present day is, with the rains regulated over large surfaces of country to suit the crops, and the heat of the summer moderated by the stored-up cold of the winter, we can hardly imagine. In another respect, too, we are better off than they. The farmer of that time, if he lived in a rocky country, was the victim of every ledge and rock which cropped out in the soil of his farm. He did not know how to melt the rocks at his pleasure and turn them into rich black earth. Here we have improved on the race that went before us.
“ Lastly, I come to their domestic life and women and children. In the ruins of a small building, under a stone slab which crushed some and preserved others by its fall, was a pile of flat glass plates or panes. As I hold one of these over a dark surface and let the light strike strongly on, you can perceive figures and objects. They have been fastened upon the plate by a chemical process once well known to us, but now in disuse because we have a better method. The Yankee could only take his figures in black and white. We have so analyzed the sunbeams that we give the living tints of the object. But it is here we find the fac-simile of the primeval Yankee as he must have been.”
As he spoke, he held the glass negative of a photograph over a piece of black cloth, assuming unconsciously the very attitude which the Yankee photographer must have taken when first showing the negative to a sitter; and the group gathered round to look.
“ Here are two children, curled darlings evidently, from their rich, elaborate dress, round and plump limbed, with faces showing that they would be of the Yankee type when maturity was reached. These little faces have a look of conscious power, as if they had never been thwarted or crossed, but felt that they could depend on the love of father and mother with entire confidence. The Yankees must have been an affectionate people, fond of their children. Here is a full-length figure of a woman. The face in its outlines is much like our women; but observe the expression. It is not the face of a person at ease; there is none of that deep serenity which would be found if it were a Maori thus portrayed. She has on a rich dress, perfect in all its small accessories of necklace, ear-rings, bracelets, and rich lace. She looks like one raised above all care; yet there is a tormented look in her face, and I find the same in the face of every adult male and female in this pile. It may have become a facial characteristic inherited from the earlier times, when the race had its first rough struggle for existence in a new country; but I am inclined to look for a less remote cause. My theory is that they were a restless, ambitious race, never at peace with their surroundings, and always struggling for something more and greater, and allowing themselves to be urged on a little more than their strength could bear.
“ One might say that the dress this woman wears would be a cause of much anxiety to its owner, and perhaps account for the wearer looking ill at ease. It is much too close-fitting round the waist, and with too cumbrous drapery round the lower limbs, so that their free action must have been greatly impeded. It is also too elaborate in its ornamentation. The lines of adornment do not follow the natural folds of the material; and this adornment seems to have been made of the same material as the dress, and sewed upon it tightly in every direction. I have questioned whether this robe were worn as the customary everyday dress, or if it were only for state and ceremonious occasions. It would seem as if women could have been of but little practical use in life in this ornate, unwieldy garb, and that they must from necessity have spent the greater part of their lives shut up in their houses, with their domestic duties performed by slaves. But this idea is refuted by the number, beauty, and convenience of their domestic utensils. No nation would ever invent for mere slaves such ingenious, useful instruments as are constantly discovered in the kitchens of the Yankees.
“ That the women were held in a high degree of esteem by the men and enjoyed great freedom constantly appears in the two or three books which have been found. These Speak of women with an evidently genuine respect, born of an appreciation of their worth, and women seem to have mingled freely with the men in many vocations which required activity of body as well as mind. It is impossible to account for this embarrassing, fatiguing dress, and yet this mental and muscular energy, without conceding to the women of that day great nervous strength, which must have made them brilliant, sparkling creatures, but which may have been a great drain on the vital forces, unless accompanied with a corresponding strength of muscle. And here may lie the secret of their extinction: the nerve may have been transmitted without the muscle; or, their climate, exacting in its extremes of heat and cold, and tending to exaggerate the strain upon the nervous system, may have increased their tendency to procure the best clothes and an abundance of them. Their mistake may have been that clothing was easily acquired and they put on too much, — used it too freely; there is a limit beyond which clothes should not be allowed to extend.
“ But in attempting to criticise this extinct race we must remember that in some respects we have not advanced beyond them, and in others we have only improved on ideas which they possessed in a crude state, but which they might have brought to as high a pitch as we if they had continued to flourish up to this time. While they were prosperous, two thousand years ago, they knew our forefathers as a tribe of savages in a remote corner of the earth, — a debased race whom we should not now care to meet and introduce as our relatives in society.
“ This is all I have to tell now, because it is all, and even a little more, than I know; for I have ventured to give you some of my own theories and inferences. Whether these are correct I wait to see, and hope some of our discoveries to-day may show. Let us now go to the new excavation, which, as I perceive by the waving signal of my foreman, is ready for us to enter. ”
So saying, Areto joined the party who had been listening, and all walked forward to a place where the earth was thrown in a pile on each side of what had once been a handsome brick house on Main Street. The walls had fallen inward,and, being of brick, the contents of the rooms were much better preserved than in other buildings where only the cellar wall was of stone and the superstructure wood. All timbers and woodwork had long since vanished, and they walked at once upon the cellar floor. The bricks had been cleared away by the workmen, leaving whatever had been lying underneath where it originally fell. The articles were thus all huddled together, and it was impossible to tell what had been in the different rooms. Areto had a drawing of a Yankee house as it might have been, and they amused themselves by planning this again. But it was a puzzling business, and, without a certain knowledge of what ought to be found, it can well be imagined what a little buzz of question arose over each article as it was pulled out.
“ What could that have been ? ” said Hamas, pulling out the marble top of a wash-stand and laying it down. “It is irregular in shape, polished only on one side, and seems to have been made to lie on the floor. There are no legs, nor places for any,”
“ I cannot tell,” replied Areto. “ They used wood in combination with stone, and the wood having rotted away it is hard to tell in what shape the original article may have been. Here is another puzzle: what could this have been for, do you suppose? ”
Areto pushed out with his foot the rusty iron frame of what had once been a furnace register in the floor.
“ Those little slats and the grating look as if it might have been a window; but this people understood the art of glass-making. It is of iron, and might have been used about a fire, but there are no marks showing that it ever has been heated. It is another thing to brood over and question.” Areto laid it carefully aside.
Different members of the party, with enthusiasm aroused, picked about in the pile, undismayed by the dismal state it was in from the mold and rust of centuries.
Areto meditatively arranged an ivory tooth-brush handle, the bottom of a glass jelly jar, and part of the over-strung frame of a piano-forte in a row, and contemplated them gloomily.
“ What could this have been?” said a sweet voice, enunciating the melodious words of the language sweetly and clearly, and the girl, a sister of Areto, put her hand on his shoulder to draw his attention, and held up a piece of cloth three or four feet long and three feet wide. On one side of it faded blotches of color were dimly seen.
Areto gave a little movement of delight. “ That,” cried he, “ is very valuable, so few of their textile fabrics have survived! Let me hang it up here and study on it; perhaps I shall be able to find out for what it is intended.”
The piece was thrown over a projecting angle of old wall, and as the sun dried it Areto examined it anxiously, while his sister looked at the jar bottom and tooth-brush handle a moment, and then went back to him.
“ Very thick warp and woof,” he murmured, “ and evidently there was a long pile; but for what could they have used it? It is too thick for clothing, even through their cold winter; it might have been hung on the wall or spread on the floor, but the size of the pattern forbids that thought. That gorgeous and enormous garland wants a room fifty feet long to show it well, and that is the length of this whole house, subdivided into many apartments. But it is well woven, and the colors are good, or they would have faded entirely long ago. It helps to verify two of my theories, These bright colors show that their climate, at least part of the time, must have been brilliantly clear, and the manual and machine part of their labor was well done. They failed as artists here, as in other things, because they wanted first to make it comfortable and warm and soft; but they succeeded in getting something that must have been pleasant to walk upon and which shut out the cold.”
“ What is it, Areto? ” said his sister.
“That was undoubtedly a carpet,” said he. “ It requires strength of mind to believe that they could have used such an enormous flowing pattern on a room as small as this must have been. If we want to admire it, we must regard the workmanship, the quality of the material, and the purity of the color. It is a pity they could not have been spared a few centuries more, until they had worked out their own art, as they certainly would have done. ”
“How enthusiastic you are. Areto! You speak of them with such ardor that I realize more than I did that they actually lived once, and were like us in many things.”
“ Actually lived!” cried Areto. “ Oh, you sober-minded girl! Can you come as near them as these tools and household articles bring you, and not feel that you almost have them by the hand? Sometimes, when I am wandering and working alone in these ruins, I become so filled with the thought of the people, I realize so clearly the state of mind that must have animated them to do this or make that, that I expect at any moment to come upon one of the living inhabitants, who will speak to me in his own curious tongue. I have often a little feeling of disappointment, as I go round a corner, or turn suddenly into one of these dismantled rooms, that I do not see its owner in the dress of his day and with his long face and blonde beard, looking with wonder at me who thus dare invade his domain.”
“ Come over here, Areto,” interrupted the voice of Hamas. “ We think, if your plan of a Yankee house is correct, that the room where they kept their handsomest articles of furniture must have been above this spot. Look at this!” He held up the fragments of a dish. “ This was an imitation of an ear of maize with its husk. See how well it is colored, and yet it does not follow nature so closely but that it is conventionalized a little, enough to make it useful as a dish.”
“There!” said Arcto’s sister, “that is what you have pined for,—to find something which showed the beginning of a national art.”
Areto smiled with a sweet, contented look.
“ It is a small beginning, but I have hopes still. Let ns see what else there may be.” Leaning over, he commenced poking in the heap. Out came a copper saucepan, the porcelain lining of a preserve kettle, and a door hinge of bronze.
“ All these, are old forms of things in our day,” said the sister.
“ Yes, and they merely show what I said before: that they always had instruments of the best material to do everything that was strictly useful, and a great deal of mechanical ingenuity was shown in contriving them. It is only when they came to the ornamental and decorative part that they failed. But these things could not have been in the parlor, as they called the room in which they put their richest pieces of furniture.”
“ Perhaps the owner was trying to reconcile the useful and the beautiful when the catastrophe came which ruined the city,” said Hamas, a little waggishly. But this remark was lost on Areto, who had come upon a treasure over which he bent so earnestly that he had no smile for his friend’s raillery.
With a practiced, careful touch he dug out a jar of fine red pottery, and setting it up on the damp floor surveyed it with eyes which dilated with joy as they began to comprehend the design painted around its sides.
“ You are right, Hamas; the owner was striving to combine beauty with use, and he succeeded. Here at last we have some native art. See how characteristic the jar is, and yet how entirely for use! The shape is graceful, yet it holds as much as one of less perfect proportions might. And the design,—can you trace it through all the mold and stains? It is the heads of bisons linked together with garlands of the leaves and blossoms of the Agave Americana. It was done by a hand that loved the work, and is full of strength and simplicity, while the ornamentation is strictly national.”
“ Is not the idea of the design found upon some older Grecian tombs or temples?” said Hamas.
“ Yes; but there are certain designs, certain forms of ornament, which seem to be common to all nations, suggested by the things which are common to all human life. What more probable than that the bison roaming over lands where these plants grew, feeding among them, suggested to the Yankee this idea! ”
Here a general excitement became apparent in a group of others who had been at work near them. Half a dozen centred around one spot, with cries of “ Carefully — be careful — take the other things up gently—there now—oh!-_ yes — here it is — what is it ? ”-and then there was a closer meeting of excited heads over something which seemed to be laid bare. Hamas pressed in among them, and said, “ Let Areto take that out; he knows how to handle that sort of thing better than we.”
Areto joined the group, and saw them looking at a large jar lying on its side among the imbedding mass of articles’ which had once furnished the house. in shape it resembled the earthen one just found a few moments before; but this was of the finest porcelain, and through the soil and stains showed gleams of its whiteness and the rich decorations around its mouth and base. Areto’s first thought was that it had probably been used as the mate for the earthen jar; but Hamas, who had looked more closely, said, “ In its mouth, Areto, is what you have wished to find,”
Areto then saw that from the wide mouth projected something ragged and yellow looking, evidently sheets of paper. A book? No, better, — a manuscript; and as he peered gently among the leaves he saw that the lines of writing were clear, and, save that the paper was dark with age, as easily read as when the pen of the Yankee first traced them. Flushing and trembling with joy, he drew it carefully forth, amid a chorus of cries from his friends.
“ Blessed be the day,” said he, “when this was thrown into that jar, perhaps as mere waste paper. Now we shall be brought near the Yankee, closer through his handwriting than through the printer’s ink. Let us be thankful that no editor accepted it.”
“ Read it to us — read it to us! ” cried his impatient friends.
“ That passes my powers, at present.” said Areto. “ I can only read with difficulty the Yankee print, and this, you see, is written by hand. I can interpret a word or two here and there from the resemblance of the printed and written letters, but to read it easily and fluently is not possible yet. This will require study. ”
“Study it, then!” cried they all; “ and if it is interesting appoint a time and read it to us.”
“ So be it,” he answered, thoughtfully. “ A month from now we will meet again on those old steps where I talked to you this morning, and you shall hear its contents. ”
I, who died in the nineteenth century, watched this student of the thirty-eighth century.
Bv day he worked in the ruined city, searching, pondering over the things he met, and finding mysteries in the streets where I had walked and thought everything as commonplace and plain as the noonday. In the evening he studied the precious manuscript. He became more and more absorbed in penetrating the secrets of the lost race. One morning, as I watched him, he seemed filled with some desire which gave the usual sweetness and depth of his face a little look more like restlessness and anxiety than anything I had ever seen there before. He walked back and forth over the plain, as if searching for some particular spot.
“ This is latitude 42.40,” I heard him say. “ There was once a river winding between these low hills; its course is altered now, but the old line of its banks can be easily traced. Why may it not be the same city ? The first part of the name she mentions, Hartford, is like the word Hartford-Fire-Insurance which I thought might be the city’s name. I wish I could say with certainty, Dig here, or dig there. But even if I struck the right spot, the picture might be gone now. Eighteen hundred years have passed since.”
He continued to walk about, stooping to examine every brick and stone which thrust itself through the soil. There was no clew, no encouragement.
“ I cannot find the spot,” he murmured. “ She speaks of her house as being on one of the principal streets of the town, and this must have been a thoroughfare, from the ruins lying in two irregular lines. I will cause my men to open this whole line. Possibly I may then come upon some landmark by which I can locate the spot of which the manuscript speaks.” He called to his men, and set them at work in the new place. Gladly he would have stayed and watched every spadeful of earth they threw out, but there were many feet of soil above the ruins, and he knew that nothing would reward him for a long time yet.
The month was January, but the air was mild ; a soft breeze, neither wann nor cold, blew gently, lifting the hair on his forehead, and a mile or two beyond the dead city his eyes rested on fields green with young crops. “ We manage those things better than that early race; yet how patiently they worked against a climate over which they had no control! The manuscript shows their patience and ability.”
As he spoke thus to himself, he opened a long silver box, richly chased, that he had been holding. Beautiful as were the designs on the lid, nothing about it was as precious to him as the yellow and faded pages that lay within. He pored abstractedly over the pages, occasionally repeating to himself an English word and then the Maori synonym, as if to imbibe the very spirit in which the story had been written. Hamas came up while he was thus busy, wondered at it greatly, and said rather abruptly, “ How goes it, Areto? What shape of the past have you evoked from those silent pages that you should wear such a restless, tormented look ? ”
Areto’s face lost this unaccustomed expression as he looked up to answer: “ It is a strange story that I have come upon here, with complications and passions that we can hardly understand, our life is so different. I have had to throw myself into it to understand it, and I may have taken something of the soul of my characters into my face from sympathy. It was an interesting race, Hamas. The manuscript lets me into their lives, and I see more and more that they were a strong, nervous, restless people, branching out in a thousand directions; greedy, money-getting, but full of sublime aspirations; questioning heaven and earth in a search for truth; contending with wants; and resting at last in death, because they could know no other rest.”
“ You have then read it ? ” said Hamas, looking curiously into the open box. “ You must be ready to read it to us. ”
“No; the month is not yet fulfilled, and there are many pages over which I must still spend much time. It is not easy to change their cramped, stiff language into ours, and to do it well I must study until I feel to the full the spirit in which the author wrote.”
He laid the cover gently over the box, shutting the manuscript from the eyes of Hamas. At this moment a shout arose from the men who were digging, and one of them ran forward waving a ragged cloak in the air. “ We have come upon the interior of a house,” said he, using another and less perfect language than that of Areto, and showing in every movement and gesture that he came of a lower and different race.
That which was true of ruined cities in 1879 was true in 3758. Around Nineveh and Memphis and Karnak lived a worthless, miserable set of Creatures, barbarous and uncivilized in as great a degree as the former inhabitants had been refined and enlightened, — not descendants of the former inhabitants, but as if a small vagabond class had survived and managed to perpetuate itself with a vitality denied the better race. So on the outskirts of this buried city lived a race bearing no resemblance to the Yankees, and yet living among their deserted remains.
“ Will you come, Hamas? ” said Arcto, rising.
“ Not to-day. I am not such a driver in the depths as you, though all these things interest me. Let us hear from you at the end of the month,”
Two parties of workmen had laid open buildings in two different places, and Areto secretly hoped that one of them might prove to be the house he so much desired to find.
The first excavation was a church, but to a Maori the question as to the object of the building was an insoluble problem. Not a leaf of a hymn-book or Bible remained; the wood of the pews had disappeared. Some pieces of the metal organ pipes had survived; the great bell lay in halves under the place where the steeple had been; and the fragments and cinders of the furnace showed that there had been a fire there. Thoroughly puzzled, Areto wandered about examining the walls, which were still standing to the height of five or six feet.
“ So large a room,” thought he, “ argues that it was for public purposes. Perhaps it was a temple, — but what lack of symbolism! Probably they worshiped a spirit; but bad they nothing that represented him? Did they see him only in their own spirits? It must have been a pure religion. But again, if a temple, how could worshipers have assmubled here in any numbers? The walls show no signs of any ventilating flues; so many could not have gathered without some means of ventilation. Their climate would not let them leave doors and windows open always. Could it have been for burials or cremation? That rusty mass in the centre bears marks of fires. Perhaps the dead were burned slowly in a large, airless room like this. If not that, but a temple, it makes their religion a greater mystery than ever. How could they have preserved such unadorned simplicity so long! ”
But if the stern plainness of the church perplexed him, what was there in the remains of the Wadsworth Athenæum which could give rest to his inquiring mind ? It was as hard to decide the object of that building as to trace the religion of the extinct people from an empty building, a battered bell, and the crumbling slag of the furnace which heated it.
Areto found on the cellar floor of the Athenæum pieces of broken glass which had covered cases of relics. He found stone arrow-heads and hatchets, some curious shells and coins, a few buttons and fragments of gold thread, — which it was easy to see had made part of some embroidery, the wire having preserved the thread of the cloth into which it was sewed, — and two or three old sword handles. Also he found, as in the other building, a mass of slag and iron-rust showing marks of fire. This, with the size of the foundation walls, showing that the building must have been for public purposes, caused him to conclude that it had been devoted to the cremation of dead warriors. The buttons had on them military emblems; the sword hilts were peculiar weapons of the race, and not unlike some in use among the Maori of an early date; and the gold thread must have formed part of a warrior’s gorgeous vestments. The stone hatchets and arrow-beads were a slight discrepancy, as the race worked well in metals; but they might have been trophies of some barbarous race whom the warriors had conquered.
But neither of these could have been the house described in the manuscript. Areto climbed to the top of the excavation and looked over the plain, and then walked slowly along, following what he conceived might be the line of the street, now lying twenty feet below him under the soil. Taking out the silver box, he looked again with care through the pages of the manuscript, only to say, “ It is of no use. Even if the writer had given street and number, it would have availed nothing now. This is a city which knows neither street nor number.”
He laid back the sheets, and was about to close the cover, when a frolicsome little wind whisked in among the old dry pages, rattled them briskly, and, not content with this, selected the very one he had been looking at most carefully, and sent it twirling and fluttering over the ground, until it took refuge in a little nook made by a mound and a projecting bit of stone, twenty rods away from him.
Areto calmly watched these pranks, thinking merely, “ They have let loose a little more wind to-day than is strictly necessary,” when he noticed how the leaf had lodged, and that it still kept up a little waving motion as if to beckon him on. He was as far from superstition as a healthy mind which knows not what it is can be, yet there started up now the thought, “What if this sheet should have strayed to the very spot where its writer’s heart may have been when the lines were written on its surface? One place is as good as another; this has fallen in a line with what I have imagined to be the great street of the city. I will cause them to dig here at once.” Summoning his men, they were set to work in the new place.
His patience was great, but it was to be fully tested. Two days, three days, the men worked, and still had not penetrated the superincumbent earth. At the depth where in other places they usually began to find the foundation bricks or stone, they came upon a solid stratum of red clay, which almost defied the edge of stone or pick. Areto waited, and studied his manuscript. Hamas found him, and again said, “ Read it to us; you have worked at it enough.”
Areto answered, “ ! will; ” and the same people who had listened to his little address on the extinct Yankees gathered on the steps of the ruined church with pleased, attentive looks.
“ Bear in mind,” said Areto, “ that I translate as I read, and also that the whole story shows a state of society that we, who are so far advanced, can scarcely look back upon and realize.”
When one counts the number of babies that die yearly, one is astonished to find that the human race has not disappeared from the face of the earth long ere this.
Plants blossom and bear fruit and seed; but if we could reckon the number of seeds that come to naught annually, we should wonder that there is a green thing left.
When one thinks of the numberless hosts of drawbacks, accidents, and losses which beset men in the endeavor to earn only a “bare living,” one is astonished to find how many wealthy people there are, and wonders how they ever attained their riches,
Thomas Green was a farmer, a thinker, and a lover. In the first, capacity, his lot was cast upon the rock-mixed soil of a New England farm, latitude 42.40. The soil was against him, the climate was against him, all the weeds and most of the insects were against him. Only some few birds of the insect-eating variety and his own strong hands and heart were for him. As a thinker, he looked across his fields, smiling for a month or two if the spring rains were copious, but burned and brown in August, and coldly gray or robed in arctic white all winter; and life seemed to be a question of climate.
“ If one could but understand the balancings of the clouds ’ that old Job talks about, or if one could enter into the treasures of the snow and the hail reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and of war!
“ What did he mean by that quaint language? Why may not man enter into the secrets? We have found the treasures of the lightning to our use. If Job were to see us telegraphing from California to England, he would assuredly say, Man talketh with man even unto the uttermost parts of the earth; the sea preventeth him not, nor yet the mountains.
“ Why cannot we penetrate these secrets a great deal further? Men seem to have been tumbled into this world without an idea of the laws that govern its economy, and they are trying from generation to generation to find them out. At present there is a marked unfitness either in man for living in the world as it is, or else in the world for man living in it as it is, and nothing but finding out these laws and bending them to our use can help us. We have learned to compromise with nature in some things, so that we are more comfortable than the savage; but a great deal more remains. We cause the wild rose to multiply its petals by the hundred; we have made the scanty, bitter fruit of the wild apple into a pulpy, juicy globe, and multiplied its productiveness seventy-fold; we have improved our cattle from the small, vicious, ugly beast of the plains into largebodied, short-horned animals, with small bones and great meat on their sides. We make our hens lay all winter in a climate where they could not live if left to the course of nature. We alter the sourse of nature, as it is called, and improve it in a hundred small ways; why not in a hundred great ones? Learning these would be a getting of wisdom surely, and Job and Solomon approved of that.
“ There must be laws that regulate the elements, and why may I not learn them if I can? Why should I sit still and see my broad fields, with their crops, turn sere and brown for want of the ‘early and the latter rains’? Why must my grapes and tomatoes be ruined by an early and untimely frost? Why must my seeds be planted too late in the spring, because of the bitterness of the east wind? Why may I not regulate the wind and the frost, the rain and the snow, as well as the quality of my stock and the color ol my roses ? There must be a way to do it, and it remains for me to learn that way.
“ What do they mean when they talk about these things being arranged by Providence? Five years ago they did not know how to deal with the grasshopper, and that jerky insect devoured every green thing off the face of whole States. They watched his little habits, and learned to kill his eggs by the hundred bushel, and the grasshopper ceased to be a burden. They did not discover any decrees of Providence that should inflict grasshoppers upon them, to which they must tamely yield; they girded up their loms and gave battle to the destroyer. The laws which governed the production of the insect were discovered, and then they mastered him. Why may I not do likewise, and compel the cloud to withhold or give up its rain? When the Nile flood has reached its height, the Egyptian knows how much water he will have for his harvest, and calculates accordingly. But I know nothing, can calculate nothing for my crops. In the course of ten years the average of the rain-fall may be a sufficient quantity for each season; but what is that to me? In three of those ten years there was such drought during the four hearing months that my crops failed, and I had either to sell my cattle, or bankrupt myself buying food for them. And during other three of those years there were such copious rains that my growing crops were drowned, and my cut hay was spoiled because it had no chance to dry. Go to. Let me try and learn the secrets of the hail and the clouds, that I may be able to regulate this matter.”
Occasionally he spoke his thoughts, finding it a good thing to do; it made him know more clearly what was in his own mind.
“ Why are we made so that there are only about four days in the year which entirely agree with us? ” said he, suddenly, to his mother. He was sitting opposite her at dinner, and she looked at him in astonishment, and gave him a potato before she answered.
“ How do you mean? Agree with us ? ”
“ Yes. Why does not the weather either agree with us, or why do we not agree with it ? I mean, if we are to live in a cold climate, why was I not made to take it as it is, and not wrestle against it as I have to with my thick-walled house and my woolen clothes, my garnered crops, and most of all the strong distaste I have, in common with the rest of mankind, for seeing the thermometer go below zero? Life is really not a question of what I can do, but what the weather will let me do. I spend three hot, dusty, sunny months in getting ready for eight horribly cold ones. In neither extreme am I comfortable, because I was not made to bear either freezing or roasting.”
Mrs. Green was not a narrow-minded or unthinking woman, but she could not help looking a little scandalized, and answered, “ The climate is as the Lord makes it, and we must be thankful.”
“I am not speaking irreverently, mother, but is it as the Lord makes it ? On the contrary, is not he waiting for us to learn how to make it for ourselves? ”
“ That sounds a little as if you had got over the line between religion and free, reckless thinking.”
“ Not a hit, in the way you mean, mother. But after we have chained the lightning, and made a mere thin vapor like steam work for us, where are you going to place the limits to our attempts or our thoughts ? The Lord does not object to the getting of wisdom. He is always putting baits in our way to lead us on to more and more. It is what the successive generations of men are for; each learns a little more than the one that went before. The Lord slowly imparts the knowledge of his great laws as the reward for years of study and toil. ”
Mrs. Green had nothing on hand to gainsay his arguments, and could find no fault with his tone, as full of reverence as the minister’s; so she finished her dinner in speculative silence. She fed the hens afterward in a train of thought suggested by what he had said, and he drove his team and thought with one half of his brain all that day and many another,—thought with one half, and planned the rotation of crops and the rest of his farm-work with the other. It would not do to let that go behind. But his brain was big enough to do good work in both directions. When he had to turn his plow from the furrow to avoid massive bowlders and outcropping shoulders of hidden ledges, he speculated upon the possibility of there being some chemical element applied to them, so that the process of disintegration should be made a speedy one, and the obnoxious rock changed into fine earth. He made a calculation of what the ledges and great spreads of flat, gray rock, barren and useless, cost him every year, and decided that there was no economy in them. Except two or three ledges, dear to his heart because he had wandered over them summer evenings with Janet, he grudged the existence of every inch of granite he owned. Why should he not melt the strong ribs of the earth? A small hand-volcano on the farm would be a great convenience. It would be a warm and pleasant winter amusement, throwing in the rocks for the inner fires fo melt and pour out in a slow stream a mass of good soil. How such a glowing furnace would warm the soil for rods about it! This and kindred ideas grew in his mind, until it began to show in words and actions. He found himself obliged to take care lest he should alarm his men by talking chemically to them.
Old Caleb, his general stand-by and man of all work, picked up a rusty log-chain, and grimed his hand, naturally enough, paying, however, no especial attention to it, until Thomas said, " Oxygen did it,” speaking aloud the thought in his mind. Caleb dropped the chain suddenly, looking at his hands in great displeasure, and Thomas had to laugh at him a little before he would pick it up.
Thomas spent the money that would have bought him a new suit of clothes on some of the simpler furnishings of a laboratory. Here he retired at odd moments, and studied or tried experiments. He burned himself, blew himself up, and made wondrous combinations whose fearful odors pervaded the house, causing the rest of the family to go about holding their noses. He became familiar with strange algebraic formulæ, — 2 KI + HgCl = 2KCl + HgI2. From the office of the weather reports in Washington he obtained the notes and observations for three or four years, and patiently endeavored to draw from the mass such facts as would help him discover the laws which govern currents of air. He constantly said to himself, “I will know the secrets of the hail, the rain, and the wind.”
Once or twice a week he went to see Janet Wareham, which shows another side of his character, — the lover. This girl was one in every way fitted to spur Thomas on in all his aspirations. She rivaled Cæsar and Alexander in her ambitions for herself, and naturally did not spare the man to whom she was engaged. Cæsar and Alexander sighed for new worlds to conquer, and despaired because they could not find them; Janet found them. In everything she undertook a new world opened, which she wished to explore to its utmost limits. She had dived deep among German gutturals and French idioms, — had gone through a college course of Latin, and spoke it well enough to have made a member of the Ecumenical Council. Withal, she could cook a dinner, ride a horse, or paper a room. In fact, she could do too many things. Her mother looked at her with apprehension, and said, " Janet can do anything she wishes, and she is growing thin and pale with so much ability,” — which was very true. Probably she would have lost her health in another year, but she was released from the spur of poverty, which had helped her find out her capacities, just in time to save her. She was the only grandchild of the family on her mother’s side, and her grandfather, dying, left his comfortable property and a house in town to her mother in trust for Janet. So she lost the strongest incentive to overwork, poverty and necessity. But ambition was woven into her nature, and she did not settle into sloth and rust; she only took life a little more easily than before. Having a house in the city, she spent three or four months of the winter in town, and thus got a taste of society, of music, and of books. Their engagement had been entered upon late one summer, and the following winter she wrote to Thomas from Hartford: —
“This being in town is well enough, because it is good, I think, to mingle two ways of living in the life of one person, if possible. When I am at Northam, I have you, and my interests and tastes are all of an out-of-door and pastoral nature. Then I come here, and meet people, hear gossip, music, art talk, and get into a busy current of human interests. Last winter I was music-mad, and went to every opera and concert that came along. This winter I have taken to drawing again, and have looked out my water-colors, and have glorious times with some enthusiastic art friends. I have taken to house decoration, and the artist with whom I study thinks I shall do pretty well in that line. He dabbles in water-colors, paints flowers and fans aà la Japanese for amusement, but makes portrait-painting his real work. He is to paint my picture for you, and I commence the sittings to-morrow. I have commanded him, on pain of my displeasure, to put in all the characteristic and bad points of my face,—the tendency of my nose and of my chin to be rather long, and the straight lines of my eyebrows, which ought to have been curvilinear, — and yet to make me beautiful; so that when I am handed down to future generations, people shall say, ' How lovely she must have been! ’ and not having a scrap of me to compare the picture with, they will think it an accurate rendering of my charms. He is not to omit the little white Scar on the end of my nose, which throbs when I am angry or excited. He was putting my head in different positions yesterday to find the best one, when he observed the scar, and asked how I got it. In answer I fashioned an idle tale, which made him laugh. ' A Maori chieftain fell in love with me,’ said I, ‘and when I was deaf to his prayers he wished to brain me; but his implement of stone was dull, and I escaped with a cleft nose, which has retained the scar.’ He laughed, and said, ' Your story translated would read that your careless nurse, while dozing by the fire, let you drop upon the andiron. And as for the Maori part, it was suggested by the nurse having been a black woman.’
“ I am hunting over and ripping up all my stores of finery to make a dress to suit, this fastidious artist. The picture is to be in half length, but not life size, because it is upon ivory, the largest piece I can find. He says my gown must be simple, yet in a style suited to me, and different from any fashion that now prevails. What combination he will hit upon I cannot imagine. All the finery I possess was yesterday laid out in the back parlor for him to select from. With a face intense and determined he stood among it, threw now a bit of satin over my shoulder, as if he wished to lasso me, stood off to get the effect with a look of disgust, put an ell of lace on my head, whirled that off with a sound as if he would like to be disrespectful to it if he dared, and then enveloped me in a black velvet cloak, my yellow head sticking out at the top like a dandelion out of a mud-bank. I suggested this comparison, but was frowned down at once, and perceived that I was rudely breaking in upon artistic visions and reveries; so I shut my mouth like an angry oyster, and remained silent, while he continued to involve me in silk and satin hurricanes.
“ He has condescended to approve of a design for a dado which is to be put on the walls of the parlor. Knowing how you hate that vicious plant, the blue weed, I have taken the stiff stem and the peculiar blue blossom and conventionalized them to my use. Imagine the stem, of an ugly dull green, rising straight a distance of a foot and a half; on its top is the blue wheel of the blossom, and just below two short stems emerge at regularly irregular distances, each bearing a bud or a blossom. These are upon a ground of unburnished gold, and between each frisks a spray of wild convolvulus. I mean it frisks enough to break up the picket-like stiffness of the blue-weed stems; but it is also just a little conventionalized, and its blossom is another shade of the same blue as the blue weed. Will your philosopho-scientific imagination carry you thus far? If so, then fancy that the whole design is topped off by a strip of Indian red. which ends the dado and marks the beginning of the pale buff wall, and there you have it.
“ But here comes Mr.―, the artist, again. Undoubtedly, in the sympathetic lights and shades of his studio the vision of my appropriate dress has dawned upon him. I must hurry down and see what he will say.
“ Two hours later. It was even so. It is now decreed what the important dress shall be. You would not guess it if you tried. To describe it is to make you think of the color usually considered most trying to blondes; yet Mr. Hand will combine and bring out and soften it, and finally triumph over all difficulties. These are my orders, — I give them as he gave, and wish I could put upon paper his business tone of command. ' Your gown,’ said this autocrat, ' shall be of deep red velvet, with a plain skirt falling in its natural folds. It shall not be long-walsted beyond nature, nor yet short, like that minx the Empress Josephine. It shall be turned away at the throat in the shape of a V, and there shall be a frill of old lace, narrow in front and high at the back, but not so high as those worn by that other minx, Queen Elizabeth That curious necklace sprinkled with seed pearls, which your sea-faring uncle brought from Brazil, shall clasp your throat closely, and your hair, which you rightfully though with wicked intent compared to a dandelion, shall be rolled in soft puffs, high on your head; and at your peril, Miss Wareham, shall you dare, on the mornings when you sit for me, to pass a comb through those tendrils and incipient curls which soften the line of your forehead and ingratiatingly nestle at the back of your neck.’
“ I bowed. I was overwhelmed. I did not dare to say, The red will be unbecoming, the necklace is not large enough to go round my great throat, and to put my hair in puffs is a luxury I indulge in only when I go to parties and employ a hair-dresser. But I must hear and obey, piece out the necklace with black velvet on the back, and deplete my pocket-book by having my hair rolled high three times a week.”
The picture was pronounced a success when it was finished, yet it was left to hang on the walls of Janet’s house. The likeness was good. The artist had given with great skill and appreciation of his subject the high-bred look peculiar to her face when in repose; but he had also, by his skillful touches around the eyes and mouth, suggested how they could kindle and curve with the archness and fun that were in her nature. But Thomas did not like it. He never told the reason, because at first he did not know himself: the rich dress, the pearl necklace, seemed to take her away from him. He came up to see her in a state of the deepest depression. His first words were, “ Do not let me come near you; do not even give me your hand and smile at me, lest you melt the heart of my firm resolve.”
She looked at him keenly a moment, and then read his troubled glance well. Her answer was to press closely to him, to give him a little caress on the cheek, and to say with tender archness, “ Ah, I know! It is that wicked onion crop. That and the Canada thistle have been your bane. Men who will stake their all on onions, when they know that they contend against blight and cut-worm, must repent in bitterness of soul. I shall have to marry you to draw you away from the whirl of these dreadful attractions.”
” You would make a granite bowlder laugh,” said he, his face brightening and softening under the charm of her words and touch. His arm stole round her waist, and as he would have kissed her she whispered, “ How did you dare think of breaking the engagement because you have been unsuccessful on your farm? ” Then he found it was his turn to soothe and comfort her. A good deal of it was the wordless kind. When he did speak, he said, “ Oh, my darling, I am a heavily burdened man! For three years I have barely paid the interest on money I owe for my farm. If the next year proves as unfortunate as this, I shall go to the wall, and you will simply be obliged yourself to break the engagement with the bankrupt farmer.”
Her sweet, incredulous smile at this last made his arm tighten its hold.
“ Dear boy, you are so stupid not to marry on what I have.”
“ On what you have not,” he replied.
“ Your mother has it, and there is only enough for you two. A pretty business it would be for a man of thirty, strong and in full health, to marry a woman and let her mother support him.”
“ Thomas, you are very proud.”
“ Undoubtedly I am. And let me tell you that you would not be proud of me very long if I did so.”
She sighed; she knew he was right
He echoed her sigh, and then said in a tone of would-be cheerfulness, “ When I have discovered the secret of the weather, things will be different.”
“Is it that you are after, instead of onions? The secret of the weather? What is that? ”
“ It is the result of a feeling I have that I should like to work more certainly and profitably than I do. When heat and frost, blight and drought, conspire to kill the largest crop of whatever I may be raising, how can I hope to succeed ? My desire therefore is to make over the climate, — combine a season of drought with a season of rain, and strike an average between tlie two, — make extremes meet, von see, in that way.”
The idea struck her at first a little as it bad Mrs. Green.
“ But I thought the Lord regulated the seasons, and made them all for the best.”
“ Are you sure of that? In nature the Lord has given us the rock and the wilderness, and told us to go to work and make them blossom as the rose; and we have succeeded tolerably with the wilderness; not quite so well with the rock. May not the same argument hold good with our climate? He has given us some very rough material in the New England winter, and he may be waiting for us to discover how to change it so as to suit us and our needs better than it does. As to there being any irreverence in the thought, which I saw was your first feeling, it is not wicked to turn a river from its course to water a city; why should it be to change a brutal climate into a milder one? It will give us a wider life and a better chance in the world.”
She caught the idea with womanly alertness of mind.
“It is the same idea in a different shape. In the first instance, man alters the river to suit his convenience; in the second the climate. The Lord made one as much the other, and handed them both over to man to struggle with, till he found out how to conquer them. But can you hope to discover a way to subdue this climate of ours? I never thought much about it, but it is rather dreadful.”
“Rather,” replied he, dryly. “Just come here.”
She followed him to the window and looked out. The sky was one uniform iron-gray tint; snow was beginning to fall, and an icy wind caught it and blew it with howls and shouts into the face of every one who breasted it, and upon the doorsteps and against the window panes of those who tried to shut it out with closed doors and thick walls.
“It is a cheerful prospect,” said he grimly. “ And notice that it is the deathly cold which is the repulsive element in this sort of weather. If it were a warm ain, we should take no such exceptions to it as we do now. I can hardly say I hope to change all this, but it is for that I work in my laboratory. Think how magnificent it would be! Let me build a ‘ castle in Spain ’ for once.”
She nodded a joyous assent, only too glad to wile away the gloom that was on him when he first came.
“ In our souls we all hate these cruel New England winters. People talk in a wild way about liking tlie cold, and the pleasure of a bracing atmosphere, and all that sort of stuff, with their shuddering skin revolting at the nonsense and themselves wrapped in heavy, cumbersome clothes in order that they may keep up a vital warmth. Cross-question them a little, and you will find that they mean the sort of weather we have in October, and that is what they really enjoy. But nobody likes month after month in which fires must be piled high to keep the air at a moderate temperature inside, while everything freezes on the outside edge of door and window. The change of climate which we experience every winter day going from our warm houses to the out-door air is enough to make invalids of us all. We must have the warmth. We will stay in all we can to enjoy that warmth. Human nature revolts at going out in such cold except as a necessity. I repeat, — no man in his inmost soul really likes cold weather. He thinks he cannot help it, so he puts on a brave face and tries to make himself believe he likes it. Now I would change all this!”
“How can you, Thomas? Will you straighten up the axes of the earth, or change the course of the Gulf Stream ?
“ I cannot explain to you without going elaborately into my theory of gases and cold currents of air. But it will amount to our getting more of the benefit of the Gulf Stream than we now have. I should utilize that more, and also the stream which is like it in the Pacific. But think how delicious it would be to have a really temperate climate, — a climate that did not indulge in such intemperances as ours does.”
“ Yes, ours is not strictly temperate, I must say. It did indulge in sprees of the most violent kind. In the summer we often have tropical heat, and in the winter arctic cold.”
“ We do exactly that. And what tremendous changes the thermometer allows itself ! I have known it range through forty-eight degrees in twentyfour hours.”
“ Certainly. I remember, only a few weeks ago, commencing a morning in muslin and being in furs before night.”
“ I see, my dear, you will appreciate my equable climate better than I at first hoped. And think how we farmers shall flourish! ”
“ But think also how the hordes that feast and grow fat upon green things will flourish! What are they? The canker, palmer, army, cut, wire, and other worms; likewise the weevil and phylloxera.”
“ Learned little girl! Have you been cramming on the report of the state entomologist ? ”
“ Not at all, sir. But am I not bound to take an interest in the things which concern you, so that I may influence you toward good ? I knew your anxieties about worms had frequently been great, and so I read up about that large family of articulates.”
“ Right; and I admire you more than ever. I will also remember that you always confound me when we argue.”
“ Of course it is my duty to hand in a minority report once in a while, or you would always crush me. But how about my worms ? ”
“ I know; the number of pernicious things that can get after a crop is something fearful. But we make a pretty good fight now, and we could turn the energies which we use now in keeping ourselves warm to the destruction of the caterpillar and the moth. Besides, there would be a longer season, and what we do not succeed with in one month we might try again later.”
“ But shall we not grow lazy, and cease to be an active, energetic nation, enervated by our lovely climate? ”
“ Janet, despise the idea! You must. It is the greatest fallacy that ever was, to defend a climate which, however, can be defended only by an argument founded on a fallacy.”
“I am crushed,” said she. “But go on. I like it.”
“ You are not crushed half enough. The idea that human nature is not strong enough to withstand the seductions of a pleasant climate is an insult to the maker. But here are facts, — the facts. Everywhere the old civilizations have been found in countries with a mild climate; so that the people were not driven by the necessity of working all the time to provide for the winter, the time of famine. Therefore, they had leisure to cultivate the arts and sciences. Egypt, Greece, Italy, India, and, on our own side of the world, Mexico and Peru all had moderate, pleasant climates.”
She looked up at him, and he answered her glance. “ You are going to say that they all waned after a time? What does that prove? How do you know but we may? The element of destruction does not lie in climate. It will be in our intertangled morals and religion, or something of that nature. Every civilization carries its own peculiar possibility of destruction as well as its peculiar vital power. We are not exempt. Eighteen hundred years hence may see us an extinct people, and our existence an object of discussion by some nation we know not.”
“ Some nation not knowing our Fourth of July, or any other proper holiday,” she mischievously added.
He laughed, and gave her a tigerish look. “ Beware how you mock at me. I shall ” —
“ You will do nothing to stop my making you laugh and forget care and onions, whenever I can get a chance.”
“ It has been rather a philosophical talk for lovers,” he said, as he rose to go; “ but — was there much philosophy in that?” as he let her go, the blood flushing into her face, and her heart beating quicker from his farewell kiss. But he got no verbal answer.
Thomas reached the station at Northam, five miles from his house, at twelve o’clock in the evening, and found, as he expected, his horse and wagon in an adjoining stable, left there by previous agreement with the faithful Caleb. Muffled to the ears in his overcoat and robes, he started on the long, solitary drive,— solitary after he left the street of the little town.
The snow ceased falling, the wind lulled a little, and he had nothing to do but give his mare the reins and let her go, while he occupied himself with bitter-sweet thoughts of Janet, — bitter, because he saw plainly that his engagement would be a long one; sweet, with the thought of her faithfulness, and that she perceived his design of setting her free, and the way she met it.
In the loneliest part of the road he drove between high banks which rose on either side, crowned with sighing pinetrees. Here he drove slowly, for the way was narrow, when suddenly, from the left hand, a dark figure appeared, and sprang at a hound into the back of the wagon. A hand smote him on the shoulder, and a voice said, “ Well, old Thomas, how goes it? ”
“You ought to be called the goblin squirrel,” retorted Thomas, “jumping into a man’s wagon from nowhere at this time of night, and scaring him out of his wits, I suppose you were up in the top of one of the trees, and merely flew down as I came along.”
“ No, I have been lying in wait for you these two hours. What a late fellow you are! How does it suit to go to bed at one and get up at five? ”
“Not at all in any other business,” promptly replied Thomas. “ But you know when a man is in love, he does all sorts of things with impunity. It is like camping out, where you wet your feet, and sit in wet clothes, and do all the things your grandmother says you must not do, and never catch cold.”
“More like the providence that attends on fools and drunkards,” said Jack, laughing.
“All the same,” responded Thomas, cheerfully. “ But why were you lying in wait for me to-night, especially? ”
“ Oh, nothing. I knew you had come from Hartford and Janet. I am in love with her, too, you know; and if I am not the man promoted, I want to stand next to the one that is.”
“ Jack, I don’t quite understand you. You speak every little while of being in love with Janet, generally in a joking way, but sometimes in a different tone, as if you — envied me.”
The darkness hid the savage look which glowed in Jack’s face at this speech, and the rattle of the wagon covered the snap as he set his teeth together; but in a second he answered, with a voice gay and unconscious enough for his careless words, “ Oh, she is my second cousin, you know; and I have always been in love with her, ever since we hunted birds’-nests together in the swamps. Being in love with her is a habit I have acquired through the years. I mention it occasionally to keep you well up. If you were to fall off and become cold, I should feel it my duty to comfort her.” He laughed in an easy way that would have deceived senses as acute as Fine-ear, and added, “ What are you mulling over now in your laboratory? What is the last new bad smell? I was nearly knocked down the other day when I opened your front door. Your mother, with her nose high in the air, said it was ‘awful.’ Faith, I thought so, too.”
“ Yes; that was a little sulphureted hydrogen that I accidentally compounded in trying to do something else.”
“ So you are meddling with hydrogen gas, are you? It makes pretty little explosions, you know.”
“ I expect to be blown through the roof some day, but I hope not just yet. It is so dark I can hardly see; but that is your house, is it not ? ”
“ No, the next. There, — don’t stop your horse. A squirrel, you know, does not need consideration of that sort. ”
Without more words, or allowing Thomas to draw rein, he disappeared into the darkness with another flying leap like the one which had brought him into the wagon, and Thomas supposed that he entered the large, comfortablelooking farm-house where his fathers and forefathers had dwelt for many a year. But to peaceful rest he was not inclined. The accepted lover went home and slept until five o’clock in the morning. Jack saw the stars set, and the east begin to redden with the tardy light of a winter morning, from the depths of the pine grove.
Jack Osborn was, as he said, a cousin of Janet’s, but with a very different strain of blood in his veins. He had a handsome face, smooth and dark, but it was almost spoiled to any one who was a reader of physiognomy by a short, receding chin. His figure, slender, wiry, and nervous, combined such agility with such strength that he was considered a prodigy among his friends. It was easier for him to jump a gate than to open it, and Thomas was not wrong in calling him a squirrel; the bound that he made from the bank into the wagon was nothing to him. When a boy he would go from one tree to another, in his father’s grove of maples, by leaping from bough to bough; and he could do it still, at twenty-six. In character he was a combination of contrasts and contradictions, strength and weakness, more than usually falls to the human lot. His weaknesses were his strong points. His early education had been of the old, careful New England sort; but who can build on a quicksand? When there came a question between honor and strong desires, honor went to the wall, and he obtained his wish. What he could not have, he moved heaven and earth to get; when he had it, he threw it down, and ran after something else. He cried for the moon from his father’s arms, and had to be held back from springing after it. That was what he had done ever since; the worst of it was that his father’s arms could no longer restrain him.
He went away from home, and became a salesman in a wholesale dry - goods firm. To be known as an attractive man, who could sell goods when others could not, was his aim for several years. He was admirably fitted for the position; his quiet, easy manners, with great tact and a ready appreciation and sympathy for the character of his customers, gave him success much sooner than is usually the case. But when he had an offer of a larger salary and a finer position from a rival firm, he let it slip in an entirely characteristic manner, lost his ambition, and came back to a quiet life on his father’s farm, and to fall deeply in love with Janet. He knew she was engaged to Thomas, but that was the spur his character needed. He could not get his cousin’s love, and so he wanted it. He hung about, pretending that it was in a cousinly way, often speaking jestingly of his love to her, as he had to Thomas Green.
One person read him aright, — Janet Wareham. She did not admit it in her inmost thoughts, but the unacknowledged knowledge guided her conduct with him. She never let him see what she knew. Her manner to him was sweet and friendly, but always as if she were set away beyond his reach. She allowed him cousinly intimacy at her house, but there was nothing special or personal about it. Her manner ought to have warned him; and it did in one sense, but also attracted him irresistibly. It was his nature, whenever he saw a barrier, to wish to break it down in some way. Janet spoke with deeper meaning than she was quite aware of herself, once, when she said, “ Jack, you really ought to turn your attention to the North Pole.”
“ Why? ” said he, astonished.
“ Because you would never give it up until you had reached the very tip of the pole and swung your feet off the end. There is such a dumb, dogged perseverance in you when real and tremendous obstacles are laid in your way.”
The second summer of Thomas’s engagement to Janet was hot on the hills. Thomas stood, one evening in July, with folded arms; contemplating his brown pastures. They rolled away to the sea as dry and sere as if a fire had passed over them. The sun was setting in a red haze, which told that the next day would be as dry and hot as the one just ending. Two or three clouds obscured the line of the horizon in the west; but they were not the threatening-looking thunder-heads with possibilities of forked lightning and rushing rain in their folds such as he would have been glad to see. Caleb, coming up, stood by his side. He had worked with Thomas’s father on the farm, and had transferred his regard from father to son.
“ ’T ain’t much of a sight, now,” said he. “ Three months without rain makes another thing of pasture lands. Them skies look as if they was brass.”
Thomas sighed for all answer. The sight put off his marriage another year still, and his heart was hot.
Caleb went on: “The drought don’t seem to hurt them potato beetles. I come through the lot just now, and they was so thick you could hear ’em rattle against one another; and how they was chawin’ them potato tops! ”
“ The dry weather suits them exactly; pity if it could not help something. How much hay shall we have to sell next winter, if this sort, of thing goes on? A teaspoouful, do you think? ”
“ Sca’cely,” replied Caleb, chuckling grimly at the grim joke. “ There won’t be enough for the cattle to eat, to say nothin’ of sellin’ any. You will have to take them into the kitchen and give them bread and milk.”
The smile on Thomas’s face had no merriment in it, and as Caleb glanced around he felt a sudden desire to offer sympathy and consolation, only he did not know how. Like many another Yankee, he was of the chestnut-bur description,— raspy and rough outside, but velvet-lined, and with a sound, sweet heart. The expression on the face of Thomas acted like a frost on this kindly old bur, and he began to show as well as he could his inner softness.
“ These ’ere summers are better in some respects than awful wet ones. I remember three year ago how we had to roust round to get hay dry at all. Me and the horses, and Tim with the oxen, raced our loads of hay ag’inst a thundercloud, one day, and we beat only by a second. The rain wet the tail end of the cart as we galloped on to the barn floor. Tim and me looked at each other and says he, ‘ I ’most drawed them oxen’s heads out of the yoke ; ’ and says I, ' The tongue is pretty near pulled out of the wagon with these horses havin’ to go so, and I guess next time we won’t try quite so hard.’ But we did save the hay.” Thomas listened, in spite of himself, and the old man went on with his friendly voice and cheerful talk: —
“ John Davis took that ’ere bull you sold to the butcher. But I guess he did n’t tell you what kind of a time he had doin’ it? ”
“ No,” said Thomas. “ He has been at work in the Point meadow all day, and I have not seen him since.”
“ The bull wa’n’t nothin’ but an infant in years, but he’s got a grown-up temper. He acted just like a drunk lord. He wa’n’t goin’ to have nobody else on the road at the same time he was. He went after every man, woman, and child he saw, draggin’ John at the end of the rope as if he wa’n’t nothin’ but a fly. Silas Smith came along in his nice new buggy, shinin’ with varnish, and wanted to speak to John about some mowin’. But the bull would n’t hear to nothin’. He just let drive at the buggy head on, and Silas had to whip up and get out of the way as fast as he could tucker. Then the bull looked round, and seemed to think he was kind o’ hot after all this thrashing about; and he was right there on the causeway across the meadows, where the big ditch is, you know. He thought the water looked cool and nice, and slam-bang he went into it, John could n’t stop him no more ’n he could a thunder-clap. But there wa’n’t only about two inches of water, and the rest was black sea-mud just about ten feet deep. He flounced and flapped and kicked and spattered, and the more he did it the deeper he got. John thought he might as well git tamed that way as any other, so he let him work. Finally there wa’n’t nothin’ to be seen but the line of his back and his curly forehead and nose; and his bellerin’ sounded different from what it was before, and he stopped kickin’. Then John began to stir round; brought rails and put under him, and pried him out. ‘ Now what do you think of yourself?’ said John. But he was n’t the same kind of beast as when he jumped in so gay. He had a smooth coatin’ of that thin black mud all over him, — like molasses. He knew he was dirty, and John says he went the rest of the way like a black lamb, and never give so much as a snort even when he saw the butcher.”
Thomas added a hearty laugh to Caleb’s snicker, of which the sound was good to Caleb’s ears and the substance good for Thomas’s heart; it broke up and scattered the heavy brood of cares that had settled down on him.
But for all that, and let him be as brave as he would, it was an up-hill fight. On an evening of the early autumn, Jack and he compared notes, sitting by a crackling open wood fire, the one luxury he permitted himself. As they finished the column of figures in which the cost of raising the crop was set down opposite the price it brought when sold, Jack got up and stood before the mantel-piece, back to the fire, his hands in his pockets. and looked at Thomas with a very dismal cast of countenance, which Thomas could only reflect in his own. This lasted in silence for a moment, and then they both burst out laughing.
“It is rather absurd,” said Thomas, “to see two men stare at each other, like monuments to grief, and we might as well laugh as cry. It is enough to prejudice one against figures, this keeping accounts. When I look back over my books for the last three years, I wonder how I have managed to get bread to eat.”
“Still, you have lived fairly well,” replied Jack, “and so have we, but I do not see how. On the whole, I think it is best to walk on blindly, and not look into figures too closely. When you come to pin your corn and wheat and potatoes and turnips down to your account-book, they seem to slide out between your fingers. And yet we work hard to raise them, and we have to pay our men good round wages for the work.”
“ That is true; and the work is of the kind the political economists call productive work, and it seems as if it ought to yield a little more than a bare living.”
“ Tom, where ’s the leak? ”
“ Jack, I can’t tell. The losses in any kind of business are so great that when I look squarely at it I do not see how any man honestly earns more than a dollar a day.”
“ That is a dreadful reflection. I am going to turn tramp.”
“ Yes, it is rather grinding to think of. Our fathers ate a great deal of rye bread and salt pork, and skinned the soil to do that. We pretend to a better and more enlightened kind of farming, and yet we do not seem to be able to eat wheat bread and beef and make money at the same time.”
“ What a pity that men were made with anything else but a mouth and a stomach and a back to put clothes upon! ”
“ That is where it grinds me the hardest. I want a little money to buy a book, or subscribe for a review, or to keep up my stock by the addition of some fine cattle. But the money comes so hard that I am beginning to feel afraid I shall grow mean. It costs so much ' blood and treasure ' to live that I feel sometimes as if I really could not afford the common comforts of life.”
“ Tom, something ought to be done about it. ”
“ Well, yes,” replied Thomas dryly. “ It is a pity we cannot legislate for the difficulty, — pass a law, for instance, that we will have such and such crops, and they must cost only a certain sum.”
This recalled Jack to his common sense, and he laughed. “ Probably,” said he, “ there are no greater losses and drawbacks in farming than in any other business, judging from what I saw among merchants when I was in that business; hut there ought to be more certainty about the result when you plant your crop. You have not solved the weather problem yet? ”
“No; I am at work on that steadily. I am not so mad about my theory as to suppose that it would make us rich immediately; only it would make life more agreeable, whether one had money or not. The fact is, Jack, the processes of nature are mortally slow. The farmer comes right down on to nature for his living, and so he has to be slow, — his processes have to be long, too.”
“Hum! you make it a pleasant outlook.”
“It is worse for me than you, Jack. I am engaged, and wish to be married. But if I wait for the processes of nature to make me rich, I shall apparently spend a life-time in merely building a foundation on which to make any money.”
Jack always slipped away from any subject that involved the marriage of Thomas and Janet, and he took up another point in their conversation.
“ Cannot you, in your laboratory, discover some way to hurry up the ‘ processes,’ as you call them ? ”
Thomas looked at him gravely a moment, and answered slowly, “ I have — done something. You know, sometimes, when you are working to discover one thing, you hit upon another without intending it ? ”
“ Yes. Columbus discovered a little island when he was on the threshold of a big Continent.”
“ Exactly my case. The parallel between me and Columbus is excellent. I shall encourage myself with thinking I am on a preliminary island. Come on, and I will show you how it works,” and Thomas lighted a lamp.
“ Any money in it, Tom ? ” said Jack, as the other led the way up-stairs to a little room across the end of the stairway.
“I suppose so, if I can ever earn enough raising corn to get it fairly started. There it is.”
As they entered, he pointed to a solidlooking iron bottle standing amid a profusion of retorts, pipes, crucibles, and the other usual machinery of a laboratory.
“ Shall I leave the door open? ” said Jack.
“No. Mother will be sure to smell something, though I have not anything powerful going to night. Take care, — that is not a safe thing to handle unless you know exactly how.”
“ Hum-m-m! In learning how to do things, you have tested the capacity of your ceiling a little,” and Jack cast an amused glance upward. “ It seems to me there is more lath and less plaster up there every time I come here.”
Thomas laughed. “ That is the way I try my gases. If they explode with force enough to knock off a foot or two of plaster, I think there must be some life in them.”
“ Well, now for your discovery. What will it do for our pockets to make us rich, so that we can marry the woman we love? ”
“ Put that last noun in the plural,” quoth Thomas, innocently, “ as I fancy we do not both want to marry the same woman. See here.”
He placed a pebble of pure quartz under a little stop-cock at the side of the iron bottle, and turned a faucet. Out trickled slowly a liquid so clear that each separate drop flashed with prismatic rays. As they touched the quartz and gushed smoothly down its sides, there was a sudden furious foaming, a sound of grinding and rending, and a thin column of smoke arose; then it died down, the smoke vanished in air, and where the pebble had been there was only a little heap of dark-looking dust, or earth.
“ There is the force of a thousand steam-engines in that bottle,”said Thomas, looking round at Jack. “ Does your father want to get rid of Break-Neck Ledge, that cuts in two the best part of his farm? Here is the little medicine that will do it.”
The unwilling heart of Jack felt a sudden increase of respect for Thomas, and acknowledged that it had not hitherto appreciated him fully. He broke out in astonishment, “I say, old fellow, is that really so? How did you do it? ”
“ It is really so. There is no humbug, Jack, about that. It' your father wants less ledge and more good soil on his farm, here is a way to get it.”
“ That means money, Thomas, if it can be easily and cheaply made.”
“Cheaply made? Could I undertake any costly experiment ? It is made at a cost of twenty-five cents a gallon. I have calculated that a gill will pulverize a ton of rock into earth. Is not that a tolerably practical view for a man to take who is a dreamer and an inventor? ”
“ You are an inventor or a discoverer, by George, and I congratulate you!” and with a burst of real enthusiasm, rare enough in Jack, he shook the hand of Thomas.
“ Am I a discoverer? ” The pleased look at Jack’s words died down. " Then I am sorry, — no discoverer ever profited by his discovery. On the contrary, he usually comes to grief in some way because of it. Those who come after are the ones to reap the benefits.”
“ Nonsense, old boy. What if Columbus was cranky about his being put in irons, and had them buried with him! Don’t have the blues about a notion. Be a practical man. Get a patent on your rock burner, advertise it, make up a quantity of it, and start out with a wagon load, knock some of these rocks into pi, and astonish the natives.”
The color rose into Green’s face, and the light came back to his eyes. “ I will make the farms round here smooth and lovely, and then, Jack, the way we will cover them with wheat and corn ! We are so near the city that it always seemed to me a shame we could not raise more for its market. Come over again three days from now, and we will try our first grand experiment on that great bowlder which lies in the Jerrod lot. I have looked at that spitefully these ten years when I mow round it.
I have wished that the particular glacier which brought that down had carried it a little further and dropped it in the sea. I should like to ask Janet, but I think I had better not. If there should be an accident and she got hurt, I should blow myself up immediately afterward.”
Jack looked relieved at this conclusion. He never liked to be present with Janet and Thomas both. He got on better with either separately.
Three days after, Thomas, looking a little haggard from want of sleep, having been in his laboratory late for two evenings, and Jack, fresh as a rose, went down the road that led through the Green farm to the sea, carrying the large, heavy iron bottle between them. Mrs. Green looked after them with an expression of anxiety and resignation. She was perfectly used to having Thomas do rather unusual things, but to-night she could not help a little audible murmur that she did wish he might succeed in whatever he was doing before long, so as not to be “ strambling off” in the lots with a big bottle just at supper time ; and also she hoped “ he Was not tempting Providence by any capers with gases and awful smelling things.”
Thomas and Jack went on, the latter occasionally relieving the tedium of the way by letting go his side of the jug and springing on the top of a fence, to look after a squirrel that had flashed into sight and out again, or to listen more closely to the hermit thrush whose flute notes sounded from the tops ot the trees in the deeper parts of the wood. Every motion that Jack made was full of vigorous grace and lightness. When he sprang upon the fence top, it was with a movement like that of a deer; when he ran along upon it, he never swerved or missed a step, and if he came to a pair of bars he leaped lightly from post to post without pausing. While he indulged in these escapades, Thomas walked patiently along, carrying the whole weight of the jug in a one-sided and inconvenient manner. Jack would come back with a half apology for his pranks, but was always off again in a moment, as if unable to repress his bounding activity. After about twenty minutes’ walk, they stopped by the side of the great rock, and looked up its steep sides. The setting sun threw a pink light over its stern grayness, and even Thomas admitted that it was a picturesque feature in the landscape.
“ But it is only for the moment,” said he, —“only for the moment. To-morrow, in the prosaic light of noon, it will look like an unseemly wart on the surface of the earth, just as it really is. Old bowlder, your room is better than your company. I hope your last hour has come.”
Jack laughed. “ We will give his backbone a wrench before we go. Now, Tom, tell me what to do.”
The arrangements were slight. Thomas had made a calculation of the number of cubic feet in the rock and of its probable weight. He verified these, and then Jack advanced with the bottle.
“Hold on a minute,” said Thomas, and began climbing up the rock.
Jack looked after him with a stare. “ You don’t want me to make a burnt-offering of yourself, do you? Oh, that is it! ” as he saw Thomas scramble toward a cleft near the top, from which nodded a soft green plume of ferns. These he plucked up by the roots, and came sliding down again by Jack’s side with them in his hand.
“I will take them to Janet, and have her plant them. She has always noticed them whenever we have driven past here to the shore.”
“ What a moment for sentiment!” cried Jack, — “just when you are on the eve of destroying an enemy of your race.”
“ That is not sentiment,” said Thomas, coldly; “ that is forgiveness of enemies. Come, let’s scatter the destroyer.”
As with the quartz pebble when that clear, potent fluid washed its sides, so with the great rock. A slow sound of grinding and rending was heard, which deepened to a low intense moaning like distant thunder, and the smoke curled up in a huge column, black and thick as if it came from the bottomless pit.
“ I feel a little like the man in the Arabian Nights, who uncorked an innocent-looking bottle, and let loose an enormous and fearful Afrite. ”
“ I should think you had done exactly that,” said Jack, rather glad to hear a human voice, and to be called on to talk a little. “ I hope you have a ring, or a spell of some kind, to control him.”
“ It will soon be over now,” said Thomas; “ the rock is growing visibly less. ”
It was crumbling in all directions, and in an hour the great rock, weighing hundreds of tons, was a heap of black dust and ashes, and of other traces there were none.
“ It remains now to be proved whether this is a really good fertilizer,” said Thomas, as the ashes slowly cooled. He took up a handful and examined it. “ I will put some on the garden, —though if it does not rain soon, all the fertilizers in Christendom will be of no use,” and he cast a half-despairing glance at the sky, so hopelessly clear.
“ Yes, we must settle the weather question,” said Jack, airily. “ How one thing depends on another! Tom, you will really have to go on and discover that to make this of any use.”
“ If I only could, my great object in life would be attained.”
“ And then you would die peacefully ? ”
“ No,” and Thomas gave a sort of shiver. He did not like the mention of death. “ A man is never ready to die, — at least, one of my kind never is. There is always something more I want to do first. When I go, it will have to be a sudden thing, — I mean I hope it will be.”
“ What a couple of old crows we are, — talking about death just at the moment when you have succeeded with your experiment. We ought to be dancing a jig with delight. You look as long-faced as if you were going to be burned yourself, instead of the rocks you detest. Be jolly, old fellow! ” and he gave Thomas a clap on the shoulder which made the latter say, “ It is human nature, I suppose, to be discontented as long as anything remains to be done. At least, it is my human nature.”
“A kind of ‘divine discontent,’” said Jack.
“ You know I hit upon this discovery accidentally, — that is, I had not thought upon it seriously. The idea had suggested itself to me, but I had not really tried to study it out, as I have the weather question. So perhaps I do not rejoice as I should.”
“ I fancy that you will look at it more respectfully when the money it brings begins to line your pockets.”
“ And — and I can get married,” said Thomas, the gloom on his face breaking up as he thought of Janet. The cloud which had lain there seemed to blow over and darken on the face of Jack. He lost his airy look of amusement from that moment; a little fierce gleam flickered in his unsteady eyes, and he was the first to make a movement of departure. In these changed moods, as they left the lot, Thomas turned and waved his hat with a gayety like Jack’s. “ Old ruin,” he cried, “ good-by! You are more useful now, in your humility, than when you towered high and wore a button-hole bouquet of ferns. What will Caleb say to-morrow, when he sees the pile of ashes where he has always found High Rock ? ”
“He will think,” said Jack, “that there is some witchcraft about it. Lucky for you, Tom, that you are not living in the good old days when they burned men at the stake for less than that.”
This growl did not touch Thomas. He went on with his train of thought:
“ The old man will drive the cows down here in the morning to their pasture below. He will miss something he is used to seeing, and at first will not know what it is. Then he will remember the great rock. He will stare all round after it, and by and by say, ‘ Darn it! ’ He allows himself that profanity on holidays and great occasions. Then he will hustle the cows into the lot as fast as he can, put up the bars with extra care, come back to me in a great hurry, and tell me that he guesses the lightnin’ has struck that High Rock of mine; but he ’ll be darned if it wa’n’t in a dry storm, for there ha’n’t been no thunder and no rain. I should be willing to lay a small sum that, he will do exactly that.”
But Jack had no smile in reply, and as they reached the house of Thomas they separated without much ceremony. Jack, as soon as he heard the door close behind Thomas, quickened his steps, and then as he got out of eyesight went at a whirlwind’s pace down to the pine grove. Something in the gloom of their depths, in the peculiar sound of the wind through the needle leaves, attracted him always in moments of fierce rage, such as this evening, as also in calmer moods, and he often spent hours there when he was supposed to be in bed.