George William Bagby.

Selections from the miscellaneous writings of Dr. George W. Bagby (Volume 1) online

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by the nap uv yo neck, fling you into the middil


uv Mill's garding, and leave you thar, a mass uv
fragments for boys to fling at kats with."

This stopt him. "Ah !" he says, "Ah ! this ar a
worl' uv much wind on the stummick, and skeersly
nuthin in the breeches pocket." And with that he
shufild off his mortal kile in the dreckshun uv his
own house. I went to mine, madd, madd with a
doub'l " d." And I says to my wife :

" Did you know old Meekins had twinses ?"

" Know it ?" she says, " didn't I tell you the very
day they was borned ?"

"May be you mout," I says; "but my mind hav
bin so gammed and glued up with politix and Re-
tunrin Bodes that "

" you bored me every tiem you returned home

till I wish them bodes, as you call um, was nailed
over your mouth."

"Well," I says, "What doo you think uv it?"

That were the wrongest questun that ever I axed
in all my life. It let down the tale-bode uv her
naterally lerge tinnier cart of elloquense, and she
drownded me then and thar.

" Think uv it ?" she skreakt. " Think uv it ? Its
the outrageousest, owdashusest peece uv impertinense
that's been peppetrated in my naberhood in 40 odd
year. Its a sin and a sham,e, and a shokin, overwhel-
min skandil, that pepil pretendin to be desent shood
act in that way. Genteel pepil, like sum I know,
don't hav no twinses they've got mo regard fur
sersiety than to have um. But I know these Meek-
inses uv old. They had um a puppus a puppus,"


stompin her foot and drappin her nittin " jist to
git into notis and git some good things to eat. And
mo things has cum to the Meekinses since them
twinses was borned than I got pashunce to tell about.
Bread, cake, pies, puddins, breakfasts, dinners, appils,
oranges, prunes, ducks, potridges, Mallegy grapes
thar's old Meekins a eatin sum this very minit ."

Shure nuf there was old Meekins settin by his
cellar dore a doin sum uv the dolefullest chawin you
ever see.

" Yes," she went on, " it's a delibrit, depe-lade plan
to git notyriety and rise in sersiety. But they couldn
deseeve me, no ! I never incouraged twinses, and
never wil. They gits no custard and thin biskit from
Ms house, nor they never wont." And then her
wurds duv-taled and run into one nuther that fast
that I couldn make out nuthin she said nuthin but
"Jib jib jib jab jab jab jibjab jibjab jibjab jibber
jabber jibber jabber jibber jabber whing whang fing
fang bing bang ding dang ling lang ping pang ting
tang ring rang r-r-r-r attertatterclattersplatter."

Whew ! I had heered of a heated turm, but here
was a heated turmigint uv the wust kind with a ven-
junce. Jodge ! she just did leeve me the top uv my
hed, and that were all. I were thankful fur that, be-
coz I see how it were in a flash the old 'oman were
black in the face with jellus envy uv the po' littil
aflickted Mrs. Meekins, as good a woman as her hus-
band is no count.

I riz.

"Madum!" says I, drawin myself up to my fool


hight. " Madum !" I says in tones nv sopesuds and
thunder. " Madum ! taint no use, no erthly use. I
aint Aberham" and stoopin down and pokin my face
into hern, "nor you aint Sary, neither. So shet
rite up !"

She's 60 last grass if she's a day, and got Irish
blud in her too, but she did'n even open her lips.
She snifft me down with kontempt and konsintrated
venum that druv me spang out'n the hous, and I
foun myself in the back poche, holrin at the pitch, tar
and turpentime uv my vois, "gimme ar! gimme ar!
fur mersy's sake gimme ar !" fur I were neerly ded,
that whurlwind uv wurds had tuk my breth away so.

Old Meekins's cook, Lizer, a likely woman, cum
out'n the kitchin to see what were- the matter. I
recken she thot I were distrackted, but old Meekins
didn evin turn his hed, lie were so bizzy with his
Mallegy grapes.

My son Floojins, my yungest chile, 'bout nine yere
old goin on ten, and a good boy, tho' I say it Floo-
gins had heerd his muther what she said, and folrin
me into the back poche, went down the steps, say in
as he went by,

" Doggon my skin uv kats ! I'll fix him."

With that he began hunting roun the yard till he
diskivered a rusty old pad-lock, and takin good aim
at Meekins, he let fly, and by the livins ! he presto-
vetoed him off 'n the face of the erth. He jest blotted
him rite out. Thar were the cheer he set in, thai*
were his hat and sum few skatrin grapes, but Meek-
ins was nowhar. Floojins had wiped him into thin


air. I stood deff and dum with astonishment, for
Wyman hisself never played a trick equl to that.

But bimeby, ten minits by the wotch, here cum
old Meekins out of the cellar, a site to see a con-
globerashun uv blud, teers, har, eye-brows, skin and
grape juist, feerful to behole. It were horribil, but
it were funny, too. I lafft till I nearly died, and
Lizer cum out, took the old man to the hydrant,
washt him off with a dish-rag, and led him slow and
paneful into the hous.

This brot me to my senses and shamed me so I
didn' know what to do. So I lookt down in the yard
to find Floojins. Nary Floojins did I find. But pres-
intly I seen him in Mills's garding he had gone
thar to commune with his own littil innersent andi
confiden self. I put on my hat, went over to whar
Mr. Bowers, the stove man, is a bildin sum houses,,
gethered me a piece of skantlin, and lit into that
Floojins till you would a thot the Ohesapeek & Ohier
frate trane was a cummin in on tieru and a howlin..

It dun me good and it dun the boy good, but it
didn't help Meekins. He lost enuf skelp to kiver a
trab-ball, and I feel so sorry for him. I'me a goin,
to take up a subskripshun uv caf-skin to mend it. Dr.
Koleman says the old man will be out in a week, if
the urrosipelus don't set in and his tung don' git sore
agin. But I'm not a going to bed till I do what's
rite by po' old Meekins.

I've recht a good old age, hav traviled fur and
wide, hav eat a heep, bin to Noth Kiliny, livd in


Am'erst, seen much and dun meny things, but Mee-
kins havin twinses lays over eny thing that ever hap-
ined in my time. It's the ivent of the age. Uv all
and uv all. Meekins ! Twinses ! I don't bleev it.
'Taint so. I kinnit onderstan it. My dride litenin
bugs throws no lite on the subjec. It's a dark, mis-
teyus mistery.


Konfexnery & Fede Sto, Rockitts,
Dec. 27, a Teen Sebenty 6.


\7 EAE-S ago it matters not how many there
JL walked the streets of a nameless city a little
-school-girl. Tip-toe she stood upon that mount
whence the warm splendors of womanhood are des-
cried. Sweet, sweet, arid never to be forgotten is
that scene ! The realities of her later life may be
better, but never, never so entrancing.

She had not a sinless heart that child; all her
impulses were intense, very intense, but because she
was not selfish, those impulses led her of tenest in the
right way, yet sometimes too far in that way. Little
heauty had she nothing to take pride in, except her
lavish black curls, that floated free on her shoulders
in those careless days. Her broad brow shamed her,
for it was too broad, of almost masculine mould, not
delicately shaped nor fair. Mind she had, more than
she knew ; power, that came of her intense feeling,
more than those who should have known her best
ever dreamed, but the light of that power was not
yet fully come into her grey eyes to beautify them.
One bright spring morning, this little girl, in her
school-going walk, passed a gentleman whose pres-
ence so touched her that she stopped and turned to
look after him as he went on. Morning after morn-
Ing she met him, passed him, turned to look after


him. To her young eyes he seemed old, taller than
he really was, grave, pale, abstracted a student
whose blood ran cold, who pored over dry books, wha
cared not for the world budding in May, blithe and
warm with sunshine and bird-songs, cared least of all
for homely little school-girls. From the heights of
manhood, he seemed to see only far things wise and
great things, that so fixed him he could see naught
that was little, be it never so beautiful and sweet.

This tall, handsome gentleman he was handsome
but very, very cold and hard stood far above the
pettiness of such poor things as flowers and music.
He was all mind pure intellect ; he had no heart.
Surely, his mother and sisters must have died when
he was very young. "Poor, unhappy gentleman !"
This was the little girl's thought.

Once his deep hazel eyes deigned to fall to the
level of that child's brow. Fearlessly and full, she
met his gaze ; he but saw that it was a human being
and went on. She sighed, and hastened on to school,
to miss her lesson (was not her mind wandering ?) to
be harshly too harshly reproved by her teacher, to
return home, and in solitude, unnatural and unhealthy
for a child, to give way to that passion of tears which
only half grown school-girls know, and which is so
terrible, because so boundless, so vague.

Ere that grief was fully past, another May morn-
ing dawned, a morning all too soft and brilliant for
her mood. The storm, indeed, was over, and out-
wardly all was calm and fair; but within, the long,
sullen waves were lashing the barren shore, and the


clouds, no longer spread smoothly over the whole
heavens, were gathered into dreadful black shapes,
none the less horrible because they went hurrying
away upon some fearful errand of ill. Her heavy
heart foretold what bechanced, as, satchel in hand and
with bonnet downcast, she paced slowly toward her
dungeon, the school-room. A carriage stood at the
door of the house, trunks were piled behind, the
driver was gathering his reins. A tall, manly form
came out upon the door-step farewells were said,
hands shaken, a kiss given to a stately lady, and, with
pale face and eyes that looked not up from the pave-
ment, he stepped into the carriage, and the door was
shut. It rattled with cruel sounds away. A little
while, and the door of the house was closed the
carriage had turned the corner. And not a parting
word, not one look, vouchsafed to her who saw all
this. No, not one word. It was only an idle school-
girl, stopping in the street an idle little girl that
was all !

Who told this little girl that the tall, handsome
gentleman was going away, told her so plainly that
she stood by and watched his leaving as calmly as if
she had been sent for to witness it who told her
this ? Grief told her grief, the truest, the only
prophet left us in these the uninspired latter days.
How sorrow it must be deep sorrow and that alone
of all the emotions can be and is prophetic, who
shall tell ? In the night-time come the spirits, yet if
the night be many-splendored they come not it must
be dark.


" He came and he is gone. He will not come back.
"Will he ? When ?" So the little girl said to herself,
;and went quietly to school, sat down at the desk, and
opened her book. She remembers how very quiet
that morning and all that day was, as if the sense of
hearing had been numbed, or as if an eclipse had
overshadowed the world and hushed it. She studied
hard that morning and henceforth; what else was
left for her to do but to study ?

The eclipse of that morning passed not quickly
away. In its shadow she dwelt ; happy, she knew
not why. Far, far away, in the distant sky behind
her, shone a star, faint, feeble, tremulous a pulsing
speck of light, which followed her, coming never
nearer, never going further. Could she have seen it
plainly, she would have named this shining mote with
a pretty name she would have called it Hope. She
did not see it, she fdt it there, all the time, not
watching her, but simply there. So peacefully she
wrought away at her work of knowing what books
might teach. Something she learned of that il-
lumined volume whose beautiful lids Spring uplifts,
whose glorious leaves Summer unfolds that volume
which Autumn shuts somewhat again, but which even
winter cannot wholly close. One other book she
studied closely that living, thinking, feeling book
we call the heart, the mind, the soul.

And now the girl was a woman grown, wore a
woman's dress, and learned to bind her black curls in
formal puffs and bands. But the curls were wilful,
and the woman would often let them have their way.


She had quitted school, or rather she had changed
her school. Her school-house now was solitude, her
teacher, herself. This is the saddest school of all
for the young. Only strong scholars can go to it.
The weak, the worldly, the puny of mind or of heart,,
cannot go ; they die. It is the best school ; but to
be forced to it in youth, day after day, oh ! it is
wearisome, it is hurtful. Jane Eyre's school at Lo-
wood was gladsome compared to it.

The girl was a woman grown. It is no discredit
to her to say that she wished to be admired and loved
and it has been already said that her impulses and
desires were intense. In the fresh morning of woman-
hood, homage comes most naturally to woman, and
she should have it then. If she misses it, she goes
sick ; and if she misses it long, the sickness is but too
apt to become blight, from which she may recover,
out of which she may wear, but not without retain-
ing a dry sore at heart.

" She intensely desired to be loved," aye ! and to
love. No shame to her for this. Admiration she
also desired, and she is no woman who pretends to
wish otherwise. Love of admiration is not vanity ;
^(/-admiration is. How could she be vain whose
mirror told the truth, and whose heart was not afraid
to own it ? She wished, as only a plain woman can
wish, to be beautiful, dazzlingly beautiful; and in
beauty's default, she longed that some clear eye of
power might pierce to that hidden spring whence
flowed emotions she knew to be more beautiful than
any tints of complexion or lines of configuration.-


Yet she stood a hand-breadth's height above her com-
panions, her shape was envied, and her skin too
quick to lose or gain its color was so praised that
she herself, at times, lingered to look at it. She
could talk, talk nonsense too, and abundantly ; laugh
merrily, and in any other way make herself, as she
thought, truly agreeable. The girls enjoyed, or pre-
tended to enjoy, her society wonderfully. What
wonder, then, if she asked herself many torturing
and unanswerable questions, when, looking around
her, she saw many of her school-mates belles, all
more or less beloved, and herself alone wholly, utterly
neglected. It was thus for years. Years ! and
every moment of every day of these years her heart
ached in want, in emptiness, in shame, in anger, in
fear. Her maiden's right love was denied her.
Why I What was, what could be, the reason of it?
What had she done, to be punished thus \ Was it to
be always ? Would it never end ? These questions,
repeated a thousand times oftener, it is to be hoped,
than any of her hapless sisters have repeated them,
were never answered, then nor since. It was so
ordered ; simply that.

Her wont, during these unhappy days, was to walk
alone in the garden. There, book in hand, she would
pace the level-topped terraces for hours on hours, not
reading, not thinking of what she had read, but,
fruitless task ! questioning destiny, and conning in
the high clouds hopes that winged themselves too
quickly away, or studying the sadness that dwells
asleep over in the far horizon. Her imagination,


though it teemed with fairest images, claimed not
the power to give pantheistic shapes to the beautiful
earth-life around her, to give poetic utterances to the
slow, soft wind that whispered secrets in her ears, or
to compel meanings from the splendid light that
rained out of the blue heavens. And the leaves that
were born, grew old, and died silently at her feet
telling her nothing of all they knew. The mystery
of the changeful elements, the magic work of na-
ture's hidden alchemy, she was content to let pass in
bright panorama, uninterpreted, except as signs and
wonders, telling of Him that dwelleth in light inac-
cessible and full of glory. In her book she saw how
some priest or priestess of nature construed these
wonders ; but when she came back from the book to
the temple itself the mighty temple of the visible,,
ever-changing, ever-renewed life she confessed with
sorrow that the makers of books were false, or but
partially inspired prophets. Every moment, every
sound in that sky-domed temple, older, grander, more
beautiful than Greece, Egypt or India ever saw,
points to some sibylline leaf yet undiscovered, per-
haps undiscoverable. Something of nature's form
and color the poets may describe; but of our mo-
ther's speech and the true dialect they bear no wit-
ness, they know nothing. Sight is the sense the
Muses love to instruct; hearing they will not, be-
cause they cannot, educate. Not that man is deaf ;
he hears, indeed, but cannot comprehend what he
hears under the azure dome. How pitiable his
guesses at the significance of sounds in the not soul-


less world of matter ! "What do the prattling waters
say ? the winds with their almost human breath ? the
vocal birds? and what the hush of starry nights and
swooning noons what say these eloquent silences?
The poet cannot tell. At best he can only imitate
the tongues he hears, and listen further off than
ever from the meaning to his imitations.

Yet it is pleasant to listen beyond all things plea-
sant to imitate, even remotely, and to fix on the legi-
ble page the sad, sweet intimations of nature's music
the hinted thought of the worlds of light and
peace, the sorrowless worlds, where melody in all the
fulness of its spiritual significance and force is
known, truly, perfectly.

Annie, so was she called, had many friends among
the girls of her acquaintance, but her best friend
was her piano. To her the piano was something
more than a plaything, much more than a mere help
to fill up the pauses in conversation with tiresome
visitors. It was the joy of her life, the interpreter
of all her wordless moods, whether gay or grave,
the confidante of her heart that heart so full of
longings, seemingly never to be appeased. Hence
she excelled in music, astonished her masters, learned
to despise them, and, when alone and secure against
intrusion, not seldom surprised and delighted her-
self so promptly and so volubly the keys gave back
the music which neither books nor masters had ever
taught her. In the Autumn twilights, when the fire
in the grate warmed but did not dispel the gloom,,
there would sometimes come to her a thrilling force,


a passion and a power to compel whatever she would
of strange, wild, sad, beautiful utterances from the
instrument she loved. When the piano was obe-
dient, she was happy. Then she truly lived, then
placed due value on her life, which at all other times
seemed wasting uselessly away, then felt not the
teasing of hope, but the high and joyous fruition of

One evening can she ever forget it? she had
wandered late in the garden. Step by step, during
that long walk, her spirit seemed to descend the
solemn vale where, among great dusky rocks, over-
grown with gnarled and leafless trees, is put the
cavern of Despair. Long she stood, breathing the
deadly vapor that came out of its black, illimitable
depths. When an unseen hand led her gently away
from the mouth of that horrid vault, she was loath
to go; yet the kindly force constrained her. The
October moon was riding high, the yellow mist was
thick and chill, when she went in, and her school-
girl sorrow, the terrible, vague sorrow which seized
her the day before the proud, cold stranger left,
never to return, was upon her. She locked herself
in the parlor, and there, with thought and sense and
feeling, with fears and hopes all the fears and hopes
of her lonely life blended in one usurping passion
she poured forth upon the piano the sad story which
had been dumb in her breast so many years. It was
a weird, a melancholy, yet most sweet story the
sweetest ever told in the sweet language of music.
The trembling, tender fire of the serenade, the


mortal sadness and the immortal hope of the re-
quiem were indissolubly and harmoniously inter-
woven in it ; and through this warm, melodious woof
of mournful sweetness ran tortuous threads of scarlet
and of silver sound, now lost, now found again,
intimations, suggestions, reachings, upheavings, aspi-
rations, ever hiding, vet ever flashing back to light,
something almost unbearable, piercing through all
the changeful, thrilling chords.

Unlike other improvisations, this air was defined,
complete ; she played it again and again ; it did not
change with the ever-changing shades of emotion,
although that emotion did not even keep always
within the key ; it insisted upon its own original ut-
terance, admitting nor permitting any variation. She
remembered it perfectly could have written it in
notes if she had chosen. But she was startled to
find how old it was, familiar to her as the most fa-
miliar airs of childhood the oldest, it seemed the
sweetest and the dearest of early recollections.
Where she had heard it, when, and under what cir-
cumstances it was first played to her, she could never
tell ; but she soon ceased to think of it as her own

Noiselessly as a spirit she walked from the parlor
to her chamber. The clock struck twelve. Was it
possible ? She retired, but not to sleep ; she wept,
but the tears were sweet. The faint star, which,
had stood so long above and behind her, was brighter
now, and had moved forward. Then the days be-
gan to go swiftly, the air became purer, the light


shone clearer, something dark and heavy had passed
away from her. Yet it was Autumn still, and the
breathing of her spirit was not quite free and unim-
peded. So the Winter came on, less stern than of
yore, but vacant.

With the winter came parties, in which she took
little delight. She danced to fill up the set; she
talked with those who talked with her because they
could talk, just then, with no one they liked better.
She was always asked to play, and she played me-
chanically banged, that under the coverture of the
banging the chatter might go on more quietly, and
soft words might be spoken to willing ears. Sitting
thus one night at the piano, the thought came to
her, "If I have any skill, it is on this instrument;
yet, play as I may, they heed me not." Her great
pride was stung to the quick at this. " I will con-
vince myself how silly and weak I really am," said
she to herself. " I will play the air that moves me
most; I will play it with all the feeling and all the
force I can command, under these lights, and in this
noisy throng, who know me not, nor care for me."

She played. There, in the midst of the revel, she
boldly told the secret of her heart told it in that
beautiful language which is the native tongue of the
souls of all men that walk the earth.

Whether there was something in the air itself
which had power to command her consciousness
away from the gay scene around her, she knows
not; she only knows that the thrill of strength crea-
tive passed from her heart to her hands, and there


was silence ; and then applause, questions, entreaties,
warm entreaties to play it again. If her life had
been at stake she could not have complied. She
rose, and was introduced to .

Oh ! how pale her poor foolish face grew. The
chill of death ran to her very heart. She needs must
take his arm, and they walked into the hall, where
the air was purer. She could not look at him, yet
she saw him, faint as she was. Unchanged, un-
changed ; grave, pale, cold, proud. For the first time
she heard his voice: it was low, deliberate, full of
power, and, at that moment, kind even to pity. And
this angered her. " What, after so long, pity me,
and pity me here. The time is past when I needed
pity. Have I not been well this half year ?" Sum-
moning all her strength,, she forced the color back to
her cowardly, tell-tale cheek, and answered him:
" No, she was not sick she was quite well, and
would trouble him no longer."

This was even roughly said. A film of something
very near disgust overlay his surprised voice when he
replied :

" Trouble?"

The cadence of interrogation ended in pity. It
was not that she wanted. She withdrew her arm, and
so they parted.

Yes, the house was lonely, and the grey eyes, feel-
ing ashamed of the warmer light that shone in them,

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