Hamilton Wright Mabie.

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say he must leave Mr. Nolan to her, and led him off to th«
place where the dance was forming.

Nolan thought he had got his chance. He had known
her at Philadelphia, and at other places had met her, and
this was a godsend. You could not talk in contra-dances
as you do in cotillions, or even in the pauses of waltzing;
but there were chances for tongues and sounds, as well as
for eyes and blushes. He began with her travels, and
Eiux)pe, and Vesuvius, and the French; and then, when
they had worked down, and had that long talking time at
the bottom of the set, he said boldly — o, little pale, she said,
as she told me the story years after —

"And what do you hear from home. Mrs. Graff?"

And that splendid creature looked through him. Jove!
how she must have looked through him!

"Home! ! Mr. Nolan! ! ! I thought you were the man
who never wanted to hear of home again ! " — ^and she walked
directly up the deck to her husband, and left poor Nolan
alone, as he always was — ^He did not dance again. I cannot
give any history of him in order; nobody can now; and,
indeed, I am not trying to.

These are the traditions, which I sort out, as I believe
them, from the myths which have been told about this man
for forty years. The lies that have been told about him are
legion. The fellows used to say he was the "Iron Mask;"
and poor George Pons went to his grave in the belief that
this was the author of "Junius," who was being pimished
for his celebrated hbel on Thomas Jefferson. Pons was not
rery strong in the historical line.

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196 Stories Every Child Should Know

A happier story than either of these I have told is of the
war. That came along soon after. I have heard this
affair told in three or four wa)rs— and, indeed, it may have
happened more than once. But which ship it was on I can*
not tell. However, in one at least, of the great frigate-duels
with the English, in which the navy was really baptised^
it happened that a round-shot from the enemy entered one
of our ports square, and took right down the officer of the
gun himself, and almost every man of the gun's crew. Now
you may say what you choose about courage, but that is not
a nice thing to see. But, as the men who were not killed
picked themselves up, and as they and the surgeon's people
were carrying off the bodies, there appeared Nolan, in his
shirt-sleeves, with the ranmier in his hand, and, just as if he
had been the officer, told them off with authority — ^who
should go to the cock-pit with the wounded men, who
should stay with him — ^perfectly cheery, and with that way
which makes men feel sure all is right and is going to be right.
And he finished loading the gun with his own hands, aimed
it, and bade the men fire. And there he stayed, captain of
that gun, keeping those fellows in spirits, till the enemy
struck — sitting on the carriage while the gun was cooling,
though he was exposed all the time — showing them easier
ways to handle heavy shot — ^making the raw hands laugh
at their own blunders — and when the gun cooled again,
getting it loaded and fired twice as often as any other gUD
on the ship. The captain walked forward by way of en-
couraging the men, and Nolan touched his hat and said:

" I am showing them how we do this in the artillery, sir."

And this is the part of the story where all the l^jends
agree; the conunodore said:

"I see you do, and I thank you, sir; and I shall never
forget this day, sir, and you never shall, su:."


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The Man Without a Country 197

And after the whole thing was over, and he had the Eng-
lishman's sword, in the midst of the state and ceremony of
the quarter-deck, he said:

" Where is Mr. Nolan ? Ask Mr. Nolan to come here."

And when Nolan came, he said:

"Mr. Nolan, we are all very grateful to you to-day; you
ore one of us to-day; you will be named in the despatches."

And then the old man took off his own sword of ceremony,
and gave it to Nolan, and made him put it on. The man
told me this who saw it. Nolan cried like a baby, and well
he might. He had not worn a sword since that infernal day
at Fort Adams. But always afterwards on occasions of
ceremony, he wore that quaint old French sword of the

The captain did mention him in the despatches. . It was
always said he asked that he might be psurdoned. He wrote
a special letter to the Secretary of War. But nothing ever
came of it. As I said, that was about the time when they
began to ignore the whole transaction at Washington, and
when Nolan's imprisonment began to carry itself on because
there was nobody to stop it without any new orders from

I have heard it said that he was with Porter when he took
possession of the Nukahiwa Islands. Not this Porter, you
know, but old Porter, his father, Essex Porter — ^that is, the
old Essex Porter, not this Essex. As an artillery ofl&cer,
who had seen service in the West, Nolan knew more about
fortifications, embrasures, ravelins, stockades, and all that,
than any of them did; and he worked with a right good-
will in fixing that battery all right. I have always thought
it was a pity Porter did not leave him in command there with
Gamble. That would have settled all the question about
his punishment We should have kei^t the islands, and at

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198 Stories Every Child Should Know

this moment we should have one station in the Pacific Ocean.
Our French friends, too, when they wanted this little
watering-place, would have found it was preoccupied. But
Madison and the Virginians, of course, flung all that away.

All that was near fifty years ago. If Nolan was thirty
then, he must have been near eighty when he died. He
looked sixty when he was forty. But he never seemed to me
to change a hair afterwards. As I imagine his life, from
what I have seen and heard of it, he must have been in every
sea, and yet almost never on land. He must have known,
in a formal way, more officers in our service than any man
living knows. He told me once, with a grave smile, that
no man in the world lived so methodical a life as he. '' You
know the boys say I am the Iron Mask, and you know how
busy he was." He said it did not do for anyone to try to
read all the time, more than to do anything else all the time;
and that he used to read just five hours a day. "Then,"
he said, " I keep up my note-books, writing in them at such
and such hours from what I have been reading; and I in-
clude in these my scrap-books." These were very curious
indeed. He had six or eight, of different subjects. There
was one of History, one of Natural Science, one which he
called "Odds and Ends." But they were not merely books
of extracts from newspapers. They had bits of plants and
ribbons, shells tied on, and carved scraps of bone and wood,
which he had taught the men to cut for him, and they were
beautifully illustrated. He drew admirably. He had some
of the funniest drawings there, and some of the most pathetic,
that I have ever seen in my life. I wonder who will have
Nolan's scrap-books.

Well, he said his reading and his notes were his profession,
and that they took five hours and two hours respectively
of each day. "Then," said he, "every man should have a

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The Man WUhoui a.CoutUry 199

diversion as well as a profession. My Natural History is
my diversion." That took two hours a day more. The
men used to bring him birds and fish, but on a long cruise
he had to satisfy himself with centipedes and cockroaches
and such small game. He was the only natiu^ist I ever
met who knew anything about the habits of the house-fly
and the mosquito. All those people can tell you whether
they are Lepidoptera or Suptopotera; but as for telling how
you can get rid of them, or how they get away from you
when you strike them — ^why Linnaeus knew as little of that
as John Foy the idiot did. These nine hours made Nolan's
regular daily " occupation." The rest of the time he talked
or walked. Till he grew very old, he went aloft a great deal.
He always kept up his exercise; and I never heard that he
was ill. If any other man was ill, he was the kindest nurse
in the world; and he knew more than half the surgeons do.
Then if anybody was sick or died, or if the captain wanted
him to, on any other occasion, he was always ready to read
prayers. I have said that he read beautifully.

My own acquaintance with Philip Nolan began six or
eight years after the English war, on my first voyage after
I was appointed a midshipman. It was in the first days
after our Slave^rade treaty, while the Reigning House,
which was still the House of Virginia, had still a sort of
sentimentalism about the suppression of the horrors of the
Middle Passage, and something was sometimes done that
way. We were in the South Atlantic on that business.
From the time I joined, I believe I thought Nolan was a sort
of lay chaplain — a chaplain with a blue coat. I never asked
about him. Everything in the ship was strange to me. I
knew it was green to ask questions, and I suppose I thought
there was a "Plain-Buttons" on every ship. We had him
to dine in our mess once a week, and the caution was given


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doo Stories Every Chttd Should Know

that on that day nothing was to be said about home. But
if they had told us not to say an3rthing about the planet Mars
or the Book of Deuteronomy, I should not have asked why;
there were a great many things which seemed to me to have
as little reason. I first came to understand anything about
"the man vdthout a country" one day when we overhauled
a dirty little schooner which had slaves on board. An
officer was sent to take charge of her, and, after a few
minutes, he sent back his boat to ask that someone mi^t
be sent him who could speak Portuguese. We were all
looking over the rail when the message came,' and we all
wished we could interpret, when the captain asked who
spoke Portuguese. But none of the officers did; and just
as the captain was sending forward to ask if any of the
people could, Nolan stepped out and said he should be glad
to interpret, if the captain wished, as he understood the
language. The captain thanked him, fitted out another
boat with him, and in this boat it was my luck to go.

When we got there, it was such a scene as you seldom see,
and never want to. Nastiness beyond account, and chaos
run loose in the midst of the nastiness. There were not a
great many of the negroes; but by way of making what there
were understand that they were free, Vaughan had had their
handcuffs, and ankle-cuffs knocked off, and, for conven-
ience's sake, was putting them upon the rascals of the
schooner's crew. The negroes were, most of them, out of
the hold, and swarming all round the dirty deck, with a
central throng surrounding Vaughan and addressing him
in every dialect, and patois of a dialect, from the Zulu click
up to the Parisian of Beledeljereed.

As we came on deck, Vaughan looked down from a hogs-
head, on which he had mounted in desperation, and said-— <-

" For God's love, is there anybody who can make these


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The Man WithotU a Country aoi

wretches understand something ? The men gave them rum,
and that did not quiet them. I knocked that big fellow
down twice, and that did not soothe him. And then I
talked Choctaw to all of them together; and I'll be hanged
if they understood that as well as they understood the

Nolan said he coidd speak Portuguese, and one or two
fine-looking Kroomen were dragged out, who, as it had been
found already, had worked for the Portuguese on the coast
at Fernando Po.

"Tell them they are free," said Vaughan; "and tell them
that these rascals are to be hanged as soon as we can get rope

Nolan "put that into Spanish," that is, he explained it
in such Portuguese as the Kroomen could understand, and
they in turn to such of the negroes as could understand
them. Then there was such a yell of delight, clinching of
fists, leaping and dancing, kissing of Nolan's feet, and a
general rush made to the hogshead by way of spontaneous
worship of Vaughan, as the deus ex machina of the occasion.

"Tell them," said Vaughan, well pleased, "that I will
take them all to Cape Palmas."

This did not answer so well. Cape Palmas was prac-
tically as far from the homes of most of them as New Orleans
or Rio Janeiro was; that is they would be eternally separated
from home there. And their interpreters, as we could imder-
stand, instantly said, "i4A, non Palmas" and began to pro-
pose infinite other expedients in most voluble language.
Vaughan was rather disappointed at this result of his libet
ality, and asked Nolan eagerly what they said. The drops
stood on poor Nolan's white forehead, as he hushed the men
down, and said:

" He says, 'Not Palmas.* He sa3rs, 'Take us home, take


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ao2 Stories Every Child Should Know

us to our own country, take us to our own house, take us to
our own pickaninnies and our own women/ He says he
has an old lather and mother who will die if they do not see
him. And this one says he left his people all sick, and
paddled down to Fernando to beg the white doctor to come
and help them, and that these devik caught him in the bay
just in sight of home, and that he has never seen anybody
from home since then. And this one says,'' choked out
Nolan, ''that he has not heard a word from his home in six
months, while he has been locked up in an infernal

Vaughan always said he grew gray himself while Nolan
struggled through this interpretation. I, who did not under-
stand anything of the passion involved in it, saw that the
very elements were melting with fervent heat, and that
something wdLS to pay somewhere. Even the n^roes them>
selves stopped howling, as they saw Nolan's agony, and
Vaughan's almost equal agony of sympathy. As quick as
he could get words, he said :

"Tell them yes, yes, yes; tell them they shall go t<^ the
Mountains of the Moon, if they will. If I sail the schooner
through the Great White Desert, they shall go home! "

And after some fashion Nolan said so. And then they all
fell to kissing him again, and wanted to rub his nose with

But he could not stand it long; and getting Vaughan to
say he might go back, he beckoned me down into our boat.
As we lay back in the stem-sheets and the men gave way,
he said to me: "Youngster, let that show you what it is to
be without a family, without a home, and without a country.
And if you are ever tempted to say a word or to do a thing
that shall put a bar between you and your family, your home,
and your country, pray God in His mercy to take you that

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The Man Without a Country 203

instant home to His own heaven. Stick by your family,
boy; forget you have a self, while you do everything for
them. Think of your home, boy; write and send, and talk
about it. Let it be nearer and nearer to your thought, the
farther you have to travel from it; and rush back to it when
you are free, as that poor black slave is doing now. And
for your country, boy," and the words rattled in his throat,
"and for that flag," and he pointed to the ship, ** never
dream a dream but of serving her as she bids you, though
the service carry you through a thousand hells. No matter
what happens to you, no matter who flatters you or who
abuses you, never look at another flag, never let a night
pass but you pray God to bless that flag. Remember, boy,
that behind all these men you have to do with, behind
officers, and government, and people even, there is the
Country Herself, your Country, and that you belong to
Her as you belong to your own mother. Stand by Her,
boy, as you would stand by your mother, if those devils
there had got hold of her to-day!"

I was frightened to death by his calm, hard passion; but
I blundered out that I would, by all that was holy, and that
I had never thought of doing anything else. He hardly
seemed to hear me; but he did, almost in a whisper, say:
** O, if anybody had said so to me when I was of your age! "

I think it was this half-confidence of his, which I never
abused, for I never told this story till now, which afterward
made us great friends. He was very kind to me. Often
he sat up, or even got up, at night, to walk the deck with me,
when it was my watch. He explained to me a great deal of
my mathematics, and I owe to him my taste for mathematics.
He lent me books, and helped me about my reading. He
never alluded so directly to his story again; but from one
and another officer I have learned, in thirty years, what I


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204 Stories Every Child Should Know

am telling. When we parted from him in St. Thomas
harbour, at the end of our cruise, I was more sorry than I
can tell. I was very glad to meet him again in 1830; and
later in life, when I thought I had some influence in Wash-
ington, I moved heaven and earth to have him discharged.
But it was like getting a ghost out of prison. They pre-
tended there was no such man, and never was such a man.
They will say so at the Department now! Perhaps they do
not know. It will not be the first thing in the service of
which the Department appears to know nothing!

There is a story that Nolan met Burr once on one of our
vessels, when a party of Americans came on board in the
Mediterranean. But this I t>elieve to be a lie; or, rather,
it is a myth, bentrovato^ involving a tremendous blowing-up
with which he simk Biurr, — asking him how he liked to be
^without a country.'' But it is clear from Burr's life, that
nothing of the sort could have happened; and I mention
this only as an illustration of the stories which get a-going
where there is the least mystery at bottom.

Philip Nolan, poor fellow, repented of his folly, and then,
like a man, submitted to the fate he had asked for. He
never intentionally added to the difficulty or delicacy of the
charge of those who had him in hold. Accidents would
happen; but never from his fault. Lieutenant Truxton
told me that, when Texas was annexed, there was a careful
discussion among the officers, whether they should get hold
of Nolan's handsome set of maps and cut Texas out of it —
from the map of the world and the map of Mexico. The
United States had been cut out when the atlas was bought
for him. But it was voted, rightly enough, that to do this
would be virtually to reveal to him what bad happened, or,
as Harry Cole said, to make him think Old Burr had suc-
ceeded. So it was from no fault of Nolan's tha/ a great

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The Man Without a Country 205

botch happened at my own table, when, for a short time, I
was in conmiand of the George Washington corvette, on the
South American station. We were lying in the La Plata,
and some of the officers, who had been on shore and had just
joined again, were entertaining us with accounts of their
misadventures in riding the half-wild horses of Buenos Ayres.
Nolan was at table, and was in an unusually bright and
talkative mood. Some story of a tumble reminded him of
an adventure of his own when he was catching wild horses
in Texas with his adventurous cousin, at a time when he
must have been quite a boy. He told the story with a good
deal of spirit — so much so, that the silence which often
follows a good story hung over the table for an instant, to
be broken by Nolan himself. For he asked perfectly
unconsciously :

"Pray, what has become of Texas? After the Mexicans
got their independence, I thought that province of Texas
would come forward very fast. It is really one of the finest
regions on earth; it is the Italy of this continent. But I have
not seen or heard a word of Texas for nearly twenty years."

There were two Texan officers at the table. The reason
he had never heard of Texas was that Texas and her affairs
had been painfully cut out of his newspapers since Austin
began his settlements; so that, while he read of Honduras
and Tamaulipas, and, till quite lately, of California — ^this
virgin province, in which his brother had travelled so far,
and I believe, had died, had ceased to be to him. Waters
and Williams, the two Texas men, looked grimly at each
other and tried not to laugh. Edward Morris had his atten-
tion attracted by the third link in the chain of the captain's
chandelier. Watrous was seized vdth a convulsion of sneez-
ing. Nolan himself saw that something was to pay, he did
not know what. And I, as master of the feast, had to say


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2o6 Storks Every Child Should Know

"Texas is out of the map, Mr. Nolan. Have you seen
Captain Back's curious account of Sir Thomas Roe's

After that cruise I never saw Nolan again. I wrote to
him at least twice a year, for in that voyage we became even
confidentially intimate; but he never wrote to me. The
other men tell me that in those fifteen years he aged very
fast, as well he might indeed, but that he was still the same
gentle, uncomplaining, silent sufferer that he ever was,
bearing as best he could his self-appointed punishment —
rather less social, perhaps, with new men whom he did not
know, but more anxious, apparently, than ever to serve and
befriend and teach the boys, some of whom fairly seemed
to worship him. And now it seems the dear old fellow is
dead. He has found a home at last, and a country.

Since writing this, and while considering whether or not I
would print it, as a warning to the young Nolans and Val-
landighams and Tatnalls of to-day of what it is to throw
away a country, I have received from Danforth, who is on
board the Levant, ei letter which gives an account of Nolan's
last hours. It removes all my doubts about telling this

The reader will understand Danforth's letter, or the be-
ginning of it, if he will remember that after ten years of
Nolan's exile everyone who had him in charge was in a very
delicate position. The government had failed to renew the
order of 1807 regarding him. What was a man to do?
Should he let him go? What, then, if he were called to
account by the Department for violating the order of 1807 ?
Should he keep him? What, then, if Nolan should be
liberated some day, and should bring an action of false
imprisonment or kidnapping against every man who had
had him in charge ? I urged and pressed this upon Southard.

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The Man WUhaui a CoufUry 207

and I have reason to think that other officers did the same
thing. But the Secretary always said, as they so often do
at ''Vashington, that there were no special orders to give,
and that we must act on our own judgment. That means,
"If you succeed, you will be sustained; if you fail, you will
be disavowed." Well, as Danforth says, all that is over
now, though I do not know but I expose myself to a criminal
prosecution on the evidence of the very revelation I am
Here is the letter:

Levant, 2° a' S. at 131** W.
Dear Fred:

I tiy to find heart and life to tell you that it is all over with dear old
Nolan. I have been with him on this voyage more than I ever was,
and I can understand wholly now the way in which you used to speak
of the dear old fellow. I could see that he was not strong, but I had
no idea the end was so near. The doctor has been watching him very
carefully, and yesterday morning came to me and told me that Nolan
was not so well, and had not left his state-room — a thing I never
lemember before. He had let the doctor come and see him as he lay
there — ^the first time the doctor had been in the state-room — ^and he
said he should like to see me. Oh, dear! do you remember the
mysteries we boys used to invent about his room in the old Intrepid
days? Well, I went in, and there, to be sure, the poor fellow lay in
his berth, smiling pleasantly as he gave me his hand, but looking very
frail. I could not help a glance round, which showed me what a little
shrine he had made of the box he was l3ring in. The Stars and Stripes
were triced up above and around a picture of Washington, and he had
painted a majestic eagle, with lightnings blazing from his beak and
his foot just clasping the whole globe, which his wings overshadowed.
The dear old boy saw my glance, and said, with a sad smile, ''Here,
you see, I have a country! " And then he pointed to the foot of his bed,
where I had not seen before a great map of the United States, as he
had drawn it from memory, and which he had there to look upon as he
lay. Quaint, queer old names were on it, in large letters: "Indiana
Territory," "MississioDi Territory," and "Louisiana Territory." $

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