Henry Cabot Lodge.

The Best of the World's Classics, Restricted to Prose, Vol. X (of X) - America - II, Index online

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the Bear chief. Jogues bent his head to enter, when another Indian,
standing concealed within, at the side of the doorway, struck at him
with a hatchet. An Iroquois, called by the French Le Berger, who seems
to have followed in order to defend him, bravely held out his arm to
ward off the blow; but the hatchet cut through it, and sank into the
missionary's brain. He fell at the feet of his murderer, who at once
finished the work by hacking off his head. Lalande was left in
suspense all night, and in the morning was killed in a similar manner.
The bodies of the two Frenchmen were then thrown into the Mohawk, and
their heads displayed on the points of the palisade which enclosed the
town.

Thus died Isaac Jogues, one of the purest examples of Roman Catholic
virtue which this western continent has seen.




V

WHY NEW FRANCE FAILED[53]


New France was all head. Under king, noble, and Jesuit, the lank, lean
body would not thrive. Even commerce wore the sword, decked itself
with badges of nobility, aspired to forest seigniories and hordes of
savage retainers. Along the borders of the sea an adverse power was
strengthening and widening, with slow but stedfast growth, full of
blood and muscle - a body without a head. Each had its strength, each
its weakness, each its own modes of vigorous life: but the one was
fruitful, the other barren; the one instinct with hope, the other
darkening with shadows of despair.

[Footnote 53: From the introduction to "The Pioneers of France in the
New World." Copyright, 1865, 1885, by Francis Parkman. Published by
Little, Brown & Company.]

By name, local position, and character one of these communities of
freemen stands forth as the most conspicuous representative of this
antagonism - liberty and absolutism, New England and New France. The
one was the offspring of a triumphant government; the other, of an
opprest and fugitive people: the one, an unflinching champion of the
Roman Catholic reaction; the other, a vanguard of the Reform. Each
followed its natural laws of growth, and each came to its natural
results. Vitalized by the principles of its foundation, the Puritan
commonwealth grew apace. New England was preeminently the land of
material progress. Here the prize was within every man's reach;
patient industry need never doubt its reward; nay, in defiance of the
four gospels, assiduity in pursuit of gain was promoted to the rank of
a duty, and thrift and godliness were linked in equivocal wedlock.
Politically she was free; socially she suffered from that subtile and
searching oppression which the dominant opinion of a free community
may exercise over the members who compose it. As a whole, she grew
upon the gaze of the world, a signal example of expansive energy; but
she has not been fruitful in those salient and striking forms of
character which often give a dramatic life to the annals of nations
far less prosperous.

We turn to New France, and all is reversed. Here was a bold attempt to
crush under the exactions of a grasping hierarchy, to stifle under the
curbs and trappings of a feudal monarchy a people compassed by
influences of the wildest freedom - whose schools were the forest and
the sea, whose trade was an armed barter with savages, and whose daily
life a lesson of lawless independence. But this fierce spirit had its
vent. The story of New France is from the first a story of war: of
war - for so her founders believed - with the adversary of mankind
himself; war with savage tribes and potent forest commonwealths; war
with the encroaching powers of heresy and of England. Her brave,
unthinking people were stamped with the soldier's virtues and the
soldier's faults; and in their leaders were displayed, on a grand and
novel stage, the energies, aspirations, and passions which belong to
hopes vast and vague, ill-restricted powers, and stations of command.

The growth of New England was a result of the aggregate efforts of a
busy multitude, each in his narrow circle toiling for himself, to
gather competence or wealth. The expansion of New France was the
achievement of a gigantic ambition striving to grasp a continent. It
was a vain attempt. Long and valiantly her chiefs upheld their cause,
leading to battle a vassal population, warlike as themselves. Borne
down by numbers from without, wasted by corruption from within, New
France fell at last; and out of her fall grew revolutions whose
influence to this hour is felt through every nation of the civilized
world.

The French dominion is a memory of the past; and when we evoke its
departed shades, they rise upon us from their graves in strange,
romantic guise. Again their ghostly camp-fires seem to burn, and the
fitful light is cast around on lord and vassal and black-robed priest,
mingled with wild forms of savage warriors, knit in close fellowship
on the same stern errand. A boundless vision grows upon us; an untamed
continent; vast wastes of forest verdure; mountains silent in primeval
sleep; river, lake, and glimmering pool; wilderness oceans mingling
with the sky. Such was the domain which France conquered for
civilization. Plumed helmets gleamed in the shade of its forests,
priestly vestments in its dens and fastnesses of ancient barbarism.
Men steeped in antique learning, pale with the close breath of the
cloister, here spent the noon and evening of their lives, ruled savage
hordes with a mild, parental sway, and stood serene before the direst
shapes of death. Men of courtly nurture, heirs to the polish of a
far-reaching ancestry, here, with their dauntless hardihood, put to
shame the boldest sons of toil.




VI

THE RETURN OF THE COUREURS-DE-BOIS[54]


It was a curious scene when a party of _coureurs de bois_ returned
from their rovings. Montreal was their harboring place, and they
conducted themselves much like the crew of a man-of-war paid off after
a long voyage. As long as their beaver-skins lasted, they set no
bounds to their riot. Every house in the place, we are told, was
turned into a drinking-shop. The newcomers were bedizened with a
strange mixture of French and Indian finery; while some of them, with
instincts more thoroughly savage, stalked about the streets as naked
as a Pottawottamie or a Sioux. The clamor of tongues was prodigious,
and gambling and drinking filled the day and the night. When at last
they were sober again, they sought absolution for their sins; nor
could the priests venture to bear too hard on their unruly penitents,
lest they should break wholly with the church and dispense
thenceforth with her sacraments.

[Footnote 54: From Chapter XVII of "The Old RĂ©gime in Canada."
Copyright, 1874, by Francis Parkman. Published by Little, Brown & Co.]

Under such leaders as Du Lhut, the _coureurs de bois_ built forts of
palisades at various points throughout the West and Northwest. They
had a post of this sort at Detroit some time before its permanent
settlement, as well as others on Lake Superior and in the valley of
the Mississippi. They occupied them as long as it suited their
purposes, and then abandoned them to the next comer. Michillimackinac
was, however, their chief resort; and thence they would set out, two
or three together, to roam for hundreds of miles through the endless
meshwork of interlocking lakes and rivers which seams the northern
wilderness.

No wonder that a year or two of bushranging spoiled them for
civilization. Tho not a very valuable member of society, and tho a
thorn in the side of princes and rulers, the _coureur de bois_ had his
uses, at least from an artistic point of view; and his strange figure,
sometimes brutally savage, but oftener marked with the lines of a
daredevil courage, and a reckless, thoughtless gaiety, will always be
joined to the memories of that grand world of woods which the
nineteenth century is fast civilizing out of existence. At least, he
is picturesque, and with his redskin companion serves to animate
forest scenery. Perhaps he could sometimes feel, without knowing that
he felt them, the charms of the savage nature that had adopted him.

Rude as he was, her voice may not always have been meaningless for one
who knew her haunts so well; deep recesses where, veiled in foliage,
some wild shy rivulet steals with timid music through breathless caves
of verdure; gulfs where feathered crags rise like castle walls, where
the noonday sun pierces with keen rays athwart the torrent, and the
mossed arms of fallen pines cast wavering shadows on the illumined
foam; pools of liquid crystal turned emerald in the reflected green of
impending woods; rocks on whose rugged front the gleam of sunlit
waters dances in quivering light; ancient trees hurled headlong by the
storm to dam the raging stream with their forlorn and savage ruin; or
the stern depths of immemorial forests, dim and silent as a cavern,
columned with innumerable trunks, each like an Atlas upholding its
world of leaves, and sweating perpetual moisture down its dark and
channelled rind; some strong in youth, some grisly with decrepit age,
nightmares of strange distortion, gnarled and knotted with wens and
goitres; roots intertwined beneath like serpents petrified in an agony
of contorted strife; green and glistening mosses carpeting the rough
ground, mantling the rocks, turning pulpy stumps to mounds of verdure,
and swathing fallen trunks as, bent in the impotence of rottenness,
they lie outstretched over knoll and hollow, like moldering reptiles
of the primeval world, while around, and on and through them, springs
the young growth that fattens on their decay - the forest devouring its
own dead. Or, to turn from its funereal shade to the light and life of
the open woodland, the sheen of sparkling lakes, and mountains basking
in the glory of the summer noon, flecked by the shadows of passing
clouds that sail on snowy wings across the azure.

Yet it would be false coloring to paint the half-savage _coureur de
bois_ as a romantic lover of nature. He liked the woods because they
emancipated him from restraint. He liked the lounging ease of the
camp-fire, and the license of Indian villages. His life has a dark and
ugly side.




GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS

Born in 1824, died in 1892; joined the Brook Farm Community;
traveled in Europe in 1846-50; became connected with the New
York _Tribune_ in 1850; editor of _Putnam's Monthly_ in
1852-57, with _Harper's Magazine_ in 1854, and with
_Harper's Weekly_ in 1863; prominent advocate of civil
service reform, being one of the commissioners appointed by
President Grant in 1871, but resigned on account of
differences with the President; president of the State Civil
Service League in 1880, and of the National Civil Service
Reform League afterward until his death; published "Nile
Notes of a Howadji" in 1851, "Lotus Eating" in 1852,
"Potiphar Papers" in 1853, "Prue and I" in 1856.




OUR COUSIN THE CURATE[55]


Our cousin the curate loved, while he was yet a boy, Flora, of the
sparkling eyes and the ringing voice. His devotion was absolute. Flora
was flattered, because all the girls, as I said, worshiped him; but
she was a gay, glancing girl, who had invaded the student's heart with
her audacious brilliancy, and was half-surprized that she had subdued
it. Our cousin - for I never think of him as my cousin only - wasted
away under the fervor of his passion. His life exhaled an incense
before her. He wrote poems to her, and sang them under her window, in
the summer moonlight. He brought her flowers and precious gifts. When
he had nothing else to give, he gave her his love in a homage so
eloquent and beautiful that the worship was like the worship of the
wise men. The gay Flora was proud and superb. She was a girl, and the
bravest and best boy loved her. She was young, and the wisest and
truest youth loved her. They lived together, we all lived together, in
the happy valley of childhood. We looked forward to manhood as
island-poets look across the sea, believing that the whole world
beyond is a blest Araby of spices.

[Footnote 55: From Chapter VII of "Prue and I."]

The months went by, and the young love continued. Our cousin and Flora
were only children still, and there was no engagement. The elders
looked upon the intimacy as natural and mutually beneficial. It would
help soften the boy and strengthen the girl; and they took for granted
that softness and strength were precisely what were wanted. It is a
great pity that men and women forget that they have been children.
Parents are apt to be foreigners to their sons and daughters. Maturity
is the gate of paradise, which shuts behind us; and our memories are
gradually weaned from the glories in which our nativity was cradled.

The months went by, the children grew older, and they constantly
loved. Now Prue always smiles at one of my theories; she is entirely
skeptical of it; but it is, nevertheless, my opinion that men love
most passionately, and women most permanently. Men love at first and
most warmly; women love last and longest. This is natural enough; for
nature makes women to be won, and men to win. Men are the active,
positive force, and therefore, they are more ardent and
demonstrative....

Why our cousin should have loved the gay Flora so ardently was hard to
say; but that he did so, was not difficult to see. He went away to
college. He wrote the most eloquent and passionate letters; and when
he returned in vacations, he had no eyes, ears, nor heart for any
other being. I rarely saw him, for I was living away from our early
home, and was busy in a store - learning to be bookkeeper - but I heard
afterward from himself the whole story.

One day when he came home for the holidays, he found a young foreigner
with Flora - a handsome youth, brilliant and graceful. I have asked
Prue a thousand times why women adore soldiers and foreigners. She
says it is because they love heroism and are romantic. A soldier is
professionally a hero, says Prue, and a foreigner is associated with
all unknown and beautiful regions. I hope there is no worse reason....

Our cousin came home and found Flora and the young foreigner
conversing. The young foreigner had large, soft, black eyes, and the
dusky skin of the tropics. His manner was languid and fascinating,
courteous and reserved. It assumed a natural supremacy, and you felt
as if here were a young prince traveling before he came into
possession of his realm....

Our cousin the curate no sooner saw the tropical stranger and marked
his impression upon Flora than he felt the end. As the shaft struck
his heart, his smile was sweeter, and his homage even more poetic and
reverential. I doubt if Flora understood him or herself. She did not
know, what he instinctively perceived, that she loved him less. But
there are no degrees in love; when it is less than absolute and
supreme, it is nothing. Our cousin and Flora were not formally
engaged, but their betrothal was understood by all of us as a thing of
course. He did not allude to the stranger; but as day followed day, he
saw with every nerve all that passed. Gradually - so gradually that she
scarcely noticed it - our cousin left Flora more and more with the
soft-eyed stranger, whom he saw she preferred. His treatment of her
was so full of tact, he still walked and talked with her so familiarly
that she was not troubled by any fear that he saw what she hardly saw
herself. Therefore, she was not obliged to conceal anything from him
or from herself; but all the soft currents of her heart were setting
toward the West Indian. Our cousin's cheek grew paler, and his soul
burned and wasted within him. His whole future - all his dream of
life - had been founded upon his love. It was a stately palace built
upon the sand, and now the sand was sliding away. I have read
somewhere that love will sacrifice everything but itself. But our
cousin sacrificed his love to the happiness of his mistress. He ceased
to treat her as peculiarly his own. He made no claim in word or manner
that everybody might not have made. He did not refrain from seeing
her, or speaking of her as of all his other friends; and, at length,
altho no one could say how or when the change had been made, it was
evident and understood that he was no more her lover, but that both
were the best of friends.

He still wrote to her occasionally from college, and his letters were
those of a friend, not of a lover. He could not reproach her. I do
not believe any man is secretly surprized that a woman ceases to love
him. Her love is a heavenly favor won by no desert of his. If it
passes, he can no more complain than a flower when the sunshine leaves
it.

Before our cousin left college Flora was married to the tropical
stranger. It was the brightest of June days, and the summer smiled
upon the bride. There were roses in her hand and orange flowers in her
hair, and the village church bell rang out over the peaceful fields.
The warm sunshine lay upon the landscape like God's blessing, and Prue
and I, not yet married ourselves, stood at an open window in the old
meeting-house, hand in hand, while the young couple spoke their vows.
Prue says that brides are always beautiful, and I, who remember Prue
herself upon her wedding-day - how can I deny it? Truly, the gay Flora
was lovely that summer morning, and the throng was happy in the old
church. But it was very sad to me, altho I only suspected then what
now I know. I shed no tears at my own wedding, but I did at Flora's,
altho I knew she was marrying a soft-eyed youth whom she dearly loved,
and who, I doubt not, dearly loved her.

Among the group of her nearest friends was our cousin the curate. When
the ceremony was ended, he came to shake her hand with the rest. His
face was calm, and his smile sweet, and his manner unconstrained.
Flora did not blush - why should she? - but shook his hand warmly, and
thanked him for his good wishes. Then they all sauntered down the
aisle together; there were some tears with the smiles among the other
friends; our cousin handed the bride into her carriage, shook hands
with the husband, closed the door, and Flora drove away.

I have never seen her since; I do not even know if she be living
still. But I shall always remember her as she looked that June
morning, holding roses in her hand, and wreathed with orange flowers.
Dear Flora! it was no fault of hers that she loved one man more than
another: she could not be blamed for not preferring our cousin to the
West Indian: there is no fault in the story, it is only a tragedy.

Our cousin carried all the collegiate honors - but without exciting
jealousy or envy. He was so really the best, that his companions were
anxious he should have the sign of his superiority. He studied hard,
he thought much, and wrote well. There was no evidence of any blight
upon his ambition or career, but after living quietly in the country
for some time, he went to Europe and traveled. When he returned, he
resolved to study law, but presently relinquished it. Then he
collected materials for a history, but suffered them to lie unused.
Somehow the mainspring was gone. He used to come and pass weeks with
Prue and me. His coming made the children happy, for he sat with them,
and talked and played with them all day long, as one of themselves....

At length our cousin went abroad again to Europe. It was many years
ago that we watched him sail away, and when Titbottom, and Prue, and I
went home to dinner, the grace that was said that day was a fervent
prayer for our cousin the curate. Many an evening afterward, the
children wanted him, and cried themselves to sleep calling upon his
name. Many an evening still our talk flags into silence as we sit
before the fire, and Prue puts down her knitting and takes my hand, as
if she knew my thoughts, altho we do not name his name.

He wrote us letters as he wandered about the world. They were
affectionate letters, full of observation, and thought, and
description. He lingered longest in Italy, but he said his conscience
accused him of yielding to the sirens; and he declared that his life
was running uselessly away. At last he came to England. He was charmed
with everything, and the climate was even kinder to him than that of
Italy. He went to all the famous places, and saw many of the famous
Englishmen, and wrote that he felt England to be his home. Burying
himself in the ancient gloom of a university town, altho past the
prime of life, he studied like an ambitious boy. He said again that
his life had been wine poured upon the ground, and he felt guilty. And
so our cousin became a curate....

Our children have forgotten their old playmate; but I am sure if there
be any children in his parish, over the sea, they love our cousin the
curate, and watch eagerly for his coming. Does his step falter now, I
wonder; is that long fair hair gray; is that laugh as musical in those
distant homes as it used to be in our nursery; has England among all
her great and good men any man so noble as our cousin the curate?

The great book is unwritten; the great deeds are undone; in no
biographical dictionary will you find the name of our cousin the
curate. Is his life therefore lost? Have his powers been wasted?

I do not dare to say it, for I see Bourne on the pinnacle of
prosperity, but still looking sadly for his castles in Spain; I see
Titbottom, an old deputy bookkeeper, whom nobody knows, but with his
chivalric heart loyal to children, his generous and humane spirit,
full of sweet hope and faith and devotion; I see the superb Auriel, so
lovely that the Indians would call her a smile of the Great Spirit,
and as beneficent as a saint of the calendar - how shall I say what is
lost and what is won. I know that in every way and by all His
preachers God is served and His purposes accomplished. How shall I
explain or understand? I, who am only an old bookkeeper in an old
cravat.




ARTEMUS WARD

Born in 1834, died in England in 1867; his real name Charles
Farrar Browne; noted as a humorous lecturer here and in
England; published "Artemus Ward: His Book" in 1862;
"Artemus Ward: His Travels" in 1865; "Artemus Ward in
London" in 1867.




FORREST AS OTHELLO[56]


Durin a recent visit to New York the undersined went to see Edwin
Forrest. As I am into the moral show biziness myself I ginrally go to
Barnum's moral museum, where only moral peeple air admitted, partickly
on Wednesday arternoons. But this time I thot I'd go and see Ed. Ed
has bin actin out on the stage for many years. There is varis 'pinions
about his actin, Englishmen ginrally bleevin that he's far superior to
Mister Macready; but on one pint all agree, & that is that Ed draws
like a six-ox team. Ed was actin at Niblo's Garding, which looks
considerable more like a parster than a garding, but let that pars. I
sot down in the pit, took out my spectacles and commenced peroosin the
evenin's bill. The awjince was all-fired large & the boxes was full of
the elitty of New York. Several opery glasses was leveled at me by
Gotham's fairest darters, but I didn't let on as tho I noticed it, tho
mebby I did take out my sixteen-dollar silver watch & brandish it
round more than was necessary. But the best of us has our weaknesses &
if a man has gewelry let him show it. As I was peroosin the bill a
grave young man who sot near me axed me if I'd ever seen Forrest
dance the Essence of Old Virginny, "He's immense in that," sed the
young man. "He also does a fair champion jig," the young man
continnered, "but his Big Thing is the Essence of Old Virginny." Sez
I, "Fair youth, do you know what I'd do with you if you was my sun?"

[Footnote 56: From "Artemus Ward: His Book."]

"No," sez he.

"Wall," sez I, "I'd appint your funeral to-morrow arternoon, & the
_korps should be ready_. You're too smart to live on this yerth."

He didn't try any more of his capers on me. But another pussylanermuss
individooul in a red vest and patent leather boots told me his name
was Bill Astor & axed me to lend him 50 cents till early in the
mornin. I told him I'd probly send it round to him before he retired
to his virtoous couch, but if I didn't he might look for it next fall
as soon as I'd cut my corn.

The orchestry was now fiddling with all their might & as the peeple
didn't understan anything about it they applaudid versifrusly.
Presently old Ed cum out. The play was Otheller or More of Veniss.
Otheller was writ by Wm. Shakspeer. The seene is laid in Veniss.
Otheller was a likely man & was a ginral in the Veniss army. He eloped
with Desdemony, a darter of the Hon. Mr. Brabantio who represented one


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