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ing over your head, or raising the Old Harry below, while
you are busy with your clients. Last, and worst, is
some fidgety old uncle, forever too cold or too hot, who
vexes you with his patronizing airs, and impudently
kisses his little Peggy!

That could be borne, however : for perhaps he
has promised his fortune to Peggy. Peggy, then, will be
rich (and the thought made me rub my shins, which
were now getting comfortably warm upon the fire-dogs).
Then she will be forever talking of her fortune ; and
pleasantly reminding you, on occasion of a favorite pur-
chase, how lucky that she had the means ; and drop-
ping hints about economy ; and buying very extravagant
Paisleys.

She will annoy you by looking over the stock-list
at breakfast-time ; and mention quite carelessly to your
clients that she is interested in such or such a specula-
tion.

She will be provokingly silent when you hint to a



133

tradesman that you have not the money by you for his
small bill ; in short, she will tear the life out of you,
making you pay in righteous retribution of annoyance,
grief, vexation, shame, and sickness of heart ior the
superlative folly of " marrying rich."

But if not rich, then poor. Bah! the thought
made me stir the coals ; but there was still no blaze.
The paltry earnings you are able to wring out of clients
by the sweat of your brow will now be all our income ;
you will be pestered for pin-money, and pestered with
your poor wife's relations. Ten to one, she will stickle
about taste, " Sir Visto's," and want to make this
so pretty, and that so charming, if she only had the
means ; and is sure Paul (a kiss) can't deny his little
Peggy such a trifling sum, and all for the common
benefit.

Then she, for one, means that her children sha' n't go
a begging for clothes, and another pull at the purse.
Trust a poor mother to dress her children in finery!

Perhaps she is ugly : not noticeable at first, but
growing on her, and (what is worse) growing faster on
you. You wonder why you did n't see that vulgar nose
long ago ; and that lip, it is very strange, you think,
that you ever thought it pretty. And then, to come
to breakfast with her hair looking as it does, and you
not so much as daring to say, " Peggy, do brush your
hair ! " Her foot, too, not very bad when decently
chaussee, but now, since she's married, she does wear
such infernal slippers ! And yet, for all this, to be prig-
ging up for an hour, when any of my old chums come to
dine with me !



134 LITTLE CLASSICS.

"Bless your kind hearts! my dear fellows," said I,
thrusting the tongs into the coals, and speaking out loud,
as if my voice could reach from Virginia to Paris, " not
married yet ! "

Perhaps Peggy is pretty enough, only shrewish.

No matter for cold coffee ; you should have been
up before.

What sad, thin, poorly cooked chops, to eat with your
rolls!

She thinks they are very good, and wonders how
you can set such an example to your children. -

The butter is nauseating.

She has no other, and hopes you '11 not raise a
storm about butter a little turned. I think I see myself
ruminated I sitting meekly at table, scarce daring
to lift up my eyes, utterly fagged out with some quar-
rel of yesterday, choking down detestably sour muffins,
that my wife thinks are " delicious," slipping in dried
mouthfuls of burnt ham off the side of my fork -tines,
slipping off my chair sidewise at the end, and slipping
out with my hat between my knees, to business, and
never feeling myself a competent, sound-minded man,
till the oak door is between me and Peggy!

" Ha, ha, not yet ! " said I ; and in so earnest a
tone, that my dog started to his feet, cocked his eye to
have a good look into my face, met my smile of triumph
with an amiable wag of the tail, and curled up again in
the corner.

Again, Peggy is rich enough, well enough, mild enough,
only she does n't care a fig for you. She has married you
because father or grandfather thought the match eligible,



A BACHELOE/S REVERY. 135

and because she did n't wish to disoblige them. Besides,
she didn't positively hate you, and thought you were
a respectable enough young person; she has told you
so repeatedly at dinner. She wonders you like to read
poetry; she wishes you would buy her a good cook-
book; and insists upon your making your will at the
birth of the first baby.

She thinks Captain So-aud-So a splendid-looking fel-
low, and wishes you would trim up a little, were it only
for appearance' sake.

You need not hurry up from the office so early at
night ; she, bless her dear heart ! does not feel lonely.
You read to her a love-tale ; she interrupts the pathetic
parts with directions to her seamstress. You read of
marriages ; she sighs, and asks if Captain So-and-So has
left town ! She hates to be mewed up in a cottage, or
between brick walls ; she does so love the Springs !

But, again, Peggy loves you; at least, she swears it,
with her hand on " The Sorrows of Werther." She has
pin-money which she spends for the "Literary World" and
the "Friends in Council." She is not bad-looking, save
a bit too much of forehead ; nor is she sluttish, unless
a neglige till three o'clock and an ink-stain on the fore-
finger be sluttish : but then she is such a sad blue !

You never fancied, when you saw her buried in a three-
volume novel, that it was anything more than a girlish
vagary; and when she quoted Latin, you thought,
innocently, that she had a capital memory for her
samplers.

But to be bored eternally about divine Dante and
funny Goldoni is too bad. Your copy of Tasso, a treas-



136 LITTLE CLASSICS.

lire-print of 16SO, is all bethumbed and dog's-eared, and
spotted with baby-gruel. Even your Seneca an Elzevir
is all sweaty with handling. She adores La Fontaine,
reads Balzac with a kind of artist -scowl, and will not let
Greek alone.

You hint at broken rest and an aching head at break-
fast, and she will fling you a scrap of Anthology, in
lieu of the camphor-bottle, or chant the alal alal, of
tragic chorus.

The nurs3 is getting dinner ; you are holding the
baby; Peggy is reading Bruyere.

The fire smoked thick as pitch, and puffed out little
clouds over the chimney-piece. I gave the fore-stick a
kick at the thought of Peggy, baby, and Bruyere.

Suddenly the flame flickered bluely athwart the
smoke, caught at a twig below, rolled round the
mossy oak-stick, twined among the crackling tree-
limbs, mounted, lit up the whole body of smoke,
and blazed out cheerily and bright. Doubt vanished with
Smoke, and Hope began with Flame.



n.

BLAZE, SIGNIFYING CHEEE.

I PUSHED my chair back ; drew up another ; stretched
out my feet cosily upon it, rested my elbows on the chair-
arms, leaned my head on one hand, and looked straight
into the leaping and dancing flame.



137

Love is a flame, ruminated I ; and (glancing round
the room) how a flame brightens up a man's habitation !

"Carlo," said I, calling up my dog into the light,
" good fellow, Carlo ! " And I patted him kindly, and
he wagged his tail, and laid his nose across my knee, and
looked wistfully up in my face ; then strode away,
turned to look again, and lay down to sleep.

" Pho, the brute ! " said I ; "it is not enough, after
all, to like a dog."

If now in that chair yonder, not the one your feet
lie upon, but the other, beside you, closer yet, were
seated a sweet-faced girl, with a pretty little foot lying
out upon the hearth, a bit of lace running round the
swelling throat, the hair parted to a charm over a
forehead fair as any of your dreams ; and if you could
reach an arm around that chair-back, without fear of
giving offence, and suffer your fingers to play idly with
those curls that escape down the neck ; and if you could
clasp with your other hand those little white, taper fin-
gsrs of hers, which lie so temptingly within reach, and
so, talk softly and low in presence of the blaze, while
the hours slip without knowledge, and the winter winds
whistle uncared for ; if, in short, you were no bachelor,
but the husband of some such sweet image (dream,
call it rather), would it not be far pleasanter than this
cold single night-sitting, counting the sticks, reckon-
ing the length of the blaze and the height of the falling
snow?

And if some or all of those wild vagaries that grow on
your fancy at such an hour you could whisper into lis-
tening, because loving ears, ears not tired with listen-



138 LITTLE CLASSICS.

ing, because it is you who whisper, ears ever indulges,
because eager to praise; and if your darkest fancies
were lit up, not merely with bright wood-fire, but with a
ringing laugh of that sweet face turned up in fond re-
buke, how far better than to be waxing black and
sour over pestilential humors alone your very dog



And if when a glowing thought comes into your brain,
quick and sudden, you could tell it over as to a second
self, to that sweet creature, who is not away, because sl.o
loves to be there ; and if you could watch the thought
catching that girlish mind, illuming that fair brow, spark-
ling in those pleasantest of eyes, how far better than
to feel it slumbering, and going out, heavy, lifeless, and
dead, in your own selfish fancy. And if a generous emo-
tion steals over you, coming you know not whither,
would there not be a richer charm in lavishing it in
caress or endearing word upon that fondest and most
dear one, than in patting your glossy-coated dog, or sink-
ing lonely to smiling slumbers ?

How would not benevolence ripen with such monitor
to task it ! How would not selfishness grow faint and
dull, leaning ever to that second self, which is the loved
one ! How would not guile shiver and grow weak, be-
fore that girl-brow, and eye of innocence ! How would
not all that boyhood prized of enthusiasm and quick
blood and life renew itself hi such presence !

The fire was getting hotter, and I moved into the mid-
dle of the room. The shadows the flames made were
playing like fairy forms over floor and wall and ceiling.

My fancy would surely quicken, thought I, if such



BE VERY. 139

being were in attendance. Surely imagination would be
stronger and purer, if it could have the playful fancies
of dawning womanhood to delight it. All toil would be
torn from mind-labor, if but another heart grew into this
present soul, quickening it, warming it, cheering it, bid-
ding it ever God speed !

Her face would make a halo, rich as a rainbow, atop
of all such noisome things as we lonely souls call trouble.
Her smile would illumine the blackest of crowding cares ;
and darkness, that now seats you despondent hi your
solitary chair for days together, weaving bitter fancies,
dreaming bitter dreams, would grow light and thin, and
spread and float away, chased by that beloved smile.

Your friend, poor fellow ! dies : never mind, that
gentle clasp of her fingers, as she steals behind you, tell-
ing you not to weep, it is worth ten friends !

Your sister, sweet one, is dead, buried. The worms
are busy with all her fairness. How it makes you think
earth nothing but a spot to dig graves upon !

It is more : she, she says, will be a sister ; and the
waving curls as she leans upon your shoulder touch
your cheek, and your wet eye turns to meet those other
eyes, God has sent his angel, surely !

Your mother, alas for it, she is gone ! Is there any
bitterness to a youth alone and homeless, like this ?

But you are not homeless ; you are not alone : she is
there; her tears softening yours, her smile lighting
yours, her grief killing yours; and you live again, to
assuage that kind sorrow of hers.

Then, those children, rosy, fair-haired; no, they do
not disturb you with their prattle now, they are yours !



140 LITTLE CLASSICS.

Toss away there on the greensward; never mind the
hyacinths, the snowdrops, the violets, if so be any are
there ; the perfume of their healthful lips is worth all
the flowers of the world. No need now to gather wild
bouquets to love and cherish ; flower, tree, gum, are all
dead things; things livelier hold your soul.

And she, the mother, sweetest and fairest of all,
watching, tending, caressing, loving, till your own heart
grows pained with tenderest jealousy, and cures itself
with loving.

You have no need now of any cold lecture to teach
thankfulness : your heart is full of it. No need now,
as once, of bursting blossoms, of trees taking leaf and
greenness, to turn thought kindly and thankfully; for
ever beside you there is bloom, and ever beside you there
is fruit, for which eye, heart, and soul are full of un-
known and unspoken, because unspeakable, thank-offer-
ing-

And if sickness catches you, binds you, lays you down,
no lonely meanings, and wicked curses at careless-
stepping nurses. The step is noiseless, and yet distinct
beside you. The white curtains are drawn or with-
drawn by the magic of that other presence ; and the soft,
cool hand is upon your brow.

No cold comfortings of friend- watchers, merely come
in to steal a word away from that outer world which is
pulling at their skirts ; but, ever, the sad, shaded brow
of her whose lightest sorrow for your sake is your great-
est grief, if it were not a greater joy.

The blaze was leaping light and high, and the wood
falling under the growing heat.



141

So, continued I, this heart would be at length it-
self; striving with everything gross, even now as it
clings to grossness. Love would make its strength
native and progressive. Earth's cares would fly. Joys
would double; susceptibilities be quickened; Love
master itself,- and, having made the mastery, stretch
onward and upward toward Infinitude.

And if the end came, and sickness brought that fol-
lower Great Follower which sooner or later is sure
to come after, then the heart and the hand of Love,
ever near, are giving to your tired soul, daily and hourly,
lessons of that love which consoles, which triumphs,
which circleth all, and centreth in all, Love Infinite
and Divine !

Kind hands none but hers will smooth the hair
upon your brow as the chill grows damp and heavy on
it ; and her fingers none but hers will lie in yours
as the wasted flesh stiffens and hardens for the ground.
Her tears you could feel no others, if oceans fell
will warm your drooping features once more to life;
once more your eye, lighted in joyous triumph, will
kindle in her smile, and then

The fire fell upon the hearth; the blaze gave a last
leap a flicker then another caught a little remain-
ing twig blazed up wavered went out.

There was nothing but a bed of glowing embers, over
which the white ashes gathered fast. I was alone, with
only my dog for company.



142 LITTLE CLASSICS.

m.

ASHES, SIGNIFYING DESOLATION,

AFTER all, thought I, ashes follow blaze, inevitably
as Death follows Life. Misery treads on the heels of
Joy; Anguish rides swift after Pleasure.

" Come to nie again, Carlo," said I, to my dog ; and
I patted him fondly once more, but now only by the
light of the dying embers.

It is very little pleasure one takes in fondling brute
favorites ; but it is a pleasure that, when it passes, leaves
no void. It is only a little alleviating redundance in
your solitary heart -life, which, if lost, another can be
supplied.

But if your heart, not solitary, not quieting its
humors with mere love of chase or dog, not repressing
year after year its earnest yearnings after something bet-
ter and more spiritual, has fairly linked itself by bonds
strong as life to another heart, is the casting off easy
then?

Is it then only a little heart-redundancy cut off, which
the next bright sunset will fill up ?

And my fancy, as it had painted doubt under the
smoke, and cheer under warmth of the blaze, so now
it began under the faint light of the smouldering embers
to picture heart -desolation.

What kind congratulatory letters, hosts of them,
coming from old and half-forgotten friends, now that
your happiness is a year or two years old!

"Beautiful."



143

Ay, to be sure, beautiful !
"Rich."

Pho, the dawdler! how little he knows of heart-
treasure, who speaks of wealth to . a man who loves his
wife as a wife only should be loved !

"Young."

Young indeed; guileless as infancy, charming as
the morning.

Ah, these letters bear a sting: they bring to mind,
with new and newer freshness, if it be possible, the
value of that which you tremble lest you lose.

How anxiously you watch that step, if it lose not
its buoyancy ; how you study the color on that cheek,
if it grow not fainter ; how you tremble at- the lustre in
those eyes, if it be not the lustre of Death; how you
totter under the weight of that muslin sleeve, a phan-
tom weight! How you fear to do it, and yet press
forward, to note if that breathing be quickened, as you
ascend the home-heights, to look off on sunset lighting
the plain.

Is your sleep quiet sleep, after that she has whispered
to you her fears, and in the same breath soft as a sigh,
sharp as an arrow bid you hear it bravely ?

Perhaps the embers were now glowing fresher, a
little kindling before the ashes she triumphs over
disease.

But Poverty, the world's almoner, has come to you
with ready, spare hand.

Alone, with your dog living on bones, and you on
hope, kindling each morning, dying slowly each night,
this could be borne. Philosophy would bring home



144 LITTLE CLASSICS.

its stores to the lone man. Money is not in his hand,
but Knowledge is in his brain ! and from that brain he
draws out faster, as he draws slower from his pocket.
He remembers; and on remembrance he can live for
days and weeks. The garret, if a garret covers him, is
rich in fancies. The rain, if it pelts, pelts only him used
to rain-peltings. And his dog crouches not in dread,
but in companionship. His crust he divides with him
and laughs. He crowns himself with glorious memories
of Cervantes, though he begs : if he nights it under the
stars, he dreams heaven-sent dreams of the prisoned and
homeless Galileo.

He hums old sonnets, and snatches of poor Jonson's
plays. He chants Dryden's odes, and dwells on Otway's
rhyme. He reasons with BoHugbroke or Diogenes, as
the humor takes him, and laughs at the world : for the
world, thauk Heaven, has let him alone !

Keep your money, old misers, and your places, old
princes, the world is mine!

" I care not, Fortune, what you me deny.
You cannot rob me of free nature's grace,

You cannot shut the windows of the sky,
You cannot bar my constant feet to trace

The woods and lawns, by living streams, at eve.
Let health my nerves and finer fibres brace,

And I their toys to the great children leave.
Of Fancy, Reason, Virtue, naught can me bereave ! "
But if not alone ?

If she is clinging to you for support, for consolation,
for home, for life, she, reared in luxury perhaps, is
faint for bread?



145

Then the iron enters the soul ; then the nights darken
under any skylight. Then the days grow long, even
in the solstice of winter.

She may not complain ; what then ?

Will your heart grow strong, if the strength of her
love can dam up the fountains of tears, and the tied
tongue not tell of bereavement ? Will it solace you to
find her parting the poor treasure of food you have
stolen for her, with begging, foodless children?

But tlus ill strong hands and Heaven's help will put
down. Wealth again ; Flowers again ; Patrimonial acres
again; Brightness again. But your little Bessy, your
favorite child, is pining.

Would to God ! you say in agony, that wealth could
bring fulness again into that blanched cheek, or round
those little thin lips once more ; but it cannot. Thinner
and thinner they grow ; plaintive and more plaintive her
sweet voice.

"Dear Bessy," and your tones tremble; you feel
that she is on the edge of the grave. Can you pluck her
back ? Can endearments stay her ? Business is heavy,
away from the loved child; home you go, to fondle
while yet time is left, but this time you are too late.
She is gone. She cannot hear you ; she cannot thank
you for the violets you put within her stiff white hand.

And then the grassy mound the cold shadow of
nead-stone !

The wind, growing with the night, is rattling at the
window-panes, and whistles dismally. I wipe a tear,
and, in the interval of my Revery, thank God that I
am no such mourner.

VOL. iv. 7 j



146 LITTLE CLASSICS.

But gayety, snail-footed, creeps back to the household.
All is bright again,

" The violet bed 's not sweeter
Than the delicious breath marriage sends forth."

Her lip is rich and full, her cheek delicate as a flower.
Her frailty doubles your love.

And the little one she clasps, frail too, too frail :
the boy you had set your hopes and heart on.

You have watched him growing, ever prettier, ever
winning more and more upon your soul. The love you
bore to him when he first lisped names your name
and hers has doubled in strength now that he asks
innocently to be taught of this or that, and promises
you, by that quick curiosity that flashes in his eye, a
mind full of intelligence.

And some hair-breadth escape by sea or flood, that he
perhaps may have had, which unstrung your soul to
such tears as you pray God may be spared you again,
has endeared the little fellow to your heart a thousand-
fold.

And now, with his pale sister in the grave, all that
love has come away from the mound where worms feast,
and centres on the boy.

How you watch the storms lest they harm him ! How
often you steal to his bed late at night, and lay your
hand lightly upon the brow, where the curls cluster
thick, rising and falling with the throbbing temples, and
watch, for minutes together, the little lips half parted,
and listen your ear close to them if the breathing
be regular and sweet!



A BACHELOR'S REVERT. 147

But the day comes the night rather when you
can catch no breathing.

Ay, put your hair away, compose yourself, listen
again.

No, there is nothing !

Put your hand now to his brow, damp indend, but not
with healthful night-sleep ; it is not your hand, no, do
not deceive yourself, it is your loved boy's forehead
that is so cold ; and your loved boy will never speak to
you again, never play again : he is dead !

0, the tears, the tears; what blessed things are
tears ! Never fear now to let them fall on his forehead,
or his lip, lest you waken him ! Clasp him, clasp him
harder : you cannot hurt, you cannot waken him ! Lay
him down, gently or not, it is the same : he is stiff; he is
stark and cold.

But courage is elastic ; it is our pride. It recovers
itself easier, thought I, than these embers will get into
blaze again.

But courage and patience and faith and hope have
their limit. Blessed be the man who escapes such trial
as will determine limit !

To a lone man it comes not near ; for how can trial
take hold where there is nothing by which to try ?

A funeral ? You reason with philosophy. A grave-
yard ? You read Hervey, and muse upon the wall. A
friend dies ? You sigh, you pat your dog : it is over.
Losses ? You retrench, you light your pipe : it is
forgotten. Calumny ? You laugh, you sleep.

But with that childless wife clinging to you in love
and sorrow, what then ?



148 LITTLE CLASSICS.

Can you take down Seneca now, and coolly blow the
dust from the leaf-tops ? Can you crimp your lip with
Voltaire ? Can you smoke idly, your feet dangling with
the ivies, your thoughts all waving fancies upon a church-
yard wall, a wall that borders the grave of your boy ?

Can you amuse yourself by turning stinging Martial
into rhyme ? Can you pat your dog, and, seeing him
wakeful and kind, say, " It is enough" ? Can you sneer
at calumny, and sit by your fire dozing ?

Blessed, thought I again, is the man who escapes such
trial as will measure the limit of patience and the limit
of courage !

But the trial comes : colder and colder were growing
the embers.

That wife, over whom your love broods, is fading.
Not beauty fading ; that, now that your heart is wrapped
in her being, would be nothing.

She sees with quick eye your dawning apprehension,
and she tries hard to make that step of hers elastic.

Your trials and your loves together have centred your
affections. They are not now as when you were a lone
man, widespread and superficial. They have caught
from domestic attachments a finer tone and touch. They
cannot shoot out tendrils into barren world-soil and suck
up thence strengthening nutriment. They have grown
under the forcing- glass*of home -roof, they will not now
bear exposure.

You do not now look men in the face as if a heart-
bond was linking you, as if a community of feeling lay


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