The library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) online

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strange nervous temperament, knew that the



existence within his dwelling-place of any book
not of his own special kind would impart to
him the sort of feeling of uneasy horror which
a bee is said to feel when an earwig comes into
its cell. Presentation copies by authors were
among the chronic torments of his existence.
While the complacent author was perhaps
pluming himself on his liberality in making
the judicious gift, the recipient was pouring
out all his sarcasm, which was not feeble or
slight, on the odious object, and wondering
why an author could have entertained against
him so steady and enduring a malice as to take
the trouble of writing and printing all that
rubbish with no better object than disturbing
the peace of mind of an inoffensive old man.
Every tribute from such dona ferentes cost him
much uneasiness and some want of sleep for
what could he do with it? It was impossible
to make merchandise of it, for he was every
inch a gentleman. He could not burn it, for
under an acrid exterior he had a kindly nature.
It was believed, indeed, that he had established
some limbo of his own, in which such unwel-
come commodities were subject to a kind of
burial or entombment, where they remained
in existence, yet were decidedly outside the
circle of his household gods.

These gods were a pantheon of a very extra-
ordinary description, for he was a hunter after
other things besides books. His acquisitions
included pictures, and the various commodities
which, for want of a distinctive name, auc-
tioneers call " miscellaneous articles of vertu."
He started on his accumulating career with
some old family relics, and these, perhaps, gave
the direction to his subsequent acquisitions,
for they were all, like his books, brought to-
gether after some self-willed and peculiar law
of association that pleased himself. A bad,
even an inferior picture he would not have
for his taste was exquisite unless, indeed, it
had some strange history about it, adapting it
to his wayward fancies, and then he would
adopt the badness as a peculiar recommenda-
tion, and point it out with some pungent and
appropriate remark to his friends. But though,
with these peculiar exceptions, his works of
art were faultless, no dealer could ever calculate
on his buying a picture, however high a work
of art or great a bargain. With his ever-
accumulating collection, in which tiny sculp-
ture and brilliant colour predominated, he kept
a sort of fairy world around him. But each
one of the mob of curious things he preserved
had some story linking it with others, or with
his peculiar fancies, and each one had its pre-
cise place in a sort of epos, as certainly as each

of the persons in the confusion of a pantomime
or a farce has his own position and functions.

After all, he was himself his own greatest
curiosity. He had come to manhood just after
the period of gold-laced waistcoats, small-
clothes, and shoe- buckles, otherwise he would
have been long a living memorial of these now
antique habits. It happened to be his lot to
preserve down to us the earliest phase of the
pantaloon dynasty. So, while the rest of the
world were booted or heavy shod, his silk-
stockinged feet were thrust into pumps of early
Oxford cut, and the predominant garment was
the surtout, blue in colour, and of the original
make before it came to be called a frock.
Round his neck was wrapped an ante-Brum-
melite neckerchief (not a tie), which projected
in many wreaths like a great poultice and so
he took his walks abroad, a figure which he
could himself have turned into admirable

One of the mysteries about him was, that
his clothes, though unlike any other person's,
were always old. This characteristic could not
even be accounted for by the supposition that
he had laid in a sixty years' stock in his youth,
for they always appeared to have been a good
deal worn. The very umbrella was in keeping
it was of green silk, an obsolete colour ten
years ago and the handle was of a peculiar
crosier-like formation in cast-horn, obviously
not obtainable in the market. His face was
ruddy, but not with the ruddiness of youth;
and, bearing on his head a Brutus wig of the
light-brown hair which had long ago legiti-
mately shaded his brow, when he stood still
except for his linen, which was snowy white
one might suppose that he had been shot and
stuffed on his return home from college, and
had been sprinkled with the frowzy mouldiness
which time imparts to stuffed animals and
other things, in which a semblance to the
freshness of living nature is vainly attempted
to be preserved. So if he were motionless; but
let him speak, and the internal freshness was
still there, an ever-blooming garden of intellec-
tual flowers. His antiquated costume was no
longer grotesque it harmonized with an anti-
quated courtesy and high-bred gentleness of
manner, which he had acquired from the best
sources, since he had seen the first company in
his day, whether for rank or genius. And
conversation and manner were far from ex-
hausting his resources. He had a wonderful
pencil it was potent for the beautiful, the
terrible, and the ridiculous; but it took a way-
ward wilful course, like everything else about
him. He had a brilliant pen, too, when he



chose to wield it; but the idea that he should
exercise any of these his gifts in common dis-
play before the world, for any even of the
higher motives that make people de.sire fame
and praise, would have sickened him. His
faculties were his own as much as his collection,
and to be used according to his caprice and
pleasure. So fluttered through existence one
who, had it been his fate to have his own bread
to make, might have been a great man. Alas
for the end! Some curious annotations are all
that remain of his literary powers some draw-
ings and etchings in private collections all of
his artistic. His collection, with its long train
of legends and associations, came to what he
himself must have counted as dispersal. He
left it to his housekeeper, who, like a wise
woman, converted it into cash while its mys-
terious reputation was fresh. Huddled in a
great auction-room, its several catalogued items
lay in humiliating contrast with the decorous
order in which they were wont to be arranged.
Sic transit gloria mundl.

The Book-Hunter.



O joyful hour, when to our longing home
The long-expected wheels at length drew nigh!

When the first sound went forth, "They come! they

come ! "
And hope's impatience quickened every eye!

"Never had man, whom Heaven would heap with bliss,

More glad return, more happy hour than this."

Aloft on yonder bench, with arms dispread,
My boy stood shouting there his father's name,

Waving his hat around his happy head;
And there, a younger group, his sisters came;

Smiling they stood, with looks of pleased surprise,

While tears of joy were seen in elder eyes.

Soon each and all came crowding round to share
The cordial greeting, the beloved sight;

What welcomings of hand and lip were there!
And when those overflowings of delight

Subsided to a sense of quiet bliss,

Life hath no purer, deeper happiness.

Here silently between her parents stood

My dark-eyed Bertha, timid as a dove;
And gently oft from time to time she wooed

Pressure of hand, or word, or look of love,
With impulse shy of bashful tenderness,
Soliciting again the wished caress.

The younger twain, in wonder lost were they,

My gentle Kate, and my sweet Isabel:
Long of our promised coming, day by day

It had been their delight to hear and tell;
And now, when that long-promised hour was come,
j Surprise and wakening memory held them dumb.

For in the infant mind, as in the old,
When to its second childhood life declines,

A dim and troubled power doth memory hold:
But soon the light of young remembrance shines

Renewed, and influences of dormant love

Wakened within, with quickening influence move.

O happy season theirs, when absence brings
Small feeling of privation, none of pain,

Yet at the present object love re-springs,
As night-closed flowers at morn expand again 1

Nor deem our second infancy unblejs'd,

When gradually composed we sink to rest.

Soon they grew blithe, as they were wont to be;

Her old endearments each began to seek:
And Isabel drew near to climb my knee,

And pat with fondling hand her father s cheek;
With voice, and touch, and look, reviving thus
The feelings which had slept in long disuse.

But there stood one whose heart could entertain
And comprehend the fulness of the joy;

The father, teacher, playmate, was again
Come to his only and his studious boy;

And he beheld again that mother's eye,

Which with such ceaseless care had watched his infancy.

It was a group which Richter, had he viewed.
Might have deemed worthy of his perfect skill;

The keen impatience of the younger brood,
Their eager eyes and fingers never still;

The hope, the wonder, and the restless joy

Of those glad girls, and that vociferous boy I

The aged friend serene with quiet smile,

Who in their pleasure finds her own delight;

The mother's heartfelt happiness the while;
The aunts, rejoicing in the joyful sight;

And he who, in his gaiety of heart,

With glib and noisy tongue performed the showman's

Scoff ye who will ! but let me, gracious Heaven,
Preserve this boyish heart till life's List day 1

For so that inward light by nature given
Shall still direct and cheer me on my w.iy;

And brightening as the shades of age descend,

Shine forth with heavenly radiance at the end.

Iht Pott'g Pilgrimage to Waterloo,





On a recent journey to the Pennsylvania oil
regions, I stopped one evening with a fellow-
traveller at a village which had just been
thrown into a turmoil of excitement by the
exploits of a horse-thief As we sat around
the tavern hearth, after supper, we heard the
particulars of the rogue's capture and escape
fully discussed; then followed many another
tale of theft and robbery, told amid curling
puffs of tobacco-smoke; until, at the close of
an exciting story, one of the natives turned to
my travelling acquaintance, and, with a broad
laugh, said, "Kin you beat that, stranger?"

"Well, I don't know, maybe I could if I
should try. I never happened to fall in with
any such tall horse-stealing as you tell of, but
I knew a man who stole a meeting-house

"Stole a meetin'-house! That goes a little
beyant anything yit," remarked another of the
honest villagers. "Ye don't mean he stole it
and carried it away?"

"Stole it and carried it away," repeated my
travelling companion, seriously, crossing his
legs, and resting his arm on the back of his
chair. "And, more than all that, I helped
him. "

"How happened that? for you don't look
much like a thief yourself."

All eyes were now turned upon my friend,
a plain New England fanner, whose honest
homespun appearance and candid speech com-
manded respect.

" I was his hired man, and I acted under
orders. His name was Jedwort Old Jed wort
the boys called him, although he wasn't above
fi!"ty when the crooked little circumstance hap-
pened, which I'll make as straight a story of
as I can, if the company would like to hear it."

"Sartin, stranger! sartin! about stealin' the
meetin'-house," chimed in two or three voices.

My friend cleared his throat, put his hair
behind his ears, and with a grave, smooth face,
but with a merry twinkle in his shrewd gray
eye, began as follows :

"Jedwort, I said his name was; and I shall
never forget how he looked one particular
morning. He stood leaning on the front gate

1 From Coupon BomJt and nther Stoi-iet. Boston: J.
R. Oagnod & Co. London: Trtibner. See Library, p.
377, vol. ii.

or rather on the post, for the gate itself was
such a shackling concern a child couldn't have
leaned on't without breaking it down. And
Jedwort was no child. Think of a stoutish,
stooping, duck-legged man, with a mountain-
ous back, strongly suggestive of a bag of grist
under his shirt, and you have him. That
imaginary grist had been growing heavier and
heavier, and he more and more bent under it,
for the last fifteen years and more, until his
head and neck just came forward out from
between his shoulders like a turtle's from its
shell. His arms hung, as he walked, almost
to the ground. Being curved with the elbows
outward, he looked for all the world, in a front
view, like a waddling interrogation-point en-
closed in a parenthesis. If man was ever a
quadrupled, as I've heard some folks tell, and
rose gradually from four legs to two, there
must have been a time, very early in his his-
tory, when he went about like Old Jedwort.

"The gate had been a very good gate in its
day. It had even been a genteel gate whea
Jedwort came into possession of the place by
marrying his wife, who inherited it from her
uncle. That was some twenty years before,
and even-thing had been going to rack and
ruin ever since.

"Jedwort himself had been going to rack and
ruin, morally speaking. He was a middling
decent sort of man when I first knew him; and
I judge there must have been something about
him more than common, or he never could
have got such a wife. But then women do
marry sometimes unaccountably.

" I speak with feeling on this subject, for I
had an opportunity of seeing what Mrs. Jedwort
had to put up with from a man no woman of
her stamp could do anything but detest. She
was the patientest creature you ever saw. She
was even too patient. If I had been tied to
such a cub, I think I should have cultivated
the beautiful and benignant qualities of a wild
cat; there would have been one good fight, and
one of us would have been living, and the
other would have been dead, and that would
have been the end of it. But Mrs. Jedwort
bore and bore untold miseries, and a large
number of children. She bad had nine of
these, and three were under the sod and six
above it when Jedwort ran off with the meet-
ing-house in the way I am going on to tell
you. There was Maria, the oldest girl, a per-
I feet picture of what her mother had been at
nineteen. Then there were the two boys, Dave
and Dan, fine young fellows, spite of their
father. Then came Lottie and Susie, and then
Willie, a little four-year-old.



" It was amazing to see what the mother
would do to keep her family looking decent
with the little means she had. For Jedwort
was the tightest screw ever you saw. It was
avarice thnt had spoiled him, and came so near
turning him into a beast. The boys used to
say he jrew so bent looking in the dirt for
pennL'o. That was true of his mind, if not of
his body. He was a poor man, and a pretty
respectable man, when he married his wife;
but he had no sooner come into possession of a
little property tnan he grew crazy for more.
There are a good many men iu the world, that
nobody looks upon as monomaniacs, who are
crazy in just that sort of way. They are all
for laying up money, depriving themselves of
comforts, and their families of the advantages
of society and education, just to add a few
dollars to their hoard every year; and so they
keep on till they die and leave it to their chil-
dren, who would be much better off if a little
more had been invested in the cultivation of
their minds ana manners, and less in stocks
and bonds.

"Jedwort was just one of that class of men,
although perhaps he carried the fault I speak
of a little to excess. A dollar looked so big to
him, and he held it so close, that at last he
couldn't sea much of anything else. By de-
grees he lost all regard for decency and his
neighbours' opinions. His children went bare-
foot, even after they got to be great boys and
girls, because he was too mean to buy them
shoes. It was pitiful to see a nice, interesting
girl like Maria, go about looking as she did,
while her father was piling his money into the
bank. She wanted to go to school and learn
music, and be somebody; but he wouldn't
keep a hired girl, and so she was obliged to
stay at home and do housework; and she could
no more have got a dollar out of him to pay
for clothes and tuition, than you could squeeze
sap out of a hoe-handle.

"The only way his wife could ever get any-
thing new for the family was by stealing butter
from her own dairy, and selling it behind his
back. ' You needn't say anything to Mr. Jed-
wort about this batch of butter," she would
hint to the storekeeper; 'but you may hand
the money to me, or I will take my pay in
goods.' In this way a new gown, or a piece of
cloth for the boys' coats, or something else the
family needed, would be smuggled into the
house, with fear and trembling lest old Jed-
wort should make a row and find where the
money came from.

"The house inside was kept neat as a pin;
but everything around it looked terribly shift-


less. It was built originally in an ambitious
style, and painted white. It had four tall
front pillars, supporting the portion of the
roof that came over the porch, lifting up the
eyebrows of the house, if I may so express
myself, and making it look as if it was going
to sneeze. Half the blinds were off their
hinges, and the rest napped in the wind. The
front-door step had rotted away. The porch
had once a good floor, but for years Jedwort
had been in the habit of going to it whenever
he wanted a board for the pig-pen, until not a
bit of floor was left.

"But I began to tell about Jedwert leaning
on the gate that morning. We had all noticed
him; and as Dave and I brought in the milk,
his mother asked, ' What is your father plan-
ning now? Half the time he stands there,
looking up the road; or else he's walking up
that way in a brown study.'

" ' He's got his eyeon the old meeting-house,'
says Dave, setting down his pail. ' He has been,
watching it and walking round it, off and on,,
for a week.'

"That was the first intimation I had of
what the old fellow was up to. But after-
breakfast he followed me out of the house, as
if he had something on his mind to say to-

"'Stark,' says he at last, 'you've always-
insisted on't that I wasn't an enterprisin-'

" ' I insist on't still,' says I; for I was in the;
habit of talking mighty plain to him, and
joking him pretty hard sometimes. ' If I'
had this farm, I'd show you enterprise. You;
wouldn't see the hogs in the garden half the:
time, just for want of a good fence to keep 'em
out. You wouldn't see the very best strip of
land lying waste, just for want of a ditch. You.
wouldn't see that stone wall by the road tum-
bling down year after year, till by-and-by you
won't be able to see it for the weeds and

" 'Yes,' says he, sarcastically, 'ye'd lay out
ten times as much money on the place as ye'd
ever git back agin, I've no doubt. But I believe
in economy.'

"That provoked me a little, and I said,
'Economy! you're one of the kind of men
that'll skin a flint for sixpence and spoil a
jack-knife worth a shilling. You waste fodder
and grain enough every three years to pay for
a bigger barn to say nothing of the incon-

' ' ' Wai, Stark,' says he, grinning and scratch-
ing his head, ' I've made up my mind to har
a bigger barn, if I have to steal one. '



" 'That won't be the first thing you've stole
neither,' says I.

"He flared up at that. 'Stole?' says he.
'What did I ever steal?'

" ' Well, for one thing, the rails the freshet
last spring drifted off from Talcott's land onto
yours, and you grabbed: what was that but

" ' That was luck. He couldn't swear to his
rails. By the way, they'll jest come in play now. '

"'They've come in play already,' says I.
'They've gone on to the old fences all over the
farm, and I could use a thousand more without
making much show.'

"'That's 'cause you're so dumbed extrava-
gant with rails, as you are with everything
else. A few loads can be spared from the
fences here and there, as well as not. Harness
up the team, boys, and git together enough to
make about ten rods o' zigzag, two rails high.'

" 'Two rails?' says Dave, who had a healthy
contempt for the old man's narrow, contracted
way of doing things. ' What's the good of
such a fence as that?'

"'It'll be,' says I, 'like the single bar in
music. When our old singing-master asked
his class once what a single bar was, Bill Wil-
.kins spoke up and said, ' It's a bar that horses
and cattle jump over, and pigs and sheep run
under. ' What do you expect to keep out with
two rails?'

" 'The law, boys, the law,' says Jedwort.
'I know what I'm about. I'll make a fence
the law can't run under nor jump over; and I
don't care a cuss for the cattle and pigs. You
git the rails, and I'll rip some boards off 'm the
pig-pen to make stakes.'

" 'Boards a'n't good for nothin' for stakes,'
says Dave. ' Besides, none can't be spared
from the pig- pen.'

" ' I'll have boards enough in a day or two
for forty pig-pens, ' says Jedwort. ' Bring along
the rails, and dump 'em out in the road for
the present, and say nothin' to nobody.'

"We got the rails, and he made his stakes;
and right away after dinner he called us out.
'Come, boys,' says he, 'now we'll astonish the
natives. '

"The waggon stood in the road, with the
last jag of rails still on it. Jedwort piled on
his stakes, and threw on the crowbar and axe,
while we were hitching up the team.

" 'Now, drive on, Stark,' says he.

" 'Yes; but where shall I drive to?"

" ' To the old meetin'-house,' says Jedwort,
trudging on ahead.

"The old meeting-house stood on an open
common, at the north-east corner of his farm.

A couple of cross-roads bounded it on two sides;
and it was bounded on the other two by Jed-
wort's overgrown stone wall. It was a square,
old-fashioned building, with a low steeple, that
had a belfry, but no bell in it, and with a high
square pulpit and high straight-backed pews
inside. It was now some time since meetings
had been held there; the old society that used
to meet there having separated, one division of
it building a fashionable chapel in the North
Village, and the other a nue new church at
the Centre.

"Now, the peculiarity about the old church
property was, that nobody had any legal title
to it. A log meeting-house had been built
there when the country was first settled and
land was of no account. In the course of time
that was torn down, and a good framed house
put up in its place. As it belonged to the
whole community, no title, either to the house
or land, was ever recorded; and it wasn't until
after the society dissolved that the question
came up as to how the property was to be dis-
posed of. While the old deacons were carefully
thinking it over, Jedwort was on hand to settle
it by putting in his claim.

"'Now, boys,' says he, 'ye see what I'm
up to.'

" ' Yes,' says I, provoked as I could be at
the mean trick, 'and I knew it was some such
mischief all along. You never show any en-
terprise, as you call it, unless it is to get the
start of a neighbour. '

" 'But what are you up to, pa?' says Dan,
who didn't see the trick yet.

"The old man says, 'I'm goin' to fence in
the rest part of my farm.'

" 'What rest part?'

" 'This part that never was fenced; the old
meetin'-house common.'

" 'But, pa,' says Dave, disgusted as I was,
'you've no claim on that.'

" 'Wai, if I ha'n't, I'll make a claim. Give
me the crowbar. Now, here's the corner, nigh
as I can squint;' and he stuck the bar into the
ground. 'Make a fence to here from the wall,
both sides. Now work spry, for there comes
Deacon Talcott.'

" 'Wai, wal!' says the Deacon, coming up,
puffing with excitement; 'what ye doin' to the
old meetin'-house?'

" 'Wal,' says Jedwort, driving away at his
stakes, and never looking up, 'I've been con-
siderin' some time what I should do with 't,
and I've concluded to make a barn on 't.'

'"Make a barn! make a barn!' cries the
Deacon. ' Who give ye liberty to make a barn
of the house of God?'



" ' Nobody ; I take the liberty. Why
shouldn't I do what I please with my own

"'Your own property what do ye mean?
'T a'n't your meetin'-house.'

" ' Whose is't, if t a'n't mine?' says Jed wort,
lifting his turtle's head from between his hori-
zontal shoulders, and grinning in the Deacon's

" ' It belongs to the society,' says the Deacon.

Online LibraryUnknownThe library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) → online text (page 43 of 75)