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The Continental Monthly, Vol. 1, No. 4, April, 1862 Devoted To Literature And National Policy online

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Roman women, high and low, paddle in wine like ducks, and it never
upsets them; for, like ducks, their feet are so large that neither you
nor wine can throw them. I wish you could speak Italian, for here comes
the Princess Giacinta _con Marchese_ - '

'I wish,' said Uncle Bill, 'you would talk English.'

'Well,' continued Rocjean, 'with the Marchioness Nina Romana, if you
like that better. Shall I introduce you?'

'Certainly,' replied the old gentleman, 'and order two more what d'ye
call 'ems. It's cheap - this knowing a princess for a quart of red
teaberry tooth-wash, for that's what this "wine" amounts to. I am going
to dance to-night, for the Princess Giacinta is a complete woman after
my heart, and weighs her two hundred pound any day.'

The nobility now began begging Rocjean and Caper to introduce them to
his excellency _Il vecchio_, or the old man; and Uncle Bill, in his
enthusiasm at finding himself surrounded with so many princes,
Allegrini, Pelligrini, Sapgrini, and Dungreeny, compelled Caper to order
up a barrel of wine, set it a-tap, and tell the nobility to 'go in.' It
is needless to say that they _went_ in. Many of the costumes were very
rich, especially those of the female nobility; and in the rush for a
glass of wine the effect of the brilliant draperies flying here and
there, struggling and pushing, was notable. The musicians, who were
standing on what appeared to be barrels draped with white cloth, jumped
down and tried their luck at the wine-cask, and, after satisfying their
thirst, returned to their duties. There was a guitar, mandolin, violin,
and flute, and the music was good for dancing. Uncle Bill was pounced on
by the Princess Giacinta and whirled off into some kind of a dance, he
did not know what; round flew the room and the nobility; round flew
barrels of teaberry tooth-wash, beautiful princesses, big devils of
Antonellis. Lights, flash, hum, buzz, buzz, zzz - ooo - zoom!

Uncle Bill opened his eyes as the sunlight shed one golden bar into his
sleeping-room at the Hotel d'Europe, and there by his bedside sat his
nephew, Jim Caper, reading a letter, while on a table near at hand was a
goblet full of ice, a bottle of hock, and another bottle corked, with
string over it.

'It's so-da wa-ter,' said Uncle Bill, musing aloud.

'Hallo, uncle, you awake?' asked Caper, suddenly raising his eyes from
his letter.

'I am, my son. Give thy aged father thy blessing, and open that hock and
soda water quicker! I say, Jim, now, what became of the nobility, the
Colonnas and Aldobrandinis, after they finished that barrel? Strikes me
some of them will have an owlly appearance this morning.'

'You don't know them,' answered Caper.

'I am beginning to believe I don't, too,' spoke Uncle Bill. 'I say, now,
Jim, where did we go last night?'

'Why, Uncle Bill, to tell you the plain truth, we went to a ball at the
Costa Palace, and a model ball it was, too.'

'I have you! Models who sit for you painters. Well, if they arn't
nobility, they drink like kings, so it's all right. Give us the hock,
and say no more about it.'

* * * * *

HOWE'S CAVE.


Few persons, perhaps, are aware that Schoharie County, N.Y., contains a
cave said to be nine or ten miles in extent, and, in many respects, one
of the most remarkable in America. Its visitors are few, - owing,
probably, to its recent discovery, together with its comparative
inaccessibility; - yet these few are well rewarded for its exploration.

In the month of August, 1861, I started, with three companions, to visit
this interesting place.

I will not weary the reader by describing the beauty of the Hudson and
the grandeur of the Catskills; yet I would fain fix in my memory forever
one sunrise, seen from the summit of a bluff on the eastern bank of the
river, when the fog, gradually lifting itself from the stream, and
slowly breaking into misty fragments, unveiled broad, smiling meadows,
dark forests, village after village, while above all, far in the
distance, rose the Catskills, clear in the sunlight.

After two days crowded with enjoyment, we arrived in Schoharie, where we
passed the night. Having given orders to be called at five, we took
advantage of the leisure hour this arrangement gave us to view, the next
morning.


AN OLD FORT.

In reality, the 'fort' is a dilapidated old church, used as a shelter
during the Indian wars, and also in the days of the Revolution. On the
smooth stones that form the eastern side are carved the names of the
soldiers who defended it, with the date, and designation of the regiment
to which they belonged. I deciphered also, among other curious details,
the name of the person who 'gave the favor of the ground.' I would
gladly have indulged my antiquarian tastes by copying these rude
inscriptions; but the eager cries of my companions compelled me to hurry
on.

The western portion of the structure has also its story to tell. The
traces of besieging cannon balls are still to be distinctly seen, and in
one place I observed a smooth, round hole, made by the passage of a ball
into the interior of the fort.

As I stood on the walls of this ancient building, surveying the valley
it overlooked, with its straggling village lying at our feet, and the
fair Schoharie Creek, now gleaming in the sunlight of the meadows, or
darkening in the shade of the trees that overhung it, the past and the
present mingled strongly in my thoughts.

The Stars and Stripes, that on this very spot had seen our fathers
repelling a foreign foe, now waved over their sons, forced from their
quiet homes, not to contend with the stranger and the alien, but to
subdue those rebellious brothers whose sacrilegious hands had torn down
that sacred flag, reared amidst the trials and perils of '76. Not less
noble the present contest than the past, nor less heroic the soldier of
to-day than the patriot of the Revolution. We continue to-day the fight
they fought against injustice and oppression - a conflict that will end
only when every nation and every race shall lift unshackled hands up to
God in thanksgiving for the gift of freedom. A deeper love of my
country, and a firmer trust in the God of truth and justice, sank into
my heart as I turned away from those rude walls, sacred to the memory of
departed valor.

We hurried back to the breakfast that awaited us, and then drove to

THE CAVE,

which lies six miles from the village of Schoharie. The entrance is at
the base of a heavily-wooded mountain that shuts in a secluded little
valley. The only opening from this solitary vale is made by a small
stream that winds out from among the hills. The entire seclusion of the
place has prevented its earlier discovery; but the inevitable 'Hotel'
now rears its wooden walls above the cave to encourage future
adventurers to explore its recesses.

In the absence of the proprietor of the hotel, who usually acts as
cicerone, we took as guide a sun-burnt young man, with an economical
portion of nose, closely cut hair, and a wiry little mouth, which we saw
at a glance would open only at the rate of a quarter of a dollar a fact.
He proved himself, however, shrewd, witty, and, withal, good-natured,
and as fond of a joke as any one of us all. Bob, for so our new
companion named himself, showed us at once into a dressing-room,
advising us to put on, over our own garments, certain exceedingly coarse
and ragged coats, hats and pants, which transformed us at once from
rather fashionable young men into a set of forlorn-looking beggars. Each
laughed at the appearance of the other, unconscious of his own
transformation; but Bob, with more truth than politeness, informed us
that we all 'looked like the Old Nick;' whence it appeared that in Bob's
opinion the Enemy is usually sorely afflicted with a shabby wardrobe,
and that, in the words of the sage,

'Poverty is the devil.'


Being furnished with small oil lamps, we descended to the mouth of the
cave. This opens at once into an entrance-hall, one hundred and fifty
feet in length and thirty in width, and high enough for a tall man to
enter upright.

I inquired of Bob when the cave was discovered. 'In 1842,' he replied.
'And by whom?' I continued. 'Why,' rejoined our guide, 'Mister Howe was
a huntin' for caves, and he came across this one.' Rather a queer thing
to be hunting for, I thought, though without comment; but in future I
allowed Bob to carry on the conversation as best suited himself. He
plunged at once into a dissertation on the state of the country, gravely
stating that 'Washington was taken.' At the involuntary smile which this
astounding piece of news called forth, Bob confessed 'he might be
mistaken in this respect, as his paper came but once a week, and
frequently only once in two weeks.' Finding him a stanch Union man, and
inclined to serve his country to the best of his ability, we undertook
'to post him up' on the present state of affairs, for which the poor
fellow was truly grateful.

Entrance Hall leads into Washington Hall, a magnificent apartment, three
hundred feet long, and in the lowest part upwards of forty feet high.
Our guide favored us at every turn with some new story or legend,
repeated in a sing-song, nasal tone, ludicrously contrasting with the
extravagance of the tales themselves. Yet he recited all alike with the
most immovable gravity. It was a lively waltz of three notes.

Old Tunnel and Giant's Chapel, two fine cave-rooms, were next explored.
On entering the latter, Bob favored us with the rehearsal of an old
story from the Arabian Nights, which - unfortunately, not one which will
bear repetition - he wished us to believe actually happened in this very
locality.

I may here confess that, when we came to 'the dark hole in the ground,'
I felt some slight reluctance to trust myself therein. Bob, observing
this, immediately drew from his lively imagination such an astonishing
increase of the perils of the way, looking complacently at me all the
while, that my alarm, strange to say, took flight at once, and I pushed
onward defiantly. The journey is, however, one that might justly inspire
timidity. Above our heads, and on each side, frowned immense rocks,
threatening at every instant to fall upon us; while the dash and babble
of a stream whose course we followed, increasing in volume as we
progressed, came to our ears like the 'sound of many waters.' We crossed
this stream a hundred times, at least, in our journey. Sometimes it
murmured and fretted in a chasm far below us; again, it spread itself
out in our very path, or danced merrily at our side, until it seemed to
plunge into some distant abyss with the roar of a cataract.

We emerged from the windings of our tortuous path into Harlem Tunnel, a
room six hundred feet in length. In its sides were frequent openings,
leading into hitherto unexplored parts of the cave; but we did not
venture to enter many of these. Never have I seen such rocks as we here
encountered; at one time piled up on one another, ready to totter and
fall at a touch; at another, jutting out in immense boulders, sixty feet
above our heads, while, in the openings they left, we gazed upward into
darkness that seemed immeasurable.

From Harlem Tunnel we came into Cataract Hall, also of great length, and
remarkable for containing a small opening extending to an unknown
distance within the mountain, since it apparently cannot be explored.
Applying the ear to this opening, the sound of an immense cataract
becomes audible, pouring over the rocks far within the recesses of the
mountain, where the Creator alone, who meted out those unseen, sunless
waters, can behold its beauty and its terror.

Crossing the Pool of Siloam, whose babbling waters sparkled into beauty
as we held our lamps above them, we entered Franklin Hall. Here the
roof, although high enough in some places, is uncomfortably low in
others; whereupon Bob bade us give heed to the caution of Franklin,
'Stoop as you go, and you will miss many hard thumps.'

We arrived next at Flood Hall, where a party of explorers were once put
in great peril by a sudden freshet in the stream. They barely saved
themselves by rapid flight, the water becoming waist-deep before they
gained the entrance. We had no reason to doubt the truth of this story,
as there were evidences of the rise and fall of water all about us.

Congress Hall now awaited us, but I will omit a description of it, as
Musical Hall, which immediately succeeded, contains so much more that is
interesting. On entering, our attention was first directed to an
aperture wide enough for the admission of a man's head. Any sound made
in this opening is taken up and repeated by echo after echo, till the
very spirit of music seems awakened. Wave after wave of melodious sound
charms the ear, even if the first awakening note has been most
discordant. If the soul is filled with silent awe while listening to the
unseen waterfall in Cataract Hall, it is here wooed into peace by a
harmony more perfect than any produced by mortal invention. A
temple-cavern vaster than Ellora with a giant 'lithophone' for organ!

The second wonder of Musical Hall is a lake of great extent, and from
ten to thirty feet in depth. The smooth surface of these crystal waters,
never ruffled by any air of heaven, and undisturbed save by the dip of
our oars as we were ferried across, the utter darkness that hid the
opposite shore from our straining sight, the huge rocks above, whose
clustering stalactites, lighted by our glimmering lamps, sparkled like a
starry sky, the sound of the far-off waterfall, softened by distance
into a sad and solemn music, all united to recall with a vivid power,
never before felt, the passage of the 'pious √Жneas' over the Styx, which
I had so often read with delight in my boyhood. I half fancied our
Yankee Bob fading into a vision of the classic Charon, and that the
ghosts of unhappy spirits were peering at us from the darkness.

At the end of the lake is Annexation Rock, a huge limestone formation in
the shape of an egg. It stands on one end, is twenty-eight feet in
diameter, and over forty in height.

We were now introduced into Fat Man's Misery, where the small and
attenuated have greatly the advantage. We emerged from this narrow and
difficult passage into the Museum, half a mile long, and so called from
the number and variety of its formations. We did not linger to examine
its curiosities, but pushed on over the Alps, which we surmounted, aided
partly by ladders. Very steep and rugged were these Alps, and quite
worthy of the name they bear. We descended from them into the Bath-room,
where a pool of water and sundry other arrangements suggest to a lively
imagination its designation. It certainly has the recommendation of
being the most retired bath-room ever known. That of the Neapolitan
sibyl is public in comparison to it.

We then entered Pirate's Retreat. Why so named, I can not guess, for I
doubt if the boldest pirate who ever sailed the 'South Seas o'er' would
dare venture alone so far underground as we now found ourselves.

Leaving the Pirate's Retreat, we were obliged to cross the Rocky
Mountains, similar in formation and arrangement to the Alps. The Rocky
Mountains lead into Jehoshaphat's Valley, one mile in length. Like its
namesake, this valley is a deep ravine, with steep, rugged sides, and a
brawling brook running at the bottom.

Miller's Hall next claims our attention. Here we take leave of the
brook, which, with the cave, loses itself in a measureless ravine, where
the rocks have fallen in such a manner as to obstruct any further
explorations.

From thence, turning to the right, we enter Winding Way, a most
appropriate name for the place. The narrow passage turns and twists
between masses of solid rook, high in some places, and low in others.
The deathlike silence of the solitude that surrounded us impressed us
with a vague feeling of fear, and we felt no disposition to tempt the
Devil's Gangway, especially as, in consequence of a recent freshet, it
was partly filled with water. Our guide informed us that beyond the
Gangway were several rooms, among which Silent Chamber and Gothic Arch
were the most noteworthy. The portion of the cave visited by tourists
terminates in the 'Rotunda,' eight miles from the entrance; although
explorations have been made some miles further. The Rotunda is
cylindrical in shape, fifteen feet in diameter, and one hundred feet in
height.

We were now in a little room six miles from the mouth of the cave, and
thought the present a good opportunity to try the effect of the absence
of light and sound on the mind. Extinguishing our lights, therefore, we
resigned ourselves to the influences of darkness and silence. To realize
such a state fully, one must find one's self in the bowels of the earth,
as we were, where the beating of our own hearts alone attested the
existence of life. We were glad to relight our lamps and begin our
return to upper air.

I have already mentioned Annexation Rock; near it is another curious
freak of nature, called the Tree of the World's History. It resembles
the stump of a tree two feet in diameter, and cut off two feet above the
ground, upon which a portion of the trunk, six feet in length, is
exactly balanced. A singular type of the changes which time makes in the
world above-ground.

In the Museum, whose examination we had postponed till our return, we
were lost in a world of wonders. It were vain to attempt to describe or
even enumerate half of the various objects that met us at every turn.
Churches, towers, complete with doors and windows, as if finished by the
hand of an architect; an organ, its long and short pipes arranged in
perfect order; Lot's Wife, a figure in stone, life size; in another
place two women, in long, flowing garments, standing facing each other,
as if engaged in earnest conversation, and a soldier in complete
armor, - these were among the most striking of the larger objects. The
vegetable world was also well represented. Here was a bunch of carrots,
fresh as if just taken from the ground, sheaves of wheat, bunches of
grain and grass hanging from the walls and roofs. Interspersed were
birds of every species, doves in loving companionship, sparrows, and
hawks. I noticed also in one place a pair of elephant's ears perfect as
life. Indeed it was not difficult to believe that these stony semblances
had once been endowed with life, and, ere blight or decay could change,
had been transmuted into things of imperishable beauty.

While waiting for our guide to unmoor the boat, which was to take us
over the lake a second time, I ran up the bank to look at the
stalactites that hung in the greatest profusion above the water. The
light of my lamp shining through them produced an effect as surprising
as it was beautiful. But no words can do justice to the scene. Imagine
an immense room whose ceiling is studded with icicles forming every
conceivable curve and angle, and you will have only a faint idea of the
number and variety of these subterranean ornaments.

A mile from the entrance we found some stray bats, - the first living
creatures we had met. We endeavored to attract them by holding up our
lamps, and succeeded so well that we were glad to leave them behind us
as soon as possible.

It is a singular fact, noted by other cave-explorers, and confirmed by
our own experience, that while within a cave one's usual vigor and
activity appears augmented. A slight reaction takes place on coming out
into the upper world, and renders rest doubly refreshing and grateful.

Let me, in closing, advise other visitors to Howe's Cave to choose _fair
weather, and take time enough_ for their visit, as the windings of the
cave and its curiosities are alike exhaustless.

* * * * *

POTENTIAL MOODS


I sit and dream
Of the time that prophets have long foretold,
Of an age surpassing the age of gold,
Which the eyes of the selfish can never behold,
When truth and love shall be owned supreme.

I think and weep
O'er the thousands oppressed by sin and woe,
O'er the long procession of those who go,
Through ignorance, error, and passions low,
To the unsought bed of their dreamless sleep.

I wait and long
For the sway of justice, the rule of right;
For the glad diffusion of wisdom's light;
For the triumph of liberty over might;
For the day when the weak shall be free from the strong.

I work and sing
To welcome the dawn of the fairer day,
When crime and sin shall have passed away,
When men shall live as well as they pray,
And earth with the gladness of heaven shall ring.

I trust and hope
In the tide of God's love that unceasingly rolls,
In the dear words of promise that bear up our souls,
In the tender compassion that sweetly consoles,
When in death's darkened valley we tremblingly grope.

I toil and pray
For the beauty excelling all forms of art;
For the blessing that comes to the holy heart;
For the hope that foretells, and seems a part
Of the life and joy of the heavenly day.

* * * * *

THE TRUE INTEREST OF NATIONS.


For a litigious, quarrelsome, fighting animal, man is very fond of
peace. He began to shed blood almost as soon as he began to go alone in
company with his nearest relatives; and when Abel asked of Cain, 'Am I
not a man and a brother?' the latter, instead of giving him the hug
fraternal, did beat him to death. Cain's only object, it should seem,
was a quiet life, and Abel had disturbed his repose by setting up a
higher standard of excellence than the elder brother could afford to
maintain. It was only to 'conquer a peace' that Cain thus acted. He
desired 'indemnity for the past and security for the future,' and so he
took up arms against his brother and ended him. He loved peace, but he
did not fear war, because he was the stronger party of the two, his
weapons being as ready for action as the British navy is ready for it
to-day; and Abel was as defenceless as we were a twelvemonth ago. Cain
is the type of all mankind, who know that peace is better than war, but
who rush into war under the pressure of envy and pride. Ancient as
violence is, it is not so old as peace; and it is for peace that all
wars are made, at least by organized communities. All peoples have in
their minds the idea of a golden age, not unlike to that time so vividly
described by Hesiod, when men were absolutely good, and therefore happy;
living in perfect accord on what the earth abundantly gave them,
suffering neither illness nor old age, and dying as calmly as they had
lived. Historical inquiry has so far shaken belief in the existence of
any such time as that painted by the poet, that men have agreed to place
it in the future. It has never been, but it is to be. It will come with
that 'coming man,' who travels so slowly, and will be by him
inaugurated, a boundless millennial time. In the mean time contention
prevails; 'war's unequal game' is played with transcendent vigor, and at
a cost that would frighten the whole human race into madness were it
incurred for any other purpose. But, while fighting, men have kept their
eyes steadily fixed upon peace, which is to be the reward of their valor
and their pecuniary sacrifices. Every warlike time has been followed by
a period in which strenuous exertions have been made to make peace
perpetual. Never was there a more profound desire felt for peace than
that which prevailed among the Romans of the Augustan age, after a
series of civil and foreign wars yet unparalleled in the history of
human struggles. One poet could denounce the first forger of the iron
sword as being truly brutal and iron-hearted; and another could declare
it to be the 'mission' of the Romans only to impose terms of peace upon
barbarians, who should be compelled to accept quiet as a boon, or endure
it as a burden. Strange sentiments were these to proceed from the land
of the legions, but they expressed the current Roman opinion, which
preferred even dishonor to war. So was it after the settlement of Europe
in 1815. A generation that had grown up in the course of the greatest of
modern contests produced the most determined and persistent advocates of
the 'peace-at-any-price' policy; and for forty years peace was preserved
between the principal Christian nations, through the exertions of
statesmen, kings, philanthropists, and economists, who, if they could
agree in nothing else, were almost unanimous in the opinion that war was
an expensive folly, and that the first duty of a government was to


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Online LibraryVariousThe Continental Monthly, Vol. 1, No. 4, April, 1862 Devoted To Literature And National Policy → online text (page 9 of 21)