Page images
PDF
EPUB

knows not of; who are neither burnt at the stake nor tortured in prison; who drag out days of misery and nights of tears, and at last “die and make no sign." They may never be heard of on earth, but their names are written in heaven.

As soon as the day had fairly broken, Martha set out on her journey. The air was cold, and the leaves crackled beneath her feet. The stream was rapid and foaming; but the water had frozen in eddies around withered blades of grass, and the dead leaves, like summer hopes, were whirling down the stream. She went on her way with a calm face and firm step; without haste or hesitation. It might have been that for her the bitterness of death was already past.

The “Lower Mill” was quiet as she passed it; there was no one stirring. Alf must be away, she thought, or he would have been at work at daylight But Alf's horse neighed as she passed the stable, and, with a look of surprise, she went on.

The cañon grew narrower below the mill, and the rocks rose in a perpendicular wall on either side. The road was narrower - wedged in between the rocks and the stream - and, in some places, the banks had given way. Just at a sharp angle in the road, which suddenly turned to the right, she stooped to pick up something which had caught in a branch overhanging the stream. It was Alf's hat. Almost sick with a vague fear, she knelt down and looked over the bank. There was nothing there. The water almost splashed in her face, but its clear depths did not hide what she feared. She got up and breathed more freely, as she looked across the stream, went a few paces down the road, and still saw nothing. Then she walked on slowly, watching the stream as she went.

The sun was up now, brightening the gra, cheerlessness of the early morn

ing, and dancing on the rushing water; but she started at every jet of spray, and at every quiet shallow which the sun had touched with gold. She was thinking of him as her lover, of the days when he had loved her so well — which last night had seemed so far away--and that she might have been his wife, looking for him in the cold gray of the morning, and calling for him in vain. She forgot where she was going, and that he could never be any thing to her again; nothing spoke to her then but the heart that had been so long his own.

On she went, until the cañon was wider, and the stream broader and more shallow; and then, at a sudden turn of the road — she found him. He was lying on his back in the stream, with his face upturned to the sky. He was cut and bruised, and his clothes were torn; but his lips wore a smile, as of a pleasant dream. The swift current had brought him down, and, at the sudden turn in the stream, left him in the shallows, with his back upon a rock. She dragged him to the bank, and wiped his cold face and hands, and kissed him passionately on cheek and lips and brow. He was hers now, as only death could make him ; - he was hers!

Years after, she could thank God that she had found him thus, and that mortal ears had never heard the tale she had to tell; but then she only remembered that she had found him, and he was dead. She could never hear the voice again, never see the love-light in those dear eyes, never feel that life was worth the living because he loved her. She had found him; and he was bers. Let us leave her with her dead.

For many years weeds have sprung up and snow has drifted on Alf's grave. It is the only memorial of him on earth. Perbaps he has been forgotten by all save one heart. But she will never forget him; she never loved any one but Alf.

A PROTEST AND A PLEA.

BY CELESTE M. A. Winslow.

MONTRASTS are inevitable, whether U flashed on the passive mind or consciously drawn with the design of deducing some desired conclusion. Good and evil, greatness and littleness, riches and poverty, and so on, through all the lengthening list, are ranged side by side, and the relative contrasts stand out in vivid colors. The inexorable dissimilitudes of life, in many instances so startling and painful, are ever present to some thoughtful minds; and the whole world stretches away in still more striking contrast to an unseen but fair: imagined heaven.

So, also, is the milder comparison useful and unavoidable. Degrees of talent, usefulness and beauty, have ever been subjected to critical comparison, and ever shall be. But are there not times when the adage becomes true, that “comparisons are odious ?'' Is there not a modern tendency to pursue the habit to that point when it becomes no longer profitable or legitimate?

We do not at present refer to any thing of the kind which may have been instituted between Mrs. Noveau Riche, in her crimson satin with foamy lace trimmings and diamonds; or Miss Mere dosia, in clouds of gauzy white with blue rosettes and pearls, and that long line of ancestors in chiffonnier cos tume! Neither is included Mr. Benedict's transparent reminder, at break. fast, of the bewitching loveliness of either of those ladies to his faded wife — prematurely passé under frantic en. deavors to make a little money go a great way, and the devoted care of six children and a husband more difficult to manage than any of them! That

all similar comparisons may be characterized as odious, is a foregone con. clusion.

But when Sol is compared to Luna, with the idea of deciding the question as to which is the most useful luminary, does not the effort appear absurd ? If those heavenly bodies were involved in a lofty dissension, and required the interference of sublunary minds, the discussion of their comparative merits might be pardonable; but, so long as each moves serenely in its own appointed orbit, with only an occasional eclipse, and Miss Moon declines to assert her superiority to Mr. Sun, why not accept the benefits conferred by each, and leave them alone in their respective glory?

The cry of the Present is ever toward the Past - the beautiful Past! The old man sighs over recollections of boyish sports; the matron discovers a silvered hair, and drops a regretful tear over the sweet reminiscences of girlhood. The garments of our grandmothers, though railed against by the masculine portion of society then, are now cited as robes of propriety compared with the prevail. ing styles of the present; and the modern critic laments the departure of the mist-hightened glories of centuries agone, and deplores the decadence of literature, art and oratory!

True, the literature of successive ages, and of all countries, must constantly be brought into comparison. Styles of writing prevalent at different epochs are as distinctly marked as are the various styles of drapery for the human form at successive periods. As great dissimilarity is discovered between the pedantic literature of the time of

James the First, when writings were pane.” “Ox-eyes” became epidemic cumbered with lengthy Latin quota in current literature after Mrs. Stowe's tions, or the flowery euphuism of John description of the noble animals of the Lyly, and the idiomatic style of Addi- “Roman Campagna; and “hungry eyes" son and Goldsmith, as between the ex• are always encountered in the charac. travagant court costumes of 1785 and teristic stories of Mrs. Rebecca Harding the extreme simplicity-approaching Davis. One at all conversant with her nearly to nothingness of the classical productions can not fail to recognize the costume of 1796. The fashion now in identity of the writer upon perusing any vogue of writing works of fiction for five lines of a new work. the purpose of incorporating the author's Yet it is far from the present inindividual views and sentiments con- tention to descant upon national or cerning some absorbing question of individual styles of writing. Are we the day, in which beautiful thoughts are not repeatedly startled by the sweeping twined amid the intricacies of the plot, assertion that there is no such thing as and pure morality and religion are American literature ? Books, magapleasantly inculcated, differs widely from zines and journals, teeming with the the proverbial levity of style of the productions of American minds, are French novel era. And it is curious to literally whelming the land with flutterobserve the petite fashions which obtain ing showers of printed leaves; yet we in the floating literature of the day are assured, with the critic's deep-drawn like the varying rosettes on my lady's sigh and elongated countenance, that slipper, which prevail for a time and American literature does not exist! An then are thrown aside for new.

American novel has never been written; In childhood, the mysterious allusion an American poem has yet to be pro. to “crossing the Rubicon” was so fre- duced! That an Englishman should thus quently encountered, that it actually asseverate, is not surprising; but for a produced a sensation akin to nervous. native of our own fair land to utter ness, even after the reference was made such acknowledgement, seems at least clear. Lovers invited their adored ones more generous than just. to "cross the Rubicon” with them; If the subjects and ideas of our every difficulty to be surmounted was writers are not always confined within likened to that same “Rubicon,” and provincial boundaries, is it not because had a dangerous undertaking proved the national mind is enlarged, and successful," the Rubicon was crossed!” draws inspiration from the whole world It was met the first time in years the which lies visible to the broadest vision, other day; possibly it may go the rounds and refuses to be held in bounds, as again. The “Ides of March” were others may be, by the contracted limits forever turning up at all unexpected of some sea-girt isle ? " Ah," depre. times and places, and constituted the cates the English antiquary, “ from the crisis in many an exciting narration. heroic measures of Homer to the jingling Lately every thing has been “sand- rhymes of Jean Ingelow -- what a fall wiched," from the gentleman between is there, my countrymen !" "Ah,' two ladies, to the fair day between the strain of lamentation is continued two rainy ones. Had the “British re- by that American whose entire stock freshment sangwiches" of Mugby Junc. of reverence is sent over the sea, tion any thing to do with inaugurating “Longfellow is not a Tennyson ; Julia this fashion? A heroine never looks Ward Howe is not Mrs. Browning; we out of a window now-a-days; she in- have no Swinburne!" May the latter variably “flattens her nose against the deficiency be perpetuated, say some!

So the litteratéurs of our own country are unsparingly compared with each other. We are gravely informed by some discriminating censor of the press, that Olive Logan is not Anna Dickinson ! Well, does the sparkling Olive, with her piquant sketchiness and graceful society manner, pretend to be the eloquent political orator whose thrilling sentences have fallen into the hearts of the people like words of living fire ?

A preacher delivers an eloquent digcourse upon some subject which happens to take hold upon the popular mind, and the ensuing Sabbath the congregation leave the church doors say. ing, “It is not the sermon we had last Sabbath !" But was one exactly similar to be desired? Thus the works of a popular writer are compared with preceding ones, and frequently pronounced deficient in that which pleased the public taste in the first; the same sensation is anticipated over again. Or the productions of an author are arrayed against what he may possibly accomplish in future. They are very well, perhaps, but are regarded as merely a promise of what may follow, and what inust follow, in order to win a modicum of praise.

Very little is accepted at its intrinsic value; every thing must be received relatively to what has gone before

they will be well clipped before admission among the favored.

For ourselves, we can not incline to the opinion that Infinite Power was es. hausted when Homer was created or Milton was set singing; when Plato was endowed with the mind of a philosopher, or Daniel Webster was gifted with surpassing eloquence. A dozen infantile Popes may even now be lisping their irrepressible numbers ; & dozen Bacons in pinafores may be lay. ing, by an eager consumption of lactiferous fluids, a physical foundation for the growth of that largess of wisdom yet to be dispensed to an unsuspecting world! There may be no new thing under the sun, but that assuredly necessitates the repetition of very many old ones. And if, in these later times, no half-dozen books are read and re-read as were those in the homes of past years, when that small number constituted the entire library of the family, is it not for the reason that we are literally surrounded and surfeited with volumes of value; and, possessing the many, no longer so deeply venerate the few ?

If our own country lack the mossgrown walls and ivy-crowned turrets of older lands, they, in turn, have not the broad, free prairies rolling to the sky,

"All the air a sweet pealm

And the prairie a palm, For the Lord, when He blest, left the print of His

hand."

or

of acknowledged status in the literary world may relate, in simple terms, how he walked down town and returned, and what he found for dinner, and the world will drink in the report open-mouthed and eager-eyed; while one with no prestige whatever may wander to the land of the Sphinx, and dip a finger in the Dead Sea, and none shall heed the recital. The one may draw out the lengthened sweetness over as great space as possible, and receive the greater reward; the other may condense the thronging statements into the briefest compass expedient, and be sure

If we know not the beautiful paths, worn smooth by the tread of feet long turned to dust, and thronged with continual reminders of the great and gone, yet it is ours to wander on the fresh, pure sod, and in the unaccustomed paths, where our eyes are opened to view the grandeur of a swift-coming future! If we read faint traces of ages flown, we are carried far beyond dates and footprints to that recordless time when remote antiquity was yet unborn, and a nameless race of beings dwelt in this old, new world.

Most momentous of all modern com parisons, is that of man and woman com pared with each other! Yet, as Mr. Theodore Tilton briefly suggests in bis eloquent lecture upon “The American Woman," why should they be compared ? Why, indeed? Has not a comparison been going on ever since the time when the startled Eve gazed, well-pleased upon the lovely image reflected from the glassy surface of still waters in the beautiful garden, and turned to revere the more majestic mortal at her side ? — when, also, Adam beheld his lordly semblance, yet turned satisfied to the bewitching charms of the more graceful Eve? Have not the thousands of years which have since elapsed, with all their revelations, been sufficient for the completion of the vexing comparison? If every man were like the then faultless Adam, would not every woman remain contentedly at his feet, and gratefully accept the bounteous gifts of hand and heart lavished exclusively upon her? And yet, alas! the veritable Eve went straying off to pluck for herself the rosy, low hung fruits; and what less can be ex. pected now-a-days, when lords are not too gracious, and there is not one at all for many a waiting subject, who must perforce gather for herself the “apple, quince, and plum and gourd," and furnish her own “spiced dainties every one," or do ignominiously without? For the genus woman is gifted with mind, though certain species may appear to be deficient; and mind will soar and delve, and hands will strive to obey the behests of their restless queen.

Rise, 0 man, to still loftier summits,

and scale the grander hights far in the dim advance; only deny not woman the privilege to follow 80 far as her tender feet may go, even if, at the last, she stand securely at your side! Rise, and be sure you shall receive the homage of all true women — and, if you so choose, of one above all others; but ask not that her eyes be reverentially fixed upon the empty niche where once stood her high ideal, while you are groveling low down in the unaspiring valley!

Bind us not with inexorable rules of comparison. Let each select for himself that which seems most sweet and proper and desirable, but accord the largest liberty to all who labor and strive and sing because an inner power compels. Let the graceful recital still please the willing hearer, while the fiery orator holds spell-bound the breathless multitude. Let the little birds of poesy warble their simple songs, though the nightingales of other lands thrill all the trembling air with floods of un. equaled melody, or the neighboring groves resound with tuneful strains from the noble singers of our own dear land. Let the romancer weave the tangled threads his hands may hold into a semblance of the varied web of life, though a Scott has lived, and a Dickens yet breathes a vital breath into the pliant forms that move beneath his masterly touch. And let all strive to attain the highest that in them lies, nor shrink and droop and die, with mute lips and folded hands, because of the greater ones, which have been, and are, and yet shall be.

« PreviousContinue »