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enteenth century, to the bills of Eastern Counecticut. But, though strongly tempted, I can not wander far into the past to-day.
The home of my childhood was in one of the wildest of these wild districts, sloping down to the beautiful Shetuckct. Every rock and stream, as well as every shrub and flower indigenous to the region, was as familiar to my youthful eyes as the lambs of my father's flock or tho fruits of his orehards. For no sooner were tho winter snows melted from the hills than a merry party of us went forth to seareh for the scarlet berries of the winter-green among the leaves, or for the sweet, shade-loving arbutus, with which the woods abounded. And every summer month brought some new incentive to our roving young feet. There were whole meadows of strawberries in June, thickets of whortleberries and blackberries in July, copses of hazel-nuts in August, and all the autumnal fruits in grand succession to crown the closing year.
The district school-house stood in a secluded spot—a spot too barren for the culture of any thing on earth save country lads and lasses. But these flourished well here under birehen rule, and have gone forth noble men and women to the remotest ends of the world, with a farewell to Bakertown on their lips, and rich memories of many a Bakertown frolic in their hearts. Brothers and sisters of my native district, in whatever lands the fates may have wafted you, "Long may ye wave!" Should your eyes ever fall on this simple sketch, you will be ready to bear witness to the faithfulness of tho representation.
Our school-house, like the Gospel-house, was "founded on a rock." Behind it roso a lofty ledge of granite—a natural fortification of the little seat of learning below. Every winter bastions and block-houses of snow were ranged along the summit of this ledge, and youths with martial airs, armed with strange-looking weapons, were seen going hither and thither, as though the Bakertown district were threatened with some foreign invasion. Sometimes a gay "Rob Roy" banuer would float for a few hours over the parapet. But when school was closed you might have seen the same modestly folded around the form of tho prettiest girl in the district—sweet Carrie Waldo, whose death not long after dissolved the whole parish in tears.
But the Bakertown boys became a little obstreperous at last, and as neither Brunswickers, Pudding-hillers, nor Pinch-gutters came to meet them in "battle array," they began, as larger armies have sometimes done, to seek a home ficld for action. Their weapons, which have not yet been described, became instruments of offense altogether, and led to their own destruction.
Never in any locality has the elder-shrub (Sambucus caprifolia) grown in greater luxuriance than in Bakertown. Its hedge-rows, crowned with myriads of white, umbrella-looking clusters, were the summer fragrance of tho ficlds. So valuable were these blossoms accounted in the nursery hygiene that huge bouquets were
hung to dry in tho store-room of every farmhouse, while elderberry wine found a place in the cellar amidst the choicest domestic beverages. From some person—it must have been from the parish minister, I suppose, since no one else around knew any thing about Hebrew—we learned that that nation formerly made a musical instrument of the elder wood, called a "sambuca," whence its botanical name.
It was quite too learned a name, however, for the Bakertown boys. Their own plain elder or pop-gun wood suited their tastes better, and was a good deal more significant. "Tho oldest Jew living," they used to say, boastingly, "never begun to see any thing made of elder half equal to a Bakertown pop-gun 1"
I don't know but the boys were right. I am very confident that pop-guns of such length and calibre were never seen elsewhere! And those were the weapons of the Bakertown Militia.
Every boy in school, and some of the girls too, if I recollect aright, had a gun suited to his size and capacity. Some of them were prodigious, and carried a double charge—and that, too, before the days of Colt's revolvers—not of fire and death, however, but only of tow wads. Such large arms belonged exclusively to the officers.
Some of our readers may have heard of the wag's logical way of showing the true ruler of a Conuecticut community to bo the Yankee schoolmaster, "who ruled the boys, who ruled their mothers, who ruled the men, who ruled tho roost!" One winter our time-honored ruler went to seek his fortune elsewhere, and we had a new teacher—a gentle, book-loving young man, reared in the neighborhood, consequently, prophet-like, without honor.
The old master had long been absolute. IuI subordination never prevailed in his realm, for every symptom of disobedience was most effectuI ally crushed in the bud. An adamantine barrier rose betwixt his dignity and the turbulent waves of youth, which, surge and foam as they might, could never o'erleap that boundary wall.
But another order of things came in with the new regime. Was not the pale, stripling-looking youth the crazy old huckleberry woman's son, whom the children all laughed at while listening to her strange stories? Every body in the district knew'' Granuy Woodban." She was one of the Bakertown appurtenances, living in the berry ficlds all summer, and wandering off no one knew where in winter. Her son was a scholar and a genins, and had fitted himself for college behind the plow and in the chimney-corner of tho farmer's kitchen, to whom he was "bound."
Such was the young man who had presumed to ask the district fathers for the privilege of guiding their sons and daughters a little way along the path of science, and for the consideration of ten dollars a month to outfit him for college. For which act of presumption the martial youths of the district voted him a suitable butt for pop-gun aim. As though the poor fellow's homelessness and worse than orphan lot were not sufficient for a nature sensitive as his to contend with, without the addition of insult and injury?
Meekly the new teacher commenced his work, determined to overeome by faithful, persevering kindness, the rebellious dispositions of his young subjects, and bring them all to friendly allegiance. It was a thing much more easily conceived than accomplished, however, as the poor young man discovered afterward to his sore grief and disappointment. Night after night, and day after day, did he rack his aching head for some mild means to win the refractory boys to obedience; he could devise nothing which had not been already tried. New books awoke no enthusiasm. The evening spelling schools were fully attended; sides were chosen, and every one was praised for doing well. But then, in the very face and eyes of the instructor, the victorious side would fire a pop-gun volley at its own success.
Now in all this the young master discovered more of mischief than of malice, and acted accordingly when counseled to inflict corporeal chastisement upon the offenders.
"Flog my boys soundly as they deserve," said one and another of the honest farmers, to the patient preceptor; "and if that don't supple them, we'll take 'em in hand ourselves."
It was friendly advice, and well meant; but the stripling teacher had no thought of matching his strength with the sturdy young yeomaury.
"They have been driven with too tight a check-rein already, and will come into a natural pace by-and-by," was the pleasant reply of the master.
'' Wa'al! wa'al! mebbe so 1 But mind, CharIcy, wo charge you not to let them run away with you fust. Solomon's law was a middlin' good one: 'A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back.' The lads are full on't, and no mistake."
"Full on't" they were indeed; but the longsuffering teacher was determined not to lose temper, though their pop-guns were the plague of his life. They greeted his morning advent to the school-room nud his evening departure! Yea, sometimes in the very midst of his lessons, the pop-pop told that somehow one of the big guns had discharged its twin wads; by what impetus was not plain to be seen, as every boy in school appeared most intently studious at the moment.
But one day they went a step beyond even the teacher's patience and forbearance, and a crisis was the result. It was " Committee Day"—the day when the elected officers came to visit and examine the school for the first time that season. It proved a committee of one that afternoon, as only the parish minister made his appearance. According to custom we all rose at his entrance; hut following no precedent whatever, the boys greeted his reverence with one of their tallest salutes, every one of them pushing his ramrod vigorously at the same moment.
A flush of mortification overspread the pale
face of the master, who for a full hour had been prescribing tasks and exhorting us to good behavior; then he became paler than before. I was a little girl, and sat on a low bench directly in front of the desk; and should have cried outright but for the mem' twinkle of the minister's black eyes, and the pleasant smile with which he received the salutation as though it had all been done by order of the teacher himself, and not by a band of young rebels.
It was very kind in the old man not to frown and scowl, and make bad matters worse by unfitting the poor master for the regular exereises of the afternoon. He felt it to be so, and the boys saw it in the same light, and did their very best afterward at the lessons, and kept unusually quiet during the "remarks," and in "prayertime." Moreover, when going home from school that night, they declared they would make Parson Fisher their chaplain, as he knew how to appreciate an honor.
But the days of the Bakertown Militia were numbered. The next morning the teacher appeared with a countenance as serenely mild as ever, though some of the boys afterward affirmed they saw a tiger in his eye from the first.
"We will omit the usual excreisjs this morning," he said, pleasantly. "I think it would be better to have a drill. Captain Tracy, call out your company!"
Teacher and pupil exchanged glances. There was no mistaking the word of command. The "Captain" was chief no longer, but a subordinate; and prepared to obey the order of his superior.
The roll-call was made nud responded to with military precision; then the young soldiers were ordered to fall into line in front of the schoolhouse, where a drill began such ns the little company had never before undergone.
The command, "Right!" was given in a full voice by the master, and every urehin did his best; though two or three of the younger ones turned heads to the left instead, and had to be regulated. Then came the second order, "Front!" and every face was turned forward.
"Attention!" All eyes were fixed on the master.
"Right—Face!" And the movement was performed accurately.
"About—Face !" was the next command, and there was some blundering, the right feet getting too near the left heels in the first place, which the master would by no means allow.
Captain Tracy stood resolutely by the teacher's side, watching with surprise and interest his instructions, and learning more than he had ever known before of military tacties.
After the "Facings" were gone through with sufficiently, the principles of the "Ordinary Step" were explained, and the mode of executing it. This took some time, and was followed by "Forward—Mareh!" when the twenty boys were all in motion, and kept in motion until the order " Halt!" arrested their steps.
Four in rank, elbow to elbow, the yonug rogues were then drilled in the "Practice of arms;" and the way the ;>oIi-gnns were handled for the next hour was amusing to the girlish spectators, though quite too tedious to detail. Enongh that they "drew ramrods," "rammed cartridges," "made ready,'' "took aim," and "fired," until but one charge of tow was left. Then nothing remained for them but to " mareh" again at the master's command back into the school-house and fire a last gun.
It was done; and but one more order was given.
"Captain Tracy, I am satisficd with your company. Instruct your soldiers now to 'deposit arms;' " and he pointed significantly to the open Franklin stove.
There was no shrinking nor hesitation. With a proud gesture the gallant young leader advanced toward the stove and laid his own weapon first on the blazing fire, and' in five minutes every pop-gun was reduced to ashes.
"We are your boys now for the winter, Sir," said the Captain—a great noble-hearted lad in spite of his mischief, as he bowed respectfully to the now recognized sovereign of the schoolroom !" We only wanted to know our master, and have found him at last, entirely to our satisfaction."
The drill ended in a hearty laugh, with the kindest feelings on nil sides. At noon the poItgm company was disbanded by mutual consent and dispersed forever. A "debating club"arose out of its ruins; and before spring those same soldier-students were gravely discussing questions of national policy and moral justice, to the infinite surprise and satisfaction of the districtfathers, and of the old parish minister also, who never, to his dying day, forgot the salute of the Bakertown Militia.
SUNSET AFTER A SHOWER.
OVER the hill-tops, fold upon fold,
Down in the valley the slumb'rons trees
And a spicy scented, tremulous breeza
The winding river, like silver, gleams
Through dreamy vistas that melt and fade;
And the sunlight, falling in slanting beams,
On distant uplands the lonely pine
The stones in the chureh-yard glance and shine;
The tapering cedar, like a spear,
Shoots out of the cliff, where stands revealed The rocky ledge; and the herd appear
Like spots of color within the ficld.
And the braided banuers of cloud are seen
While the vale below and the hills between
And a farmer's boy, all aglare with light, Looks over the cliff where the cedars grow,
And shades with his hand his dazzled sight, And calls to his comrades down below.
Then the brazen woodlands echo and ring, And the earth and sky seem to shout with him;
A pearly areh is the hawk's fleet wing;
On yonder hill-side a cottage shines—
The window westward flashes and glows—
It nestles amid its sheltering vines
And there in the poreh two lovers woo—
While two doves in the dove-cote kiss and coo,
A READING BY CHARLES
ON Thursday, April 13, of the present year, Charles Dickens read at St. James's Hall, Piccadilly. I was in London, and went to hear him. This was the second in a scries of three readings, and consisted of the "Christmas Curol" and a chapter from "Martin Chuzzlewit," introducing Mrs. Sairey Gamp.
Mr. Dickens appeared about eight o'clock, dressed in a sumptuous manuer. Thus the nosegay at his button-hole was a size larger and several hues brighter than that pleasant conceit of nature in fashionable cireles is apt to be. And the area of frilled linen presented by his bosom was in extent great, and in whiteness out of the reach of suspicion. It was, moreover, studded with doubtless expensive and certainly showy buttons. In addition to which there was that in the tic of his white cravat which bespoke faculties of mind not developed, so farns I am aware, in any of the published works of its author. The handsome suit of black, with its crest of dazzling linen, was carried off well by his figure. Some men are born to dress well, some achieve fine dress, and an unfortunate majority have it thrust upon them. Most of us prefer to slouch, because conscience advises us that broadeloth and fine linen is not our clothes' line. I was not shocked by the elegance of Mr. Dickens's dress. I did not believe, as I regarded from my stall its many attractive fentures, that they were combined as an occasional oblation to the British aristocracy which was gathered about me and directly in front of him, in all the fullness of toilet, and all the glory of four shilling places (ono stipulation of admission to which, duly "intimated" on the tickets, was the total absence of bonuet from the female head), and with which I was bravely pretending to be re
• Jated, although inwardly conscious of offending the proprieties of that select cirele at every button-hole and in every crease. Not shocked, because surely that man could not be accused of deferring to any poor and slavish taste; it could not be said that he needed the indorsement of good clothes to cover weak brains and empty heart. Indeed, it was gratifying to the senses to see the snug fit of his garments, for it told plainly that youth still holds hopeful and genial rule ia the person of one of the world's best men, and that time has stolen from him none of the elasticity and strength which go into all of his sweet human philosophy, and give his writings their sympathetic touch. Besides, it was a handsome dress for any man. It was becoming and harmonious, and so was a piece of art as much as the finest-toned picture the writer ever drew. I am rapidly writing myself down a snob: but the English pay more attention to dress than we Americans; and in view of the comeliness and decent behavior which are imparted to all their public assemblies by attention to this matter, I am disposed to note the observance of a polite habit by Charles Dickens for the benefit of all men of letters in this country who profess an interest in aestheties, and who hope to extend their cultivation by appearing before the public in mysterious and eccentric garb.
I would say, if closely questioned, that the crowning characteristic of Boz in print is youthfulness; just so of Boz in person. He is spry, stanch, and bright there; so he is here in St. James's Hall, Piccadilly. Years have gone since his boyish form was cireumvented and besieged by my eager fellow-countrymen, and time, since then, has worn upon the edges of his life as the ocean has worn upon its shores; but I believe that, if his ample beard is growing gray, and if his active brain has at last cleared a small space on the top of his head, nevertheless the glance of his eye is full as rapid, and sure, and brilliant as then, his step just as light, and his fingers just as nimble for the story of the year. Long may it be before any one of the wonderful energies which have been exerted so long only for blessing and drawing together the people is paralyzed!
But I am not, like Mr. Thackeray, writing a series of "Roundabout Papers," and should be telling about the reading.
I suppose the applause of the large and intelligent audience which followed the first spoken words of Mr. Dickens, namely, that with permission he would pause five minutes after the reading of the "Christmas Carol," was a spontaneous grant of that permission, given in entire good faith, and in ignorance of the spell of eloquence which should presently bind every heart and make it stingy of time. It had just time to die away before Mr. Dickens began to read the " Carol."
And here, at the outset, and once for all, I must protest against the word read in this conuection. That verb could have been properly used to express the process of Mr. Thackeray in the mat
ter of the "Four Georges." It was not by impersonation, not by tone, gesture, and attitude, that Mr. Thackeray realized to his audience the characters of those illustrious monarehs; and you would say that as that little Christmas Story had already spoken for itself to hundreds of thousands of the old and young, and had left the impress of its characters upon all hearts capable of receiving an impression at all, it would bear the gentle treatment of the lecturer's desk without loss of effect. I can imagine the "Christmas Carol" read by its author with good emphasis and a sufficiently clear voice, but without any attempt to convey the distinctive traits, or character, of each personage beyond that of the words themselves; and can imagine an audience moved irresistibly by the simple reading. Add, then, to the natural effect of any intelligent reading of the matchless sentences of Boz, the great personal interest of a reading, even the simplest, by their live and hearty author; and superadd to this the powerful influence of one of the greatest actors alive. By this compound addition only can you form a conception of the actual charm of a reading by Charles Dickens. For Dickens is an actor; and the drama is all the more wonderful because the dramatis persona' are sustained by one man, and presenting, as Mr. Dickens's characters eminently do, the "very form and substance of the times," varying from light to shade as truly as the natural landscape, are sustained with equal fidelity and with the same striking success.
The English are proud of Robson. To leave London any time in the last ten years without seeing Robson would have been, as it is now, a liberty taken with the Lion. His little theatre in Wyeh Street is permanently plethoric. It is where Parliament "lets up." The bar and tho clergy go to Robson for encouragement to pursue their steep and straight ways. If the excellent Queen shows a decided preference for any one of her round of metropolitan amusements, I think it is for the Olympie, for the royal box seems always swept and garnished as if she might drop in at any time, and royal laughter has had a good draal to do in raising the roof of the house time and time again. The night before this reading I had seen Mr. Robson in one of the parts which are deemed "his own"— a serio-comic old chandler in a little drama called "The Chimney Corner," which was then crowding the Olympic every night. The effect of the performance was so strong upon me— there was such deep feeling in the whole delineation of a single-hearted, queer-spoken tradesman, subjected to the crushing suspicion that his loved son was an arrant and heartless scoundrel, and struggling to bear up a name that, humble as it was, had never been dishonored, and to sustain the spirits of his old woman while his own were fallen quite out of reach—that I was in a measure loth to experience Dickens so soon, lest the best impression ho could give mo would be dull beside the vivid and warm impression of Robson. Yet it was not the enthusiastic verdict based upon some solitary stroke of mimetic skill, or particular sketch of character, but a gradually grown and ripened conviction, when the last word had been spoken and Dickens was himself again, that not only was he a greater than Robson—not only the greatest actor I had seen in England—but an artist who realized for the first time positively my highest conceptions of the art, and enfolded it so tenderly and imperceptibly with nature that it became a part of one's self—sensitive, suggestive, and intimate.
I am not a dramatic critic. But if it were my business to discriminate nicely—to play the detective upon the passions and sentiments of the human heart—I should be extremely happy to point out many of the most notable effects produced in the reading of the "Christmas Carol." First, I should give, as concisely as possible, the plot of this interesting— No, is it not written among the bright holly-berries of every Christmas tree, and deep down amidst the uttermost plums of every Christmas pudding? Has it not sounded cheerily over thousands of leagues of winter frost, and with its Christian warmth made land und land one great hearthstone of charity and love? Will plum-puddings perish ever—will the cry of merry wishes ever be forgotten—will stockings fail of their saccharine supplies, while type holds together to tell that wondrous tale? Well could the reader omit many of the mere descriptive passages. The dramatic skeleton was clothed by his genins with flesh and blood; and the memory, not the imagination, of the hearer supplied the outer garments in which it was first introduced to society at large. Digressively, I thought that the crities who accuse Dickens of an excessive elaboration and descriptive word-spiuning found some confirmation in this blotting out of all background from his pictures, and leaving his figures to stand alone against the clear blue of nature. His dramatic power is shown so great that I wonder the action was ever encumbered by episodes of the imagination, however brilliant or startling. Yet I believe that, in somo theatres, the accumulation of scenery and properties is so enormous that they must bo displayed on the stage in great and perhaps unwarranted profusion nightly, simply to get them out of the way. »
"This is wonderful!" I said to my shilling copy of the " Christmas Carol," when I found that certain gruff tones, like those of Scrooge— and so unlike the manly and pleasant tones of Mr. Charles Dickens—were actually proceeding from that gentleman's mouth. Thnt mouth was strangely altered from the playful expression it wore a moment since. The jaw was dropped, and in falling it had pulled the corners of that mouth down with it, together with each and all the muscles of the face in general, so that the expression conveyed was one of tightness, and hardness, and coldness. What wonder that the voios which proceeded from that pucker of bad feelings should have seemed like the voice of my old master in the bill-breaking (and heart
breaking) line, who was daily ferocious about small scraps of paper flown to the floor, and used-up pens, and who died—a snug rest to his little soul!—some years after the publication of the "Carol?" It was evident to me, after comparing this sketch of a morose old man with kindred "assumptions" (regularly critical) experienced at various theatres, that this was Mr. Dickens's forte, or, to be more professional, his line; and I regretted sincerely that I was deprived of the pleasure of seeing his Scrooge with the important auxiliaries of dress, scenery, and space more extended than that of a desk. I wished that Tavistock House were opened occasionally to t he select and critical publie, or that Mr. Robson might be enabled to effect an engagement with Mr. Dickens, or that Mr. Dickens might become sole lessee und proprietor of the Olympie, and engage Mr. Robson as first supernumerary.
"This is wonderful!" I observed to the beautiful white flower without any smell thnt was sticking in the copious hair of the blonde aristocrat in the stall before me, as out of that same mouth proceeded a small and pleading voice, precisely like that of Scrooge's clerk; and the samo remark, with forte emphasis, was addressed to the folds of my handkerehief when a stern, inflexible, and apparently remote voice called Scrooge to the scenes of Christmas Past, and the audience about me were hushed as I have seen many an audience hushed for the ghostly scenes of Hamlet or the "Fiery Phantom of the Ferns," and I expected that the glaring lights of the chandeliers in the dome would burn low for once, and the nose of an old gentleman n few seats distant would emit a pale phosphorescent glow; and once more, at the risk of being tiresome, I repeated it to my shilling "Carol" when the sick and lame little voice of Tiny Tim arose from the bosom of the Cratchit family; and, finally, when I had actually seen the mother of that family, and trembled in the company of the two other spirits, and established an acquaintance of a close nature with the streetboy whom Scrooge requested to go and fetch the big turkey still hanging in the corner shop, and whose response consisted of the one word "Walker!" articulated with shrill incredulity, I saw clearly that that remark had lost all its original foree, and was no longer applicable to any cireumstance of the caso whatever. I was ready to believe all I had ever heard of the charm of those private entertainments at Tavistock House, and to attribute the lion's share of the success to its master and proprietor; and was able to understand the interest in persons nud things theatrical which has given the world, in the pages of his works, so many faithful sketches of life and character " behind the scenes."
Besides all this versatile and truthful delineation—and I entreat all persons who have seen it and felt it to bear me out that I have not exaggerated its extraordinary dramatic merit—there is an element of the reading, which, although more closely allied to the personal than to the art