Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

width apart. They crowded close about him He wheeled upon the planter — “Sir, do I at the telegraph window while he interpreted exaggerate ? " with unconscious originality the wonders of Forty miles," replied the planter; “someelectricity. Their eyes rose slowly from the times fifty." window up and out along the ascending wires “ Friends,-confirmated! more than twiceto where they mounted the poles and east- fold confirmated. Forty, sometimes fifty! Thou ward and westward leaped away sinking and heardest it, Maximian Roussel! Not from me, rising from insulator to insulator. One of the but from the gentleman himself! Forty, someparty pointed at these green dots of glass and times fifty! Such the march, the forward march murmured a question, and the leader's wife of civilize-ation !” laid her small hand softly upon his arm to His words were cut short by the unearthly check the energy of his utterance as he said, neigh of the engine. Sidonie smote herself audibly to all on the platform, and with a backward against her husband. strong French accent:

“Nay, Sidonie, fear thou nothing! Remem“ They ? are there lest the heat of the ber, dear Sidonie, thy promise of self-control! telegraph fluid inflame the post-es!” He laid Stand boldly still, St. Pierre ; both father and his own hand tenderly upon his wife's in re- son stand.” The speaker was unheard. Hisssponse to its warning pressure, yet turned to ing, clanging, thundering, and shaking the the sugar-planter and asked:

earth, the engine and train loomed up to the “Sir, pardon; do I not explain truly ?" platform and stopped.

The planter, with restrained smile, was “Come!” cried Bonaventure Deschamps, about to reply, when some one called, “ There “ lose no moment, dear friends. Tide and time she comes! and every eye was turned to the even less the railroad

- wait for nobody. east. timot

Claude, remember; give your ticket of passage “ Truly!” exclaimed the inquirer, in a voice to none save the conductor only. 'T is print' made rich with emotion. “Truly, she comes ! in letter of gold on front his cap —‘ConducShe comes! The iron horse, though they call tor'— Stop! he is here — Sir, this young man, him “she'!” He turned to the planter - inexperienced, is taking passage for “Ah! sir, why say they thus many or thus “Shoot him aboard,” replied a uniformed many horse-power, when truly ”— his finger- man, and walked on without a pause. Claude tip pattered upon his temple — “truly it is moved toward the train. Bonaventure seized mind-power!"

him by both arms. The planter, smiling decorously, turned " Claude St. Pierre ! Claude, my boy; pride away, and the speaker looked again down the of Grande Pointe, second only with Sidonie, long vacant track to where the small dark farewell ! ” focus of every one's attention was growing on Tears leaped into the eyes of both. Bonathe sight. He spoke again, in lower voice but venture snatched Claude to his arms and kissed with larger emotion.

him. It was less than nothing to him that “ Mind-power ! thought-power ! knowledge- every eye on and off the train was on them. power! learning and thinking power!” He He relaxed his grasp. "Sidonie! tell him farecaught his wife's arm. “See! see, Sidonie, my well ! - ah! nay! shake not hands only! Kiss dear! See her enhancing in magnitude so fast- her, Claude! Kiss him, my own Sidonie, kiss ly approaching !” As he spoke a puff of white him farewell ! ” vapor lifted from the object and spread out It was done. Claude blushed red, and Şidoagainst the blue, the sunbeams turned it to nie stepped back, wiping her eyes. Maximian silver and pearl, and a moment later came the moved into the void and smiling gave his far-away, long, wild scream of the locomotive. hand to the young adventurer.

“Retire !” exclaimed the husband, draw- “ Adjieu, Claude.” He waved a hand awking back all his gazing companions at once. wardly. “Teck care you’seff," and dropped “Retire! retire ! the whisttel is to signify warn- the hand audibly against his thigh. ing to retire from too close the edge of the Claude's eye sought his father. St. Pierre galérie! There! rest at this point. 'T is far pressed forward, laid his right hand upon his enough. Now, each and all resolve to stand son's shoulder, and gazed into his face. His and shrink not whilst that iron mare, eating voice was low and husky. He smiled. coal, drinking hot water, and spitting fire, shall “ Claude,”— tears rose in his eyes, but seem, but falsely, threatening to come on the he swallowed them down,—“Claude,- my platform. Ah! Claude!” he cried to the baby,"— and the flood came. The engine bell youngest of the group, “now shall you behold rang. The conductor gave the warning word, what I have told you that vast am-azement the youth leaped upon his father's neck, St. of civilize-ation anni-high-lating space and Pierre thrust him off, caught his two cheeks also time at the tune of twenty miles the hour!” between fluttering palms and kissed him vio

III.

THE

TAVERN FIRESIDE.

а

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

lently, the train moved, the young man leaped firelight. It was not nearly the largest inn of
aboard, the blue uniforms disappeared, save the place, nor the oldest, nor the newest, nor
one on the rear platform, the bell ceased, the the most accessible. There was no clink of
gliding mass shrunk and dwindled away, the glass there. Yet in this, only third year of its
rails clicked more and more softly, the tearful present management, it was the place where
group drew closer together as they gazed af- those who knew best always put up.
ter the now unheard train, it melted to a point Around the waiting-room fire this evening
and disappeared, the stillness of forest and sat a goodly semicircle of men,-commercial
prairie fell again upon the place, the soaring travelers. Some of them were quite dry and
sun shone down, and Claude St. Pierre was comfortable and wore an air of superior for-
gone to seek his fortune.

tune over others whose shoes and lower gar-
ments sent out more or less steam and odor
toward the open fire-place. Several were smok-

ing. One who neither smoked nor steamed I call to mind a certain wild, dark night in stood with his back to the fire and the skirts November. St. Pierre lay under his palmetto of his coat listed forward on his wrists. He thatch in the forest behind Grande Pointe and was a rather short, slight, nervy man, about could not sleep for listening to the wind and thirty years of age, with a wide pink baldness wondering where his son was, in that wild running so far back from his prominent temTexas norther. On the Mississippi a steamer, ples and forehead that when he tipped his upward bound, that had whistled to land at face toward the blue joists overhead, enjoying Belmont, or Belle Alliance plantation, seemed the fatigue of a well-filled day, his polished to be staying there afraid to venture away. skull sent back the firelight brilliantly. There Miles southward beyond the river and the was a light skirmish of conversation going on lands on that side, Lake des Allemands was in which he took no part. No one seemed combing with the tempest and hissing with the really acquainted with another. Presently a rain. Still farther away, on the little bayou man sitting next on the left of him put away a and at the railway station in the edge of the quill toothpick in his watch-pocket, looked up swamp that we already know, and westward into the face of the standing man, and said, over the prairie where Claude had vanished with a faint smile : into the world, all life was hidden and mute. “That job 's done!” And farther still, leagues and leagues away, With friendly gravity the other looked down the mad tempest was riding the white-caps and replied, “ I never use a quill toothpick." in Berwick's Bay and Grande Lake, and yet Yes,” said the one who sat, “it 's bad. beyond, beyond New Iberia, and up by Ca- Still, I do it.” rancro, and around again by St. Martinville, "Nothing," continued the other,—“nothBreaux Bridge, Grand Coteau, and Opelousas, ing harder than a sharpened white-pine match and down once more across the prairies of should ever go between the teeth. Brush thorVermillion, the marshes about Côte Blanche oughly but not violently once or twice daily Bay, and the islands in the Gulf, it came bound- with a moderately stiff brush dipped in soft ing, screaming, and buffeting. And all the way water into which has been dropped a few drops across that open sweep from Mermentau to of the tincture of myrrh. A brush of badger's Côte Gelée it was tearing the rain to mist and hair is best. If tartar accumulates, have it refreezing it wherever it fell, only lulling and moved by a dentist. Do not bite thread or warming a little about Joseph Jefferson's crack nuts with the teeth, or use the teeth for Island, as if that prank were too mean a trick other purposes than those for which nature to play upon his orange-groves.

designed them.” He bent toward his hearer In Vermillionville the wind came around with a smile of irresistible sweetness, drew his every corner piercing and pinching to the lips away from his gums, snapped his teeth bone. The walking was slippery; and though together loudly twice or thrice, and smiled it was still early bed-time and the ruddy lamp- again, modestly. The other man sought de• light filled the wet panes of some window fense in buoyancy of manner. every here and there, scarce a soul was stirring “Right you are!” he chirruped. He reached without, on horse or afoot, to be guided by its up to his adviser's blue-and-crimson neck-scarf kindly glow.

and laid his finger and thumb upon a large, At the corner of two streets quite away solitary pear-shaped pearl. “You ’re like me; from the court-house square, a white frame you believe in the real thing." tavern, with a wooden Greek porch filling its “I do," said the pearl's owner; "and I like whole two-story front and a balcony built with- people that like the real thing. A pearl of the in the porch at the second story windows in first water is real. There's no sham there; no oddest fashion, was glowing with hospitable deception - except the iridescence, which is,

66

[ocr errors]

66

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

as you doubtless know, an optical illusion at. "Full many a gem of purest ray serene
tributable to the intervention of rays of light The dark, unfathomed caves of ocean bear’-
reflected from microscopic corrugations of the Orient pearls at random strung.'
nacrous surface. But for that our eye is to Freely partake of love's fathomless spring.

• Fold, little trembler, thy Huttering wing, blame, not the pearl. See?"

So hallowed thy presence, the spirit within The seated man did not reply; but another Hath whispered, the angels protect thee from sin.”!" man on the speaker's right, a large man, widest at the waist, leaned across the arm of his chair The speaker ceased, with his glance hoverto scrutinize the jewel. Its owner turned his ing caressingly over the little trembler with flutthroat for the inspection, despite a certain tering wing, that is, the big-waisted man. The grumness and crocodilian aggressiveness in company sat in listening expectancy, and the the man's interest.

big-waisted man, whose eyes had long ago “I like a diamond, myself," said the new soight refuge in the fire, lifted them and said, on-looker, dropped back in his chair, and met satirically," Go on," at the same time trying to the eyes of the pearl's owner with a heavy buy his way out with a smile. glance.

" It's your turn," quickly responded the “ Tastes differ,” kindly responded the wearer jewel's owner, with something droll in his of the pearl. “Are you acquainted with the manner that made the company laugh at the language of gems ?”

other's expense. The big-waisted man kindled, The big-waisted man gave a negative grunt then smiled again, and said : and spat bravely into the fire.“ Did n't know "Was that emblem of modest loveliness give' gems could talk,” he said.

to your symbolically, or did you present it to “ They do not talk, they speak,” responded yourself ?" their serene interpreter. The company in gen- “ I took it for a debt,” replied the wearer, eral noticed that, with all his amiability of tone bowing joyously. and manner, his mild eyes held the big-waisted “ Ah!" said the other. “Well, I s'pose it man with an uncomfortable steadiness. “They was either that or her furniture ? " speak not to the ear, but to the eye and to the “ Thanks, yes.” There was a pause, and thought:

then the pearl's owner spoke on. Strange ** Thought is deeper than all speech ;

fact. That was years ago. And yet —” he Feeling deeper than all thought;

fondled his gem with thumb and finger and Souls to souls can never teach

tender glance -"you 're the first man I 've What unto themselves was taught.'”

met to whom I could sincerely and symboliThe speaker's victim writhed, but the riv- cally present it, and you don't want it. I'm eted gaze and an uplifted finger pinioned sorry." him. “You should know - every one should

"I see," said the big-waisted man, glaring know the language of gems. There is a lan- at him.

“So do I,” responded the pearl's owner. guage of flowers :

A smile went round, and the company sat “. To me the humblest lower that blows can give looking into the fire. Outside the wind growled Thoughts that too often lie too deep for tears.

and scolded, shook and slapped the house, But the language of gems is as much more and thrashed it with the rain. A man sitting important than that of flowers as the imper- against the chimney said: ishable gem is itself more enduring than the “ If this storm keeps on six hours longer I withering, the evanescent blossom. A gentle- reduce my estimate of the cotton crop sixtyman may not with safety present to a lady a five thousand bales.” But no one responded; gem of whose accompanying sentiment he is and as the importance died out of his face he ignorant. But with the language of gems dropped his gaze into the fire with a pretense understood between them, how could a senti- of deep meditation. Presently another, a goodment be more exquisitely or more acceptably looking young fellow, said: expressed than by the gift of a costly gem

“Well, gents, I never cared much for jewuttering that sentiment with an unspoken elo. elry: But I like a nice scarf-pin; it 's nobby. quence! Did you but know the language of And I like a handsome seal-ring." He drew gems your choice would not be the diamond. one from a rather chubby finger, and passed * Diamond me no diamonds,' emblems of it to his next neighbor, following it with his pride

eyes, and adding: “That 's said to be a real

intaglio. But — now, one thing I don't like, “ * Pride in their port, defiance in their eye, I see the lords of humankind pass by.'

that 's to see a lady wear a quantity of dia

mond rings outside of her glove, and heavy gold “Your choice would have been the pearl, chains, and —" He was interrupted. A long symbol of modest loveliness.

man, with legs stiffened out to the fire, lifted a Vol. XXXV.-15.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

66

cigar between two fingers, sent a soft jet of man, elephant, lion, horse, anaconda, tortoise, smoke into the air, and began monotonously: camel, rabbit, ass, etcetera, etcetera; the age

of every crowned head in Europe; each State's 56 Chains on a Southern woman? Chains ?'

legal and commercial rate of interest; and how I know the lady that wrote that piece.” He long it takes a healthy boy to digest apples, suddenly gathered himself up for some large baked beans, cabbage, dates, eggs, fish, green effort. "I can't recite it as she used to, but —” corn, h, i, j, k, l-m-n-o-p, quinces, rice, shrimps, And to the joy of all he was interrupted. tripe, veal, yams, and anything you can cook

“Gentlemen," said one, throwing a cigar- commencing with z. It's a fascinating study. ette stump into the fire, “ that brings up the But it's not my favorite. subject of the war. By the by, do you know what that war cost the Government of the

“The proper study of mankind is man.' United States ?” He glanced from one to Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled, another until his eye reached the wearer of the The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!' pearl, who stood, now, with the jewel glistening in the firelight, and who promptly said: *“ I love to study human nature. That's my Yes; how much ? "

favorite study! The art of reading the inner Well," said the first questioner with sud- human nature by the outer aspect is of imden caution, “I may be mistaken, but I 've measurable interest and boundless practical heard that it cost six — I think they say six — value, and the man who can practice it skillbillion dollars. Did n't it?"

fully and apply it sagaciously is on the high " It did,” replied the other, with a smile of road to fortune, and why? Because to know friendly commendation; “it cost six billion, it thoroughly is to know whom to trust and one hundred and eighty-nine million, nine hun- how far; to select wisely a friend, a confidant, dred and twenty-nine thousand, nine hundred a partner in any enterprise; to shun the unand eight dollars. The largest item is interest: trustworthy, to anticipate and turn to our one billion, seven hundred and one million, personal advantage the merits, faults, and defitwo hundred and fifty-six thousand, one ciencies of all, and to evolve from their char. hundred and ninety-eight dollars, forty-two acter such practical results as we may choose cents. The next largest, the pay of troops; for our own ends; but a thorough knowledge the next, clothing the army. If there 's any is attained only by incessant observation and item of the war's expenses you would like to long practice; like music, it demands a special know, ask me. Capturing president Confed- talent possessed by different individuals in erate States — ninety-seven thousand and variable quantity or not at all. You, gentlethirty-one dollars, three cents.” The speak- men, all are, what I am not, commercial tourer's manner grew almost gay. The other ists. Before you I must be modest. You, each smiled defensively and responded:

of you, have been chosen from surrounding “You 've got a good memory for sta-stistics. hundreds or thousands for your superior abilI have n't; and yet I always did like sta-stis- ity, natural or acquired, to scan the human tics. I 'm no sta-stitian, and yet if I had the face and form and know whereof you see. I time sta-stistics would be my favorite study; look you in the eye- you look me in the eye I s'pose it 's yours.”

for the eye, though it does not tell all, tells The wearer of the pearl shook his head. much — it is the key of character — it has been “ No. But I like it. I like the style of mind called the mirror of the soul — that likes it.” The two bowed with playful graciousness to each other. “Yes, I do. And

“ And looks commercing with the skies,

Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes.' I 've studied it, some little. I can tell you the best time of every celebrated trotter in this And so looking you read me. You say to yourcountry; the quickest trip a steamer ever self, • There 's a man with no concealments, made between Queenstown and New York, yet who speaks not till he 's spoken to; knows New York and Queenstown, New Orleans when to stop, and stops. You note my pale and New York; the greatest speed ever made eyebrows, my slightly prominent and pointed on a railroad or by a yacht, pedestrian, car- chin, somewhat oversized mouth; small, wellrier-pigeon, or defaulting cashier; the rate of spread ears, faintly aquiline nose; fine, thin, postage to every foreign country; the excess blonde hair, a depression in the skull where of women over men in every State of the the bump of self-conceit ought to be, and you Union so afflicted or blessed, according to say, “A man that knows his talents without how you look at it; the numbers of volumes being vain of them; who not only minds his in each of the world's ten largest libraries; the own business, but loves it, and who in that salary of every officer of the United States business, be it buggy-whips or be it washine, Government; the average duration of life in a or be it something far nobler,'— which, let me

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

say modestly, it is, — simply goes head and at the head of my line; not merely because stays there. Yes, sirs, if I say that reading the on every copy sold I make an author's as well human countenance is one of my accomplish- as a solicitor's margin; but because, being the ments, I am diffidently mindful that in this author, I know whereof I sell. A man that 's company, I, myself, am read, perused; no got my book has got a college education; and other probably so well read — I mean so ex- when a man taps me,- for, gentlemen, I never haustively perused. For there is one thing spout until I 'm tapped, - and information about me, gentlemen, if you 'll allow me to say bursts from me like water from a street hydrant, it, I 'm short meter, large print, and open to and he comes to find out that everything I tell the public seven days in the week. And yet is in that wonderful book, and that everything you probably all made one mistake about me: that is in that wonderful book I can tell, he you take me for the alumni of some university. wants to own a copy; and when I tell him I Not so. I'm a self-made man. I made my- can't spare my sample copy, but I 'll take his self; and considering that I 'm the first man subscription, he smiles gratefully ---" I ever made, I think — pardon the seeming A cold, wet blast, rushing into the room egotism -I think I've done well. A few years from the hall, betrayed the opening of the ago there dwelt in humble obscurity among front door. The door was shut again, and a the granite hills of New England, earning his well-formed, muscular young man who had bread by the sweat of his brow upon his father's entered stood in the parlor doorway lifting his farm, a youth to fortune and to fame unknown. hat from his head, shaking the rain from it, But one day a voice within him said,- Tarbox,'- and looking at it with amused diffidence. Mr. George W.,—namesake of the man who never Tarbox turned about once more with his back told a lie,- do you want to succeed in life ? to the fire, gave the figure a quick glance of Then leave the production of tobacco and scrutiny, then a second and longer one, and cider to unambitious age and find that business then dropped his eyes to the floor. The bigwherein you can always give a man ten times waisted man shifted his chair, tipped it back, as much for his dollar as his dollar is worth.' and said: The meaning was plain, and from that time “He smiles gratefully, you say?” forth young Tarbox aspired to become a book

“ Yes.agent. 'T was not long ere he, like

“ And subscribes ? " Young Harry Bluff, left his friends and his home,

“ If he's got any sense.” Mr. Tarbox reAnd his dear native land, o'er the wide world to roam.' plied in a preoccupied tone, his eyes on the

young man who still stood in the door. This perBooks became his line, and full soon he was son must have reached the house in some coythe head of the line. And why? Was it be- ered conveyance. Even his boot-tops were dry cause in the first short twelve months of his or nearly so. He was rather pleasing to see ; of career he sold, delivered, and got the money good stature, his clothing cheap. A dark-blue for, 5107 copies of “Mend-me-at-Home'? Hannel sack of the ready-made sort hung on No. Was it, then, because three years later he him not too well. Light as the garment was, sold in one year, with no other assistance than a he showed no sign that he felt the penetratman to drive the horse and wagon, hold the ing cold out of which he had just come. His blackboard, and hand out the books, 10,003 throat and beardless face had the good brown copies of • Rapid 'Rithmetic'? It was not. of outdoor life, his broad chest strained the Was it, then, because in 1878, reading aright two buttons of his sack, his head was wellthe public mind, he said to his publishers, poised, his feet were shapely, and but for whose confidence in him was unbounded, 'It somewhat too much roundness about the ain't “Mend-me-at-Home” the people want shoulder-blades, noticeable in the side view as most, nor “Rapid 'Rithmetic,” nor “Heal he carefully stood a long, queer package that Thyself," nor" I meet the Emergency,” nor the was not buggy-whips against the hat-rack, it " Bouquet of Poetry and Song.” What they would have been fair to pronounce him an want is all these in one.' • Abridged ?' said the athlete. publishers. · Enlarged!' said young Tarbox,- The eyes of the fireside group were turned enlarged and copiously illustrated, complete toward him; but not upon him. They rested in one volume, price, cloth, three dollars, on a girl of sixteen who had come down the sheep four, half morocco, gilt edges, five; hall and was standing before the new-comer real value to the subscriber, two hundred and just beyond the door. The registry-book was fifty; title, “ The Album of Universal Infor- just there on a desk in the hall. She stood mation; author, G. W. Tarbox; editor, G. W. with a freshly dipped pen in her hand, ignorT.; agent for the United States, the Canadas, ing the gaze from the fireside with a faintly and Mexico, G. W. Tarbox," that is to say, overdone calmness of face. The new guest myself.' That, gentlemen, is the reason I stand came forward and, in a manner that showed

6

« AnteriorContinuar »