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"Mr. Braisley, I shall require you to do two things — first, to restore to your niece the seventy-five thousand dollars, with interest from the death of her father; and second, that within two months you leave your country for ever. On these two conditions I promise never to divulge your secret, and on their fulfilment, I can safely promise you that you will never again divulge them in your sleep."
Never did a poor wretch more cheerfully make the required promises than did he. Nay, it seemed to take a load off his mind and heart at once. We were both aware that I had no legal evidence that could convict him, and yet he as gladly accepted my proposals, as I made them. He kept his word to the letter. He paid over the money, and poor Lucy always supposed it was the recovery of debts due her
father,—unexpectedly recovered. I need not tell you how I married the beautiful girl— what a pattern of a wife she was—how many years she was the light of my dwelling, and a blessing to me and mine—how she left me at length in my age, when I needed her the most, and loved her the most—left me and went up to that pure world where there is no death because there is no sin—how my aged eyes weep at the remembrance of what she was, and weep, too, with joy at the thought of what she will be when I meet her again. I am now an old man, I have had many, many cases of insanity since, and have had many years of anxiety in my profession, but no year has been so anxious, and no patient has been of such consequence to me as My Third
BY ME8. 0. M. KIRKLAND.
"Adieu, thou beautiful land! Canaan of the exiles, and Ararat to many a shattered ark! Fair cradle of a race for whom the unbounded heritage of a future that no sage can conjecture, no prophet divine, lies afar in the golden promise-light of Time. . . . None can tell how dear the memory of that wild bush-life becomes to him who has tried it with a fitting spirit. How often it haunts him in the commonplace of more civilized scenes! With what an effort we reconcile ourselves to the trite cares and vexed pleasures, 'the quotidian ague of frigid impertinences,' to which we return!"
So sings, in mellifluous prose, the fastidious author of "Pelham" in his latest and healthiest work, "The Caxtons," goodly fruit, it is said, of the purifying influences of water! When Wordsworth boasted of being a water-drinker, Professor Wilson jocosely observed that he could well believe it, from the lack of spirit in his poems. But Bulwer shows no diminution of spirit in the new novel; he has only changed from a wrong spirit to a right one. The book abounds in manly sentiments, in place of the old, tedious, sentimental dandyism, and one of the most striking things is the boldness which sends forth his heroes to brave the hardships and trials of new-country life.
England seems learning, in a new and unexpected way, to sympathize with the United States. She has looked upon the rapid settlement of our new, western country, as from a far height of civilization, holding up dainty
hands at the idea of such rudeness of manners, and considering our whole country as tinged— as indeed it is—by certain results of the growth and activity of the West. But lately her turn has come. She is now sending not only her convicts, but her younger sons, her too-active reformers, her scapegraces, and her youth of more nerve than fortune, to people her distant islands; to hunt wild asses, and to tame kangaroos. Then, like a good mother as she is, spreading her wings for the protection of her brood, she begins to tell us what a fine manly thing emigration is, how much better it is for young men—and young women, too,—to brave the disagreeablcncss of bush-life, than to remain idle and effeminate, and unprovided for at home. Two of the most striking fictions of the day (not to speak of inferior specimens), the one to which we have alluded, and another —a poem in hexameters—called "The Bothy of Toper-na-Fuosich,"—send their heroes to Australia, with a heartiness of approval which makes light of the roughness of life in the wilderness, and seems for the time to find the boasted civilization of the mother country rather sickly and feverish by comparison. This is charming! It foretells some diminution of national prejudice; for whatever may be the feelings cherished by London and Liverpool towards New York and Boston, a brotherhood will surely spring up between Australia and the wide West; nor will home influence on either side be able to counteract the sympathy which common toils, privations, customs, hopes naturally originate. The Bushman of Australia is essentially the same being with the western settler. AngloSaxons both, and too strongly characterized by that potent stock to show much subjection to the accidental traits which have been the consequence of the rending of the race into two half-inimical portions in the old and new worlds, the circumstances of bush-life will restore the pristine unity, and awaken a feeling of brotherhood too strong for the pride, prejudice, and jealousy of either party to resist. Every book, therefore, that depicts bush-life helps on this unity. In discovering how completely the hopes, occupations, habits, labours, privations, and pleasures of a new-country life, are one and the same, whether the mild skies of Van Biemen's Land, or the brilliant ones of Wisconsin bend above the settler, we are brought at once to a mutual recognition of the natural bonds that bind man to his fellow, and learn to acknowledge gladly all our human ties, and with an especial warmth those which unite us to brethren in a common fortune.
It is cheering to find the subjects of an ancient and over-ripe civilization, which has begun to produce some ruinous as well as some splendid fruits, beginning to recognise the dignity of labour—at least beginning to own that labour and hard living are not necessarily degrading. A character once familiar to English writers and readers—that of a younger son too proud to work, and too self-indulgent to endure the privations attendant upon small means, existing as a hanger-on in the family of the heir—will never come within the cognizance of the next generation. The axiom once accepted that a man, in whatever station, is exalted and not debased by work, the class will disappear. Add to this new doctrine a recognition of the benefits attending self-denying and robust personal habits, and the law of primogeniture will in part become its own antidote, by supplying the out-crops of the great island with a class of settlers at once hardy and generous, thrifty and noble-minded. Leaving field-sports to their elder brothers, these more hopeful sons of old England will make sport of earnest, and feel none the less proud of the antlers on their walls, because the venison to which they belonged was a necessary of life instead of a luxury.
People who have only heard or read of life in the wilderness have but crude notions of its actual characteristics. No way of life more absolutely requires to be tried, in order to be understood. The accepted idea perhaps includes wolf-hunts, and bear-fights, and deer-shooting; sleeping in the woods, fording rivers, following Indian trails, or wading streams in search of fish. This view of things is a poor preparation for
the reality of life in the wilderness. It makes charming books, as witness the many of which it has formed the staple, but for the plain truth of the matter, such as forces itself upon every man's convictions, after he has transferred his domicile and his household gods to the woods, we might as well go to the melancholy Jacques when he lies
u Weeping and commenting
for a practical notion of forest life. It is, indeed, a life of hardship, but " with a difference."
Hardships are not always trials. There is a rousing power in wild adventure, which makes hunger and cold and hard lodging and press of danger only inspiring. These are not the things that try the souls of those who exchange a condition of high civilization for the privations of the woods. Far more wearisome, because somewhat mortifying, are the petty circumstances attending the daily cares for mere subsistence which form the staple of sober existence in a new country; where a man goes not to hunt and fish, but to repair his fortunes by industry and economy; to "buy and sell and get gain;" to win the treasures of the soil with hands used only to the pen; to fell primeval trees with an axe that has never cut anything larger than a fishingrod. Such an adventurer may carry everything with him but the one thing needful, viz., habits suited to the exigence. Even a stout frame and a stout heart will not suffice at first. Time alone can accomplish the assimilating process, and for time he cannot wait.
Emigrants are apt, at the outset, to feel somewhat of reforming zeal. They have just left regions where life wears a smooth aspect; where convention hides much that is coarse and unpleasant; where the round of human business and duty is comprised in a few convenient formulas, or seems to be so; and where each man, using, as it were, the common sense and experience of the whole, naturally fancies himself wiser than he really is, and where he is indeed practically wiser than isolated man can easily be. So the emigrant feels as if he had much to tell; something to teach, as well as something to learn. If he must depend somewhat on his neighbours for an insight into the peculiar needs of his new position, he is disposed to return the favour by correcting, both by precept and example, some of the awkward habits, the ear-wounding modes of speech, and unnecessary coarseness which he sees about him. Above all does he determine that the excellent treatises on farming which he has studied and brought with him shall aid him in introducing, before very long, something like a rational system, instead of the shortsighted, slovenly, losing, hand-to-mouth practices which are wasting the riches of the land.
The waking-up is quite amusing. To find that nobody perceives his own deficiencies, while everybody is taking great pains to make yours apparent; that your knowledge is considered among your chief disabilities; that you are, in short, looked upon as a pitiable ignoramus, stuffed only with useless fancies, offensive pride, silly fastidiousness, and childish love of trifles; that your grand farming theories are laughed at, and your social refinements viewed as indicating a sad lack of common sense and good feeling;—the blank and helpless sense of unfitness that comes over one under such circumstances is indescribable. This is always supposing that you are unequal to bodily labour. If you can chop or plough, there is confessed to be something of you, even though your ideas be silly. But if, coming from a land where head is all-powerful and hand only subservient, your muscles are feeble and your brain active, you must be content with the position of an inferior, and for awhile play the part of a child in the hands of older and wiser people.
This aspect of bush-life lacks the pleasant stimulant with which the imagination is apt to invest it. Where are the hunting and fishing which were to cheer your leisure hours? You have no leisure hours; and if you had, to spend them in hunting or fishing would set you down at once as a "loafer"—the last term of condemnation where everybody works all the time; lives to work rather than works to live. Your fine forest dreams give way before the necessity for " clearing." If you take a morning walk over the breezy hills, it will probably be in search of a stray cow; and you may find it necessary to prolong your stroll indefinitely, returning, under the blazing sun of noon, to dinner instead of breakfast. Your delightful, uninterrupted evenings, where so many books were to be devoured, in order to maintain a counter-influence to the homely toils of the day, must be sacrificed, perhaps, to sleep, in order to be ready for an early start in the morning, in search of additional "hands" at the threshing, or that most valuable and most slippery of all earthly goods in the new country—a "hired girl." If you chance to have an old friend undergoing a similar probation ten or twenty miles off, and feel a yearning desire to seek counsel or sympathy at his hands, be sure that after you have made up your mind to sacrifice everything to this coveted visit, which you feel will set you up in courage for a month to come, you will find you "cannot have the horses," without such a derangement of the business at home as would bespeak an insane disregard of your interest and lead your whole
dependency to look upon you as a fool past praying for.
Has new-country life, then, no pleasures? Many; but they are not exactly those we anticipate. To recur to the testimony with which our musings began.—"None can tell how dear the memory of that wild bush-life becomes to him who has tried it with a fitting tpirii!" And it could hardly become dear to the cultivated, if it were that mere dull, mechanical, animal, grabbing existence that some suppose it to be. Wherein then consists the charm? It is hard to specify; for, like other charms, it has something of inexplicable magio in it. We spend our lives, here, in weaving nets for ourselves, yet we delight to throw them off; even as the merchant who prides himself on the well-fitted coat, the neat cravat, the spotless gloves, the shining boots, in which he proceeds to his counting-house in the morning, enjoys with all his heart the privilege of exchanging them for the easy douillette, soft slippers, and general neglige' of a quiet evening at home. Dress, and ceremony, and formal behaviour seem necessary in the city—seem, not are,—for humanity is more truly dignified than convention, and more effective in every way;—but in the woods we may follow nature—dress to be warm or to be easy, or to be picturesque, if we like, without shocking anybody. We have in town perhaps all the essentials of liberty; we are more alone and independent in a crowd than in a thinly settled neighbourhood;—but in the country we have the seme of liberty: the free breezes suggest it; the wide expanse of prospect; the unconstrained manners of those about us; the undisguised prominence of the common matters of daily life—so carefully kept out of sight in our anxious refinement—all remind us and seem to us symbolical of an ideal liberty. There are no fixed "business hours" or "visiting hours;" we may work all day if we like, or we may make a call at seven in the morning; and although we shall never care to do these particular things, it is yet pleasant to think we may do them. It is true, other people's large liberty sometimes infringes a little on ours; but after all, there is a vast surplus in our favour, since we have really more of it, with all chance deductions, than we know what to do with. The idea—the feeling—is the main thing. This is certainly the chief source of the fascination of a wild western life.
The inspiring influence of progress is however very potent in its way. To see everything about you constantly improving, is delightful. There is an impression of young, joyous life in such a state of society. As the breath and atmosphere of infancy is said to infuse new animal spirits into the sluggish veins of age, so the fresh movement of new-country life stirs the pulses of liim who has long made part of a social system which claims to have discovered everything and settled everything, and to be resting on the result of past effort. If it be happiness to have all one's faculties in constant and profitable use, the dweller iu the woods should be happy, for every day brings new calls upon his powers; upon his ingenuity, his industry, his patience, his energy. Let him be •'many-sided" or even "myriad-minded," he will find use for all his faculties; it is only onesided people—of whom there are, alas! so many!—who find bush-life intolerable.
This calling out of one's powers certainly gives a new aspect to many things that would seem intolerable if we were so placed as to depend on the services of others. There is something in human nature which glories in performance, be the matter ever so humble. We might stand by in irrepressible impatience to see another bungling at some expedient, which appears very tolerable when it is our own work, as we have seen a gentleman really vain-glorious of a garden-gate of his own manufacture, which he would have discharged a workman for making. We put a portion of our very selves into these rude specimens of our handiwork, and we love them with a most paternal affection as long as they last. Is not some of the ennui of life referablo to a disregard of this hint of nature? Would not something of the vapidity of which the spoiled children of refinement complain be remedied by the habit of doing something for ourselves— <ven if it were imperfectly done—instead of requiring the incessant intervention of servants awl tradespeople? It would perhaps not be e,^y to find a rich man who is odd enough to keep an amateur work-bench, or a lady bold enough to perform some of the lighter household duties, suffering from that disgust of life which is the torture of some of the idle. It is at least certain that dyspepsia is a complaint unknown in the woods!
The enjoyment of health is then another of the pleasant things of true rustic life. We talk not of agues! They must be caught and let go again—endured and forgotten—before •me can know how truly healthy our western country and its out-door habits are. After one « acclimated, there is probably no more favourable climate for health and longevity in the temperate zones. No skies—not the boasted ines of Italy—are clearer; their transparency i* even remarked, not only by Englishmen, but by our own countrymen from the Atlantic iorcs. The stars and the aurora seem brighter there than elsewhere, and a long succession brilliantly clear days is too common an occurrence to be noticed. This naturally contributes to good health and good spirits; and if »«. Yi. 6
people have sense enough to live with some attention to the laws of health, they may defy the druggist, and live till they drain existence to the lees, enjoying the draught more and more as years mellow its flavour.
Do our western population generally make as much of their health-privilege as they are sure to do of a "water-privilege?" Alas! where ague kills its units, hot bread, hot meat, pickles and strong tea—to say nothing of accursed whiskey—slay their tens of thousands. No people live so insanely as our western brethren; in truth, nothing but the kind and genial climate saves them from the complication of horrid ills which beset the gourmand in our old cities. Butter is considered rather more a necessary of life than bread; in fact that which wc call bread is almost unknown in some regions, hot cakes supplying its place at every meal. The "staff of life," however, is tea—strong, green tea. This is usually taken, unless poverty forbid, with breakfast, dinner, and supper, and without milk or sugar. With this is eaten fried meat, almost universally (we speak throughout exclusively of country habits), fried and swimming in fat. Infants partake of all these things; and if they are teething and fretful, they often have a peeled cucumber given them to nibble, by way of quietus, which indeed it may be supposed admirably calculated to become. That many young children die is therefore less astonishing than that some live. Those who do survive probably owe their chance of future years' hot bread to their being allowed to creep about in the open air as soon as they are old enough to be out of the mother's arms. The fine climate does all it can for them, and it does everything for those who will accept its kind ministering.
No inconsiderable variety and amusement are produced by the unlettered agency of nature and natural objects. Where the earth is hidden under piles of stone, nothing short of an earthquake can produce very striking occurrences of a natural kind; but in the woods hardly a day passes without something noticeable in earth, air, or water, or among their denizens. Tom Stiles, in felling a huge old oak, brings to light perhaps a hundred and fifty pounds of honey, which turns the whole neighbourhood into a bee-hive for the nonce. John Nokes, mowing without boots, gets bitten by a rattlesnake, and a thrill of sympathy runs through the settlement. The road to his house is thronged with people from far and near, coming to urge remedies—-all infallible—• and to offer aid as nurses or watchers. Perhaps the musk-rats work so stealthily and so well that the mill-dam will be completely riddled or undermined, and the whole pond will run away in the night, leaving a huge scoop of long grass and stumps instead of the fair expanse of water which the setting sun delighted to dye with crimson and purple. Then every hand that can be hired is in requisition, and everybody who is not hirable, thinks it necessary to spend nearly the whole time in looking on, lamenting, suggesting, advising, and prognosticating. Now the great business of the young men and boys is setting traps for quails and prairie-hens, and again every fallow is bespread with nets to catch
pigeons; or perhaps Mr. A , after sitting up
all night to watch for the fox that robs his henroost of late, comes very near shooting that
"loafer," Sam B , who, though he will
not work, unreasonably continues to eat, and of the fat of the land too. Or poor John Smith's stick chimney takes fire and burns his house and all that is in it, hardly excepting his wife and children. Then somebody must take wagon and horses and thread the whole region roundabout for aid in the shape of clothing, provisions, furniture, farming utensils, and stock, to set him up again; while the neighbours fall to chopping and notching logs for a new house, and finish by having a famous raising, and installing the sufferers in their rejuvenate domicile, with perhaps more of worldly goods than the fire found to consume, and hearts full of gratitude and joy.
Do these things and all that they typify seem trifles? Those whose hearts quake at the rise and fall of stocks should be ashamed to call them so. To the dweller in the woods they can never be trifles. And this brings us to what is perhaps after all the secret charm of a life far removed from pride and formality —the feeling of brotherhood. There is in every human heart not totally sophisticated a capacity lor this; but where men are crowded together in large cities, or subjected to the friction of keen and pitiless competition, it is well-nigh obliterated. Where all that each man gains may be said in some sense to be so much abstracted from the common stock, and where the brotherly feeling is not kept awake by any obvious dependence upon others, individualism and selfishness are too apt to prevail. But when, on the contrary, whatever each man docs for his own profit is sure to turn to the advantage of all about him; when the means of life and comfort are drawn directly from the bounteous bosom of earth, not impoverishing, but enriching the source and fitting it the better to afford wealth to a coming generation; when the circumstances of life are such that each man is obliged to be personally indebted to his neighbour for many of those offices which affect most nearly our business and bosom, while common toils compel contact and consultation, and the state of
things is adverse to any separation by ceremony—all the bonds of life arc drawn closer; the heart is obliged to act, and the tone of manners becomes freer and more genial; less polite perhaps but more humane; and after some little experience of this, a return to the cold polish of city intercourse seems indeed a plunging into "frigid impertinences,"—a descent from the free mountain air which braces every nerve to health and pleasure, to the calmer but more stagnant atmosphere of the plain.
The days of this fresh aspect of things are passing away. The influence of wealth and of facilitated intercourse will before very long produce a great equalization of manners. The West has already tinged not a little, as we said before, the social intercourse of the East in our country. We adopt her humorous expressions and even her scorn of the cherished conventions of the old world. To be "manly'' is more prized among us than to be "elegant,*' even while we are reaching after liveries and other antiquated remuants of the pride of the dark ages. Our gentlemen print their cards with names ungraced by even the commonest title, leaving the Mr. which used to be felt essential, to chiropodists and other pretenders. All this while the West is disposed to take up the politenesses we lay down, and her ambition is such that it will not be wonderful if she should in time devise some original ones of her own, so that to our descendants at no very remote distance, it may perhaps be hardly credible that the distinction between western manners and those of the older settled parts of the country was ever as great as it has really been up to our day.
But it is a state of things worth remembering. In an age and country where everything is doing, some things run the risk of being forgotten, for who can afford time for the " slow" business of chronicling, in the very face of the lightning-flashes which are melting into one, the Present, Past and Future? With so much to accomplish for ourselves, can we be expected to think of the coming age, whoso wings already fan our faces? When golden splendours arc dawning, is it worth while to fix on the canvass the sober hue of twilight'!
For the sake of contrast, at least, let lis preserve a clear recollection of the great West in her dress of "hoddin gray," by way of aesthetic, not humiliating contrast; as the rough disguise thrown off by the triumphant hero of the drama, imparts new splendour to the robes he has been only veiling beneath it; or, more nearly, as the sun, in his might, turns the bars of purple cloud which for awhile obscured his disk, into a glorious ladder for his ascent to the meridian.