ePub 版

foreign country. The indolence of the speculatist, however, generally prevents his making this use of any but the most extraordinary and eventful sections of this interminable history. Such contemplations rouse sympathy, extinguish nationality, and enlarge the spirit to admit new kindred by an irresistible assurance of the rightfulness of all claims of brotherhood. Every lovetale has this effect, for true love is the same all over the wide earth. Most tales of wo have the same influence, for the deepest woes spring from causes universally prevalent. But, above all, spectacles of moral beauty work miracles of reconciliation between foreign minds. The heart warms to every act of generosity, and the spirit sends out a fervent greeting to every true expression of magnanimity, whether it be meek intrepidity in doing or unconscious bravery in suffering.

Many such a heartwarming must the stranger experience in America, where the diversities of society are as great as over the European Continent, and where all virtues can find the right soil to thrive in. If there are in some regions broader exhibitions of vice-of licentiousness and violence -than can be seen where slavery is not, in other regions or amid different circumstances there are brighter revelations of virtue than are often seen out of a primitive state of society. One of these, one of many, may, I think, be spoken of without risk of hurting any feelings or betraying any confidence, though I must refrain from throwing such light and beauty over the story as the letters of the parties would afford. I was never so tempted to impart a correspondence; and it is not conceivable that any harm could arise from it beyond the mischief of violating the sacredness of private correspondence; but this is not to be thought of.

At Cincinnati I became acquainted with the Rev. E. P., whom I found to be beloved, fervently but rationally, by his flock, some of whom think him not a whit inferior, as a preacher, to Dr. Channing. He was from New England; and, till he spoke, he might have been taken for one of the old Puritans risen from an early grave to walk the earth for a while. He was tall, gaunt, and severe-looking, with rather long black hair and very large black eyes. When he spoke all the severity vanished; his countenance and voice expressed gentleness, and his quiet fun showed that the inward man was no Puritan. His conversation was peculiar. His voice was somewhat hollow, and not quite manageable, and

[ocr errors]

he was wont to express himself with schoolboy abruptness and awkwardness of phrase, letting drop gems of truth and flowers of beauty without being in ihe least aware of the inequality of his conversation, or, perhaps, that he was conversing at all. Occasionally, when he had lighted on a subject on which he had bestowed much thought, all this inequality vanished, and his eloquence was of a very high order. He was a man who fixed the attention at once, and could not, after a single interview, be ever forgotten. The first time I saw him he told me that his wife and he had hoped to have made their house my home in Cincinnati, but that she and the child had been obliged to set out on their summer visit to her parents in New-England before my arrival. Whenever he spoke of his home it was in a tone of the most perfect cheerfulness; so that I should not have imagined that any anxieties harboured there but for the fervent though calm manner in which he observed in conversation one day, that outward evils are evils only as far'as we think them 80; and that our thinking them so may be wonderfully moderated by a full conviction of this. This was said in a tone which convinced me that it was not a fragment of preaching, but of meditation. I found that he had been about two years married to a pretty, lively, accomplished girl from New-England. Some of his friends were rather surprised at the match, for she had appeared hitherto only as a sprightly belle, amiable, but a little frivolous. It was not, however, that he was only proud of her beauty and accomplishments, or transiently in love ; for his young wife had soon occasion to reveal a strength of mind only inferior to his own. Her sight began to fail; it failed more and more rapidly, till, after the birth of her child, she was obliged to surrender to others all the nicer cares of maternal management. Her accomplishments became suddenly useless. Her favourite drawing was first given up; then her needle was laid aside ; then she could neither write nor read, nor bear a strong light. In her state of enforced idleness (the greatest trial of all to the spirits), her cheerfulness never failed. Her step was as light, her voice as gay as ever. She said it was because her husband was as happy as ever. He aided her in every conceivable way, by doing all that was possible of what she was prevented from doing, and by upholding her conviction that the mind is its own place ; and he thus proved that he did not desire for her or for himself indolent submission, but cheerful acquiescence.

As summer came on, the child sickened in teething, and was sent with its mother to New-England, in order to escape the greatest heats. They had set out, under good guardianship, the week before I arrived at Cincinnati. Mr. P. could not leave his church for many weeks, but was to follow in August, so as to be in time to deliver a poem before the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge, Massachusetts, in Harvard commencement week. I fancied that I saw him meditating this poem more than once during our drives through the splendid scenery round Cincinnati. I was uneasy about his health, and expressed some apprehensions to one of his friends, who, however, niade light of what I said. I thought that, made for strength as he looked, he had little of it. He seemed incessantly struge

struggling against exhaustion, and I was confident that he often joined in conversation with his eyes alone, because he was unequal to the exertion of talking. I was quite sure of all this, and wondered how others could help seeing it too, on the day of the procession of the freeschools of Cincinnati, when he was appointed to address the children. His evident effort in the pulpit and exhaustion afterward made me fear that there were more trials in store for his young wife. During their separation she could neither write to him nor read his letters.

When, towards the end of August, I arrived at Cambridge for commencement, one of my

first inquiries was for the P.s. He had joined his wife, his poem was ready, and they were in cheerful spirits, though both her sight and the child's health were rather worse than better. I did not see them among the assemblage on the great commencement day. On the morrow, when the Phi Beta Kappa Society had marched in to music, and the oration had been delivered, and we all looked eagerly for Mr. P. and his poem, a young clergyman appeared, with a roll of MS. in his hand, and with a faltering voice, and a countenance of repressed grief, told us that Mr. P. had been seized with a sudden and severe illness, and had requested from him, as an office of friendship, that he would read the poem which its author was prevented from delivering. The tidings ran in a mournful whisper through the assemblage that Mr. P. had broken a bloodvessel.

The poem was descriptive, with touches of human interest, many and strong. It related the passage of an emigrant family over the Alleghanies, and their settlement in the West. It was read with much modesty, truth, and grace. At one part the reader's voice failed him, at a brief description of the burial of an infant in the woods ; it was too like a recent scene at which the reader had been present as chief

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

'The P.s were next at a country-house within two miles of another where I was spending ten days. Mr. P. was shut up, and condemned to the trial which his wife was bearing so well, enforced idleness. His bodily weakness made him feel it more, and he found it difficult to bear. He had been unused to sickness, and the only failure I ever saw in him was in obedience to the necessities of his situation and the orders of his physician. He could not write a page of a letter, and reading fatigued his head; but he could not help trying to do what he had been accustomed to perform with ease; and no dexterity of his visiters could prevent his clapping on his hat, and being at the carriage door before them. I thought once that I had fairly shut him into his parlour, but he was holding my stirrup before I had done my farewell to his wife. I was commissioned to carry him grapes and peaches from a friend's hothouse; and I would fain have gone every day to read to him, but I found that he saw too many people, and I therefore went seldom. No. thing can be conceived more touching than the cheerfulness of his wife. Many would have inwardly called it cruel that she could now do almost nothing for her husband, or what she thought almost nothing. She could neither read to him, nor write for him the many passing thoughts, the many remembrances to absent friends, that it would have been a relief to his now restless mind to have had set down. But their common conviction completely sustained them both, and I never saw them otherwise than unaffectedly cheerful. The child was sometimes better and sometiines worse. I saw him but once, but I should have known him again among a thousand. The full, innocent gaze of his bright black eyes, the upright carriage, so striking in a well-tended infant, and the attitude of repose in which he contemplated from his mother's arms whatever went on about him, fixed the image of the child in my memory for ever.

In another month I heard, at a distance, of the child's death. For a

fortnight before he had been quite blind, and had suffered grievously. In the common phrase, I was told that the parents supported themselves wonderfully.

As the cold weather approached, it became necessary for Mr. P. to remove southward. It was a weary journey over the Alleghanies into Ohio, but it had to be performed. Every arrangement of companionship, and about conveyance, resting-places, &c., was made to lessen the fatigue to the utmost ; but we all dreaded it for him. The party was to touch at Providence, Rhode Island, where the steamboat would wait a quarter of an hour. I was in Providence, and, of course, went down to the boat to greet them. Mr. P. saw me from a distance, and ran ashore, and let down the steps of the carriage with an alacrity which filled me with joy and hope. He was not nearly so thin as when I last saw him, and his countenance was more radiant than ever. “I knew we should see you," said he. as he led me on board to his wife. She, too, was smiling. They were not in mourning. Like some other persons in America who disapprove of wearing mourning, they had the courage to break through the custom. It would, indeed, have been inconsistent with the conviction which was animating them all this time the conviction that the whole disposal of us is wise, and right, and kind—to have made an external profession that anything that befell them was to be lamented. I could not but observe the contrast between their countenances and that of their maidservant, whose heart was doubtless aching at having to go back without the child. The mother's feelings were anything but deadened. The cheer

. fulness and the heart's mourning existed together. Tears trembled in her eyes, and her voice faltered more than once ; but then came the bright smile again, and an intimation, given almost in a spirit of gayety, that it was easy to bear anything while he was always so strong in spirit and so happy.

This was the last I saw of them. Their travelling companions wrote cheerlessly of his want of strength, and of the suffering the long journey caused him. They were taken into the house of a kind friend at Cincinnati, where there was a room fitted up with green for the sake of Mrs. P.'s eyes, and every arrangement made in a similar spirit of consideration. But it would not do ; there was yet to be no rest for the invalid. The excitement of being among his flock, while unable to do anything in their service, was in

« 上一頁繼續 »