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Full text of "Selections from American authors; printed in the advanced style of Pitman's shorthand"


THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 



SELECTIONS 

FROM 

AMERICAN AUTHORS 



PRINTED IN THE ADVANCED 
STYLE OF PITMAN'S SHORTHAND 




NE\V YORK 

ISAAC PITMAN & SONS, THE PHONOGRAPHIC DRPOI 
2 \\ EST 45TH STREET 

AND AT LONDON, BATH AND MELBOURNE 



TORONTO, CANADA 
The Commercial TeM-Book Co. 

OR 
T'tt C>M>, Clark Co.. Litinf d 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 

THE BUCCANEER'S TREASURE (Washington Irving) ? 

MY EDITING (Mark Twain) . . ' . . 10 

A VENERABLE IMPOSTO-R (Bret Harte) . . 1H 
THE AUTOCRAT OF THE BREAKFAST TABLE (Oliver 

Wendell Holmes) ..... 23 

THE WAY TO WEALTH (Benjamin Franklin) . 28 

THE TELL-TALE HEART (Edgar Allan Poe) . 4 : 

GREATNESS IN COMMON LIFE (W. E, Channing) 5' 

THE STORY OF A DRUM (Bret Harte) . . 64 

THE PROCESSION OF LIFE (Nathaniel Hawthorne) 1'. 

A MELTING STORY (Mark Twain) 9*- 
THE PROFESSOR AT THE BREAKFAST TABLE (O. W. 

Holmes') ...... li 




Selections from American Authors. 



THE BUCCANEER'S TREASURE. 

BY WASHINGTON IRVING. 




1 ' \\ r olfert Webber had carried home a fresh stock of stores 
..ad notions to ruminate upon. These accounts of pots of 
money and Spanish treasures, buried here and there and 
(.-verywhere about the rocks and bays of these wild shores, 
de him almost dizzy. The doctor had often heard the 
rumours of treasure being buried in various parts of the 
island, and had long been anxious to get in the traces of it. 
The circumstances unfolded to him awakened all his 
cupidity ; he had not a doubt of money being buried 
somewhere in the neighbourhood of the mysterious crosses, 
and offered to join Wolfert in the search. 

The great church clock struck ten as Wolfert and the 
doctor passed by the churchyard, and the watchmen 
bawled, in hoarse voice, a long and doleful " All's well ! " 
A deep sleep had already fallen upon this primitive little 



449529 



SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




burgh. Nothing disturbed this awful silence, excepting 
now and then the bark of some profligate, night-walking 
dog, or the serenade of some romantic cat. 

They found the old fisherman waiting for them, smoking 
his pipe in the stern of his skiff, which was moored just in 
front of his little cabin. A pickaxe^and spade were lying 
in the bottom of the boat, with a dark lantern, and a stone 
bottle of good Dutch courage, in which honest Sam, no 
doubt, put even more faith than the doctor in^his drugs. ' 

Thus, then, did these three worthies embark in their 
cockleshell of a skiff upon this nocturnal expedition. The 
tide was rising and running rapidly up the Sound. The 
current bore them along almost without the aid of an oar. 
They now landed, and lighting the lantern, gathered their 
various implements and proceeded slowly through the 
bushes. Every sound startled them, even that of their 
own footsteps among the dried leaves ; and the hooting of 



THE BUCCANEER S TREASURE. 




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a screech-owl from the shattered chimney of a neighbouring 
ruin made their blood run cold. 

The lantern was now held by Wolfert Webber, while the 
doctor produced a divining rod. It was a forked twig, one 
end of which was grasped firmly hi each hand ; while the 
centre forming the stem, pointed perpendicularly upwards. 
The doctor moved this wand about, within a certain dis- 
tance of the earth, from place to place, but for some time 
without any effect : while Wolfert kept the light of the 
lantern turned full upon it, and watched it with the most 
breathless interest. At length the rod began slowly to 
turn. The doctor grasped it with great earnestness, his 
hands trembling with the agitation of his mind. The 
wand continued to turn gradually, until at length the stem 
had reversed its position, and pointed perpendicularly 
downward, and remained pointing to one spot as fixedly 
as the needle to the pole. 



SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 



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" This is the spot ! " said the doctor, in an almost 
inaudible tone. 

Wolfert's heart was in his throat. 

" Shall I dig ? " said the negro, grasping the spade. 

" No ! " rephed the little doctor hastily. He now ordered 
his companions to keep close by him, and to maintain the 
most inflexible silence ; that certain precautions must be 
taken, and ceremonies used, to prevent the evil spirits, 
which kept about buried treasure, from doing them any 
harm. While Wolfert held the lantern, the doctor, by the 
aid of his spectacles, read off several forms of conjuration 
in Latin and German. He then ordered Sam to seize the 
pickaxe and proceed to work. The close-bound soil gave 
obstinate signs of not having been disturbed for many a 
year. After having picked his way through the surface, 
Sam came to a bed of sand and gravel, which he threw 
briskly to right and left with the spade. 



THE BUCCANEER'S TREASURE. 




The negro continued his labours and had already digged 
a considerable hole. At last the spade of the old fisher- 
man struck upon something that sounded hollow ; the sound 
vibrated to Wolfert's heart. He struck his spade again 

" "Tis a chest," said Sam. 

" Full of gold, I'll warrant it ! " cried Wolfert, clasping 
his hands with rapture. 

Scarcely had he uttered the words, when a sound from 
above caught his ear. He cast up his eyes, and lo ! by 
the expiring light of the nre, he beheld, just over the disk 
of the rock, what appeared to be the grim visage of the 
drowned buccaneer, grinning hideously down upon him. 

Wolfert gave a loud cry, and let fall the lantern. His 
panic communicated itself to his companions. The negro 
leaped out of the hole ; the doctor dropped his book and 
basket, and began to pray in German. All was horror and 



SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




"~b 



confusion. The fire was scattered about, the lantern ex- 
tinguished. In their hurry they ran against and con- 
founded one another. The doctor ran one way, the negro 
another, and Wolfert made for the waterside. As he 
plunged, struggling onward through bush and brake, he 
heard the tread of someone in pursuit. He scrambled 
frantically forward. The footsteps gained upon him. He 
felt himself grasped by his cloak, when suddenly his 
pursuer was attacked in turn. 

One of the combatants was disposed of, but whether 
friend or foe, Wolfert could not tell, or whether they might 
or not both be foes. He heard the survivor approach, and 
his terror revived. He saw, where the profile of the rocks 
rose against the horizon, a human form advancing. He 
could not be mistaken it must be the buccaneer. Whither 
should he fly ? a precipice was on one side, a murderer on 
the other. The enemy approached he was close at hand. 
Wolfert attempted to let himself down the face of the cliff. 



THE BUCCANEER'S TREASURE. 




His cloak caught in a thorn that grew on the edge. He was 
jerked from off his feet, and held dangling in the air, half 
choked by the string with which his careful wife had 
fastened the garment round his neck. Wolfert thought 
his last moment was arrived ; already had he committed 
his soul to St. Nicholas, when the string broke, and he 
tumbled down the bank, bumping from rock to rock, and 
bush to bush, and leaving the red cloak fluttering, like a 
bloody banner in the air. 

It was a long while before Wolfert came to himself. 
When he opened his eyes, the ruddy streaks of morning 
were already shooting up the sky. He found himself lying in 
the bottom of a boat, grievously battered. He attempted 
to sit up, but he was too sore and stiff to move. A voice 
requested him, in friendly accents, to lie still. He turned 
his eyes towards the speaker it was Dirk Waldron. He 
had dogged the party at the earnest request of Dame 
Webber and her daughter, who with the laudable curiosity 



10 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 



V -* ..L..~. .s 




MY EDITING. 

BY MARK TWAIN. 



J_a 




of their sex had pried into the secret consultations of 
Wolfert and the doctor. Dirk had been completely 
distanced in following the light skiff of the fisherman, 
and had just come in time to rescue the poor digger 
from his pursuer. 

Thus ended this perilous enterprise. The doctor and 
black Sam severally found their way back, each having 
some tale of peril to relate. As to poor Wolfert, instead 
of returning in triumph, laden with bags of gold, he was 
borne home on a shutter, followed by a rabble rout of 
curious urchins. 

The sensation of being at work once again was luxurious, 
and I wrought all the week with unflagging pleasure. We 
went to press, and I waited a day with some solicitude to 
see whether my effort was going to attract any notice. As 
I left the office, toward sundown, a group of men and boys 
at the foot of the stairs dispersed with one impulse, and 



MY EDITING. 11 



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gave me passage-way, and I heard one or two of them say 
" That's hini ! " I was naturally pleased by this incident. 
The next morning I found a similar group at the foot of 
the stairs, and scattered couples and individuals standing 
here and there in the street, and over the way, watching 
me with interest. The group separated and fell back as I 
approached, and I heard a man say, " Look at his eye ! " 
I pretended not to observe the notice I was attracting, but 
secretly I was pleased with it, and was purposing to write 
an account of it to my aunt. I went up the short flight 
of stairs, and heard cheery voices and a ringing laugh as I 
drew near the door, which I opened, and caught a glimpse 
of two young, rural-looking men, whose faces blanched and 
lengthened when they saw me, and then they both plunged 
through the window, with a great crash. I was surprised. 
In about half-an-hour an old gentleman, with a flowing 
beard and a fine but rather austere face, entered, and sat 
down at my invitation. He seemed to have something on 
his mind. He took off his hat and set it on the floor, and 



12 



SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN 7 AUTHORS. 



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got out of.it a red silk handkerchief and a copy of our 
paper. He put the paper on his lap, and, while he polished 
his spectacles with his handkerchief, he said : 
" Are you the new editor ? " 
I said I was. 

" Have you ever edited an agricultural paper before ? " 
" No,' I said ; " this is my first attempt." 
Then this old person got up and tore his paper all into 
small shreds, and stamped on them, and broke several 
things with his cane, and said I did not know as much as 
a cow ; and then went out, and banged the door after 
him ; and, in short, acted in such a way that I fancied he 
was displeased about something. But, not knowing what 
the trouble was, I could not be any help to him. 

But. these thoughts were quickly banished when the 
regular editor walked in. (T though* to myself, " Now, 



MY EDITING. 13 




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if you had gone to Egypt, as I recommended you to, I 
might have had a chance to get my hand in ; but you 
wouldn't do it, and here you are. T sort of expected you.") 

The editor was looking sad, and perplexed, and dejected. 
He surveyed the wreck which that old rioter and those two 
young farmers had made, and then said : 

" This is a sad business a very sad business. There is 
the mucilage bottle broken, and six panes of glass, and a 
spittoon, and two candlesticks. But that is not the worst. 
The reputation of the paper is injured, and permanently, 
I fear. True, there never was such a call for the paper 
before, and it never sold such a large edition or soared to 
such celebrity ; but does one want to be famous for lunacy, 
and prosper upon the infirmities of his mind ? My friend, 
as I am an honest man, the street out here is full of people, 
and others are roosting on the fences, waiting to get a 



14 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 



" J . tf-s x W *-/]- ^ n V 




glimpse of you, because they think you are crazy. And 
well they might, after reading your editorials. They are a 
disgrace to journalism. Why, what put it into your head 
that you could edit a paper of this nature ? 

" You do not seem to know the first rudiments of agri- 
culture. You speak of a furrow and a harrow as being the 
same thing ; you talk of the moulting season for cows ; 
and you recommend the domestication of the pole-cat on 
account of its playfulness and its excellence as a ratter. 
Your remark that clams will lie quiet if music be played 
to them was superfluous entirely superfluous. Nothing 
disturbs clams. Clams atoays lie quiet. Clams care 
nothing whatever about music. Ah, heavens and earth, 
friend ! if you had made the acquiring of ignorance the 
study of your life, you could not have graduated with 
higher honour than you could to-day. I never saw any- 
thing like it. Your observation that the horse-chestnut, 
as an article of commerce, is steadily 'gaining in favour is 



MY EDITING. 15 



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simply calculated to destroy this journal. I want you to 
throw up your situation and go. I want no more holiday 
I could not enjoy it ii I had it. Certainly not with you 
in my chair. I would always stand in dread ot what you 
might be going to recommend next. It makes me lose all 
patience every time I think oi your discussing oyster-beds 
under the head oi ' Landscape Gardening.' I want you to 
go. Nothing on earth could persuade me to take another 
holiday. Oh ! why didn't you tell me that you didn't 
know anything about agriculture ? " 

" Tell you, you cornstalk, you cabbage, you son oi a 
cauliflower ! It is the first time I ever heard such an un- 
feeling remark. I tell you I have been in the editorial 
business going on fourteen years, and it is the first time 
I ever heard of a man's having to know anything in order 
to edit a newspaper. You turnip ! 

" I take my leave, sir ! Since I have been treated as 
you' have treated me, I am perfectly willing to go. But I 




16 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 

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A VENERABLE IMPOSTOR. 

BY BRET HARTE. 

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have done my duty. I have fulfilled my contract, as far 
as I was permitted to do it. I said I could make your 
paper of interest to all classes, and I have. I said I could 
run your circulation up to twenty thousand copies, and if 
I had had two more weeks I would have done it. And I 
would have given you the best class of readers that ever 
an agricultural paper had not a farmer in it, nor a solitary 
individual who could tell a water-melon from a peach-vine 
to save his life. You are the loser by this rupture, not I, 
Pie-plant. Adios." I then left. 



As I glance across my table, I am somewhat distracted 
by the spectacle of a venerable head, whose crown occa- 
sionally appears beyond, at about its level. The appari- 
tion of a very small hand, whose fingers are bunchy, and 
have the appearance of being slightly webbed, which is 
frequently lifted above the table in a vain and impotent 
attempt to reach the inkstand, always affects me as a 



A VENERABLE IMPOSTOR. 



17 



^ ^ '--- ! ' ' J 




novelty at each recurrence of the phenomenon. Yet both 
the venerable head and the bunchy fingers belong to an 
individual with whom I am familiar, and to whom, for 
certain reasons hereafter described, I choose to apply the 
epithet written above this article. 

His advent in the family was attended with peculiar 
circumstances. He was received with some concern, the 
number of retainers having been increased by one in honour 
of his arrival. He appeared to be weary his pretence was 
that he had come from a long journey, so that for days, 
weeks, and even months, he did not leave his bed, except 
when he was carried. But it was remarkable that his 
appetite was invariably regular and healthy, and that his 
meals, which he required should be brought to him, were 
seldom rejected. During this time he had little conversa- 
tion with the family, his knowledge of our vernacular being 
limited, but occasionally spoke to himself in his own lan- 
guage a foreign tongue. The difficulties attending this 

2 (105) 



18 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 



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' ^-1 " 




eccentricity were obviated by the young woman who had 
from the first taken him under her protection, being, 
like the rest of her sex, peculiarly open to impositions, 
and who at once disorganised her own tongue to suit his. 
This was effected by the contraction of the syllables of 
some words, the addition of syllables to others, and an 
ingenious disregard for tenses and the governing powers of 
the verb. The same singular law which impels people in 
conversation with foreigners to imitate their broken Eng- 
lish governed the family in their communications with him. 
He received these evidences of his power with an indiffer- 
ence not wholly free from scorn ! The expression of his 
eye would occasionally denote that his higher nature re- 
volted from them. I have no doubt myself that his wants 
were frequently misinterpreted ; that the stretching forth 
of his hands towards the moon and stars might have been 
the performance of some religious rite peculiar to his own 
country, which was in ours misconstrued into a desire for 
physical nourishment. His repetition of the word " goo- 
goo," which was subject to a variety of opposite 



A VENERABLE IMPOSTOR. 19 

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interpretations, when taken in conjunction with his size, in 
my mind seemed to indicate his aboriginal or Aztec origin. 
I incline to this belief, as it sustains the impression I have 
already hinted at, that his extreme youth is a simulation 
and deceit ; that he is really older and has lived before 
at some remote period, and that his conduct fully justifies 
his title as " A Venerable Impostor." A variety of cir- 
cumstances corroborate this impression : his tottering 
walk, which is a senile as well as a juvenile condition ; his 
venerable head, thatched with such imperceptible hair 
that, at a distance, it looks like a mild aureola ; and his 
imperfect dental exhibition. But besides these physical 
peculiarities may be observed certain moral symptoms, 
which go to disprove his assumed youth. He is in the 
habit of falling into reveries, caused, I have no doubt, by 
some circumstance which suggests a comparison with his 
experience in his remoter boyhood, or by some serious 
retrospection of the past years. He has been detected 
lying awake at times when he should have been asleep, 



20 



SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




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engaged in curiously comparing the bed-clothes, walls, and 
furniture with some recollection of his youth. At such 
moments he has been heard to sing softly to himself frag- 
ments of some unintelligible composition, which probably 
still linger in his memory, as the echoes of a music he has 
long outgrown. He has the habit of receiving strangers 
with the familiarity of one who had met them before, and 
to whom their antecedents and peculiarities were matters 
of old acquaintance ; and so unerring is his judgment of 
their previous character, that when he withholds his con- 
fidence I am apt to withhold mine. It is somewhat re- 
markable that while the maturity of his years and the 
respect due to them is denied by man, his superiority and 
venerable age is never questioned by the brute creation. 
The dog treats him with a respect and consideration 
accorded to none others, and the cat permits a familiarity 
which I should shudder to attempt. It may be considered 
an evidence of some Pantheistic quality in his previous 
education that he seems to recognise a fellowship even in 



A VENERABLE IMPOSTOR. 21 




inarticulate objects ; he has been known to verbally ad- 
dress plants, flowers, and fruit, and to extend his confidence 
to such inanimate objects as chairs and tables. There can 
be little doubt that, in the remote period of his youth, 
these objects were endowed with not only sentient natures, 
but moral capabilities, and he is still in the habit of beat- 
ing them when they collide with him, and of pardoning 
them with a kiss. 

As he has grown older rather, let me say, as we have 
approximated to his years he has, in spite of the apparent 
paradox, lost much of his senile gravity. It must be 
confessed that some of his actions of late appear to our 
imperfect comprehension inconsistent with his extreme 
age. A habit of marching up and down with a string tied 
to a soda-water bottle ; a disposition to ride anything that 
could, by any exercise of the liveliest fancy, be made to 
assume equine proportions ; a propensity to blacken his 
venerable white hair with ink and coal-dust ; and an 
omnivorous appetite, which did not stop at chalk, clay, 



22 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




or cinders ; were peculiarities not calculated to excite 
respect. 

In fact, he would seem to have become demoralised, 
and when, after a prolonged absence the other day, he was 
finally discovered standing upon the front steps addressing 
a group of delighted children out of his limited vocabulary, 
the circumstance could only be accounted for as the 
garrulity of age. 

But I lay aside my pen amidst an ominous silence and 
the disappearance of the venerable head from my plane 
of vision. As I step to the other side of the table, I find 
that sleep has overtaken him in an overt act of hoary 
wickedness. The very pages I have devoted to an exposi- 
tion of his deceit he has quietly abstracted, and I find 
them covered with cabalistic figures and wild-looking 
hieroglyphs, traced with his forefinger dipped in ink, which 
doubtless in his own language conveys a scathing commen- 
tary on my composition. But he sleeps peacefully, and 



THE AUTOCRAT OF THE BREAKFAST TABLE. 23 




THE AUTOCRAT OF THE BREAKFAST 
TABLE. 

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES. 




there is something in his face which tells me that he has 
already wandered away to that dim region of his youth 
where I cannot follow him. And as there comes a strange 
stirring at my heart when I contemplate the immeasurable 
gulf which lies between us, and how slight and feeble as 
yet is his grasp on this world and its strange realities, I 
find, too late, that I also am. a willing victim of the 
" Venerable Impostor." 



I wonder if anybody ever finds fault with anything I say 
at this table when it is repeated ? I hope they do, I am 
sure. I should be very certain that I said nothing of much 
significance, if they did not. 

Did you never, in walking in the fields, come across a 
large flat stone, which had lain, nobody knows how long, 
just where you found it, with the grass forming a little 
hedge, as it were, all round it, close to its edges, and have 



24 



SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 



VV-:^ ^ 




you not, in obedience to a kind of feeling that told you it 
had been lying there long enough, insinuated your stick 
or your foot or your fingers under its edge and turned it 
over as a housewife turns a cake, when she says to herself, 
" It's done brown enough by this time ? " What an odd 
revelation, and what an unforeseen and unpleasant surprise 
to a small community, the very existence of which you 
had not suspected, until the sudden dismay and scattering 
among its members produced by your turning the old 
stone over ! Blades of grass flattened down, colourless, 
matted together, as if they had been bleached and ironed ; 
hideous crawling creatures, motionless, slug-like creatures, 
young larvae, perhaps more horrible in their pulpy stillness 
than even in the infernal wriggle of maturity ! But no 
sooner is the stone turned and the wholesome light of day 
let upon this compressed and blinded community of creep- 
ing things, than all of them which enjoy the luxury of legs 
and some of them have a good many rush round wildly. 



THE AUTOCRAT OK THE BREAKFAST TABLE. 



25 





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butting each other and everything in their way, and end 
in a general stampede for underground retreats from the 
region poisoned by sunshine. Next year you will find the 
grass growing tall and green where the stone lay ; the 
ground-bird builds her nest where the beetle had his hole ; 
the dandelion and the buttercup are growing there, and 
the broad fans of insect angels open and shut over their 
golden disks, as the rhythmic waves of blissful conscious- 
ness pulsate through their glorified being. 

The young fellow whom they call John saw fit to say, 
in his very familiar way, at which I do not choose to 
take offence, but which I sometimes think it necessary to 
repress, that I was coming it rather strong on the 
butterflies. 

No, I replied ; there is meaning in each of those images, 
the butterfly as well as the others. The stone is ancient 
error. The grass is human nature borne down and 
bleached of all its colour by it. The shapes which are 
seen beneath are the crafty beings that thrive in darkness, 
and the weaker organisms kept helpless by it. He who 



26 



SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




turns the stone over is whosoever puts the staff of truth 
to the old lying incubus, no matter whether he do it with 
a serious face or a laughing one. The next year stands for 
the coming time. Then shall the nature which had lain 
blanched and broken rise in its full stature and native hues 
in the sunshine. Then shall God's minstrels build their 
nests in the hearts of a new-born humanity. Then shall 
beauty Divinity taking outlines and colour light upon 
the souls of men as the butterfly, image of the beatified 
spirit rising from the dust, soars from the shell that held 
a poor grub, which would never have found wings, had 
not the stone been lifted. 

You never need think you can turn over any old false- 
hood without a terrible squirming and scattering of the 
horrid little population that dwells under it. 

Every real thought on every real subject knocks the 
wind out of somebody or other. As soon as his breath 
comes back, he very probably begins to expend it in hard 



THE AUTOCRAT OF THE BREAKFAST TABLE. 27 




words. These are the best evidence a man can have that 
he has said something it was time to say. Dr. Johnson 
was disappointed in the effect of one of his pamphlets. 
" I think I have not been attacked enough for it," he said ; 
" attack is the reaction ; I never think I have hit hard 
unless it rebounds." 

If a fellow attacked my opinions in print, would I reply ? 
Not I. Do you think I don't understand what my friend 
the Professor long ago called the hydrostatic paradox of 
controversy ? 

Don't know what that means ? Well, I will tell you. 
You know that, if you had a bent tube, one arm of which 
was the size of a pipe-stem, and the other big enough 
to hold the ocean, water would stand at the same height 
in one as in the other. Controversy equalizes fools and 
wise men in the same way and the fools know it. 



THE WAY TO WEALTH. 

BY BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. 

v 




Courteous reader, I have heard that nothing gives an 
author so great pleasure as to find his works respectfully 
quoted by others. Judge, then, how much I must have 
been gratified by an incident I am going to relate to you. 
I stopped my horse lately where a great number of people 
were collected at an auction of merchants' goods. The 
hour of the sale not being come, they were conversing on 
the badness of the times ; and one of the company called 
to a plain, clean, old man, with white locks, " Pray, 
Father Abraham, what think you of the times ? Will not 
these heavy taxes quite ruin the country ? How shall we 
ever be able to pay them ? What would you advise us 
to ? " Father Abraham stood up and replied, " If you 
would have my advice, I will give it you in short ; for 
' A word to the wise is enough,' as Poor Richard says." 
They joined in desiring him to speak his mind, and 
gathering round him, he proceeded as follows. 

" Friends," said he, " the taxes are indeed very heavy, 
and, if those laid on by the government were the only 

28 



THE WAY TO WEALTH. 29 




ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them ; 
but we have many others, and much more grievous to some 
of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three 
times as much by our pride, and four times as much by 
our folly ; and from these taxes the commissioners cannot 
ease or deliver us, by allowing an abatement. However, 
let us hearken to good advice, and something may be done 
for us ; ' God helps them that help themselves/ as Poor 
Richard says. 

" I. It would be thought a hard government that should 
tax its people one-tenth part of their time, to be employed 
in its service ; but idleness taxes many of us much more ; 
sloth, by bringing on diseases, absolutely shortens life. 
' Sloth like rust, consumes faster than labour wears ; while 
the used key is always bright,' as Poor Richard says. ' But 
dost thou love life, then do not squander time, for that is 
the stuff life is made of, ' as Poor Richard says. How much 
more than is necessary do we spend in sleep, forgetting 



30 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




that ' The sleeping fox catches no poultry, ' and that ' There 
will be sleeping enough in the grave/ as Poor Richard says. 
" ' If time be of all things the most precious, wasting 
time must be,' as Poor Richard says, ' the greatest prodi- 
gality ; ' since, as he elsewhere tells us, ' Lost time is never 
found again ; and what we call time enough, always proves 
little enough.' Let us then up and be doing, and doing to 
the purpose ; so by diligence shall we do more with less 
perplexity. ' Sloth makes all things difficult, but industry 
all easy ; ' and ' He that riseth late must trot all day, and 
shall scarce overtake his business at night ; ' while ' Lazi- 
ness travels so slowly, that Poverty soon overtakes him. 
Drive thy business, let not that drive thee ; ' and ' Early 
to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, 
and wise,' as Poor Richard says. 



THE WAY TO WEALTH. 31 



i ' S\ Q V 

./ ---- <5 \. V V| 




" So what signifies wishing and hoping for better times ? 
We may make these times better if we bestir ourselves. 
' Industry need not wish, and he that lives upon hopes will 
die fasting. There are no gains without pains ; then help, 
hands, for I have no lands ; ' or, if I have, they are smartly 
taxed. ' He that hath a trade hath an estate ; and he 
that hath a calling hath an office of profit and honour,' as 
Poor Richard says ; but then the trade must be worked 
at and the calling followed, or neither the estate nor the 
office will enable us to pay our taxes. If we are industrious 
we shall never starve ; for ' At the working-man's house 
hunger looks in, but dare not enter.' Nor will the bailiff 
or the constable enter, for ' Industry pays debts, while 
despair increaseth them.' What though you have found 
no treasure, nor has any rich relation left you a legacy, 
' Diligence is the mother of good luck, and God gives all 
things to industry. Then plough deep while sluggards 
sleep, and you shall have corn to sell and to keep. ' Work 



32 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




while it is called to-day, for you know not how much you 
may be hindered to-morrow. ' One to-day is worth two 
to-morrows,' as Poor Richard says ; and further, ' Never 
leave that till to-morrow which you can do to-day.' If 
you were a servant, would you not be ashamed that a good 
master should catch you idle ? Are you then your own 
master ? Be ashamed to catch yourself idle, when there 
is so much to be done for yourself, your family, your 
country, and your king. Handle your tools without mit- 
tens ; remember that ' The cat in gloves catches no mice,' 
as Poor Richard says. It is true there is much to be done, 
and perhaps you are weak-handed ; but stick to it steadily 
and you will see great effects ; for ' Constant dropping wears 
away stones ; ' and ' By diligence and patience the mouse 
ate in two the cable ; ' and ' Little strokes fell great oaks.' 
" Methinks I hear some of you say, ' Must a man afford 
himself no leisure ? ' I will tell thee, my friend, what Poor 
Richard says : ' Employ thy time well, if thou meanest 



THE WAY TO WEALTH. 33 



.....N...^- Y, j \_ 




to gain leisure ; and, since thou art not sure of a minute, 
throw not away an hour. ' Leisure is time for doing some- 
thing useful ; this leisure the diligent man will obtain, but 
the lazy man never ; for ' A life of leisure and a life of 
laziness are two things. Many, without labour, would live 
by their wits only, but they break for want of stock ; ' 
whereas industry gives comfort, and plenty and respect. 
' Fly pleasures, and they will follow you. The diligent 
spinner has a large shift ; and now I have a sheep and a 
cow, everybody bids me good morrow.' 

" II. But with our industry we must likewise be steady, 
settled, and careful, and oversee our own affairs, with our 
own eyes, and not trust too much to others ; for, as Poor 
Richard says, " ' I never saw an oft-removed tree, 

Nor yet an oft-removed family, 
That throve so well as those that settled be. ' 
3 (105) 



34 



SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 



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And again, ' Three removes are as bad as a fire ; ' and 
again, ' Keep thy shop, and thy shop will keep thee ; ' and 
again, ' If you would have your business done, go ; if not, 
send.' And again, 

" ' He that by the plough would thrive, 

Himself must either hold or drive.' 

And again, ' the eye of a master will do more work than 
both his hands ; ' and again, ' Want of care does us more 
damage than want of knowledge ; ' and again, ' Not to 
oversee workmen is to leave them your purse open.' 
Trusting too much to others' care is the ruin of many ; 
for ' In the affairs of this world men are saved, not by 
faith, but by the want of it ; ' but a man's own care is 
profitable ; for, ' If you would have a faithful servant, 
and one that you like, serve yourself. A little neglect may 
breed great mischief ; for want of a nail the shoe was lost ; 
for want of a shoe the horse was lost ; and for want of a 
horse the rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the 



THE WAY TO WEALTH. 35 




enemy ; all for want of a little care about a horse-shoe 
nail.' 

" III. So much for industry, my friends, and attention 
to one's own business ; but to these we must add frugality, 
if we would make our industry more certainly successful. 
A man may, if he knows not how to save as he gets, keep 
his nose all his life to the grindstone and die not worth a 
groat at last. ' A fat kitchen makes a lean will ; ' and 

" ' Many estates are spent in the getting, 

Since women for tea forsook spinning and knitting, 
And men for punch forsook hewing and splitting.' 

' If you would be wealthy, think of saving as well as of 
getting. The Indies have not made Spain rich, because 
her outgoes are greater than her incomes. 

" Away then with your expensive follies, and you will 
not then have so much cause to complain of hard times, 



36 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




heavy taxes, and chargeable families ; for 

' Women and wine, game and deceit, 

Make the wealth small and the want great.' 
And further, ' What maintains one vice would bring up two 
children.' You may think, perhaps, that a little tea, or a 
little punch now and then, diet a little more costly, clothes 
a little finer, and a little entertainment now and then, can 
be no great matter ; but remember, ' Many a little makes 
a mickle.' Beware of little expenses ; ' A small leak will 
sink a great ship,' as Poor Richard says ; and again, ' Who 
dainties love, shall beggars prove ; ' and moreover, ' Fools 
make feasts, and wise men eat them.' 

" Here you are all got together at this sale of fineries 
and knick-knacks. You call them goods ; but, if you do 
not take care, they will prove evils to some of you. You 
expect they will be sold cheap, and perhaps they may for 
less than they cost ; but if you have no occasion for them, 



THE WAY TO WEALTH. 37 



U 



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3: '>...'.. < -..".. ^r.. 



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they must be dear to you. Remember what Poor Richard 
says : ' Buy what thou hast no need of, and ere long thou 
shalt sell thy necessaries.' And again, ' At a great penny- 
worth pause a while. ' He means, that perhaps the cheapness 
is apparent only and not real ; or the bargain, by straiten- 
ing thee in thy business, may do thee more harm than good. 
For in another place he says, ' Many have been ruined by 
buying good pennyworths.' Again, ' it is foolish to lay out 
money in a purchase of repentance ; ' and yet this folly is 
practised every day at auctions, for want of minding the 
A Imanac. Many a one, for the sake of finery on the back, 
have gone with a hungry belly and half-starved their 
families. ' Silks and satins, scarlet and velvets, put out 
the kitchen fire,' as Poor Richard says. 

" These are not the necessaries of life ; they can scarcely 
be called the conveniences ; and yet, only because they 
look pretty, how many want to have them ! By these, and 



449529 



38 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 



N \/ . L < w; 

") fe; ^> 




other extravagances, the genteel are reduced to poverty, 
and forced to borrow of those whom they formerly despised, 
but who, through industry and frugality, have maintained 
their standing ; in which case it appears plainly, that ' A 
ploughman on his legs is higher than a gentleman on his 
knees,' as Poor Richard says. Perhaps they have had a 
small estate left them, which they knew not the getting of ; 
they think, ' It is day and will never be night ; ' that a 
little to be spent out of so much is not worth minding ; 
but ' Always taking out of the meal-tub and never putting 
in, soon comes to the bottom/ as Poor Richard says ; and 
then, ' When the well is dry, they know the worth of 
water.' But this they might have known before, if they 
had taken his advice. ' If you would know the value of 
money, go and try to borrow some ; for he that goes a 
borrowing goes a sorrowing,' as Poor Richard says ; and 
indeed so does he that lends to such people, when he goes 
to get it in again. Poor Dick further advises, and says, 



THE WAY TO WEALTH. 39 

* V- * '..*-:. *> H; 




" ' Fond pride of dress is sure a very curse ; 

Ere fancy you consult, consult your purse.' 
And again, ' Pride is as loud a beggar as Want, and a great 
deal more saucy. ' When you have bought one fine thing, 
you must buy ten more, that your appearance may be all 
of a piece ; but Poor Dick says, ' It is easier to suppress 
the first desire, than to satisfy all that follow it.' And it 
is as truly folly for the poor to ape the rich, as for the frog 
to swell in order to equal the ox. 

" ' Vessels large may venture more, 

But little boats should keep near shore.' 
It is, however, a folly soon punished ; for as Poor Richard 
says, ' Pride that dines on vanity, sups on contempt. 
Pride breakfasted with Plenty, dined with Poverty, and 
supped with Infamy.' And, after all, of what use is this 
pride of appearance, for which so much is risked, so much 
is suffered ? It cannot promote health nor ease pain ; it 



40 



SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




makes no increase of merit in the person ; it creates envy ; 
it hastens misfortune. 

" But what madness must it be to run in debt for these 
superfluities ? We are offered, by the terms of this sale, 
six months' credit ; and that, perhaps, has induced some 
of us to attend it, because we cannot spare the ready money, 
and hope now to be fine without it. But, ah ! think what 
you do when you run in debt ; you give to another power 
over your liberty. If you cannot pay at the time, you 
will be ashamed to see your creditor ; you will be in fear 
when you speak to him ; you will make poor, pitiful, 
sneaking excuses, and, by degrees, come to lose your 
veracity, and sink into base, downright lying ; for ' The 
second vice is lying, the first is running in debt," as Poor 
Richard says ; and again, to the same purpose, ' Lying 
rides upon Debt's back ; ' whereas a free-born Englishman 
ought not to be ashamed nor afraid to see or speak to any 
man living. But poverty often deprives a man of all spirit 



THE WAY TO WEALTH. 



41 




> 



and virtue. ' It is hard for an empty bag to stand upright.' 
" What would you think of that prince, or of that 
government, who should issue an edict forbidding you to 
dress like a gentleman or gentlewoman, on pain of imprison- 
ment or servitude ? Would you not say that you were 
free, have a right to dress as you please, and that such an 
edict would be a breach of your privileges, and such a 
government tyrannical ? And yet you are about to put 
yourself under such tyranny, when you run in debt for such 
dress ! Your creditor has authority, at his pleasure, to 
deprive you of your liberty, by confining you in jail till 
you shall be able to pay him. When you have got your 
bargain, you may, perhaps, think little of payment ; but, 
as Poor Richard says, ' creditors have better memories 
than debtors ; creditors are a superstitious sect, great 
observers of set days and times.' The day comes round 
before you are aware, and the demand is made before you 
are prepared to satisfy it ; or, if you bear your debt in 



42 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




I . 



mind, the term, which at first seemed so long, will, as it 
lessens, appear extremely short. Time will seem to have 
added wings to his heels as well as his shoulders. ' Those 
have a short Lent who owe money to be paid at Easter.' 
At present, perhaps, you may think yourselves in thriving 
circumstances, and that you can bear a little extravagance, 
without injury ; but 

" ' For age and want save while you may ; 

No morning sun lasts the whole day." 
Gain may be temporary and uncertain, but ever while you 
live, expense is constant and certain ; and ' It is easier to 
build two chimneys than to keep one in fuel,' as Poor 
Richard says ; so ' Rather go to bed supperless, than rise 
in debt.' 

" ' Get what you can, and what you get hold ; 

'Tis the stone that will turn all your lead into gold. ' 



THE WAY TO WEALTH. 43 



"IV. C I, ^, o..r. 




And, when you have got the Philosopher's Stone, sure you 
will no longer complain of bad times or the difficulty of 
paying taxes. 

"IV. This doctrine, my friends, is reason and wisdom ; 
but, after all, do not depend too much upon your own 
industry, and frugality, and prudence, though excellent 
things : for they may all be blasted, without the blessing 
of Heaven ; and, therefore, ask that blessing humbly, and 
be not uncharitable to those that at present seem to want 
it, but comfort and help them. Remember, Job suffered 
and was afterwards prosperous. 

" And now, to conclude, ' Experience keeps a dear 
school, but fools will learn in no other,' as Poor Richard 
says, and scarce in that ; for, it is true, ' We may give 
advice, but we cinnot give conduct.' However, remember 
this, ' They that will not be counselled, cannot be helped ; 
and further, that, ' If you will not hear Reason, she will 
surely rap your knuckles/ as Poor Richard says." 



SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




Thus the old gentleman ended his harangue. The people 
heard it and approved the doctrine ; and immediately 
practised the contrary, just as if it had been a common 
sermon ; for the auction opened and they began to buy 
extravagantly. I found the good man had thoroughly 
studied my almanacks, and digested all I had dropped on 
these topics during the course of twenty-five years. The 
frequent mention he made of me must have tired anyone 
else ; but my vanity was wonderfully delighted with it, 
though I was conscious that not a tenth part of the wisdom 
was my own, which he had ascribed to me, but rather the 
gleanings that I had made of the sense of all ages and 
nations. However, I resolved to be the better for the echo 
of it ; and, though I had at first determined to buy stuff 
for a new coat, I went away resolved to wear my old one a 
little longer. Reader, if thou wilt do the same, thy profit 
will be as great as mine. I am, as ever, thine to serve 
thee, RICHARD SAUNDERS. 



THE TELL-TALE HEART. 

BY EDGAR ALLAN POE. 

c > <> 



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True ! nervous, very, very, dreadfully nervous I have 
been and am ; but why will you say that I am mad ? 
The disease had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not 
dulled them. Above all, was the sense of hearing acute. 
I heard all things in the Heaven and in the earth. I heard 
many things in hell. How, then, am I mad ? Hearken ! 
and observe how healthily, how calmly I can tell you the 
whole story. 

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my 
brain, but, once conceived, it haunted me day and night. 
Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved 
the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never 
given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it 
was his eye ! Yes, it was this ! One of his eyes resembled 
that of a vulture a pale, blue eye with a film over it. 
Whenever it fell upon me my blood ran cold, and so by 

45 



46 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




degrees, very gradually, I made up my mind to take the 
life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye for ever. 
Now, this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen 
know nothing. But you should have seen me. You 
should have seen how wisely I proceeded with what cau- 
tion with what foresight with what dissimulation, I 
went to work ! I was never kinder to the old man than 
during the whole week before I killed him. And every 
night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door, and 
opened it oh, so gently ! And then, when I had made an 
opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern all 
closed, closed so that no light shone out ; and then I 
thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see 
how cunningly I thrust it in ! I moved it slowly, very, 
very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man's 
sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within 
the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his 
bed. Ha ! would a madman have been so wise as this ? 



THE TELL-TALE HEART. 47 



, V I PS / ^o .C?, I 0..^..% 




And then when my head was well in the room, I undid the 
lantern cautiously oh, so cautiously cautiously (for the 
hinges creaked) ! I undid it just so much that a single 
thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for 
seven long nights, every night just at midnight ; but I 
found the eye always closed, and so it was impossible to do 
the work, for it was not the old man who vexed me, but 
his evil eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I 
went boldly into the chamber and spoke courageously to 
him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring 
how he had passed the night. So you see he would have 
been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every 
night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept. 
Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious 
in opening the door. A watch's minute-hand moves more 
quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt 
the extent of my own powers, of my sagacity. I could 
scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that 



48 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 



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there I was opening the door little by little, and he not 
even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly 
chuckled at the idea ; and perhaps he heard me, for he 
moved on the bed suddenly as if startled. Now you may 
think that I drew back but no. His room was as black 
as pitch with the thick darkness (for the shutters were close 
fastened through fear of robbers), and so I knew that he 
could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing 
it on steadily, steadily. 

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, 
when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the 
old man sprang up in the bed, crying out, " Who's there ? " 

I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I 
did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear 
him lie down. He was still sitting up in bed, listening ; 
just as I have done night after night, hearkening to the 
dead watches in the wall. 



THE TELL-TALE HEART. 49 




Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the 
groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of 
grief oh no ! It was the low, stifled sound that arises 
from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. 
I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, 
when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own 
bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that 
distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the 
old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. 
I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first 
slight noise when he had turned in the bed. 

His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He 
had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. 
He had been saying to himself, " It is nothing but the 
wind in the chimney, it is only a mouse crossing the 
floor ; " or, " It is merely a cricket which has made a single 
chirp." Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with 
these suppositions ; but he had found all in vain. All in 
vain, because Death, in approaching him, had stalked with 

4 <i5) 



50 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 



-: r A- ---. -a.- ^ V-* 




his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. 
And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived 
shadow that caused him to feel, although he neither saw 
nor heard, to feel the presence of my head within the room. 

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without 
hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little a very, 
very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it you 
cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily until at length 
a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot out 
from the crevice and fell upon the vulture eye. 

It was open, wide, wide open, and I grew furious as I 
gazed upon it. I saw with perfect distinctness all a dull 
blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very mar- 
row in my bones ; but I could see nothing else of the old 
man's face or person, for I had directed the ray as if by 
instinct precisely upon the damned spot. 



THE TELL-TALE HEART. 51 




And now have I not told you that what makes you mis- 
take for madness is but over-acuteness of the senses ? 
Now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, 
such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew 
that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man's 
heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum 
stimulates the soldier into courage. 

But even yet I refrained, and kept still. I scarcely 
breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how 
steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Meantime 
the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker 
and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old 
man's terror must have been extreme \ It grew louder, I 
say, louder every moment I do you mark me well ? I 
have told you that I am nervous ; so I am. And now, at 
the dread hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of 
that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to 
uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I 



52 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 

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refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, 
louder. I thought the heart must burst. And now a new 
anxiety seized me the sound would be heard by a neigh- 
bour ! The old man's hour had come ! With a loud yell 
I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He 
shrieked once once only. In an instant I dragged him to 
the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then 
smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But for many 
minutes the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, 
however, did not vex me ; it would not be heard through 
the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. 
I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was 
stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and 
held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He 
was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more. 

If still you think me mad, you will think me so no longer 
when I describe the wise precautions I took for the con- 
cealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked 
hastily, but in silence. 



THE TELL-TALE HEART. 53 



^x X X x-\v ) 




I tf<ok ii[) tlirce planks from the flooring of the chamber, 
and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced 
the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye 
not even /m could have detected anything wrong. There 
was nothing to wash out no stain of any kind no blood- 
spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. 

When I had made an end of these labours it was four 
o'clock still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the 
hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went 
down to open it with a light heart for what had I now 
to fear ? There entered three men, who introduced them- 
selves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A 
shriek had been heart! by a neighbour during the night ; 
suspicion of foul play had been aroused ; information had 
been lodged at the police-court, and they (the officers) had 
been deputed to search the premises. 



54 



SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




I smiled, for zt7/a/ had I to fear ? I bade the gentlemen 
welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. 
The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I 
took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search 
search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber, I 
showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the 
enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the 
room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, 
while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, 
placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which 
reposed the corpse of the victim. 

The officials were satisfied. My manner had convinced 
them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I 
answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But 
ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone 
My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears ; but 
still they sat, and still chatted. The ringing became more 



THE TELL-TALE HEART. 55 




,_ ' o i 

v ~\' - \- v H ^ ' / * \*s* 

- ^ -Gr ' ' 




distinct ; it continued and became more distinct. I 
talked more freely to get rid of the feeling ; but it con- 
tinued and gained definiteness until, at length, I found 
that the noise was not within my ears. 

No doubt I now grew very pale ; but I talked more 
fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound in- 
creased and what could I do ? It wets a loiv, dull, quick 
sound much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped 
in cotton. I gasped for breath and yet the officials heard 
it not. I talked more quickly more vehemently ; but 
the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about 
trifles, in a high key, and with violent gesticulations ; but 
the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be- 
gone ? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, 
as if excited to fury by the observations of the men but 
the noise steadily increased. O God ! What could I do ? 
I foamed I raved I swore ! I swung the chair upon 
which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards ; 



56 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




GREATNESS IN COMMON LIFE. 

BY W. E. CHANNING. 




but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It 
grew louder louder louder ! And still the men chatted 
pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not ? 
Almighty God ! no, no ! They heard they suspected 
they knew ! they were making a mockery of my horror ! 
this I thought, and this I think. But anything was 
better than this agony ! Anything was more tolerable 
than this derision. I could bear those hypocritical smiles 
no longer ! I felt that I must scream or die ! And now 
again ! hark ! louder ! louder ! louder ! louder ' 

" Villains ! " I shrieked, " dissemble no more ! I admit 
the deed ! tear up the planks ! here, here ! it is the 
beating of his hideous heart ! " 



My strong interest in the mass of the people is founded, 
not on their usefulness to the community, so much as on 
what they are in themselves. Their condition is indeed 
obscure ; but their importance is not on this account a 



GREATNESS IN COMMON LIFE. 




\vliit the less. The multitude of men cannot, from the 
nature of the case, be distinguished ; for the very idea of 
distinction is that a man stands out from the multitude. 
They make little noise and draw little notice in their nar- 
row spheres of action ; but still they have their full pro- 
portion of personal worth and even of greatness. Indeed, 
every man in every condition is great. It is only our own 
diseased sight which makes him little. A man is great as 
a man, be he where or what he may. The grandeur of his 
nature turns to insignificance all outward distinctions. 
His powers of intellect, of conscience, of love, of knowing 
God, of perceiving the beautiful, of acting on his own mind, 
on outward nature, and on his fellow-creatures, these are 
glorious prerogatives. Through the vulgar error of under- 
valuing what is common, we are apt indeed to pass these 
by as of little worth. But, as in the outward creation, so 
in the soul, the common is the most precious. Science and 
art may invent splendid modes of illuminating the apart- 
ments of the opulent ; but these are all poor and worthless 



58 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




compared with the common light which the sun sends into 
all our windows, which he pours freely, impartially over 
hill and valley, which kindles daily the eastern and western 
sky ; and so the common lights of reason, and conscience, 
and love, are of more worth and dignity than the fare 
endowments which give celebrity to a few. Let us not 
disparage that nature which is common to all men ; for no 
thought can measure its grandeur. It is the image of God, 
the image even of His infinity, for no limits can be set to 
its unfolding. He who possesses the divine powers of the 
soul is a great being, be his place what it may. You may 
clothe him with rags, may immure him in a dungeon, may 
chain him to slavish tasks. But he is still great. You 
may shut him out of your houses ; but God opens to him 
heavenly mansions. He makes no show indeed in the 
streets of a splendid city ; but a clear thought, a pure 
affection, a resolute act of a virtuous will, have a dignity 
quite of another kind, and far higher than accumulations 



GREATNESS IN COMMON LIFE. 59 




of brick and granite and plaster and stucco, however cun- 
ningly put together, or though stretching far beyond our 
sight. 

Nor is this all. If we pass over this grandeur of our 
common nature, and turn our thoughts to that compara- 
tive greatness, which draws chief attention, and which 
consists in the decided superiority of the individual to the 
general standard of power and character, we shall find 
this as free and frequent a growth among the obscure and 
unnoticed as in more conspicuous walks of life. The truly 
great are to be found everywhere, nor is it easy to say in 
what condition they spring up most plentifully. Real 
greatness has nothing to do with a man's sphere. It does 
not lie in the magnitude of his outward agency, in the 
extent of the effects which he produces. The greatest men 
may do comparatively little abroad. Perhaps the greatest 
in our city at this moment are buried in obscurity. Gran- 
deur of character lies wholly in force of soul, that is, in the 
force of thought, moral principle, and love, and this may 






60 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 

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be found in the humblest condition of life. A man brought 
up to an obscure trade, and hemmed in by the wants of a 
growing family, may, in his narrow sphere, perceive more 
clearly, discriminate more keenly, weigh evidence more 
wisely, seize on the right means more decisively, and have 
more presence of mind in difficulty, than another who has 
accumulated vast stores of knowledge by laborious study ; 
and he has more of intellectual greatness. Many a man 
who has gone but a few miles from home, understands 
human nature better, detects motives, and weighs char- 
acter more sagaciously, than another who has travelled 
over the known world, and made a name b}' his reports of 
different countries. It is force of thought which measures 
intellectual, and so it is force of principle which measures 
moral greatness, that highest of human endowments, that 
brightest manifestation of the Divinity. The greatest man 
is he who chooses the right with invincible resolution, who 
resists the sorest temptations from within and without, 



GREATNESS IN COMMON LIFE. 



61 




who bears the heaviest burden cheerfully, who is calmest 
in storms, and most fearless under menace and frowns, 
whose reliance on truth, on virtue, on God, is most unfalter- 
ing ; and is this a greatness which is apt to make a show, 
or which is likely to abound in conspicuous station 1 The 
solemn conflicts of reason with passion ; the victories of 
moral and religious principle over urgent and almost irre- 
sistible solicitations to self-indulgence ; the hardest sacri- 
fices of duty, those of deep-seated affection and of the 
heart's fondest hopes ; the consolations, hopes, joy and 
peace of disappointed, persecuted, scorned, deserted vir- 
tue ; these are of course unseen ; so that the true great- 
ness of human life is almost wholly out of sight. Perhaps 
in our presence the most heroic deed on earth is done in 
some silent spirit, the loftiest purpose cherished, the most 
generous sacrifice made, and we do not suspect it. I be- 
lieve this greatness to be most common among the multi- 
tude, whose names are never heard. Among common 
people will be found more of hardship borne manfully, 
more of unvarnished truth, more of religious trust, more 



62 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 



.V..., .' ^-S>, A... e- ~f', '-, 




of that generosity which gives what the giver needs himself, 
and more of a wise estimate of life and death, than among 
the more prosperous. 

And evren in regard to influence over other beings which 
is thought the peculiar prerogative of distinguished station, 
I believe that the difference between the conspicuous and 
the obscure does not amount to much. Influence is to be 
measured, not by the extent of surface it covers, but by its 
kind. A man may spread his mind, his feelings, and 
opinions, through a great extent ; but, if his mind be a 
low one, he manifests no greatness. A wretched artist 
may fill a city with daubs, and by a false showy style 
achieve a reputation ; but the man of genius, who leaves 
behind him one grand picture in which immortal beauty 
is embodied, and which is silently to spread a true taste 
in his art, exerts an incomparably higher influence. Now 
the noblest influence on earth is that exerted on character ; 
and he who puts forth this does a great work, no matter 



GREATNESS IN COMMON LIFE. 



63 




how narrow or obscure his sphere. The father and mother 
of an unnoticed family, who, in their seclusion, awaken 
the mind of one child to the idea and love of perfect good- 
ness, who awaken in him a strength of will to repel all 
temptation, and who send him out prepared to profit by 
the conflicts of life, surpass in influence a Napoleon break- 
ing the world to his sway. And not only is their work 
higher in kind ; who knows but that they are doing a 
greater work even as to extent of surface than the con- 
queror ? Who knows but that the being whom they 
inspire with holy and disinterested principles may com- 
municate himself to others ; and that, by a spreading 
agency of which they were the silent origin, improvements 
may spread through a nation, through the world ? Tn 
these remarks you will see why I feel and express a deep 
interest in the obscure in the mass of men. The distinc- 
tions of society vanish before the light of these truths. I 
attach myself to the multitude, not because they are voters 
and have political power ; but because they are men, and 
have within their reach the most glorious prizes of humanity. 



THE STORY OF A DRUM, 




" About four years ago," began the Doctor, " I attended 
a course of lectures in a certain city. One of the professors 
invited me to his house on Christmas night. I was very 
glad to go, as I was anxious to see one of his sons, who, 
though only twelve years old, was said to be very clever. 
There was a pleasant party that night. All the children 
of the neighbourhood were there, and among them the 
Professor's clever son, Rupert, as they called him, a thin 
little chap, tall for his age, fair and delicate. His health 
was feeble, his father said ; he seldom ran about and 
played with other boys, preferring to stay at home and 
brood over his books, and compose what he called his 
verses. 

" Well, we had a Christmas-tree, and we had been laugh- 
ing and talking, calling off the names of the children who 
had presents on the tree, and everybody was very happy 

64 



THE STORY OF A DRUM. 65 




and joyous, when one of the children suddenly said, ' Here's 
something for Rupert ; and what do you think it is ? ' 

" We all guessed : ' A desk ; ' ' A copy of Milton ; ' 
' A gold pen ; ' 'A rhyming dictionary. ' ' No ? what then ? ' 

' ' A drum ! ' 

" Sure enough there it was. A good-sized, bright, new, 
brass-bound drum, with a slip of paper on it, with the 
inscription, ' FOR RUPERT.' 

" Of course we all laughed, and thought it a good joke. 
' You see you're to make a noise in the world, Rupert ! ' 
said one. ' Here's parchment for the poet,' said another. 
' Rupert's last work in sheepskin covers,' said a third. 
' Give us a classical tune, Rupert,' said a fourth ; and so 
on. But Rupert seemed too mortified to speak ; he 
changed colour, bit his lips, and finally burst into a pas- 
sionate fit of crying, and left the room. Then those who 
had joked him felt ashamed, and everybody began to ask 
5 (105) 



66 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




who had put the drum there. But no one knew. Rupert 
did not come downstairs again that night, and the party 
soon after broke up. 

" I had almost forgotten those things, for the war of the 
Rebellion broke out the next spring, and I was appointed 
surgeon in one of the new regiments, and was on my way 
to the seat of war. But I had to pass through the city 
where the Professor lived, and there I met him. My first 
question was about Rupert. The Professor shook his head 
sadly. ' He's not so well,' he said ; ' he has been declining 
since last Christmas, when you saw him. A very strange 
case, but go and see him yourself ; it may distract his 
mind and do him good.' 

" I went accordingly to the Professor's house, and found 
Rupert lying on a sofa, propped up with pillows. Around 
him were scattered his books, and, what seemed in singular 
contrast, that drum was hanging on a nail, just above his 
head. His face was thin and wasted ; there was a red 



THE STORY OF A DRUM. 67 




spot on either cheek, and his eyes were very bright and 
widely opened. He was glad to see me, and when I told 
him where I was going, he asked a thousand questions 
about the war. I thought I had thoroughly diverted his 
mind from its sick and languid fancies, when he suddenly 
grasped my hand and drew me towards him. 

' Doctor,' said he, in a low whisper, ' you won't laugh 
at me if I tell you something ? ' 

' No, certainly not,' I said. 

' You remember that drum ? ' he said, pointing to the 
glittering toy that hung against the wall. ' You know, 
too, how it came to me. A few weeks after Christmas, I 
was lying half asleep here, and the drum was hanging on 
the wall, when suddenly I heard it beaten ; at first, low 
and slowly, then faster and louder, until its rolling filled 
the house. In the middle of the night, I heard it again. 
I did not dare to tell anybody about it, but I have heard 
it every night ever since. Sometimes it is played softly, 



68 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




sometimes loudl}', but always quickening to a long roll, 
so loud and alarming that I have looked to see people 
coming into my room to ask what was the matter. But 
I think, Doctor, that no one hears it but myself.' 

" I thought so, too, but I asked him if he had heard it 
at any other times. 

" ' Once or twice in the daytime,' he replied, ' when I 
have been reading or writing ; then very loudly, as though 
it were angry, and tried in that way to attract my attention 
from my books. 

" I looked into his face, and placed my hand upon his 
pulse. His eyes were very bright, and his pulse a little 
flurried and quick. I then tried to explain to him that 
he was very weak, and that his senses were very acute, as 
most weak people's are ; and how that when he read, or 
grew interested and excited, or when he was tired at night, 
the throbbing of a big artery made the beating sound he 



THE STORY OF A DRUM. 



69 




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\\C-A.\^L. He listened to me with a sad smile of unbelief, 
but thanked me, and in a little while I went away. 

" I left the city that very day, and in the excitement of 
battlefields and hospitals, I forgot all about little Rupert. 

" Not long after we had a terrible battle, in which a 
portion of our army was surprised and driven back with 
great slaughter. Entering the barn that served for a 
temporary hospital, I went at once to work. 

" I turned to a tall, stout Vermonter, who was badly 
wounded in both thighs, but he held up his hands and 
begged me to help others first who needed it more than he. 
I did not at first heed his request, for this kind of unsel- 
fishness was very common in the army ; but he went on 
' For God's sake, Doctor, leave me here ; there is a 
drummer-boy of our regiment a mere child dying, if he 
isn't dead now. Go and see him first. He lies over there. 
He saved more than one life. He was at his post in the 



70 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




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panic this morning, and saved the honour of the regiment ' 
I was so much impressed by the man's manner that I 
passed over to where the drummer lay with his drum 
beside him. I gave one glance at his face and yes, it 
was Rupert. 

" Well ! well ! it needed not the chalked cross which my 
brother surgeons had left upon the rough board whereon 
he lay to show how urgent was the relief he sought ; it 
needed not the prophetic words of the Vermonter, nor the 
damp that mingled with the brown curls that clung to his 
pale forehead, to show how hopeless it was now. I called 
him by name. He opened his eyes larger, I thought, in 
the new vision that was beginning to dawn upon him 
and recognized me. He whispered, ' I'm glad you are 
come, but I don't think you can do me any good.' 

" I could not tell him a lie. I could not say anything 
I only pressed his hand in mine, as he went on. 



THE STORY OF A DRUM. 71 

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' But you will see father, and ask him to forgive me. 
Nobody is to blame but myself. It was a long time before 
I understood why the drum came to me on Christmas night, 
and why it kept calling to me every night, and what it 
said. I know it now. The work is done, and I am con- 
tent. Tell father it is better as it is. I should have lived 
only to worry and perplex him, and something in me tells 
me this is right.' 

" He lay still for a moment, and then, grasping my hand, 
said, 

" ' Hark ! ' 

" I listened, but heard nothing but the suppressed 
moans of the wounded men around me. ' The drum,' he 
said, faintly ; ' don't you hear it ? The drum is calling 
me.' 

" He reached out his arm to where it lay, as though he 
would embrace it. 

" ' Listen,' he went on, ' it's the reveille. There are the 
ranks drawn up in review. Don't you see the sunlight 



72 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




THE PROCESSION OF LIFE. 

BY NATHANIEL HAWTHOKNE. 




flash down the long line of bayonets ? Their faces are 
shining they present arms there comes the General ; 
but his face I cannot look at, for the glory round his head. 
He sees me ; he smiles, it is And with a name upon 
his lips that he learned long ago, he stretched himself 
wearily upon the planks, and lay quite still." 



Life figures itself to me as a festal or funereal procession. 
All of us have our places, and are to move onward under 
the direction of the Chief Marshal. The grand difficulty 
results from the invariably mistaken principles on which 
the deputy marshals seek to arrange this immense con- 
course of people, so much more numerous than those that 
train their interminable length through streets and high- 
ways in times of political excitement. Their scheme is 
ancient, far beyond the memory of man, or even the record 
of history, and has hitherto been very little modified by the 
innate sense of something wrong, and the dim perception 



THE PROCESSION OF LIFE. 73 



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of better metliods, that have disquieted all the ages 
through which the procession has taken its march. Its 
members are classified by the merest external circum- 
stances, and thus are more certain to be thrown out of their 
true positions than if no principle of arrangement were 
attempted. In one part of the procession we see men of 
landed estate or moneyed capital gravely keeping each 
other company, for the preposterous reason that they 
chance to have a similar standing in the tax-gatherer's 
book. Trades and professions march together with 
scarcely a more real bond of union. In this manner, it 
cannot be denied, people are disentangled from the mass 
and separated into various classes according to certain 
apparent relations ; all have some artificial badge which 
the world, and themselves among the first, learn to con- 
sider as a genuine characteristic. Fixing our attention on 
such outside shows of similarity or difference, we lose sight 
of those realities by which nature, fortune, fate, or Provi- 
dence has constituted for every man a brotherhood, 



74 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




wherein it is one great office of human wisdom to classify 
him. When the mind has once accustomed itself to a 
proper arrangement of the Procession of Life, or a true 
classification of society, even though merely speculative, 
there is thenceforth a satisfaction which pretty well suffices 
for itself without the aid of any actual reformation in the 
order of march. 

For instance, assuming to myself the power of marsha'ling 
the aforesaid procession, I direct a trumpeter to send forth 
a blast loud enough to be heard from hence to China ; 
and a herald, with world-pervading voice, to make pro- 
clamation for a certain class of mortals to take their places. 
What shall be their principle of union ? After all, an 
external one, in comparison with many that might be 
fcund, yet far more real than those which the world has 
selected for a similar purpose. Let all who are afflicted 
with like physical diseases form themselves into ranks. 

Our first attempt at classification is not very successful. 



THE PROCESSION OF LIFE. 




It may gratify the pride of aristocracy to reflect that 
disease, more than any other circumstance of human life, 
pays due observance to the distinctions which rank and 
wealth, and poverty and lowliness, have established among 
mankind. Some maladies are rich and precious, and only 
to be acquired by the right of inheritance or purchased 
with gold. Of this kind is the gout, which serves as a 
bond of brotherhood to the purple-visaged gentry who 
obey the herald's voice, and painfully hobble from all 
civilized regions of the globe to take their post in the grand 
procession. In mercy to their toes, let us hope that the 
nvuvh may not be long. The dyspeptics, too, are people 
of good standing in the world. For them the earliest sal- 
mon is caught in our eastern rivers, and the shy woodcock 
stains the dry leaves with his blood in his remotest haunts, 
and the turtle comes from the far Pacific Islands to be 
gobbled up in soup. They can afford to flavour all their 
dishes with indolence, which, in spite of the general 
opinion, is a sauce more exquisitely piquant than appetite 
won by c-xcrcisc. Apoplexy is another highly respectable 



76 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 



^ -k" V ) 




disease. We will rank together all who have the symptom 
of dizziness in the brain, and as fast as any drop by the 
way supply their places with new members of the board 
of aldermen. 

On the other hand, here come whole tribes of people, 
whose physical lives are but a deteriorated variety of life, 
and themselves a meaner species of mankind ; so sad an 
effect has been wrought by the tainted breath of cities, 
scanty and unwholesome food, destructive modes of labour, 
and the lack of those moral supports that might partially 
have counteracted such bad influences. Behold here a 
train of house painters, all afflicted with a peculiar sort of 
colic. Next in place we will marshal those workmen in 
cutlery, who have breathed a fatal disorder into their lungs 
with the impalpable dust of steel. Tailors and shoe- 
makers, being sedentary men, will chiefly congregate into 
one part of the procession, and march under similar ban- 
ners of disease ; but among them we may observe here and 



THE PROCESSION OF LIFE. 



77 



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there a sickly student, who has left his health between the 
leaves of classic volumes ; and clerks, likewise, who have 
caught their deaths on high official stools ; and men of 
genius too, who have written sheet after sheet with pens 
dipped in their heart's blood. These are a wretched, quak- 
ing, short-breathed set. But what is this cloud of pale- 
cheeked, slender girls, who disturb the ear with the multi- 
plicity of their short, dry coughs ? They are seamstresses, 
who have plied the daily and nightly needle in the service 
of master tailors and close-fisted contractors, until now it 
is almost time for each to hem the borders of her own 
sliroud. Consumption points their place in the procession. 
With their sad sisterhood are intermingled many youthful 
maidens who have sickened in aristocratic mansions, and 
for whose aid science has unavailingly searched its volumes, 
and whom breathless love has watched. In our ranks the 
rich maiden and the poor seamstress may walk arm in arm 
We might find innumerable other instances, where the 
bond of mutual disease^ not to speak of nation-sweeping 



78 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 



\ I "X s 

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vx ^ ^ .< y..^._. r \^r z* s . 




pestilence embraces high and low, and makes the king 
brother of the clown. But it is not hard to own that 
disease is the natural aristocrat. Let him kee.p his state, 
and have his established orders of rank, and wear his royal 
mantle of the colour of a fever flush ; and let the noble and 
wealthy boast their own physical infirmities, and display 
their symptoms as the badges of high station. All things 
considered, these are as proper subjects of human pride as 
any relations of human rank that men can fix upon. 

Sound again, thou deep-breathed trumpeter ! and herald 
with thy voice of might, shout forth another summons that 
'shall reach the old baronial castles of Europe, and the 
rudest cabin of our western wilderness ! What class is 
next to take its place in the procession of mortal life ? Let 
it be those whom the gifts of intellect have united in a 
noble brotherhood. 

Ay, this is a reality, before which the conventional dis- 
tinctions of society melt away like a vapour when we would 



THE PROCESSION OF LIFE. 



79 



/V: 



-4~* i 



v_> ' ""7 - T - ' J 




grasp it with the hand. Were Byron now alive, and Burns, 
the iirst would come from his ancestral abbey, flinging 
aside, although unwillingly, the inherited honours of a 
thousand years, to take the arm of the mighty peasant 
who grew immortal while he stooped behind his plough. 
These are gone ; but the hall, the farmer's fireside, the hut, 
perhaps the palace, the counting room, the workship, the 
village, the city, life's high places and low ones, may all 
produce their poets, whom a common temperament per- 
vades like an electric sympathy. Peer or ploughman, we 
will muster them pair by pair and shoulder to shoulder. . . . 
Yet the longer I reflect the less am I satisfied with the 
idea of forming a separate class of mankind on the basis of 
high intellectual power. At best it is but a higher develop- 
ment of innate gifts common to all. Perhaps, moreover, 
he whose genius appears deepest and truest excels his 



80 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 



V _- . X 




fellows in nothing save the knack of expression ; he throws 
out occasionally a lucky hint at truths of which every soul 
is profoundly, though unutterably conscious. Therefore, 
though we suffer the brotherhood of intellect to march on- 
ward together, it may be doubted whether their peculiar 
relation will not begin to vanish as soon as the procession 
shall have passed beyond the circle of this present world. 
But we do not classify for eternity. 

And next, let the trumpet pour forth a funereal wail, and 
the herald's voice give breath in one vast cry to all the 
groans and grievous utterances that are audible throughout 
the earth. We appeal now to the sacred bond of sorrow, 
and summon the great multitude who labour under similar 
afflictions to take their places in the march. 

How many a heart that would have been insensible to 
any other call has responded to the doleful accents of that 
voice ! It has gone far and wide, and high and low, and 
left scarcely a mortal roof unvisited. Indeed, the principle 
is only too universal for our purpose, and unless we limit 



THE PROCESSION OF LIFE. 



81 




v\,,.r. Y 





), \ ib 

v 

9 \ * ~ "~i / 

- v n 

V J '- V^A ^ ^ X 

'^ ^^Jkw-iu, 

' * s ^ .V .M>.....^> o ..^. x .<. -V-V 

^^i . 

A ^ A 
c/\<~- 

it will quite break up our classification of mankind, and 
convert the whole procession into a funeral train. We will, 
therefore, be at some pains to discriminate. Here comes 
a lonely rich man ; he has built a noble fabric for his 
dwelling-house, with a front of stately architecture and 
marble floors and doors of precious woods ; the whole 
structure is as beautiful as a dream and as substantial as 
the native rock. But the visionary shapes of a long pos- 
terity, for whose home this mansion was intended have 
faded into nothingness since the death of the founder's only 
son. The rich man gives a glance at his sable garb in one 
of the splendid mirrors of his drawing-room, and descending 
a flight of lofty steps, instinctively offers his arm to yonder 
poverty-stricken widow in the rusty black bonnet, and with 
a check apron over her patched gown. The sailor boy, who 
was her sole earthly stay, was washed overboard in a late 
tempest. This couple from the palace and th'e almshouse 
are but the types of thousands more who represent the 

6 (105) 




82 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




I V, . 

"7,.. I, c 

^> . /^o I S '. XV 
CP 

XP > 

I-.-V'- V 

s 

T i 

'-o . 

sq' -^ - <-W-V N 

dark tragedy of life, and seldom quarrel for the upper 
parts. Grief is such a leveller, with its own dignity and its 
own humility, that the noble and the peasant, the beggar 
and the monarch, will waive their pretensions to external 
rank without the omciousness of interference on our part. 
If pride the influence of the world's false distinctions 
remain in the heart, then sorrow lacks the earnestness 
which makes it holy and reverend. It loses its reality and 
becomes a miserable shadow. On this ground we have an 
opportunity to assign over multitudes who would willingly 
claim places here to other parts of the procession. If the 
mourner have anything dearer than his grief he must seek 
his true position elsewhere. There are so many unsub- 
stantial sorrows which the necessity of our mortal state 
begets on idleness, that an observer, casting aside senti- 
ment, is sometimes led to question whether there be any 
real woe, except absolute physical suffering and the loss of 
closest friends. A crowd who exhibit what they deem to 



THE PROCESSION OF LIFE. 83 




be broken hearts and among them many lovelorn maids 
and bachelors, and men of disappointed ambition in arts 
or politics, and the poor who were once rich, or who have 
sought to be rich in vain the great majority of these may 
ask admittance into some other fraternity. There is no 
room here. Perhaps we may institute a separate class 
where such unfortunates will naturally fall into the pro- 
cession. Meantime let them stand aside and patiently 
await their time. 

If our trumpeter can borrow a note from the doomsday 
trumpet blast, let him, sound it now. The dread alarum 
should make the earth quake to its centre, for the herald is 
about to address mankind with a summons to which even 
the purest mortal may be sensible of some faint responding 
echo in his breast. In many bosoms it will awaken a still 
small voice more terrible than its own reverberating uproar. 

The hideous appeal has swept round the globe. Come 
all ye guilty ones, and rank yourselves in accordance with 



84 



SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




the brotherhood of crime. This, indeed, is an awful sum- 
mons. I almost tremble to look at the strange partner- 
ships that begin to be formed, reluctantly, but by the 
invincible necessity of like to like in this part of the pro- 
cession. A forger from the state prison seizes the arm of 
a distinguished financier. How indignantly does the latter 
plead his fair reputation upon 'Change and insist that his 
operations, by their magnificence of scope, were removed 
into quite another sphere of morality than those of his 
pitiful companion ! But let him cut the connection, if he 
can. Here comes a murderer with his clanking chains, 
and pairs himself horrible to tell with as pure and up- 
right a man, in all observable respects, as ever partook of 
the consecrated bread and wine. He is one of those, per- 
chance the most hopeless of all sinners, who practise such 
an exemplary system of outward duties, that even a deadly 
crime may be hidden from their own sight and remem- 
brance, under this unreal frostwork. Yet he now finds 
his place. . . . 



THE PROCESSION OF LIFE. 85 




Many will be astonished at the fatal impulse that drags 
them thitherward. Nothing is more remarkable than the 
various deceptions by which guilt conceals itself from the 
perpetrator's conscience, and oftenest, perhaps, by the 
splendour of its garments. Statesmen, rulers, generals, and 
all men who act over an extensive sphere, are most liable 
to be deluded in this way ; they commit wrong, devasta- 
tion, and murder, on so grand a scale, that it impresses 
them as speculative rather than actual ; but in our pro- 
cession we iind them linked in detestable conjunction with 
the meanest criminals whose deeds have the vulgarity of 
petty details. Here 'the effect of circumstances and acci- 
dent is done away, and a man finds his rank according to 
the spirit of his crime, in whatever shape it may have been 
developed. 

We have called the Evil ; now let us call the Good. The 
trumpet's brazen throat should pour heavenly music over 
the earth, and the herald's voice go forth with the sweetness 



86 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




\o 



of an angel's accent, as if to summon each upright man 
to his reward. But how is this ? Does none answer 
to the call ? Not one : for the just, the pure, the true, 
and all who might most worthily obey it, shrink sadly back, 
as most conscious of error and imperfection. Then let the 
summons be to those whose pervading principle is Love. 
This classification will embrace all the truly good, and none 
in whose souls there exists not something that may expand 
itself into a heaven, both of well-doing and felicity. 

The first that presents himself is a man of wealth, who 
has bequeathed the bulk of his property to a hospital ; his 
ghost, methinks, would have a better right here than his 
living body. But here they come, the genuine benefactors 
of their race. Some have wandered about the earth with 
pictures of bliss in their imagination, and with hearts that 
shrank sensitively from the idea of pain and woe, yet have 



THE PROCESSION OF MFH. 



87 



x, , ^ f, - ....S-l. 







*J3 
v / ySV^""^ . . Y^ "-M v 

>f x=> Vv (A. b V^-~x ... 

> s^ ~^.. ... . ,6 V^ -* s ' 
"} n \^. V s- :...).- i. ^ 

x- '~~t 

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S... & .:..0,-K- ' 

\~ S-V!/X*.N,.4>-tS? 

studied all varieties of misery that human nature can 
endure. The prison, the insane asylum, the squalid cham- 
ber of the alms-house, the manufactory where the demon 
of machinery annihilates the human soul, and the cotton 
liekl where God's image becomes a beast of burden ; to 
these and every other scene where man wrongs or neglects 
his brother, the apostles of humanity have penetrated. 
This missionary, black with India's burning sunshine, shall 
give his arm to a pale-faced brother who has made himself 
familiar with the infected alleys and loathsome haunts of 
vice in one of our own cities. The generous founder of a 
college shall be the partner of a maiden lady of narrow 
substance, one of whose good deeds it has been to gather a 
little school of orphan children. If the mighty merchant 
whose benefactions are reckoned by thousands of dollars, 
deem himself worthy, let him join the procession with her 
whose love has proved itself by watchings at the sick bed 
and all those lowly offices which bring her into actual con- 
tact with disease and wretchedness. And with those 
whose impulses have guided them to benevolent actions, 



88 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




we will rank others to whom Providence has assigned a 
different tendency and different powers. Men who have 
spent their lives in generous and holy contemplation for 
the human race ; those who, by a certain heavenliness of 
spirit, have purified the atmosphere around them, and thus 
supplied a medium in which good and high things may be 
projected and performed give to these a lofty place among 
the benefactors of mankind, although no deed, such as the 
world calls deeds, may be recorded of them. There are 
some individuals of whom we cannot conceive it proper 
that they should apply their hands to any earthly instru- 
ment or work out any definite act ; and others, perhaps not 
less high, to whom it is an essential attribute to labour ^in 
body as well as spirit, for the welfare of their brethren. 
Thus, if we find a spiritual sage whose unseen, inestimable 
influence has exalted the moral standard of mankind, we 
will choose for his companion some poor labourer who has 
wrought for love in the potato field of a neighbour poorer 
than himself. 



THE PROCESSION OF LIFE. 




C^A 

\ " ' 

>>4- 

I I ' /" ^O W" Vf 

<*^ ' "-^'" "7 f 

^ .\ V .T > 7% C _,, > \ .., t . .?. o .>?. / 

\Ve have summoned this various multitude and, to the 
credit of our nature, it is a large one on the principle of 
Love. It is singular, nevertheless, to remark the shyness 
that exists among many members of the present class, all 
of whom we might expect to recognise one another by the 
freemasonry of mutual goodness, and to embrace like 
brethren, giving God thanks for such various specimens of 
human excellence. But it is far otherwise. Each sect 
surrounds its own righteousness with a hedge of thorns. 
It is difficult for the good Christian to acknowledge the 
good Pagan ; almost impossible for the good Orthodox to 
grasp the hand of the good Unitarian, leaving to their 
Creator to settle the matters in dispute, and giving their 
mutual efforts strongly and trustingly to whatever right 
thing is too evident to be mistaken. Then again, though 
the heart be large, yet the mind is often of such moderate 
dimensions as to be exclusively filled up with one idea. 
When a good man has long devoted himself to a particular 



90 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




V ' < 



kind of beneficence to one species of reform he is apt to 
become narrowed into the limits of the path wherein he 
treads, and to fancy that there is no other good to be done 
on earth but that selfsame good to which he has put his 
hand, and in the very mode that best suits his own con- 
ceptions. All else is worthless. His scheme must be 
wrought out by the united strength of the whole world's 
stock of love, or the world is no longer worthy of a position 
in the universe. Moreover, powerful Truth, being the rich 
grape juice expressed from the vineyard of the ages, has 
an intoxicating quality, when imbibed by any save a 
powerful intellect, and often, as it were, impels the quaffer 
to quarrel in his cups. For these reasons, strange to say, 
it is harder to contrive a friendly arrangement of these 
brethren of love and righteousness, in the procession of 
life, than to unite even the wicked, who, indeed, are 
chained together by their crimes. The fact is too 
preposterous for tears, too lugubrious for laughter. 



THE PROCESSION OF LIFE. 91 




* 



But, let good men push and elbow one another as they 
may during their earthly march, all will be peace among 
them when the honourable array of their procession shall 
tread on heavenly ground. There they will doubtless find 
that they have been working each for the other's cause, 
and that every well-delivered stroke, which, with an honest 
purpose, any mortal struck, even for a narrow object, was 
indeed stricken for the universal cause of good. Their own 
view may be bounded by country, creed, profession, the 
diversities of individual character -but above them all is 
the breadth of Providence. How many, who have deemed 
themselves antagonists, will smile hereafter, when they 
look back upon the world's wide harvest field, and 
perceive that, in unconscious brotherhood, they were 
helping to bind the selfsame sheaf ! 

But, come ! The sun is hastening westward, while the 
march of human life, that never paused before, is delayed 
by our attempt to rearrange its order. It is desirable to 
find some comprehensive principle, that shall render our 
task easier by bringing thousands into the ranks where 



92 



SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




t 

hitherto we have brought one. Therefore let the trumpet, 
if possible, split its brazen throat with a louder note than 
ever, and the herald summon all mortals who, from what- 
ever cause, have lost, or never found, their proper places 
in the world. 

Obedient to this call, a great multitude come together, 
most of them with a listless gait, betokening weariness of 
soul, yet with a gleam of satisfaction in their faces, at a 
prospect of at length reaching those positions which, 
hitherto, they have vainly sought. But here will be 
another disappointment ; for we can attempt no more 
than merely to associate, in one fraternity, all who are 
afflicted with the same vague trouble. Some great mis- 
take in life is the chief condition of admittance into this 
class. Here are members of the learned professions, whom 
Providence endowed with special gifts for the plough, the 
forge, and the wheelbarrow, or for the routine of unintel- 
lectual business. We will assign to them, as partners in 



THE PROCESSION OF LIFE. 




^ c ^ v -^~l ^ ^~f 

?-. ...S<. 9 t \ \^< ^^ - '' 

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the march, those lowly labourers and handicraftsmen, who 
have pined, as with a dying thirst, after the unattainable 
fountains of knowledge. The latter have lost less than 
their companions ; yet more, because they deem it infinite. 
Perchance the two species of unfortunates may comfort 
one another. . . . 

Shall we bid the trumpet sound again ? It is hardly 
worth the while. There remain a few idle men of fortune, 
and people of crooked intellect or temper, all of whom, may 
find their like, or some tolerable approach to it, in the 
plentiful diversity of our latter class. There too, as his 
ultimate destiny, must we rank the dreamer, who, all his 
life long, has cherished the idea that he was peculiarly apt 
for something, but never could determine what it was ; 
and there the most unfortunate of men, whose purpose 
it has been to enjoy life's pleasures, but to avoid a manful 
struggle with its toil and sorrow. The remainder, if any, 
may connect themselves with whatever rank of the 



94 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




procession they shall find best adapted to their tastes and 
consciences. The worst possible fate would be to remain 
behind, shivering in the solitude of time, while all the 
world is on the move towards eternity. Our attempt to 
classify society is now complete. The result may be any- 
thing but perfect : yet better to give it the very lowest 
praise than the antique rule of the herald's office, or the 
modern one of the tax-gatherer, whereby the accidents and 
superficial attributes, with which the real nature of indi- 
viduals has least to do, are acted upon as the deepest 
characteristics of mankind. Our task is done ! Now let 
the grand procession move ! 

Yet pause a while ! We had forgotten the Chief Marshal. 

Hark ! That world-wide swell of solemn music, with 
the clang of a mighty bell breaking forth through its regu- 
lated uproar, announces his approach. He comes ; a 
severe, sedate, immovable, dark rider, waving his trun- 
cheon of universal sway, as he passes along the lengthened 



THE PROCESSION OF LIFE. 

c 



95 



Si ) \..^...S> e- \, .<. 




line, on the pale horse of the Revelation. It is Death ! 
Who else could assume the guidance of a procession that 
comprehends all humanity ? And, if some, among these 
many millions, should deem themselves classed amiss, yet 
let them take to their hearts the comfortable truth, that 
Death levels us all into one great brotherhood, and that 
another state of being will surely rectify the wrong of this. 
Then breathe thy wail upon the earth's wailing wind, thou 
band of melancholy music, made up of every sigh that 
the human heart, unsatisfied, has uttered ! There is yet 
triumph in thy tones. And now we move ! Beggars in 
their rags, and Kings trailing the regal purple in the dust ; 
the Warrior's gleaming helmet ; the Priest in his sable 
robe ; the hoary grandsire, who has run life's circle and 
come back to childhood ; the ruddy Schoolboy with his 
golden curls, frisking along the march ; the Artisan's stuff 
jacket ; the Noble's star-decorated coat ; the whole pre- 
senting a motley spectacle, yet with a dusky grandeur 
brooding over it. Onward, onward, into that dimness 
where the lights of Time, which have blazed along the 



SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




A MELTING STORY. 

BY MARK TWAIN. 




procession, are flickering in their sockets ! And whither ! 
We know not ; and Death, hitherto our leader, deserts us 
by the wayside as the tramp of our innumerable footsteps 
echoes beyond his sphere. He knows not, more than we, 
our destined goal. But God, who made us, knows, and will 
not leave us on our toilsome and doubtful march, either 
to wander in infinite uncertainty, or perish by the way ! 



" Yes," remarked the old gentleman from the Eastern 
States, folding his hands and steadying his gaze upon a 
mark on the floor, " I did know a story a little incident 
of our simple daily life in Vermont, which might perhaps 
not be considered too old-fashioned to interest you whilst 
we are waiting here for the stage." 

" Pray proceed," we all cried in a chorus together ; and 
the old gentleman again folded his hands and began : 

"One winter evening, a country storekeeper in the 
Green Mountain State was about closing up for the night, 



A MELTING STORY. 




and while standing in the snow outside, putting up the 
window shutters, saw through the glass a lounging worth- 
less fellow within grab a pound of fresh butter from the 
shelf, and conceal it in his hat. 

" The act was no sooner detected than the revenge was 
hit upon, and a very few minutes found the Green Moun- 
tain storekeeper at once indulging his appetite for fun to 
the fullest extent, and paying off the thief with a facetious 
sort of torture, for which he would have gained a premium 
from the old Inquisition. 

" ' I say, Seth.' said the storekeeper, coming in and clos- 
ing the door after him, slapping his hands over his shoulders 
and stamping the snow off his feet 

" Seth had his hand on the door, his hat on his head, 
ind the roll of butter in his hat, anxious to make his exit 
as soon as possible. 

" ' - I say, Seth, sit down. I reckon, now, on such a 
cold night as this a little something warm would not hurt 
a fellow.' 
7 <ios) 



SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




cri v.\ P..J. 
* j 



" Seth felt very uncertain. He had the butter, and was 
exceedingly anxious to be off ; but the temptation of some- 
thing warm sadly interfered with his resolution to go. 

" This hesitation was settled by the owner of the butter 
taking Seth by the shoulders and planting him, in a seat 
close to the stove, where he was in such a manner cornered 
in by the boxes and barrels that, while the grocer stood 
before him, there was no possibility of getting out ; and 
right in this very place, sure enough, the storekeeper sat 
down. 

" ' Seth, we'll have a little warm Santa Cruz,' said the 
Green Mountain grocer ; so he opened the stove door, and 
stuffed in as many sticks as the place would admit : 
' without it you'd freeze going out such a night as this.' 

" Seth already felt the butter settling down closer to his 
hair, and he jumped up, declaring he must go. 



A MELTING STORY. 99 



A , ' x? ^, 1.;...^...^... 

". I ^ ^ > \ 1 N ^_ .!^.. 




" ' Not till you have something warm, Seth. Come, 
I've got a story to tell you.' 

" And Seth was again rushed into his seat by his cunning 
tormentor. 

" ' Oh, it's so hot here.' said the petty thief, attempting 
to rise. 

" ' Sit down don't be in such a hurry,' retorted the 
grocer, pushing him back into his chair. 

" ' But I've got the cows to fodder and the wood to 
split I must be going,' said the persecuted chap. 

" ' But you mustn't tear yourself away, Seth, in this 
manner. Sit down, let the cows take care of themselves, 
and keep yourself easy. You appear to be a little fidgety,' 
said the roguish grocer, with a wicked leer. 

" The next thing was the production of two smoking 
glasses of hot toddy, the very sight of which, in Seth's 



100 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




present situation, would have made the hair stand erect 
upon his head had it not been well oiled and kept down 
by the butter. 

" ' Seth, I will give you a toast, now, and you can butter 
it yourself,' said the grocer, with an air of such consummate 
simplicity, that poor Seth believed himself unsuspected. 

" ' Seth, here's here's a Christmas Goose, well roasted 
eh ? I tell you, it's the greatest in creation. And, 
Seth, don't you never use hog's fat, or common cooking 
butter, to baste it with. Come, take your butter I 
mean, Seth, take your toddy.' 

" Poor Seth now began to smoke as well as melt, and his 
mouth was hermetically sealed up, as though he had been 
born dumb. 

" Streak after streak of butter came pouring from under 
his hat, and his handkerchief was already soaked with the 
greasy overflow. 



A MELTING STORY. 101 




" Talking away as if nothing was the matter, the fun- 
loving grocer kept stuffing wood into the stove, while poor 
Seth sat upright, with his back against the counter, and 
his knees touching the red-hot furnace before him. 

" ' Cold night this,' said the grocer. ' Why, Seth, you 
seem to perspire as if you were warm. Why don't you 
take your hat off ? Here, let me put your hat away.' 

" ' No ! ' exclaimed poor Seth at last. ' No ! I must 
go! 

' ' Let me out ! 

" ' I ain't well ! 

" ' Let me go ! ' 

" A greasy cataract was now pouring down the poor 
m.m's face and neck, and soaking into his clothes, and 
trickling down his body into his boots, so that he was 
literally in a perfect bath of oil. 



102 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




THE PROFESSOR AT THE BREAKFAST 
TABLE. 

BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES. 




" ' Well, good night, Seth,' said the humorous Vermonter 
' if you will go ! ' And adding, as he started out of the 
door ' I say, Seth, I reckon the fun I have had out of you 
is worth ninepence, so I shan't charge you for that pound 
of butter in your hat.' ' 



Nobody talks much that doesn't say unwise things, 
things he didn't mean to say ; as no person plays much 
without striking a false note sometimes. Talk to me, is 
only spading up the ground for crops of thought. I cannot 
answer for what will turn up. If I could, it would not be 
talking, but " speaking my piece." Better, I think, the 
hearty abandonment of one's self to the suggestions of the 
moment, at the risk of an occasional slip of the tongue, 
perceived the instant it escapes, but just one syllable too 
late, than the royal reputation of never saying a foolish 
thing. 



TDK PROFESSOR AT THE BREAKFAST TABLE. 103 




The boarders were pleased to say that they were glad 
to get me back. One of them ventured a compliment, 
namely that I talked as if I believed what I said. This 
was apparently considered something unusual, by its being 
mentioned. 

One who means to talk with entire sincerity, I said, 
always feels himself in danger of two things, namely an 
affectation of bluntness, like that of which Cornwall 
accuses Kent in " Lear," and actual rudeness. What a 
man wants to do, in talking with a stranger, is to get and 
to give as much of the best and most real life that belongs 
to the two talkers as the time will let him. Life is short, 
and conversation apt to run to mere words. Mr. Hue, I 
think it is, who tells us some very good stories about the 
way in which two Chinese gentlemen contrive to keep up 
a long talk without saying a word which has any meaning 
in it. Something like this is occasionally heard on this side 
of the Great Wall. The best Chinese talkers I know are 



104 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




some pretty women whom I meet from time to time. 
Pleasant, airy, complimentary, the little flakes of flattery 
glimmering in their talk ; their accents flowing on in a 
soft ripple, never a wave, and never a calm ; words 
nicely fitted but never a coloured phrase or a high-flavoured 
epithet ; they turn air into syllables so gracefully that we 
iind meaning for the music they make as we find faces in 
the coals and fairy palaces in the clouds. There is some- 
thing very odd, though, about this mechanical talk. 

You have sometimes been in a train on the railroad 
when the engine was detached a long way from the station 
you were approaching ? Well, you have noticed how 
quietly and rapidly, the cars kept on, just as if the loco- 
motive were drawing them. ? Indeed, you would not have 
suspected that you were travelling on the strength of a 
dead fact if you had not seen the engine running away from 
you on a side-track. Upon my conscience, I believe some 
of these pretty women detach their minds entirely, some- 
times, from their talk, and, what is more, that we never 
know the difference. Their lips let off the fluty syllables 



THE PROFESSOR AT THE BREAKFAST TABLE. 105 




just as their fingers would sprinkle the music drops from 
their pianos ; unconscious habit turns the phrase of 
thought into words just as it does that of music into notes. 
Well, they govern the world, for all that, these sweet- 
lipped women, because beauty is the index of a larger 
fact than wisdom. 

The Bombazine wanted an explanation. 
Madam, said I, wisdom is the abstract of the past, but 
beauty is the promise of the future. 

All this, however, is not what I was going to say. 
Here am I, suppose, seated, we will say, at a dinner- table, 
alongside of an intelligent Englishman. We look in each 
other's faces we exchange a dozen words. One thing is 
settled : we mean not to offend each other to be per- 
fectly courteous more than courteous ; for we are the 
entertainer and the entertained, and cherish particularly 
amiable feelings to each other. The claret is good : and if 



106 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 



A '. 




y a T b ...u..^ v < 




our blood reddens a little with its warm crimson, we are 
none the less kind for it. 

1 don't think people that talk over their victuals are 

like to say anything very great, especially if they get their 
heads muddled with strong drink before they begin 
jabbering. 

The Bombazine uttered this with a sugary sourness, as 
if the words had been steeped in a solution of acetate of 
lead. The boys of my time used to call a hit like this a 
" side-winder." 

I must finish this woman. 

Madam, I said, the Great Teacher seems to have been 
fond of talking as he sat at meat. Because this was a good 
while ago, in a far-off place, you forget what the true fact 
of it was, that those were real dinners, where people were 



THE PROFESSOR AT THE BREAKFAST TABLE. 107 




hungry and thirsty, and where you met a very miscellane- 
ous company. Probably there was a great deal of loose 
talk among the guests : at any rate, there was always wine, 
we may believe. 

Whatever may be the hygienic advantages or disadvan- 
tages of wine, and I, for one, except for certain particular 
ends, believe in water, and, I blush to say it, in black tea, 
there is no doubt about its being the grand specific 
against dull dinners. A score of people come together in 
all moods of mind and body. The problem is, in the space 
of one hour, more or less, to bring them all into the same 
condition of slightly exalted life. Food alone is enough 
for one person, perhaps, talk, alone, for another ; but 
the grand equalizer and fraternizer, which works up the 
radiators to their maximum radiation, and the absorbents 
to their maximum receptivity, is now just where it was 
rhen 

" The conscious water saw its Lord and blushed," 



108 SKIECT10NS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




r 



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\ / 3r" / ^ / <*y~?''^., . C ../~^~' .V. 

when six great vessels containing water, the whole 
amounting to more than a hogshead-full, were changed 
into the best of wine. I once wrote a song about wine, in 
which I spoke so warmly of it, that I was afraid some would 
think it was written inter pocula ; whereas it was composed 
in the bosom of my family, under the most tranquillizing 
domestic influences. 

The Divinity-Student turned towards me, looking 
mischievous. Can you tell me, he said, who wrote a song 
for a temperance celebration once, of which the following 
is a verse ? 

Alas for the loved one, too gentle and fair 
The joys of the banquet to chasten and share ; 
Her eye lost its light that his goblet might shine, 
And the rose of her cheek was dissolved in his wine ! 
I did, I answered. What are you going to do about it ? 
I will tell you another line I wrote long ago : 

Don't be " consistent," but be simply true. 



THE PROFESSOR AT THE BREAKFAST TABLE. 109 

(; - < 




The longer I live, the more I am satisfied of two things : 
first, that the truest lives are those that are cut rose- 
diamond-fashion, with many facets answering to the man}' 
planed aspects of the world about them : secondly, that 
society is always trying in some way or other to grind us 
down to a single flat surface. It is hard work to resist 
this grinding-down action. Now give me a chance. Better 
eternal and universal abstinence than the brutalities of 
those days that made wives and mothers and daughters 
and sisters blush for those whom they should have hon- 
oured, as they came reeling home from their debauches ! 
Yet better even excess than lying and hypocrisy ; and if 
wine is upon all our tables, let us praise it for its colour 
and fragrance and social tendency, so far as it deserves, 
and not hug a bottle in the closet, and pretend not to 
know the use of a wine-glass at a public dinner ! I think 
you will find that people who honestly mean to be true 
really contradict themselves much more rarely than those 
who try to be " consistent." But a great many things we 
say can be made to appear contradictory, simply because 



110 SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 



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XXX 




they are partial views of a truth, and may often look unlike 
at first, as a front view of a face and its profile often do. 

Language is a solemn thing. It grows out of life 
out of its agonies and ecstasies, its wants and its weariness. 
Every language is a temple, in which the soul of those who 
speak it is enshrined. Because Time softens its outlines 
and rounds the sharp angles of its cornices, shall a fellow 
take a pickaxe to help time ? Let me tell you what comes 
of meddling with things that can take care of themselves. 
A friend of mine had a watch given him, when he was a boy, 
a " bull's eye," with a loose silver case that came off like 
an oyster-shell from its contents ; you know them the cases 
that you hang on your thumb, while the core, or the real 
watch, lies in your hand, as naked as a peeled apple. Well, 
he began with taking off the case and so on ; from one liberty 
to another, until he got it fairly open, and there were the 
works, as good as if they were alive crown-wheel, balance- 
wheel, and all the rest, all right except one thing ; there 



THE PROFESSOR AT TIIK BREAKFAST TABLfi. Ill 




was a confounded little hair had got entangled round the 
balance-wheel. So my young Solomon got a pair of 
tweezers, and caught hold of the hair very nicely, and 
pulled it right out, without touching any of the wheels 
when buzz ! and the watch had done up twenty-four 
hours in double magnetic-telegraph time ! The English 
language was wound up to run some thousands of years, 
I trust ; but if everybody is to be pulling at everything 
he thinks is a. hair, our grand-children will have to make 
the discovery that it is a hair-s^n'wg, and the old Anglo- 
Norman soul's-timekeeper will run down, as so many other 
dialects have done before it. I can't stand this meddling 
any better than you, sir. But we have a great deal to be 
proud of in the lifelong labours of that old lexicographer, 
and we mustn't be ungrateful. Besides, don't let us 
deceive ourselves, the war of the dictionaries is only a 
disguised rivalry of cities, colleges, and especially of pub- 
lishers. After all, it is likely that the language will shape 



112 



SELECTIONS FROM AMERICAN AUTHORS. 




itself by larger forces than phonography and dictionary- 
making. You may spade up the ocean as much as you 
like, and harrow it afterwards, if you can but the moon 
will still lead the tides, and the winds will form their 
surface. 



Printed by Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, Ltd., Bath, England. 
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