Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

He is a tiny, delicate-featured man, with a look of half lazy enthusiasm about his beautiful face, which reminds you much of Shelley's portrait ; only he has what Shelley had not, clustering auburn curls, and a rich, brown beard, soft as silk. You set him down at once as a man of delicate susceptibility, sweetness, thoughtfulness; probably (as he actually is) an artist.

His companion is a man of statelier stamp, tall, dark, and handsome, with a very large forehead. If the face has a fault, it is that the mouth is too small ; that, and the expres. sion of face, too, and the tone of voice, seem to indicate over-refinement, possibly a too aristocratic exclusiveness. He is dressed like a very fine gentleman indeed, and looks and talks like one. Aristocrat, however, in the common sense of the word, he is not; for he is a native of the Model Republic, and sleeping-partner in a great New York merchant firm.

He is chatting away to Claude Mellot, the artist, about Fremont's election ; and, on that point, seems to be earnest enough, though patient and moderate.

“My dear Claude, our loss is gain. The delay of the next four years was really necessary, that we might consolidate our party. And I leave you to judge, if it have grown to its present size in but a few months, what dimensions it will have attained before the next election. We require the delay, too, to discover who are our really best men, — not merely as orators, but as workers ; and you English ought to know, better than any nation, that the latter class of men are those whom the world most needs ; that, though Aaron may be an altogether inspired preacher, yet it is only slowtongued, practical Moses, whose spokesman he is, who can deliver Israel from their taskmasters. Beside, my dear fellow, we really want the next four years — 'tell it not in Gath'- to look about us, and see what is to be done. Your wisest Englishmen justly complain of us, that our ‘platform' is as yet a merely negative one; that we define what the South shall not do, but not what the North shall. Ere four years be over, we will have a positive platform,' at which you shall have no cause to grumble.”

“I still think with Marie, that your positive platform' is already made for you, plain as the sun in heaven, as the lightnings of Sinai. Free those slaves at once and utterly !"

“ Impatient idealist! By what means ? By law, or by force ? Leave us to draw a cordon sanitaire round the tainted States, and leave the system to die a natural death, as it rapidly will if it be prevented from enlarging its field. Don't fancy that a dream of mine. None know it better than the Southerners themselves. What makes them ready just now to risk honor, justice, even the common law of nations and humanity, in the struggle for new slave terri tory? What but the consciousness, that, without virgin soil, which will yield rapid and enormous profit to slave. labor, they and their institution must be ruined ?”

The more reason for accelerating so desirable a consummation, by freeing the slaves at once." “ Humph !” said Stangrave, with a smile.

1. Who so cruel at times as your too-benevolent philanthropist? Did you ever count the meaning of those words ? Disruption of the Union, an invasion of the South by the North ; and an internecine war, aggravated by the horrors of a general rising of the slaves, and such scenes as Hayti beheld sixty years ago. If you have ever read them, you will pause ere you determine to repeat them on a vaster scale.”

“It is dreadful, Heaven knows, even in thought! But, Stangrave, can any moderation on your part ward it off ? Where there is crime, there is vengeance; and without shedding of blood is no remission of sin.”

“God knows! It may be true ; but God forbid that I should ever do aught to hasten what may come! O, Claude, do you fancy that I, of all men, do not feel at moments the thirst for brute vengeance?

Claude was silent.

Judge for yourself, you who know all — what man among us Northerners can feel, as I do, what those hapless men may have deserved ? I who have day and night before me the brand of their cruelty, filling my heart with fire? I need all my strength, all my reason, at times, to say to myself, as I say to others, • Are not these slaveholders men of like passions with yourself? What have they done which you would not have done in their place?' I have never read that Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin. I will not even read this Dred, admirable as I believe it to be."

• Why should you ?” said Claude. “Have you not a key to Uncle Tom's Cabin, more pathetic than any word of man's or woman's ?

“But I do not mean that! I will not read them, because I have the key to them in my own heart, Claude ; because conscience has taught me to feel for the Southerner as a brother, who is but what I might have been ; and to sigh over his misdirected courage and energy, not with hatred,

not with contempt; but with pity, all the more intense tho more he scorns that pity ; to long, not merely for the slaves' sake, but for the masters' sake, to see them — the once chivalrous gentlemen of the South — delivered from tho meshes of a net which they did not spread for themselves, but which was round their feet, and round their fathers’, from the day that they were born. You ask me to destroy these men.

I long to save them from their certain doom!" “You are right, and a better Christian than I am, I believe. Certainly they do need pity, if any sinners do; for slavery seems to be – to judge from Mr. Brooks's triumph - a greater moral curse, and a heavier degradation, to the slaveholder himself, than it can ever be to the slave."

“ Then I would free them from that curse, that degradation. If the negro asks, ' Am I not a man and a brother?' have they no right to ask it also ? Shall I, pretending to love my country, venture on any rash step which may shut out the whole Southern white population from their share in my country's future glory? No; have but patience with us, you comfortable liberals of the old world, who find freedom ready-made to your hands, and we will pay you all. Remember, we are but children yet; our sins are the sins of youth, - greediness, intemperance, petulance, self-conceit. When we are purged from our youthful sins, England will not be ashamed of her child."

Ashamed of you? I often wish I could make Americans understand the feeling of England to you -- the honest pride, as of a mother who has brought into the world the biggest baby that ever this earth beheld, and is rather proud of its stamping about and beating her in its pretty pets. Only the old lady does get a little cross, when she hears you talk of the wrongs which you have endured from her, and teaching your children to hate us as their ancient oppressors, on the ground of a foolish war, of which every Englishman is utterly ashamed, and in the result of which he glories really as much as you do."

" Don't talk of you,' Claude ! You know well what I think on that point. Never did one nation make the amende honorable to another more fully and nobly than you have to us; and those who try to keep up the quarrel are -- I won't say what. But the truth is, Claude, we have had no real sorrows; and, therefore, we can afford to play with imaginary ones. God grant that we may not bava our real ones — that we may not have to drink of the cup of which our great mother drank two years ago !”

“ It was a wholesome bitter for us; and it may be so for you likewise; but we will have no sad forebodings on the eve of the blessed Christmas tide. He lives, He loves, He reigns; and all is well, for we are His, and He is ours.'

"Ah,” said Stangrave, “when Emerson sneered at you English for believing your Old Testament, he little thought that that was the lesson which it had taught you; and that that same lesson was the root of all your greatness. That that belief in God's being, in some mysterious way, the living King of England and of Christendom, has been the very idea which has kept you in peace and safety, now for many a hundred years, moving slowly on from good to better, not without many backslidings and many shortcomings, but still finding out, quickly enough, when you were on the wrong road; and not ashamed to retrace your steps, and to reform, as brave strong men should dare to do; people who have been for many an age in the vanguard of all the nations, and the champions of sure and solid progress throughout the world ; because what is new among you is not patched artificially on to the old, but grows organically out of it, with a growth like that of your own English oak, whose every new-year's leaf-crop is fed by roots which burrow deep in many a buried generation, and the rich soil of full a thousand years."

“Stay !” said the little artist. We are quite conceited enough already, without your eloquent adulation, sir! But there is a truth in your words. There is a better spirit roused among us; and that not merely of two years ago. I knew this part of the country well in 1846–7–8, and since then, I can bear witness, a spirit of self-reform has been awakened round here, in many a heart which I thought once utterly frivolous. I find, in every circle of every class, men and women asking to be taught their duty, that they may go and do it; I find everywhere schools, libraries, and mechanics' institutes springing up; and rich and poor meeting together more and more in the faith that God has made them all. As for the outward and material improvements you know, as well as I, that since free trade and emigration the laborers confess themselves better off than they have been for fifty years; and though you will not see in the chalk counties that rapid and enormous agricultural improvement which you will in Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, or the Lothians, yet you shall see enough to-day to settle for you the question whether we old country folk are in a state of decadence and decay. Par exemple

And Claude pointed to the clean large fields, with their neat, close-clipt hedge-rows, among which here and there stood cottages, more than three fourths of them new.

• Those well-drained fallow fields, ten years ago, were poor clay pastures, fetlock deep in mire six inonths in the year, and accursed in the eyes of my poor dear old friend, Squire Lavington ; because they were so full of old moles'. nests, that they threw all horses down. I am no farmer; but they seem surely to be somewhat altered since then."

As he spoke, they turned off the main line of the rolling clays toward the foot of the chalk hills, and began to brush through short cuttings of blue gault and “green sand," so called by geologists, because its usual colors are bright brown, snow white, and crimson.

Soon they get glimpses of broad silver Whit, as she slides, with divided streams, through bright water-meadows, and stately groves of poplar, and abele, and pine ; while, far aloft upon the left, the downs rise steep, crowned with black fir spinnies, and dotted with dark box and juniper.

Soon they pass old Whitford Priory, with its numberless gables, nestling amid mighty elms, and the Nunpool flash ing and roaring as of old, and the broad shallow below sparkling and laughing in the low but bright December

So slides on the noble river, forever changing, and yet forever the same – always fulfilling its errand, which yet is never fulfilled," said Stangrave, — he was given to halfmystic utterances, and hankerings after Pagan mythology, learnt in the days when he worshipped Emerson, and tried (but unsuccessfully) to worship Margaret Fuller Ossoli. .. Those old Greeks had a deep insight into nature, when they gave to each river not merely a name, but a semihuman personality, a river-god of its own. It may be but a collection of ever-changing atoms of water; — what is your body but a similar collection of atoms, decaying and renewing every moment ? Yet you are a person ; and is not the river, too, a person - a live thing? It has an individual countenance which you love, which you would recognize again, meet it where you will ; it marks the whole landscape; it determines, probably, the geography and the society of a whole district. It draws you, too, to itself by an indefinable mesmeric attraction. If you stop in a strar-ge

sun.

« AnteriorContinuar »