Изображения страниц

be possible that Mr. Stull would turn a favorable eye upon a connection which would, in a way, make the whole business a family affair. But, in spite of this encouraging thought, if John had been compelled at this time to make his proposals to the father instead of the daughter, he would have calmly resigned himself to perpetual bachelorhood. But, should he be accepted by Miss Stull, he would wait and bear to any extent.

John's mind was in this condition when, one fine morning, Miss Matilda paid a visit to the Bullripple household. To John and his mother she came like an angel with white widespreading wings; to old Enoch she appeared as an uppish young woman with a cattle-irritating parasol; and to Mr. Stratford, who regarded her from his window, she was an enigma. He knew who she was, but he could not imagine why she should come to that house and sit with John People under the great tree in the front yard. Miss Stull had really called upon Mrs. People, but that sagacious mother had sent John to say that she would be out in a very few minutes, and had told him that he must entertain the visitor until she came. Mrs. People was devoured by desire to know the object of Miss Stull's visit, but she restrained herself for the love of John. It was a heroic sacrifice, but she made it, and for ten minutes sifted sugar over a mass of bread dough without knowing what she did.

Miss Stull was very desirous that Mrs. People should come out; she wanted to ask her a lot of questions; but she did not betray any impatience towards John. The young man might be useful to her, particularly in the way of making her acquainted with Mr. Stratford, if the chance should occur. Miss Matilda wished very much to know the handsome gentleman she had seen driving with Gay Armatt. She had not supposed when she came to this part of the country that she should find such a man as that. She was therefore very gracious to John, and asked him so many questions about the present composition of the Bullripple household that the young man was obliged to say a good deal about Stratford, and could not have failed to present him had he made his appearance.

When she had waited just as long as she could, having, in the meantime, made her dough all cake, Mrs. People came out, and John was constrained to walk away reluctantly, to give the young lady an opportunity of stating her business to his mother. He did not go very far, however, but busied himself about the wood-yard, from which point, with his face ever turned towards the object of his devotion, no matter how he might move and re

volve, he held himself ready, the instant the conference should be over, to accompany Miss Stull to the gate and to go with her as far over our continent as she would permit.

What Miss Stull came to find out was the true state of things in the Justin house. Was Miss Gay engaged to the young man who was walking about in the parlor without her, or to Mr. Stratford, whom she had seen driving with her? In what business was this Mr. Crisman, and was he related to Mrs. Justin? Was Mr. Stratford rich? Was Mrs. Justin entirely satisfied with Gay's match? All these things, and a number of other points, Miss Stull had hoped to learn from Gay; but having failed to see that young lady, and not being able to wait until her call was returned, she had made a swoop upon Mrs. People.

After some very thin talk about butter and eggs, Miss Stull found it easy to introduce the subject she had at heart. Mrs. People had also a subject at heart which she wished to introduce, and in order to get at it she rushed with haste and freedom into the subject presented by her visitor. She told Miss Stull so much, in fact, that that young lady turned pale with surprise, and then pink with delight, at being the recipient of such startling information. Mrs. People had been at Mrs. Justin's house, and as that lady was desirous that it should be generally known that Mr. Crisman was no longer engaged to Miss Armatt, she had informed Mrs. People of the fact, and that good woman had easily possessed herself of as much of the detail of the event as Mrs. Justin judged proper to give her. This information, rapidly and generously garnished from the resources of her own mind, Mrs. People laid before Miss Stull.

The interview was protracted so long that John's ingenuity was greatly taxed to keep himself busy in view of the couple under the tree. When Miss Matilda rose to go, thus interrupting an abruptly introduced maternal panegyric of the manager of Vatoldi's, her mind was filled with a pleasing consciousness that there was in this neighborhood a city gentleman, handsome and stylish, and not engaged to be married. What advantage to herself she expected to result from this Miss Stull might not have been able to state in clear and convincing terms. But it was a great satisfaction to a person of her temperament to know that the facts were as they were.

John was with her before she reached the gate, and opened it for her. Then she stopped.

"Isn't there some way, Mr. People," she said, "by which I can go home across the fields instead of walking by the side of this monotonous road?"

"Oh, yes," said John, "but there are fences

in the way, and draw-bars would have to be taken down."

"And isn't there anybody," she continued, "who can take down those bars ?"

To hear this question, and to see at the same time the meaning little smile on the face of the young lady who asked it, suffused John's soul with more actual joy than it had ever before known. Yes, indeed, there was somebody who could not only take down bars, but who would tear away walls, fill up ditches, and slay bulls, if necessary. John did not say this, but his manner indicated it.

As they walked across the fields, Miss Matilda's spirits were very lively, and her manner was very cordial. She had no idea of alluring this happy fly into her web, but she desired to make of him a thread-carrier, so to speak, who would take out beyond her present sphere of action those finely spun inducements by which she hoped to draw to herself the larger and brighter flutterer upon whom her eyes were fixed. John now lived with Mr. Stratford, and through him her very limited circle of acquaintance here might be enlarged by the addition of this gentleman. She considered it her right to know every presentable man who might find himself within the limits of her social range.

Miss Stull also hoped to make Mr. Stratford comprehend through John what an exceedingly desirable thing it would be to become acquainted with her. But her methods towards this end had only the effect of causing John to feel that she was a more charming, desirable, and gracious superior being than even she herself had ever supposed it possible for her to become. On his side he was emboldened to a point of courage he had not imagined he could reach. Before they had gone three-quarters of the distance through a clover field, John determined to make his sentiments known. He would not ask her plumply if she would marry him, as if she were a mere country girl, but he would show her his glowing soul. Had she not with the sweet words and enrapturing smiles of angels deliberately set it on fire? And was it not due to her that she should see that it had kindled?

"Another set of bars!" exclaimed Miss Matilda, as they approached the fence. "Oh, dear, Mr. People, what a deal of trouble I am putting you to!"

"Trouble!" exclaimed the sturdy John. "I wish I could take down every bar that you might meet with through your whole —"

"Way home," quickly interpolated Miss Matilda. "That is just what I want you to do. You are so strong and seem to understand these fences so well."

"That is not the point," said John, as he

seized a rail and jerked it from its sockets. "Other people might be able to take down bars-"

"Yes," interrupted Matilda; "Mr. Stratford, for instance. He has lived so much in this country that I suppose he knows all about such things."

"It isn't the being able to do it," said John, looking intently into the face of the young lady, "it is the wanting to do it."

Miss Matilda smiled upon him. "It is very good of you," she said, "to be willing to do for other people what they cannot do for themselves. Now, if I were walking here alone I could never lift those heavy rails, and would have to crawl through the fence, or to climb over it as best I might."

"If I had my way," exclaimed John, forgetting in his excitement as he walked by Miss Matilda that it was necessary to put up the bars he had taken down, "there should never be in the way of your feet a stick, a stone, a clod, a lump, not so much as a piece of gravel."

"Those things must be expected," said the young lady with demure triteness.


Oh, no, they needn't be!" cried John in quick and fervid tones. "They need never be known at all, if there is one ever ready to brush and hurl them away; to make your paths as smooth- as smooth as roses.”

"Which are not smooth," said Miss Matilda, "at least not when they are used to make a path of. That reminds me that at our house there are a lot of rose bushes, and some of them have flowers on yet, but mother and I both think that they are a poor kind of rose bushes, and that if we are to come up here in the summer time we might as well have some good ones planted. Do you know the names of some good roses that would grow here? Perhaps, if you don't, Mr. Stratford could tell you. City men are so apt to know the names of good kinds of things."

"I am a city man myself," said John in a tone somewhat different from that in which he had just spoken, “and I'll get you all the roses you will ever want."

"I don't want you to get them," said she. "I only want the names of them. And there is another thing I would like to ask you about. How do you make grass grow? Mother and I think there ought to be a great deal more of it about the house, but the farmer who lives there don't seem to understand how to plant it."

With well-plied questions concerning the adornment of their country home Miss Matilda engaged the attention of her companion until they had reached the last fence. Then she turned and held out her hand.

"Good-bye, Mr. People," she said. "There are now no other obstructions between me and the house, and I will not make you go any farther."

"There is an obstruction, Miss Stull," said John very earnestly," an obstruction to my every joy, which

"Oh, yes, I know," quickly interrupted Miss Matilda; "those dreadful waiters who boycotted your place. It must be an awful obstruction, but it is bound to disappear in time, if you stand up boldly. Father has talked about it, and he says so. He is very fond of Vatoldi's, and he says we must go there again as soon as things are all right. Good-bye, Mr. People." And, with one of her pretty smiles, she tripped away.

Regarding the state of affairs from John's point of view it was quite evident that angelic beings have their disadvantages, for their beautiful wings enable them to keep just out of one's reach without feeling at all compelled to flee the company of the one who wishes to reach them.

On the other hand, Miss Matilda, in her character of web-maker, discovered that a fly who may be sent out to inveigle other insects is apt to become entangled in a very troublesome and apparently hopeless manner in the subtile threads with which he has been intrusted.

This young lady, however, troubled herself very little about John's condition. She liked to see a young man in this sort of involvement, especially when she herself had produced it, and her only regret in the present case was that the young man probably could not prove as useful as she had expected him to be. The most important object of her life at the present moment was to become acquainted with Mr. Stratford. It made her positively angry to think that she did not know him, and that she saw no way open by which she could become acquainted with him. She had called twice at the house where he lived, and accident had not favored her. She made a visit at Mrs. Justin's at a time when he was expected there, but she had not met him. She had hoped to know him through Gay Armatt, but she was now in trouble and could not be expected to do much in the way of introducing gentlemen. Miss Matilda's acute mind had discovered what sort of person was Mrs. People, and she was afraid to allow that goodhearted but exceedingly open-natured woman to know that she positively wished for the acquaintance of Mr. Stratford. Had she done this Miss Stull might have expected to be placed in a very undesirable position by the irrepressible frankness of Mrs. People. John had been her chief dependence, but she was

now very much afraid that she would not be able to make use of him. He had become so addled that he could not understand any hints of her desires, and she was even afraid that if she should succeed in making him understand what she wanted the numskull would actually refuse to make her acquainted with a man who might prove to be a rival.

There was nothing to be done but to depend upon herself; and as Miss Stull was quite used to this sort of dependence, she was not long in forming a plan. She must meet the man by accident. In a country place like this, where people wandered about as they pleased, this ought not to be a difficult matter; and as Mr. Stratford had probably by this time heard of her, and as he knew of course that she had heard of him, they would not meet as positive strangers, and a chance encounter might be worked up to advantage.

Miss Matilda was rather fond of sketching, and although she had but small ability as an artist, she was extremely clever in a general way, and could so arrange her slight artistic gifts that they made a very good show. The weather being now quite suitable for outdoor sketching, Miss Stull arrayed herself in a most becoming and appropriate costume, and with a sketch-book and little camp-stool under one arm, and a large umbrella with a long, pointed handle over her right shoulder, repaired to a pleasant spot at the foot of the hills, where some very good views could be had, and close by which she had sometimes observed, from a distance, that a sportsman occasionally passed on his way to the trout streams on the higher grounds.

The sketcher did not immediately select a spot at which to begin her work. She rambled about a good deal, and looked about a good deal, in order to see what suitable thing there was in view which might be drawn. At last she decided upon a distant view which included a path that led through the Bullripple farm towards the village.

Miss Matilda was a lucky young woman, especially when she put her own shoulder to her wheel of fortune, and she had scarcely sketched in the outlines of some rocks and gentle eminences when she saw coming towards her, among these outlines, a gentleman with a fishing-rod upon his shoulder. For some minutes she kept her eyes fixed upon her paper, and then, giving a little shrug to her shoulders and looking up at the sunlit sky, she put down her book and picked up the umbrella, which lay, closed, on the ground by her side. The pointed end of the long handle she now endeavored to thrust into the ground, but she found this a difficult performance. In one place the soil seemed very hard, in another there was long, tangled grass,

and, after a jab or two, she decided that she would not like to sit there. After some deliberation, with her back to the object she intended to draw, she selected another spot, but here she found a large stone just under the surface of the ground. Having quarried on this for some moments, she stopped and began fanning herself with her handkerchief. Such exertion was certainly very unusual with her, and she stood, panting a little. The man must now be very near.

In less than a minute she heard a step, and a gentleman's voice said to her: "Allow me, miss, to plant your umbrella for you." She turned quickly and saw, not Mr. Strat

ford, but Mr. Crisman. She knew him the moment she saw him, and was now truly surprised, for she had supposed that when he had ended his engagement he had also ended his visit to these parts. But her soul did not shrink with disappointment. This was a very handsome young fellow, and she would be delighted to know the ex-lover of Gay Armatt, about whom she had had so much curiosity and so much doubt.

With an ingenuous smile she accepted his offer, and the strong arm of Mr. Crisman soon fixed the handle of the umbrella in the ground as firmly as if it had been the mast of a boat. Frank R. Stockton.


[Read before the Sons of the Revolution, New York, February 22, 1887.]

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]




HE official reports show that the proceedings of the American Congress, while in the main conducted with becoming propriety and decorum, have occasionally been dishonored by angry personal altercations and scenes of ruffianly violence. These disorders increased as the great political struggle over the slavery question grew in intensity, and they reached their culmination in a series of startling incidents.

Charles Sumner, one of the Senators from the State of Massachusetts, had become conspicuous, in the prevailing political agitation, for his aggressive and radical antislavery speeches in the Senate and elsewhere. The slavery issue had brought him into politics; he had been elected to the United States Senate by the coalition of a small number of Free-soilers with the Democrats in the Massachusetts legislature. This question, therefore, became the dominant principle and the keynote of his public career. He was a man of profound culture, of considerable erudition in the law, of high literary ability, and he had attained an enviable social eminence. Though of large physical frame and strength, the combative quality was almost totally lacking in his organization, a lack, however, which was fully compensated by a moral fearlessness that led him to give free utterance to his convictions.

In this spirit he joined unreservedly in the exciting Senate debates, provoked by the rival applications from Kansas for her admission as a State. On the 19th and 20th of May, 1856, he delivered an elaborate speech in the Senate, occupying two days. It was one of his greatest efforts, and had been prepared with his usual industry. In character it was a philippic rather than an argument, strong, direct, and aggressive, in which classical illustration and acrimonious accusation were blended with great effect. It described what he called "the crime against Kansas"; and the excuses for the crime he denominated the

apology tyrannical, the apology imbecile, the apology absurd, and the apology infamous. "Tyranny, imbecility, absurdity, and infamy," he continued, "all unite to dance, like the weird sisters, about this crime." In the course of this speech he alluded, among others, to Senator Butler of South Carolina, and in reply to some severe strictures by that Senator during preceding debates indulged in caustic personal criticism upon his course and utterance, as well as upon the State of South Carolina, which he represented.

"With regret," said Sumner, "I come again upon the Senator from South Carolina [Mr. Butler], who, omnipresent in this debate, overflowed with rage at the simple suggestion that Kansas had applied for adcharged the loose expectoration of his speech, now mission as a State; and with incoherent phrases disupon her representative and then upon her people. There was no extravagance of the ancient parliamentary debate which he did not repeat; nor was there make, with so much of passion, I am glad to add, as any possible deviation from truth which he did not to save him from the suspicion of intentional aberration. But the Senator touches nothing which he does not disfigure-with error, sometimes of principle, sometimes of fact. He shows an incapacity of accuracy, whether in stating the Constitution or in stating the law, whether in details of statistics or the diver sions of scholarship. He cannot open his mouth but out there flies a blunder.”

Butler was not present in the Senate on either day: what he might have said or done, had he been there, can only be conjectured. The immediate replies from Douglas and others were very bitter. Among pro-slavery members of both Houses there was an under-current of revengeful murmurs. It is possible that this hostile manifestation may have decided a young member of the House, Preston S. Brooks, a nephew of Senator Butler, to undertake retaliation by violence. Acquainting Edmundson, another member, with his design, he waited on two different occasions at the western entrance to the Capitol grounds to encounter Mr. Sumner, but without meeting him.

On the 22d of May, two days after the speech, Brooks entered the Senate Chamber on the same errand. The session had been short, and after adjournment Sumner remained at his desk, engaged in writing. The sessions were at that time held in the old Senate Chamber,

Copyright by J. G. Nicolay and John Hay, 1886-7. All rights reserved.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »