Puslapio vaizdai

with drooping head, with hands clasped. and pressed upon her breast, as if to keep some grief from bursting it. Her heavy burden leaned against the wall. It was a sight to break your heart.

In this Italy of the poor, woman seems doomed to both of the curses of Paradise, and when she has shed the sweat of her brow side by side with man, all day long, in the hot, hard field, he makes her his beast of burden on the journey home. Here comes another contadina, picking her way carefully down the path, loaded like a haycart, with grass and branches on her head, while the man trudges behind with only the sickle. In the quarries, men trim the stone, while their wives and sisters are marching off with the broad, thick slabs. upon their heads, showing the heavy strain. in every movement of ankle, hip and shoulder. One day a lady sent her piano from the Londra to a villa about a mile away. The procession was Italy in allegory-three girls, straight, fine-built, steadying on their heads the heavy instrument, and their older brother following, with the cloth flung across his arm.

We enter the chapel, and find the poor, tawdry altar furnished with a hundred little offerings of gratitude; among them, the rude picture of Giovanni's story-the woman in dress of full maroon, with heels in air, sprawling into the well, and above her, Our Lady of the Borgo, sitting stiff in white robe and veil and gorgeous crown, one hand gripping a scepter and the other touching daintily the woman's foot.


A COLORED print of this celebrated beauty was struck off about twenty years ago, and you may find a fly-blown copy of it in every log-hut or unpainted pineboard farm-house in the mountains of North Carolina. Her eyes, blue as delft, and her stiff flaxen curls beam down on you from among the bunches of dried herbs, the strings of red pepper, the rolls of white wool ready for spinning, on the wall, surrounded by half-sheets of brown paper, or of the "Buncombe County Gazette," pasted like herself where they can hide the larger cracks. She is flanked by a


Giovanni's simple faith is that of wellnigh all the good folk of the region round about. Madonna sits exalted in her skyblue and paper-gilt niche, on the walls of the groves, with inscriptions of adoration or prayer,-Madonna in Assumption, Madonna Immaculata, Madonna of Consolation, Madonna of Sorrow, by the home door, the garden gate, in the bed


But England and Geneva are slowly weakening that delusion which "worships. the creature more than the Creator." Not a few shrines now are empty, not a few images left weather-beaten and broken, that, on my first visit, twenty years ago, were adorned every day with new flowers and wreaths. I remember a little chapel up among the olives, then bright and pretty, and full of votive offerings. Now, the altar is covered by a table, with its three surviving legs in the air; donkey paniers lean against its steps, and an old saddle sprawls upon the chancel



This spectacle means more than the decay of the owner's faith. It proves utter indifference in a community which would have resented it, twenty years ago, as a public insult. On a headland of the shore, is a column once devoted to the Virgin. The niche is now empty as a skull, and the column is doing brave service on the windy height, by holding up the wires of the telegraph. Twenty years ago the sacrilege would have roused the peasantry to acts of murder. Si muove!

cut of General P. G. T. Beauregard, C. S. A., and a photograph of your host's oldest son, also in the uniform of the C. S. A.-this last in a frame, with a bit of evergreen above it. If you are curious enough to look in the big Bible on the chest of drawers in the mother's room, you shall find in faded ink the record of the boys birth, and below, fresh and black, the fatal word "Chattanooga word "Chattanooga" or "Chickamauga,' and afterwards, carefully written, and misspelled-"In the Hope of a blessed immortality." They are a devout people, above all things, these mountaineers; God


fearing, affectionate and dirty. This be-
smirched Rose was the one hint of beauty
or refinement known to the boy who lies
dead somewhere beyond the
beyond the balsam
heights. The square coarse print was his
gallery of art, his opera, his one glimpse of
the gay, lovely world, common-place to city
lads. If he had lived, he would have
found the living Rose, courted her at camp-
meeting, and have established her by this
time in a log hut, to be to her faithful as
was Isaac to Rebecca, while she to the end
of her days should cook his fried chicken
and hot biscuit, spin and weave his coat
and trousers, and help him and his hired
men to hoe the corn, and plough the pota-
to field.

only to the leaving of a card, you shall
have waited beside the Rose, as, fluted
and frilled in a muslin wrapper, and with a
basket of keys dangling at her belt, she
washes the breakfast cups, crosses the
tobacco field to visit her mare in the sta-
bles, or rattles over the keys of her Knabe
"Grand." She will sing anything for you,
from "Casta Diva" to
"Ah non giunge;
did she not win the half-wreath of immor-
telles in the music class when she was grad-
uated at the Catholic convent a year ago?
But her favorite songs are "No one to
love" and Ever of thee," which her bo-
som friend has lately sent her as lovely
new things. You can not satisfy yourself
as to the other branches of knowledge in
which she probably obtained the half-
Most of the familiar fields of con-
versation over which the "superior girls
of the North scamper at will like unbridled
colts, are to her utterly undiscovered land.
She never heard of Huxley or Darwin or
Ruskin; has no opinion to give on moral
insanity in re Jesse Pomeroy: or the
moral injustice of legal marriage apropos
to the last indecent divorce case. She
never saw any pictures better than the old
family portraits in the dining room, or the


Santa Cecilia" presented by some pious strolling artist to the Ladies of the Visitation, for their chapel; nor heard finer music than sisters Francisca and Eudosia made in their famous duet upon piano and harp. She inadvertantly betrays a belief that all Bostonians are atheists and free lovers, headed by Tom Paine and Parson Brownlow; and soon after lets slip a query whether there "are any wild beasts in Ireland, bears and wolves, and that kind of thing; she knows there are no snakes."

But the real Rose, when you find her, is not at all like her portrait. She is black-wreath. haired and eyed, her features sharply cut, without, however, any hint of shrewdness in their meager, compact outlines; the skin pale and thick, and reddening with difficulty. She has the one voice, the sweet thin falsetto, which is common to all Virginia and Carolina women. They pipe and plead in talking, on precisely the same key-note. Our Rose has a small, undulating body; a firm, alert step, a controlled eye: she keeps both body, and mind, in fact, well in hand, and manages them with a self-possession that gives them, little as they both are, more apparent weight and force than is their due. If she belong to the middle or upper class, she will by some magic art discover in season the style of dress preferred by the best people in the Northern cities and, with a little exaggeration in tone, wear it. You may meet her coming out of the hot wooden village church where she has been broiling through the Sunday afternoon service in a lilac or lavender silk, puffed and looped de rigueur, a dramatic little lace hat set on the coils of her jetty hair. Her father, the Colonel or General, gray whiskered and erect, waits on her chivalrously. The gentle-men, as she calls them, are an object of as much thought and desire to her little soul as to any flirting New York belle, and you may be the first of the eligible unmarried she has seen for a twelvemonth, but she receives you with a grave, modest simplicity and innocent dignity which her Northern sister might envy. You enter the big old-fashioned carriage, go home to dinner; in thirty-six hours, when your intimacy with the beauty of Madison Square would have advanced

Yet when you leave her you are ready to assert that she has rare powers in conversation. There is common sense and a fine sweet temper in all that the little lady says; she is quite sure of her footing both socially and in her opinions; stands at ease even on her little ignorances without conceit or anxiety.

By this time, too, you are at home with the rest of the household; the Rose's brother has made up a hunting party for you to the Black Mountains; her mother has given you her receipt for peach brandy; all the children (there are eleven) are friends with you; the Colonel, who lost an arm at Appomattox Court House, has gone over the war, its causes and results, the

Civil Service bill, and the position of the white and negro towards each other, in the fullest, frankest fashion. You tell yourself as you turn into bed that there is a weight of practical sense in what he says, and presently, (kept awake by fleas and the howling of the dogs below,) wish that the other side of the story had had such clear and moderate expounders before the war. You are sure of one thing-that you have never fallen before among such people as the Rose and her kinsfolk, men or women, who took life with such easy, lazy good humor, who carried their opinions, their joys and woes so out of doors, or who in their every day habit recognized the people who on earth do dwell as one great family party, whose privilege it was to be helpful and friendly together. Trying to reconcile this with your ancient doctrines concerning slave owners and Legrees, you fall asleep, the Rose forming a bewildering, alluring center to the kindly little drama.

With the new day these trivial perplexities renew themselves. You closely observe the colored boy who waits upon the Colonel at breakfast, or the saucy-looking mulatto maid behind the Rose's chair, for any sign of arrogance or chagrin on the part of white or black, at their change of position, but find none. Whatever may be the condition of affairs in South Carolina or Georgia, here both parties have accepted the situation with the passive good humor peculiar to them. The Rose, it is true, rates her maid, but now, in her piping compassionate tone, assures you that the "pooh cre-etures" are utterly unaable to care for themselves: that Papa assures her the ra-ace must become extinct out of slavery: Papa says there is no real civilization for any of the colored races; the Indian will always be a wild animal, the negro a domestic animal. "It's terribly sad, is it not?" pinning a bud of pink laurel coquettishly in her bosom.

[ocr errors]

"ef she was Nawth, and eahnin' twelve dollahs a month instid uv five, she could make somethin' uv hersef." That something can be made of themselves is the point wherein they differ from the Colonel and his daughter.

But if you chance to talk to one of these domestic animals you find their shrewd intelligence far in advance of the same class of servants in the North, white or black. You cannot make any animal the object of a bitter struggle for years without educating him at least in regard to his importance and chances. The boy behind the Colonel's chair confides to you his plan of "buyin' a small place in de Fall, a few acres of mountain pastur', and makin' somethin' uv hisse'f."

Rose's maid thinks
Rose's maid thinks


Another puzzling observation you make, which is, that the Rose, unlike her Northern sister, is totally unconcerned to "keep up appearances. The Colonel, in old times, was wont at this season to visit the White Sulphur Springs in state, with a superb display of equipages and servants. The Rose's mother blazed in diamonds and Parisian dresses. She herself, then a bud of five summers, dainty in costly embroidery and lace, her hair flying free, and her white feet bare, looked as if born to command. She does not pretend to command now; there is no effort to hide the lack of jewels by cheap finery, or to conceal the patched furniture, table-linen, or cracked mirrors that fill the scrambling, unpainted, unthrifty house. She tells youthe Colonel tells you a dozen times a day with high composure and complacency, that "this part of Nawth Caholina is much impohvehished by the waw-as you see," and there is an end of it. When they will cease to enjoy their tattered garments as badges of honorable warfare, and try to earn whole ones, is difficult to decide. The Rose's cousin in Virginia, a more delicate, cleverer girl, is teaching in Richmond. Rose has no thought of any such selfsacrifice her father refuses loftily to sell the black walnut timber on his mountain land to a dealer from Chicago at a large profit. "The pine he may have for nothing, but I cannot see the cream of our Southern produce carried any longer to the Nawth. Let the black walnuts stand. My grand-children may be able to use them."

But you shall not hear from him, nor any man or woman of his class in this region, a bitter or unkindly mention of the war. There is not a hand which is not ready to give you a cheerful, sincere welcome. Rose's sister (who was the Rose in 1862 and '63) used to keep watch from her chamber window upon the house of a poor farmer, whose sons were Union men hiding in the mountains for three years. It was she who saw these boys stealing home to see their old mother one night, and who sent word to the home-guard. When she heard the shots an hour after, and the terrified negroes rushed in to tell her that the men, her neighbors all her life, lay dead

outside the very door, she coolly bade them go help to bury them, as though it had been dogs or mountain boomers she spoke of.

She is a fair, plump, tender-voiced woman now, with half a dozen soft-eyed, well-bred children crowding about her. She stops at the farm-house for a bit of kindly gossip with the mother of the dead boys whenever she passes it, and when the old woman is sick makes her nice little dishes, for she stays with her at night, leaving her baby to the nurse. When you tell her of any call of suffering in the North, Chicago fire, or Pittsburgh flood, the quick tears rush to her eyes, and her portemonnaie (very thin and limp) is out.

Then you bethink yourself of a certain gentle cousin of yours in Boston or Philadelphia, who would not see a mouse harmed without pity, but whose patriotic zeal against the rebels ten years ago was bitter and murderous beyond that of men; and you close the matter with the usual masculine reflection on woman as an insolvable problem. Meanwhile, you find a broken cannon in the Blue Ridge passes, green, inch-deep with moss, while the gray squirrel hides its winter store of nuts in it, and pass a chubby-cheeked boy whistling ast he pastures his cows on the plain of Manassas, and think reverently of the great Healer at work for us all, beneath Time and Nature.

You wish when you turn northward, and leave the mountains rising behind you, range on range, that you could bring the Rose and these ready-witted, warm-hearted cousins of yours closer together, and fancy

that the effect would be wholesome both upon themselves and the generation to come after them.

You do not find when you have gone back to the North that you forget the Rose as you have forgotten so many brilliant women from Boston or New York, women, too, who wore the cordon bleu in the ranks of intellect or fashion. When you fall to speculating (as a young fellow will over his cigar now and then) about marriage, and a home, you find yourself going back to this girl with her sweet voice and decisive little nod presiding over the coffee-urn and cups at breakfast. The inevitable biscuit, honey, and fried chicken, at which you used to swear inwardly, make part now of the home-like picture, and it is well if Rose, whom none of her neighbors would call more than a pleasant girl," does not rise before you as an alluring mountain nymph, hedged in and veiled by her own glittering streams and pink laurel.


If you would choose to go back and win her, however, you will find it is no nymph whom you have taken to wife, but one of the most real and practical of American women. Her table will be noted for its choice dishes, if her house be not tidy; she will be always posted in the fashions, if not in the politics of the day. You may be sure that she will receive your friends with the gracious courtesy of a thoroughbred lady, but that she will elope with none of them, and that, while she may not instruct her daughters in either science or art, she will teach them to love God and honor their husbands.


"TELL us a story of these isles," they said,

The daughters of the West, whose eyes had seen For the first time the circling sea, instead

Of the blown prairie's waves of grassy green:

"Tell us of wreck and peril, storm and cold,

Wild as the wildest.' Under summer stars, With the slow moonrise at our back, I told

The story of the young Norwegian, Lars.

That youth with the black eye-brows sharply drawn
In strong curves, like some seabird's wings out-spread
O'er his dark eyes, is Lars, and this fair dawn

Of womanhood, the maiden he will wed.

She loves him for the dangers he has past.
Her rosy beauty glowed before his stern
And vigilant regard, until at last

Her sweetness vanquished Lars the taciturn.

For he is ever quiet, strong and wise,

Wastes nothing, not a gesture nor a breath;
Forgets not, gazing in the maiden's eyes,
A year ago it was not love, but death

That clasped him, and can hardly learn as yet
How to be merry, haunted by that pain
And terror, and remembering with regret.

The comrade he can never see again.

Out from the harbor on that winter day

Sailed the two men to set their trawl together. Down swept the sudden snow-squall o'er the bay, And hurled their slight boat onward like a feather.

They tossed they knew not whither, till at last
Under the light-house cliff they found a lee,
And out the road-lines of the trawl they cast
To moor her, if so happy they might be.

But quick the slender road-lines snapt in twain

In the wild breakers, and once more they tossed Adrift; and watching from his misty pane,

The light-house keeper muttered, "They are lost!"

Lifted the snow: night fell: swift cleared the sky; The air grew sharp as death with polar cold: Raged the insensate gale, and flashing high

In star-light keen the hissing billows rolled.

Driven before the wind's incessant scourge

All night they fled-one dead ere morning lay. Lars saw his strange, drawn countenance emerge In the fierce sunrise light of that drear day,

And thought, "A little space and I shall be
Even as he," and, gazing in despair
O'er the wide, weltering waste, no sign could see
Of hope, or help, or comfort, anywhere.

Two hundred miles before the hurricane

The dead and living drove across the sea.
The third day dawned. His dim eyes saw again
The vast green plain, breaking eternally

In ghastly waves. But in the early light,
On the horizon glittering like a star,
Fast growing, looming tall, with canvas white,
Sailed his salvation southward from afar!

Down she bore, rushing o'er the hills of brine,
Straight for his feeble signal. As she past,
Out from the schooner's deck they flung a line,
And o'er his head the open noose was cast.

« AnkstesnisTęsti »