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itself as "Good Lord, deliver us!"-the sweet alternation of the two choirs, as their holy song floated from side to side,— the keen young voices rising like a flight of singing-birds that passes from one grove to another, carrying its music with it back and forward,-why should she not love these gracious outward signs of those inner harmonies which none could deny made beautiful the lives of many of her fellow-worshippers in the humble, yet not inelegant Chapel of Saint Polycarp?
I never saw anything like the tenderness with which this young girl treats her little deformed neighbor. If he were in the way of going to church, I know she would follow him. But his worship, if any, is not with the throng of men and women and staring children.
I, the Professor, on the other hand, am a regular church-goer. I should go for various reasons, if I did not love it; but I am happy enough to find great pleasure in the midst of devout multitudes, whether I can accept all their creeds or not. One place of worship comes nearer than the rest to my ideal standard, and to this it was that I carried our young girl.
The young Marylander, who was born and bred to that mode of worship, had introduced her to the chapel, for which he did the honors for such of our boarders as were not otherwise provided for. I saw them looking over the same prayerbook one Sunday, and I could not help thinking that two such young and handsome persons could hardly worship together in safety for a great while. But they seemed to mind nothing but their prayer-book. By-and-by the silken bagels, - a kind of wooden tent, that owes
was handed round. I don't believe she
The Church of the Galileans, as it is called, is even humbler in outside pretensions than the Church of Saint Polycarp. Like that, it is open to all comers. stranger who approaches it looks down a quiet street and sees the plainest of chap
whatever grace it has to its pointed windows and the high, sharp roof,- traces, both, of that upward movement of ecclesiastical architecture which soared aloft in cathedral-spires, shooting into the sky as the spike of a flowering aloe from the cluster of broad, sharp-wedged leaves below. This suggestion of medieval symbolism, aided by a minute turret in which a hand-bell might have hung and found just room enough to turn over, was all of outward show the small edifice could boast. Within there was very little that pretended to be attractive. A small organ at one side, and a plain pulpit, showed that the building was a church; but it was a church reduced to its simplest expression.
Yet when the great and wise monarch of the East sat upon his throne, in all the golden blaze of the spoils of Ophir and the freights of the navy of Tarshish, his glory was not like that of this simple chapel in its Sunday garniture. For the lilies of the field, in their season, and the fairest flowers of the year, in due succession, were clustered every Sunday morning over the preacher's desk. Slight,
thin-tissued blossoms of pink and blue and virgin white in early spring, then the full-breasted and deep-hearted roses of summer, then the velvet-robed crimson and yellow flowers of autumn, and in the winter delicate exotics that grew under skies of glass in the false summers of our crystal palaces without knowing that it was the dreadful winter of New England which was rattling the doors and frosting the panes,- the whole year told its history of life and growth and beauty from that simple desk. There was always at least one good sermon, - this floral homily. There was at least one good prayer, that brief space when all were silent, after the manner of the Friends at their devotions.
Here, too, Iris found an atmosphere of peace and love. The same gentle, thoughtful faces, the same cheerful but reverential spirit, the same quiet, the same life of active benevolence. But in all else how different from the Church of Saint Polycarp! No clerical costume, no ceremonial forms, no carefully trained choirs. A liturgy they have, to be sure, which does not scruple to borrow from the time-honored manuals of devotion, but also does not hesitate to change its expressions to its own liking.
Perhaps the good people seem a little easy with each other;-they are apt to nod cheerfully, and have even been known to whisper before the minister came in. But it is a relief to get rid of that old Sunday-no,-Sabbath face, which suggests the idea that the first day of the week is commemorative of some most mournful event. The truth is, these people meet very much as a family does for its devotions, not putting off. their humanity in the least, considering it on the whole quité a cheerful matter to come together for prayer and song and good counsel from kind and wise lips. And if they are freer in their demeanor than some very precise congregations, they have not the air of a worldly set of people. Clearly they have not come to advertise their tailors and milliners, nor for the sake of exchanging
criticisms on the literary character of the sermon they may hear. There is no restlessness and no restraint among this quiet, cheerful people. One thing that keeps them calm and happy during the season so evidently trying to many congregations is, that they join very generally in the singing. In this way they get rid of that accumulated nervous force which escapes in all sorts of fidgety movements, so that a minister trying to keep his congregation still reminds one of a boy with his hand over the nose of a pump which another boy is working,— this spirting impatience of the people is so like the jets that find their way through his fingers, and the grand rush out at the final Amen! has such a wonderful likeness to the gush that takes place when the boy pulls his hand away, with such immense relief, as it seems, to both the pump and the officiating youngster.
How sweet is this blending of all voices and all hearts in one common song of praise! Some will sing a little loud, perhaps, and now and then an impatient chorister will get a syllable or two in advance, or an enchanted singer so lose all thought of time and place in the luxury of a closing cadence that he holds on to the last semibreve upon his private responsibility; but how much more of the spirit of the old Psalmist in the music of these imperfectly trained voices than in the academic niceties of the paid performers who take our musical worship out of our hands!
I am of the opinion that the creed of the Church of the Galileans is not quite so precisely laid down as that of the Church of Saint Polycarp. Yet I suspect, if one of the good people from each of those churches had met over the bed of a suffering fellow-creature, or for the promotion of any charitable object, they would have found they had more in common than all the special beliefs or want of beliefs that separated them would amount to. There are always many who believe that the fruits of a tree afford a better test of its condition than a statement of the composts with which it
is dressed, though the last has its meaning and importance, no doubt.
Between these two churches, then, our young Iris divides her affections. But I doubt if she listens to the preacher at either with more devotion than she does to her little neighbor when he talks of these matters.
What does he believe? In the first place, there is some deep-rooted disquiet lying at the bottom of his soul, which makes him very bitter against all kinds of usurpation over the right of private judgment. Over this seems to lie a certain tenderness for humanity in general, bred out of life-long trial, I should say, but sharply streaked with fiery lines of wrath at various individual acts of wrong, especially if they come in an ecclesiastical shape, and recall to him the days when his mother's great-grandmother was strangled on Witch Hill, with a text from the Old Testament for her halter. With all this, he has a boundless belief in the future of this experimental hemisphere, and especially in the destiny of the free thought of its northeastern metropolis.
I didn't say a new faith,- said the little gentleman;-old or new, it can't help being different here in this American mind of ours from anything that ever was before; the people are new, Sir, and that makes the difference. load of corn goes to the sty, and makes the fat of swine,- another goes to the farm-house, and becomes the muscle that clothes the right arms of heroes. It isn't where a pawn stands on the board that makes the difference, but what the game round it is when it is on this or that square.
Can any man look round and see what Christian countries are now doing, and how they are governed, and what is the general condition of society, without seeing that Christianity is the flag under which the world sails, and not the rudder that steers its course? No, Sir! There. was a great raft built about two thousand years ago,- - call it an ark, rather, the world's great ark! big enough to hold all mankind, and made to be launched right out into the open waves of life, and here it has been lying, one end on the shore and one end bobbing up and down in the water, men fighting all the time as to who should be captain and who should have the state-rooms, and throwing each other over the side because they could not agree about the points of compass, but the great vessel never getting afloat with its freight of nations and their rulers;- and now, Sir, there is and has been for this long time a fleet of "heretic " lighters sailing out of Boston Bay, and they have been saying, and they say now, and they mean to keep saying, "Pump out your bilgewater, shovel over your loads of Elle bal
last, get out your old rotten cargo, and we will carry it out into deep waters and sink it where it will never be seen again; so shall the ark of the world's hope float on the ocean, instead of sticking in the dock-mud where it is lying!"
It's a slow business, this of getting the ark launched. The Jordan wasn't deep enough, and the Tiber wasn't deep enough, and the Rhone wasn't deep enough, and the Thames wasn't deep enough,—and perhaps the Charles isn't deep enough; but I don't feel sure of that, Sir, and I love to hear the workmen knocking at the old blocks of tradition and making the ways smooth with the oil of the Good Samaritan. I don't know, Sir,—but I do think she stirs a little,-I do believe she slides; and when I think of what a work that is for the dear old threebreasted mother of American liberty, I would not take all the glory of all the greatest cities in the world for my birthright in the soil of little Boston!
Some of us could not help smiling at this burst of local patriotism, especially when it finished with the last two words.
And Iris smiled, too. But it was the radiant smile of pleasure which always lights up her face when her little neighbor gets excited on the great topics of progress in freedom and religion, and especially on the part which, as he pleases himself with believing, his own city is to take in that consummation of human development to which he looks forward.
Presently she looked into his face with a changed expression,- the anxiety of a mother that sees her child suffering. You are not well, she said. I am never well, he answered.His eyes fell mechanically on the death'shead ring he wore on his right hand. She took his hand as if it had been a baby's, and turned the grim device so that it should be out of sight. One slight, sad, slow movement of the head seemed to say, "The death-symbol is still there!"
A very odd personage, to be sure!
Seems to know what is going on,- reads books, old and new,- - has many recent publications sent him, they tell me, but, what is more curious, keeps up with the every-day affairs of the world, too. Whether he hears everything that is said with preternatural acuteness, or whether some confidential friend visits him in a quiet way, is more than I can tell. I can make nothing more of the noises I hear in his room than my old conjectures. The movements I mention are less frequent, but I often hear the plaintive cry, - I observe that it is rarely laughing of late;-I never have detected one articulate word, but I never heard such tones from anything but a human voice.
There has been, of late, a deference approaching to tenderness, on the part of the boarders generally, so far as he is concerned. This is doubtless owing to the air of suffering which seems to have saddened his look of late. Either some passion is gnawing at him inwardly, or some hidden disease is at work upon him.
-What's the matter with Little Boston?said the young man John to me one day. There a'n't much of him, anyhow; but 't seems to me he looks peakeder than ever. The old woman says he's in a bad way, 'n' wants a nuss to take care of him. Them nusses that take care of old rich folks marry 'em sometimes, 'n' they don't commonly live a great while after that. No, Sir! I don't see what he wants to die for, after he's taken so much trouble to live in such poor accommodations as that crooked body of his. I should like to know how his soul crawled into it, 'n' how it's goin' to get out. What business has he to die, I should like to know? Let Ma'am Allen (the gentleman with the diamond) die, if he likes, and be (this is a family-magazine); but we a'n't goin' to have him dyin'. Not by a great sight. Can't do without him anyhow. A'n't it fun to hear him blow off his steam?
I believe the young fellow would take it as a personal insult, if the little gentle
man should show any symptoms of quitting our table for a better world.
In the mean time, what with going to church in company with our young lady, and taking every chance I could get to talk with her, I have found myself becoming, I will not say intimate, but well acquainted with Miss Iris. There is a certain frankness and directness about her that perhaps belong to her artist nature. For, you see, the one thing that marks the true artist is a clear perception and a firm, bold hand, in distinction from that imperfect mental vision and uncertain touch which give us the feeble pictures and the lumpy statues of the mere artisans on canvas or in stone. A true artist, therefore, can hardly fail to have a sharp, well-defined character. Besides this, many young girls have a strange audacity blended with their instinctive delicacy. Even in physical daring many of them are a match for boys; whereas you will find few among mature women, and especially if they are mothers, who do not confess, and not unfrequently proclaim, their timidity. One of these young girls, as many of us hereabouts remember, climbed to the top of a jagged, slippery rock lying out in the waves, -an ugly height to get up, and a worse one to get down, even for a bold young fellow of sixteen. Another was in the way of climbing tall trees for crows' nests, - and crows generally know about how far boys can "shin up," and set their household establishments above high-water-mark. Still another of these young ladies I saw for the first time in an open boat, tossing on the ocean ground-swell, a mile or two from shore, off a lonely island. She lost all her daring, after she had some girls of her own to look out for.
Many blondes are very gentle, yielding in character, impressible, unelastic. But the positive blondes, with the golden tint running through them, are often full of character. They come from those deep-bosomed German women that Tacitus portrayed in such strong colors. The negative blondes, or those women whose
tints have faded out as their line of de
scent has become impoverished, are of various blood, and in them the soul has often become pale with that blanching of the hair and loss of color in the eyes which makes them approach the character of Albinesses.
I see in this young girl that union of strength and sensibility which, when directed and impelled by the strong instinct so apt to accompany this combination of active and passive capacity, we call genius. She is not an accomplished artist, certainly, as yet; but there is always an air in every careless figure she draws, as it were of upward aspiration, the élan of John of Bologna's Mercury, a lift -to them, as if they had on winged sandals, like the herald of the gods. I hear her singing sometimes; and though she evidently is not trained, yet is there a wild sweetness in her fitful and sometimes fantastic melodies, such as can come only from the inspiration of the moment, strangely enough, reminding me of those long passages I have heard from my little neighbor's room, yet of different tone, and by no means to be mistaken for those weird harmonies. I cannot pretend to deny that I am interested in the girl. Alone, unprotected, as I have seen so many young girls left in boarding-houses, the centre of all the men's eyes that surround the table, watched with jealous sharpness by every woman, most of all by that poor relation of our landlady, who belongs to the class of women that like to catch others in mischief when they are too mature for indiscretions, (as one sees old rogues turn to thief-catchers,) one of Nature's gendarmerie, clad in a complete suit of wrinkles, the cheapest coat-of-mail against the shafts of the great little enemy, surrounded, Iris spans this commonplace household-life of ours with her arch of beauty, as the rainbow, whose name she borrows, looks down on a dreary pasture with its feeding flocks and herds of indifferent animals.
These young girls that live in boarding-houses can do pretty much as they