Page images

cer in hand, went up to his work-room to him of Ethel's death he had been much ›ved, and had said at once that he would to Boston for her child.

Rachel would have liked to accompany n, but was too little in the habit of assertg herself to insist on her timidly expressed sire. She therefore contented herself as st she could during his absence by making eparations for the child's reception. With e aid of Aunt Kitty, she brought from the tic a cradle, which had once been her n, and dusting it free of cobwebs, proded it with bedding with her own deft finrs. As a spinster, she also willingly lent humble attention to a course of lectures a baby culture, undergoing considerable. rowbeating from old Kitty, who had raised. numerous progeny in her day and was not all inclined to forego such an opportunity E airing her stock of musty precepts.

Rachel accepted her hectoring as the robable accompaniment of superior knowldge, and meekly anxious to profit by her age counsels, went for peppermint to the orner drugstore, where she was in turn patonized by the clerk - a friendly young felow whose upper lip looked as if he had itten into a deep slice of pumpkin pie. He was so knowing about a baby's stomach nd possible teeth, and talked so glibly bout the ills threatening infantile existence, hat Rachel would have been greatly alarmed f he had not always ended by putting into er hand some infallible remedy for the evil upon which he expatiated; so that she began to see that it was all a matter of being initiaed, and went home with her arms full of patent medicine to spend the last afternoon of her brother's absence in reading glowing estimonials, never for a moment suspectng that the names of patrons and physicians were fictitious. Indeed, with the medical profession thus at her back, she received with no little dignity Aunt Kitty's slighting opinion of her purchases.

As it grew dark, however, she became too

restless to keep to any employment, and spent her time vibrating between the window and fireplace-- being driven from the window by a fidgety care of her ailments, and from the fire back to the window again by the fear that her deafness would prevent her from knowing of the arrival of the carriage.


As she was thus standing by the window, Aunt Kitty made her appearance, carrying a sauce-pan of porridge as an excuse for her intrusion. She stopped short in the doorway, evidently surprised to find her mistress. alone. Hastening to her side she called in her ear, Missy, whar de baby?" "They have not come yet, " said Rachel. "Mahs Dave's hyar!" cried the old woman, and seizing Rachel by the arm, she drew her to a window looking out on the side garden, where a light, evidently from the laboratory at the top of the house, was shining on the snow.

Rachel looked helplessly at her companion. "Missy," said the old woman, "fo'de Lor', I is gwine up dar!" and she started for the door, perhaps not a little strengthened in her determination by seeing that Rachel followed her.

She climbed the stairs, slapping her big feet down with less noise than was her wont, swaying from side to side until her hands touched the walls, and muttering below her breath, "Ole dog, ole black dog!"

whether of her master or of the Devil who was supposed to be his ally she did not make clear.

As her turbaned head came above the level of the upper landing, she looked in through the open door of the laboratory. Of a sudden she squatted, and seizing Rachel's skirts, gasped in a whisper, "Fo' de Lor' sake, chile, keep still!"

But curiosity was as strong as fear, and she crept up a couple of steps that she might, in her crouching position, command a view of the room. She did not in the least doubt that the old black man" was before her


as she gazed at the moth-eaten orang outang in the corner. There was an uncanny skeleton in sight and the flaring lights made the uncouth shadows cast by the retorts tremulous, as if the long-stemmed disks were struggling into life.

Rachel was struggling with a vague fear that as yet had no shape; and regardless of Aunt Kitty's detaining hand pushed upward that she might see into the room. But the cause of Aunt Kitty's sudden fright was not evident to her. She looked at her brother and saw that he was looking quietly into a small box, which stood on a table in the center of the room. It was, in fact, an automatic incubator of his own manufacture.

Early that day he had suddenly doubted. whether he had filled the lamp beneath the machine before leaving home; then, if he had done so, was he sure of the thermometer? or, would the egg revolve properly? and his mind had gone on imagining all possible defects in the machine, and how he might have made it better, until he grew more and more desperate at the distance that separated him from home with every hour of travel the express train made towards his destination; and he had finally taken to pacing up and down the car with such a feverish, one-ideaed expression, that the passengers looked after him. On reaching home, however, he found that all had gone on as well in his absence as if he had been standing beside the machine day and night. Having scrutinized it with the fondness of an inventor, he stood looking complacently down upon his handiwork, his eye resting casually on a short horizontal line of red ink, which he had put on the egg, suspended in the warm air, as a means of knowing whether it made its slow, invisible revolutions. A film of absent mindedness had gradually crept over his face as he looked at the mark, when all at once, he thought he saw it curve into a rosy mouth and in an instant more fancied that he saw a soft outline of limbs.

At that moment there was a sound that

neither he, nor Rachel, nor Aunt Kitty, could at once have defined in their overwrought state of mind- an explosion or a thud. Aunt Kitty plunged down stairs with a howl, nearly upsetting her companion in her course. Rachel, on recovering herself, however, perceived that her brother was unhurt, though apparently a little bewildered to account for what had happened, and she resolved to go to him. When she reached his side, he was again busy with the incubator; this time in picking up bits of shattered egg-shell.

"David," she said, "what has thee done with the child?"

He started violently and looking at her returned, "The baby? I have failed!"

He spoke bitterly, then his face suddenly brightened, and fixing his shining eyes upon her he exclaimed, No, not failed! It was victory, victory!" And with a tenderness such as Rachel had never known in him before he drew her to him and kissed her; then releasing her, he said:

"Now get thee gone, Rachel; I must write while the matter is fresh with me. I know not how it is, but now-a-days, even as I think, my ideas slip away from me as if they were dreams gliding away from my awakening senses."

He turned to the table and began eagerly to collect writing materials. His attention was again attracted by the pressure of Rachel's hand, but this time he turned on her impatiently.

"Get thee gone, I say!" he cried angrily. "I have no time for thee," and he turned again to his work.

Before Rachel could frame her thoughts, the thud she had heard before was repeated, only this time it seemed the fall of some small object, perhaps a book. Turning in the direction from which the sound proceeded, she saw a small child standing near a heap of sprawling folios and pushing and tugging at one of a number of piles of books that had been placed in the neighborhood

of the full book-case. The mischief she was in was evidently quite to her mind; but before she could bring down the next lot of tottering books, Rachel had caught her up and fled down stairs with her when a jubilee was held over her by Rachel and Aunt Kitty.

She was a pretty child; a proffer of Aunt Kitty's porridge showed her to be a hungry one; and finally she became a sleepy one. For a while Rachel had only time to be happy. But long after little Ethel lay asleep in her cradle before the fire, and after Aunt Kitty in her stuffy room had courted slumber by a last pipe in bed, Rachel still sat before the fire, feeding it sparingly from time to time as if not expecting to need its warmth much longer. Hours, however, went by, and still she did not go to bed; but instead arose every now and then, and drawing her blanket shawl more closely about her, crept up the stairs to peep through the balustrade at her brother, who wrote on with nervous energy.

His momentary kindness had filled her with tenderness towards him and as she watched him she thought how old and faded he looked. For the first time in her life her attitude toward him had something of protection in it. Was he not working too hard? Would he not make himself sick? she asked herself; but old habit was strong with her and she always ended her cogitations by going down stairs again as silently as she had come up, and seating herself by the fire to wait for him.

At last she must have slept. When she became conscious, the drab light of a winter morning was in the room; and David was lying motionless beside the cradle with one arm across it and his head resting on the coverlet.

From that day he was a partially paralyzed, feeble-minded old man, whose chief delight lay in little Ethel, concerning whom he evidently had queer ideas. He told Aunt Kitty something about having hatched her out of a big cgg up in his laboratory,

which made the old woman wag her head when she chanced to catch Ethel's elfish eyes upon her, and mutter, "Dat chile know too much!" In spite of Rachel's efforts to divert his mind from the fancy, he clung tenaciously to it, and was always finding resemblances between Ethel and the birds about the garden, which he said came from her having lain in a shell, and he pointed out that the white down on her face was referable to the bird part of her nature. Her fear of Rachel's old tabby, he also averred, arose from that source.

One February morning he found Ethel standing on standing on a chair looking out of the window at the soft snowflakes that were falling, and gurgling contentedly to herself.

"What is thee looking at, Ethel," he said, hobbling to her. Then seeing the snowbirds hopping about the rose bush outside the window, he said eagerly, "What did I hear thee saying to them, Ethel?"

He brought his face down coaxingly to hers, and the child with an impulse of mischief flung her arms around his neck and gabbled in his ear.

"Uncle Dave does n't understand," he said regretfully. "Shall we feed the

[blocks in formation]

to her stock of patent medicines; but in spite of their vaunted virtues, and even of the hot bath that Aunt Kitty suggested, Ethel grew rapidly worse, until at bed time the old woman set forth to seek a physician.

David, finding his playfellow too ill to care for his attempts to amuse her, dragged himself about the house like an uneasy ghost, or sat whimpering by the fire. Rachel thought that he had at last dozed off, as with Ethel wrapped in her blanket shawl, she sat on the opposite side of the fireplace from him awaiting Aunt Kitty's return. But the moment the front door opened he grasped his stick and pulling himself up out of his armchair went into the hall to meet the doctor. Plucking him by the sleeve he said earnestly:

"Friend, does thee know anything about the ailments of birds? Otherwise thy skill avails thee not here. This child is half bird in her nature."

stand. It is gapes"; and steadying himself by putting a hand on the wall, he lead the way with considerable quickness to the door, where Aunt Kitty already waited for them. with impatience.

As they were about to enter, the physician laid his hand on David's arm and said

gravely, "You know you must be very quiet, if you go with me?"

David nodded and faithful to his promise sat silent at his corner of the fireplace, watching with painful eagerness every motion of the physician.

It was an anxious night; but at last the little one was evidently growing better, and the doctor, with cheerful assurances, finally left them, promising an early call on the David did not rise to follow him to the door. His head was bent on his breast, and one would have said that he slept, if his face had not been radiant with happiness. Even when Rachel rose to


The physician turned his searching eyes carry the sleeping child into her bedroom on the fitful face.

"Yes," he answered good naturedly. "You should see my birds at home."

David's face brightened. "Come," he said eagerly, "the women folks don't under

he made no motion to follow her.

Life and its motions were over for him. Another soul had sunk below our horizon and the light upon the austere face was but the radiance of a past joy.

E. C. S.


We noticed last month all the first volumes" of verse that had accumulated before us, reserving for a second article only the books of poets who held by previous volumes some claim, be it great or little, upon the favorable recognition of reading people. These were not so many as the new names--a half dozen but with one or two exceptions much more satisfactory reading. Several more "first volumes," however have meantime reached us, and we stop for

some comment upon them, before turning to the maturer work.

Songs and Song Legends', The Unseen King, and The Old Garden3 form a pretty evenly spaced ascending scale of merit. Songs and Song Legends is written and pub1 Songs and Song Legends. By Edward Lippi Fales. St. Paul, Minn.: Published by the Author. 1887.

The Unseen King, and Other Poems. By Caroline Leslie Field. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, & Co. 17. For sale in San Francisco by Samuel Carson & Co.

3 The Old Garden, and Other Verses. By Margaret Deland. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, & Co. 1887. For sale in San Francisco by Chilion Beach.

lished at St. Paul, Minnesota; contains half a dozen local Indian legends (whether real or imitations we do not know), and various poems of reflection, of friendship, and so forth; is not strictly to be called poetry, but is amiable and honest versifying, with touches of worthy thought or feeling. Three or four poems might be spoken of with more respect than this for their literary merit. We quote the shortest:


The Wheelman's Spring Song.

The chains of winter fall.
Beneath the force of spring;

The jay's defiant call

Makes every woodland ring:

The roads are brown and bare;

The sky is blue and gold;

A winy thrill beats through the air;

The birds are making bold;
And O how glad I feel,

Upon this glorious morn,

To leap astride this gallant wheel
And wind this mellow horn!

Away! away! my winged steed!

Through all the realm of sunshine speed!

The Unseen King is by the author of High Lights," a novel of much refinement, some little literary merit, and an evident aspiration towards more, that appeared anonymously two or three years since. These verses might be characterized in precisely the same words. They are the verses of a refined and sensitive mind of no great native power, but habituated to the ways of regarding life and of using language current among thoughtful and accomplished people. They have a gently moralizing tone, and that disposition to force every small sugges tion of fancy to bear the utmost weight of poetry it can that is common with poets who are such merely by infection. There are a good many poems written for children, or at least in the confidential, simple fashion in which one addresses children. To our judgment, nothing else in the book has as much substance as this:


Right well I know that life is more than joy, For joy may die; and yet, behold, we live!

VOL. X.--35.

Nor duty's sterling stuff nor grief's alloy
Makes up its sum, even although we give
Our days to labor and our nights to tears.
Whence cometh, then, that force superlative
Which turns the wondrous wheel through weary

Faith is the spirit's breath; its beating brain
Is love, that holds, in ever-widening scope,
All that God gives to its eternal gain;

But oh, the heart, the throbbing heart is hope!
This stayeth never its renewing power;
To every nerve it sendeth swift supply
Instant by instant, through life's sunny hour
As through its deepest midnight, equally.
We cry sometimes in anguish, "Hope is dead!"
When but for her we had no voice to cry.
Oh, hard to kill is she! it is her red
Returning tide that points our agony,

As when revives some poor wretch, nearly drowned

To find himself in tingling tortures bound.

Our joys may leave us, grief itself be gone,
Faith may lie cold, and love have naught to give,

Yet lingering life is there if hope beat on;

But when we cease to hope we cease to live.

A fairer example of the average merit of the verses is this:


Did e'er you spy The blythe May-fly Dancing at dusk in ecstasy? If so

You know

How fast its little life goes by.

Do you suppose A May-fly knows

Whence he came, or where he goes? Not he!

But we

May mark his day from dawn to close.

And do you know

That even so

God's angels watch us, here below, Alway?

And they

Know whence we came, and where we go. The pleasant verses of The Old Garden are far less ambitious, and offer us no reassuring explanations of the Lord's ways, deduced from midges and grass blades, but only little rhymes about flowers, poems of nature, fresh and genuine and, if wanting in the higher elements of poetic beauty, neverthe

« PreviousContinue »