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ed the pages, I hesitated for a moment. The central nervous column with its Is it quite fair to take advantage of a sheath runs as a dark stripe through the generous, trusting impulse to read the whole length of the diaphanous muscles unsunned depths of a young girl's nature, of the body. Other little creatures are which I can look through, as the balloon- so darkened with pigment that we can voyagers tell us they see from their hang- see only their surface. Conspirators and ing-baskets through the translucent wa- poisoners are painted with black, beady ters which the keenest eye of such as sail eyes and swarthy hue ; Judas, in Leoover them in ships might strive to pierce nardo's picture, is the model of them all. in vain? Why has the child trusted me However this may be, I should say with such artless confessions, - self-rev- there never bad been a book like this of elations, which might be whispered by Iris,—so full of the heart's silent lantrembling lips, under the veil of twilight, guage, so transparent that the heart itin sacred confessionals, but which I can- self could be seen beating through it. I not look at in the light of day without a should say there never could have been feeling of wronging a sacred confidence ? such a book, but for one recollection,
To all this the answer seemed plain which is not peculiar to myself, but is enough after a little thought. She did shared by a certain number of my former not know how fearfully she had disclosed townsmen. If you think I overcolor this herself; she was too profoundly innocent. matter of the young girl's book, hear this, Her soul was no more ashamed than the which there are others, as I just said, befair shapes that walked in Eden without sides myself, will tell you is strictly true. a thought of over-liberal loveliness. Having nobody to tell her story to — having,
The Book of the Three Maiden Sisters. as she said in her verses, no musical in- In the town called Cantabridge, now strument to laugh and cry with her,- a city, water-veined and gas-windpiped, nothing, in short, but the language of pen in the street running down to the Bridge, and pencil, — all the veinings of her na- beyond which dwelt Sally, told of in a ture were impressed on these pages, as book of a friend of mine, was of old a those of a fresh leaf are transferred to house inhabited by three maidens. They the blank sheets which inclose it. It was left no near kinsfolk, I believe: if they the same thing which I remember seeing did, I have no ill to speak of them; for beautifully shown in a child of some four they lived and died in all good report or five years we had one day at our and maidenly credit. The house they boarding-house. This child was a deaf lived in was of the small, gambrel-roofed mute. But its soul had the inner sense cottage pattern, after the shape of Esthat answers to hearing, and the shaping quires' houses, but after the size of the capacity which through natural organs dwellings of handicraftsmen. The lowrealizes itself in words. Only it had to er story was fitted up as a shop. Spetalk with its face alone ; and such speak- cially was it provided with one of those ing eyes, such rapid alternations of feel- half-doors now so rarely met with, which ing and shifting expressions of thought are to whole doors as spencers worn by as Alitted over its face, I have never seen old folk are to coats. They speak of in any other human countenance. limited commerce united with a social or
I wonder if something of spiritual trans. observing disposition on the part of the parency is not typified in the golden- shopkeeper,— allowing, as they do, talk blonde organization. There are a great with passers-by, yet keeping off such as many little creatures,-many small fishes, have not the excuse of business to cross for instance,- that are literally transpar- the threshold. On the door-posts, at ent, with the exception of some of the either side, above the half-door, hung internal organs. The heart can be seen certain perennial articles of merchandise, beating as if in a case of clouded crystal. of which my memory still has hanging fully, and is patient of the bit and of the man of genius, and very likely do not whip. But genius is always impatient want to know any more. For a divine of its harness; its wild blood makes it instinct, such as drives the goose southhard to train.
ward and the poet heavenward, is a hard Talent seems, at first, in one sense, thing to manage, and proves too strong higher than genius, - namely, that it is for many whom it possesses. It must more uniformly and absolutely submitted have been a terrible thing to have a to the will, and therefore more distinctly friend like Chatterton or Burns. And human in its character. Genius, on the here is a being who certainly has more other hand, is much more like those in- than talent, at once poet and artist in stincts which govern the admirable move- tendency, if not yet fairly developed,
ments of the lower creatures, and there- a woman, too ;-and genius grafted on fore seems to have something of the low- womanhood is like to overgrow it and er or animal character. A goose flies by break its stem, as you may see a grafted a chart which the Royal Geographical fruit-tree spreading over the stock which Society could not mend. A poet, like cannot keep pace with its evolution. the goose, sails without visible landmarks I think now you know something of to unexplored regions of truth, which phi- this young person. She wants nothing losophy has yet to lay down on its atlas. but an atmosphere to expand in. Now The philosopher gets his track by obser- and then one meets with a nature for vation; the poet trusts to his inner sense, which our hard, practical New England and makes the straighter and swifter line. life is obviously utterly incompetent. It
And yet, to look at it in another light, comes up, as a Southern seed, dropped by is not even the lowest instinct more tru. accident in one of our gardens, finds itly divine than any voluntary human act self trying to grow and blow into flower done by the suggestion of reason? What among the homely roots and the hardy is a bee's architecture but an unobstruct- shrubs that surround it. There is no ed divine thought ? - what is a builder's question that certain persons who are approximative rule but an obstructed born among us find themselves many thought of the Creator, a mutilated and degrees too far north. Tropical by orimperfect copy of some absolute rule ganization, they cannot fight for life with Divine Wisdom has established, trans- our eastern and northwestern breezes mitted through a human soul as an im- without losing the color and fragrance age through clouded glass ?
into which their lives would have blosTalent is a very common family-trait; somed in the latitude of myrtles and genius belongs rather to individuals ;- oranges. Strange effects are produced just as you find one giant or one dwarf by suffering any living thing to be dein a family, but rarely a whole brood of veloped under conditions such as Na
a either. Talent is often to be envied, and ture had not intended for it. A French genius very commonly to be pitied. It physiologist confined some tadpoles unstands twice the chance of the other of der water in the dark. Removed from dying in a hospital, in jail, in debt, in the natural stimulus of light, they did not bad repute. It is a perpetual insult to develop legs and arms at the proper pemediocrity ; its every word is a trespass riod of their growth, and so become frogs; against somebody's vested ideas,- blas- they swelled and spread into gigantic tadphemy against somebody's O'm, or intan- poles. I have seen a hundred colossal gible private truth.
human tadpoles, - overgrown larvæ or What is the use of my weighing embryos; nay, I am afraid we Protesout antitheses in this way, like a rhetor
tants should look on a considerable proical grocer?-You know twenty men portion of the Holy Father's one hundred of talent, who are making their way in and thirty-nine millions as spiritual larve, the world ; you may, perhaps, know one sculling about in the dark by the aid of
ow, fighting hard to feed and clothe and
more tenderly caressed by the colored educate her children, had not forgotten brush that rendered them, - were those the poorer ancient maidens. I remem- common growths that fling themselves to bered it the other day, as I stood by her be crushed under our feet and our wheels, place of rest, and I felt sure that it was making themselves so cheap in this perremembered elsewhere. I know there petual martyrdom that we forget each of are prettier words than pudding, but I them is a ray of the Divine beauty. can't help it, - the pudding went upon Yellow japanned Buttercups and starthe record, I feel sure, with the mite disked dandelions, — just as we see them which was cast into the treasury by that lying in the grass, like sparks that have other poor widow whose deed the world leaped from the kindling sun of summer; shall remember forever, and with the the profuse daisy-like flower which whitcoats and garments which the good wom- ens the fields, to the great disgust of en cried over, when Tabitha, called by liberal shepherds, yet seems fair to loving interpretation Dorcas, lay dead in the
eyes, with its button-like mound of gold upper chamber, with her charitable nee
set round with milk-white rays; the talldlework strewed around her.
stemmed succory, setting its pale blue flowers aflame, one after another, spar
ingly, as the lights are kindled in the -Such was the Book of the Maiden candelabra of decaying palaces when the Sisters. You will believe me more readi- heirs of dethroned monarchs are dying ly now when I tell you that I found the out; the red and white clovers ; the broad, soul of Iris in the one that lay open be- flat leaves of the plantain, -—“the white fore me.
Sometimes it was a poem that man's foot,” as the Indians called it, held it, sometimes a drawing,--angel, ara- the wiry, jointed stems of that iron creepbesque, caricature, or a mere hieroglyphic ing plant which we call “ knot-grass," symbol of which I could make nothing. and which loves its life so dearly that A rag of cloud on one page, as I re- it is next to impossible to murder it with member, with a streak of red zigzag a hoe, as it clings to the cracks of the ging out of it across the paper as natural- pavement; - all these plants, and many ly as a crack runs through a China bowl. more, she wove into her fanciful garOn the next page a dead bird, --some lands and borders.—On one of the pages little favorite, I suppose ; for it was work- were some musical notes. I touched them ed out with a special love, and I saw on from curiosity on a piano belonging to the leaf that sign with which once or twice one of our boarders. Strange! There are in my life I have had a letter sealed,-a passages that I have heard before, plainround spot where the paper is slightly tive, full of some hidden meaning, as if corrugated, and, if there is writing there, they were gasping for words to interpret the letters are somewhat faint and blurr- them. She must have heard the strains ed. Most of the pages were surrounded that have so excited my curiosity, comwith emblematic traceries. It was strange ing from my neighbor's chamber. The to me at first to see how often she intro- illuminated border she had traced round duced those homelier wild-flowers which the page that held these notes took the we call weeds, — for it seemed there was place of the words they seemed to be none of them too humble for her to love, aching for. Above, a long, monotonous and none too little cared for by Nature
sweep of waves, leaden-hued, anxious and to be without its beauty for her artist eye jaded and sullen, if you can imagine such and pencil. By the side of the garden- an expression in water. On one side an Aowers,- of Spring's curled darlings, the Alpine needle, as it were, of black basalt, hyacinths, of rosebuds, dear to sketching girdled with snow. On the other a threadmaidens, of flower-de-luces and morning- ed waterfall. The red morning-tint that glories, — nay, oftener than these, and shone in the drops had something fear
ful, - one would say the cliff was bleed- curve or a twist, and not one of them a ing;- perhaps she did not mean it. Be- mean figure to look at. You can make low, a stretch of sand, and a solitary your own comment; I am fancitul, you bird of prey, with his wings spread over know. I believe she is trying to idealize some unseen object. — And on the very what we vulgarly call deformity, which next page a procession wound along, af- she strives to look at in the light of one ter the fashion of that on the title-page of of Nature's eccentric curves, belonging to Fuller's “ Holy War,” in which I recog- her system of beauty, as the hyperbola nized without difficulty every boarder at and parabola belong to the conic secour table in all the glory of the most tions, though we cannot see them as symresplendent caricature,- three only ex- metrical and entire figures, like the circle cepted, — the Little Gentleman, myself, and ellipse. At any rate, I cannot help and one other.
referring this paradise of twisted spines I confess I did expect to see something to some idea floating in her head conthat would remind me of the girl's little nected with her friend whom Nature has deformed neighbor, if not portraits of warped in the moulding. - That is nothhim.- There is a left arm again, though; ing to another transcendental fancy of
no,- that is from the “ Fighting Glad- mine. I believe her soul thinks itself in iator," — the “ Jeune Héros combattant” his little crooked body at times,- if it of the Louvre; - there is the broad ring does not really get freed or half freed of the shield. From a cast, doubtless. from her own. Did you ever see a case [The separate casts of the “ Gladiator's” of catalepsy ? You know what I mean, arm look immense ; but in its place the — transient loss of sense, will, and mo limb looks light, almost slender,--such is tion; body and limbs taking any position the perfection of that miraculous marble. in which they are put, as if they belonged I never felt as if I touched the life of the to a lay-figure. She had been talking with old Greeks until I looked on that statue.] him and listening to him one day when
Here is something very odd, to be the boarders moved from the table nearsure. An Eden of all the humped and ly all at once. But she sat as before, her crooked creatures ! What could have cheek resting on her hand, her amber been in her head when she worked out eyes
and still. I went to her, such a fantasy? She has contrived to - she was breathing as usual, and her give them all beauty or dignity or mel- heart was beating naturally enough, ancholy grace. A Bactrian camel lying but she did not answer. I bent her arm; under a palm. A dromedary flashing it was as plastic as softened wax, and up the sands, - spray of the dry ocean kept the place I gave it.—This will never sailed by the “ship of the desert.” A do, though, -and I sprinkled a few drops herd of buffaloes, uncouth, shaggy-man- of water on her forehead. She started ed, heavy in the forehand, light in the and looked round.-I have been in a hind-quarter. [The buffalo is the lion of dream, — she said ;-I feel as if all my the ruminants.] And there is a Norman strength were in this arm;- give me horse, with his huge, rough collar, echoing, your hand ! — She took my right hand as it were, the natural form of the other in her left, which looked soft and white þeast. And here are twisted serpents; enough, but — Good Heaven! I believe and stately swans, with answering curves she will crack my bones! All the nerin their bowed necks, as if they had vous power in her body must have flashsnake's blood under their white feathers; ed through those muscles; as when a craand grave, high-shouldered herons, stand- zy lady snaps her iron window-bars, – ing on one foot like cripples, and looking she who could hardly glove herself when at life round them with the cold stare of in her common health. Iris turned pale, monumental effigies.—A very odd page and the tears came to her eyes;- she indeed! Not a creature in it without a saw she had given pain. Then she trem
bled, and might have fallen but for me;- as to read the secret of a real femme inthe poor little soul had been in one of comprise ? — for such there are, though those trances that belong to the spiritual they are not the ones who think thempathology of higher natures, mostly those · selves uncomprehended women. of women.
Poets are never young, in one sense. To come back to this wondrous book Their delicate ear hears the far-off whisof Iris. Two pages faced each other pers of eternity, which coarser souls must which I took for symbolical expressions travel towards for scores of years before of two states of mind. On the left hand, their dull sense is touched by them. A a bright blue sky washed over the page, moment's insight is sometimes worth a specked with a single bird. No trace of life's experience. I have frequently seen earth, but still the winged creature seem- children, long exercised by pain and exed to be soaring upward and upward. haustion, whose features had a strange Facing it, one of those black dungeons look of advanced age. Too often one such as Piranesi alone of all men has meets such in our charitable institutions. pictured. I am sure she must have seen Their faces are saddened and wrinkled, those awful prisons of his, out of which as if their few summers were three-score the Opium-Eater got his nightmare vis- years and ten. ion, described by another as “cemeter- And so, many youthful poets have ies of departed greatness, where mon- written as if their hearts were old before strous and forbidden things are crawl their time ; their pensive morning twilight ing and twining their slimy convolutions has been as cool and saddening as that among mouldering bones, broken sculp- of evening in more common lives. The ture, and mutilated inscriptions.” Such profound melancholy of those lines of a black dungeon faced the page that held Shelley, the blue sky and the single bird ; at the I could lie down like a tired child bottom of it something was coiled, — what, And weep away the life of care and whether meant for dead or alive, my
Which I have borne and yet must bear,” eyes could not make out.
came from a heart, as he
too soon I told you the young girl's soul was grown old,”— at twenty-six years, as dull in this book. As I turned over the last people count time, even when they talk leaves I could not help starting. There
of poets. were all sorts of faces among the ara- I know enough to be prepared for an besques which laughed and scowled in exceptional nature,-only this gift of the the borders that ran round the pages. hand in rendering every thought in form They had mostly the outline of childish and color, as well as in words, gives a or womanly or manly beauty, without richness to this young girl's alphabet of very distinct individuality. But at last feeling and imagery that takes me by it seemed to me that some of them were surprise. And then besides, and most taking on a look not wholly unfamiliar to of all, I am puzzled at her sudden and me; there were features that did not seemingly easy confidence in me. Perseem new.
1.- Can it be so ? Was there haps I owe it to my - Well, no matever such innocence in a creature so full ter! How one must love the editor who of life? She tells her heart's secrets as first calls him the venerable So-and-So! a three-years-old child betrays itself with
I locked the book and sighed as out need of being questioned ! This was I laid it down. The world is always no common miss, such as are turned out ready to receive talent with open arms. in scores from the young-lady-factories, Very often it does not know what to do with parchments warranting them accom- with genius. Talent is a docile creature. plished and virtuous,- in case anybody It bows its head meekly while the world should question the fact. I began to un- slips the collar over it. It backs into the derstand her;— and what is so charming, shafts like a lamb. It draws its load cheer