Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

In 1842 (seven years from the commencement of the survey) he rendered an octavo report of four hundred and ninety-five pages, in the introduction to which he observes," I regret to say, I have not had the means allowed me for additional investigations, nor even for a proper use of my materials, either notes or specimens. The number of localities from which I have collected specimens I have estimated at nearly eight thousand; the records of dips and bearings are still more numerous. The report which follows is but a hasty outline, written mainly from recollection, with only occasional reference to my materials, and under circumstances little calculated for cool consideration. It was written, however, with an intention to state nothing of the truth or probability of which I did not feel satisfied. None can regret more than I do its imperfection; still I cannot but hope that it will contribute something towards the solution of the problem of the highest practical as well as scientific importance, the exact determination of the geological system of the State."

Of this remarkable production it may very briefly be said, that it will ever remain a monument to the scientific and literary powers of its author. It describes every shade of variation in the different rocks, and their exact distribution over the surface of the State. This it accomplishes with a minuteness never before essayed in any similar work. The closeness and brevity of his descriptions make it one of the dryest productions ever issued on geological science, scarcely omitting the work of Humboldt, in which he sought to represent the whole of geology by algebraic symbols. Percival's work actually demands, and would richly repay, a translation into the vernacular of descriptive geology, the language and mode of illustration employed by Murchison and Hitchcock. In its present form, it is safe to say, it has never found a single reader among the persons for whose benefit it was written.

It is no part of my plan to speak of his poetical reputation. This I leave to

others better able to do him justice. Indeed, he had nearly abandoned poetical composition before our acquaintance began. But it is safe, perhaps, to say here, that his writings have placed him among the first of our national poets; and had he resumed this species of composition, he could scarcely have failed of maintaining, in the fullest manner, his poetic fame. He possessed all the qualities reckoned essential to poetical excellence. We have already spoken of his astonishing memory, a trait regarded of such importance to the poet by the ancients as to have led them to call the Muses the daughters of this mental faculty. His powers of abstraction and imagination were no less remarkable,—while for extreme sensitiveness he was unsurpassed. His judgment was clear, and his appreciation of language refine to the last degree. His musical feeling, too, as well of time as of harmony, was intense; while he had at command the universal stores of literature and science.

In closing these reminiscences, I cannot avoid noticing some of the useful impressions exerted by Percival upon the literary community amidst which he passed so large a portion of his life. To some the influence of such a recluse will doubtless seem insignificant. The reverse, however, I am persuaded, was the fact. Few students came to New Haven without bringing with them, imprinted on their youthful memories, some beautiful line of his poetry. Few had not heard of his universal scholarship and profound learning. Next to an acquaintance with the teachers from whom they expected to derive their educational training, their curiosity led them to inquire for Percival. The sight of this modest, shrinking individual, as the possessor of such mines of intellectual wealth, it may well be understood, produced the deepest interest. In him they recognized a man superior to the clamor of vulgar gratification; his indifference to gain, to luxury, and every form of display, his constant preference of the spiritual over the sensual, was always an impressive exam

ple to them. The indigent student took fresh courage as he saw in him to what a narrow compass exterior wants might be reduced; the man of fashion and the fop stood abashed before the simplicity of his dress and daily life. And wherever the spirit of classic literature had been imbibed, and the capacity acquired of perceiving the severe worth of the true philosopher, the inspection of such a character, compared with the mere description of it in history, was like the difference between a statue and a living, breathing man. As at early dawn or in the gray twilight his slender form glided by, the thoughtful and poetic scholar could scarce refrain from ut

tering to himself, -"There goes Diogenes or Chrysippus! There goes one, by the side of whom many a bustler in letters is only a worthless drone, many an idolized celebrity a weak and pitiful sham!" Such a character as Percival's, in the presence of a scholastic community, was a perpetual incentive to industry and manliness; and although he rarely spoke in its hearing, and has left us fewer published works than many oth

ers, still I believe that thousands yet live to thank him for lessons derived from the simple survey of his daily life.

Though there is little likelihood that his example of self-abnegation and devotion to study will be followed by many of our youth, nevertheless, the occurrence of such a model now and then in the republic of letters constitutes a pleasing as well as useful phenomenon,-if for no other reason, because it breaks in upon the monotony of literary biography, and communicates a portion of that picturesqueness to scholastic life which belongs to Nature in everything else. That his course was fraught with happiness to himself cannot be doubted; that it was beneficial also to his fellow-men is equally true; and though he may be judged less leniently by minds incapable of pronouncing that to be a character honorable in the sight of God or man, which deviates from their own standard or creed,

to others, who recognize the highest possible cultivation of the mental faculties and unsullied purity of life as the noblest ends of our being, he will ever occupy a position shared by few of mortal race.

PART FIRST.

HOW IT WAS MADE.

ZELMA'S VOW.

IN TWO PARTS.

[blocks in formation]

feet and the shuffle of belated buskins? And then, the unveiled wonders of that strange, new world of canvas and pasteboard and trap-doors, - people, Nature, Art, and architecture, never before beheld, and but faintly conceived of,—the magic of shifting scenes,-the suddenness and awfulness of subterranean and aërial descents and ascents,- the solemn stagewalk of the heroine,-the majestic strut of the hero,-the princely sweep of velvet,-the illusive sparkle of paste,—the rattle of Brobdignagian pearls,-the saucy tossing of pages' plumes, the smiles,

the wiles, the astonishing bounds and bewildering pirouettes of the dancing Houries, the great sobs and small shrieks of persecuted beauty,- the blighting smile of the villain,—the lofty indifference of supernumeraries!

It was the first play of our heroine, Zelma Burleigh, and of her Cousin Bessie. The morning before, a fragrant May morning, scores of summers ago, Roger Burleigh, a stout Northumbrian Squire, had rolled himself, in his ponderous way, into the snug family-parlor at the Grange, and addressed his worthy dame with a bluff,

[ocr errors]

'Well, good wife, wouldn't like to go see the players to-night?"

Ere the good lady could collect herself to reply with the decorous deliberateness becoming her years and station, an embroidery-frame at her side was overturned, and there sprang eagerly forward a comely young damsel of the pure Saxon stock, with eyes like England's violets, clear, dewy, and wide-awake,cheeks and lips like its rose-bloom, and hair which held tangled in close, golden folds its fickle and flying sunshine.

[ocr errors]

Ay, father!" she cried, "that we would! Zelma and I have never seen any players, save the tumblers over at the Hall, on Sir Harry's birthday, and we are in sad need of a little pleasuring."

"Who spoke to you, or of you, Mistress Bessie?" replied the Squire, playfully. "And what is all your useless, chattering life but pleasuring? The playhouse is but a perilous place for giddybrained lasses like you; but for once, harkee, for once, we'll venture on taking you, if you'll promise to keep your silly head safe under the mother-hen's wing."

"Not so close but that I can get a peep at the players now and then," said Bessie, archly. "They say there are some handsome young men and a pretty woman or two among them. Eh, Zelma?"

"Handsome young men !-pretty women!" exclaimed the Squire, with an explosive snort of contempt. "An arrant set of vagabonds and tramps, of rant

ing, strutting, apish creatures, with neither local habitations nor names of their own. And what does Zelma know about them? Out with it, girl!"

The person thus addressed, without lifting the folds of a heavy window-curtain which concealed her, replied in a quiet, though somewhat haughty tone,—

"I saw them all, yesterday afternoon, on their way to Arden. I found them near the entrance to our avenue. One of their carts had broken down, and somebody was hurt. I dismounted to see if I could be of any assistance. My pony pulled away from me and ran up the road. One of the young men caught her for me. I told Cousin Bessie I thought him handsome and proud enough for a lord. I think so still. That is all I know of the players."

"And, gad, that's enough! Take you to the play, indeed! Why, we shall have you strolling next, like your ”Here the Squire, for some reason known to himself, suddenly paused and grew very red in the face. Dame Margery took the word, and, in a tone meant to be severe, but which was only dry, remarked,

"Zelma is quite too young to go to the play."

"Just one week younger than my Cousin Bessie. So, please you, aunt, I will wait a few days," was the quiet reply from the invisible.

66

Right cleverly answered, lass!" said the Squire, with a good-humored chuckle. "Well, we will try you, too, for once; but mind, if I find you making eyes at any of the villains, I'll cut you off with a shil ling."

"That is more than I look for from you, Uncle Roger," replied the hitherto hidden speaker, emerging from the window-seat, holding in her hand the fashionable and interminable novel of "Sir Charles Grandison." As she spoke, she laughed lightly, but her voice was somewhat cold and bitter, and there was in her laugh more of defiance than merri

ment.

"Oh, don't, Zella!" exclaimed the

[blocks in formation]

Zelma Burleigh, as she stood thus, a faint, regretful smile softening the habitual hauteur of her face, was beautiful, and something more; yet nobody in the country round about the Grange had ever dreamed of calling her "a beauty.” She was a tall, gracefully-formed girl, with that strong, untamable character of figure and feature, and that peculiar, sun-tinted, forest-shadowed hue of the skin, which betray the slightest admixture of gypsy blood. In fact, Zelma Burleigh was the fruit of a strange mésalliance between the younger brother of the Squire, a reckless, dissipated soldier of fortune, and a beautiful Spanish Zincala, whom he met in a foreign campaign, and whom he could not bind to himself by any tie less honorable than marriage. She was said to be of Rommany bloodroyal, and was actually disowned by her tribe for her mésalliance. She followed the camp for a few years, the willing, though sad and fast-fading slave of her Ishmaelitish lord, himself the slave of lawless passions, yet not wholly depraved,- fitfully tender and tyrannic,—and when, at last, he fell in some inglorious skirmish, she buried him with her own hands, and wept and fasted over his shallow grave till she died. There was a child, but she had no look of the father to charm that poor, broken heart back to life; she was left in the camp and became a little "Daughter of the Regiment." At last, however, she was taken to England by a faithful comrade of the dead soldier, who sought out her uncle and left her in his care, taking leave of the frightened, clinging little creature with a grim, unspoken tenderness, and a strange quiver of his gray moustache.

Roger Burleigh, after having made himself sure of the legitimacy of the

child, adopted the poor, wild thing, made her the companion of his daughter, and honestly strove to treat her, at all times, with parental care and affection.

Here, in the hospitable circle of an English home, the orphan alien had grown up with her kinsfolk, but not of them,―proud, reticent, ambitious, secretly hating the monotonous duties and pursuits, the decorous forms and prescribed pleasures of the social and domestic life around her. Nomadic and lawless instincts stirred in her blood; vague longings for freedom and change, though in wandering, peril, and want, sometimes filled her soul with the spirit of revolt and unrest.

In her bluff uncle's house all were kind, and one, at least, was fond. Her Cousin Bessie, gay and tender heart, had found the southern exposure of her nature, and had crept up it, and clambered over it, and clasped it, and bloomed against it, and ripened on it, till nothing cold, hard, or defiant could be seen on that side. And Zelma seemed well content to be the sombre background and strong support of so much bloom, sweetness, and graceful dependence.

-

Nothing could be more unlike than the two cousins. Bessie was small, her form inclining to fulness, her face childlike in dimpled smiles and innocent blushes, betraying no lack of intellect, but most expressive of a quiet, almost indolent amiability. Zelma was large, but lithe, supple, and vigorous, with a pardlike freedom and elasticity of movement, -dark, with a subdued and changing color,― the fluttering signal of sudden emotion, not the stationary sign of robust health. She had hair of a glistening blackness, which she wore turned back from a strong, compact forehead, in the somewhat severe style which imperial beauty has rendered classic in our time. Her eyes were of the Oriental type,-full, heavy-lidded, ambushed in thick, black lashes, themselves dark and unfathomable as the long night of mystery which hangs over the history of her wild and wandering race, those unsubduable, un

seducible children of Nature,-the voluntary Pariahs of the world. Sad were those eyes always, but with a vague, uncommunicable sadness; soft they were in times of quiet; beautiful and terrible they could be, with live gleams of suddenly awakened passion.

With but one affection not poisoned by a sense of obligation and condescension, and that a sentiment in which her intellect had little share, a gentle, protective, household love, which quickened no daring fancy, inspired no dream of freedom or power, Zelma's mind was driven in upon itself, and out of the seclusion and triteness of her life fashioned a fairy world of romance and beauty. With the high-wrought, sentimental fictions of the day for her mental aliment, she grew more and more distinct and apart from the actual, prosaic existences around her; the smouldering fires of genius and ambition glowed out almost fiercely at times, through the dark dream of her eyes, startling the dullest apprehension, as she moved amid a narrow circle of country gentry, the fox-hunting guests of her uncle, the prim gossips of her aunt, the gay lovers and companions of her cousin, an unrecognized heroine, an uncrowned tragedy-queen.

The small provincial town of Arden possessed no playhouse proper, but, after a good deal of hesitation and discussion, the venerable Hall of St. George, the glory of all Ardenites, had been accorded to the players, "for a few nights only." On the night of the first performance, Squire Burleigh and his family arrived betimes, and took their places with some bustle and ceremony.

The master of Burleigh Grange appeared in the almost forgotten glory of his court suit,—a coat of crimson velvet, a flowered waistcoat, satin knee-breeches, and a sword at his side. The mistress wore an equally memorable brocade, enormous bouquets thrown upon a silvery ground, so stiff and shiny that it seemed a texture of ice and frozen flowers. Her hair was cushioned and pow

dered; she looked comely and stately, and wore her lustres well. The pretty Bessie was attired in maidenly white muslin, an India fabric of marvellous fineness, with a sash and streamers of blue, and the light fleecy curls of her hair unadorned save by a slight pendent spray of jasmines. Her cousin's dress, though in reality less costly, was more striking, being composed of materials and colors which admirably harmonized with the darkness and richness of her beauty. Her lustrous black hair was arranged as usual; but a wreath, formed of some delicate vine hung thick with drooping sear let blossoms, ran like flowering flame around her head. Like the sumptuous exotic of Zenobia, it was an ornament which seemed to bloom out of the character of the woman.

Bessie cast about her bright, innocent looks of girlish curiosity, which yet shrank from any chance encounter with the furtive glance or cool stare of admiration. Zelma sat motionless and impassive. Her eyes wandered naturally, but coldly, over the audience, seeming to take no cognizance of any face, strange or familiar; but when they were lifted above the crowd, to the old carved ceiling of the hall, or dropped upon the beautiful hands which lay listlessly folded in her lap, the cold, blank look she had set against the world went out of them. Then, in their mystic depths of brooding, introverted thought, new spheres of life, rarer, brighter, fairer, seemed rounding into form and dawning like stars.

Mrs. Margery Burleigh sat with her face turned from the stage, to dissemble the secret impatience with which she awaited the uprolling of the curtain, and slowly waved to and fro a huge, flowered fan, which charged the air with a heavy Indian perfume.

At length, soft, mournful music arose from the orchestra, and every heart stirred to the premonitory waver and lift of the curtain. Slowly it rose, and discovered a mourning apartment, with a lady in mourning, sitting in a mourning chair, and attended by a mourning maid. The

« AnteriorContinua »