Once there was a great noise in our house--a thumping and
battering and grating. It was my own self dragging my big
trunk down from the garret. I did it myself because I wanted
it done. If I had said "Halicarnassus will you fetch my
trunk down?" he would have asked me what trunk? and what did
I want of it? and would not the other one be better? and
couldn't I wait till after dinner?--and so the trunk would
probably have had a three-days journey from garret to basement.
Now I am strong in the wrists and weak in the temper; therefore
I used the one and spared the other and got the trunk
downstairs myself. Halicarnassus heard the uproar. He must
have been deaf not to hear it; for the old ark banged and
bounced and scraped the paint off the stairs and pitched
head-foremost into the wall and gouged out the plastering
and dented the mop-board and was the most stupid awkward
uncompromising unmanageable thing I ever got hold of in my life.
By the time I had zigzagged it into the back chamber
Halicarnassus loomed up the back stairs. I stood hot and
panting with the inside of my fingers tortured into burning
leather the skin rubbed off three knuckles and a bruise on
the back of my right hand where the trunk had crushed it
against a sharp edge of the doorway.
"Now then?" said Halicarnassus interrogatively.
"To be sure" I replied affirmatively.
He said no more but went and looked up the garret-stairs.
They bore traces of a severe encounter that must be confessed.
"Do you wish me to give you a bit of advice?" he asked.
"No!" I answered promptly.
"Well then here it is. The next time you design to bring a
trunk down-stairs you would better cut away the underpinning
and knock out the beams and let the garret down into the
cellar. It will make less uproar and not take so much to
He intended to be severe. His words passed by me as the idle
wind. I perched on my trunk took a pasteboard box-cover and
fanned myself. I was very warm. Halicarnassus sat down on the
lowest stair and remained silent several minutes expecting a
meek explanation but not getting it swallowed a bountiful
piece of what is called in homely talk "humble-pie" and
"I should like to know what's in the wind now."
I make it a principle always to resent an insult and to welcome
repentance with equal alacrity. If people thrust out their
horns at me wantonly they very soon run against a stone-wall;
but the moment they show signs of contrition I soften. It is
the best way. Don't insist that people shall grovel at your
feet before you accept their apology. That is not magnanimous.
Let mercy temper justice. It is a hard thing at best for human
nature to go down into the Valley of Humiliation; and although
when circumstances arise which make it the only fit place for
a person I insist upon his going still no sooner does he
actually begin the descent than my sense of justice is appeased
my natural sweetness of disposition resumes sway and I trip
along by his side chatting as gaily as if I did not perceive
it was the Valley of Humiliation at all but fancied it the
Delectable Mountains. So upon the first symptoms of placability
I answered cordially--
"Halicarnassus it has been the ambition of my life to write
a book of travels. But to write a book of travels one must
first have travelled."
"Not at all" he responded. "With an atlas and an encyclopaedia
one can travel around the world in his arm-chair."
"But one cannot have personal adventures" I said. "You can
indeed sit in your arm-chair and describe the crater of
Vesuvius; but you cannot tumble into the crater of Vesuvius
from your arm-chair."
"I have never heard that it was necessary to tumble in in
order to have a good view of the mountain."
"But it s necessary to do it if one would make a readable book."
"Then I should let the book slide--rather than slide myself."
"If you would do me the honor to listen" I said scornful of
his paltry attempt at wit "you would see that the book is the
object of my travelling. I travel to write. I do not write
because I have travelled. I am not going to subordinate my
book to my adventures. My adventures are going to be arranged
beforehand with a view to my book."
"A most original way of getting up a book!"
"Not in the least. It is the most common thing in the world.
Look at our dear British cousins."
"And see them make guys of themselves. They visit a magnificent
country that is trying the experiment of the world and write
about their shaving-soap and their babies' nurses."
"Just where they are right. Just why I like the race from
Trollope down. They give you something to take hold of. I
tell you Halicarnassus it is the personality of the writer
and not the nature of the scenery or of the institutions that
makes the interest. It stands to reason. If it were not so
one book would be all that ever need be written and that book
would be a census report. For a republic is a republic and
Niagara is Niagara forever; but tell how you stood on the
chain-bridge at Niagara--if there is one there--and bought a
cake of shaving-soap from a tribe of Indians at a fabulous
price or how your baby jumped from the arms of the careless
nurse into the Falls and immediately your own individuality
is thrown around the scenery and it acquires a human interest.
It is always five miles from one place to another but that is
mere almanac and statistics. Let a poet walk the five miles
and narrate his experience with birds and bees and flowers and
grasses and water and sky and it becomes literature. And let
me tell you further sir a book of travels is just as
interesting as the person who writes it is interesting. It is
not the countries but the persons that are 'shown up.' You
go to France and write a dull book. I go to France and write
a lively book. But France is the same. The difference is in
Halicarnassus glowered at me. I think I am not using strained
or extravagant language when I say that he glowered at me.
Then he growled out--
"So your book of travels is just to put yourself into pickle."
"Say rather" I answered with sweet humility--"say rather
it is to shrine myself in amber. As the insignificant fly
encompassed with molten glory passes into a crystallized
immortality his own littleness uplifted into loveliness by the
beauty in which he is imprisoned so I wrapped around by the
glory of my land may find myself niched into a fame which my
unattended and naked merit could never have claimed."
Halicarnassus was a little stunned but presently recovering
himself suggested that I had travelled enough already to make
out a quite sizable book.
"Travelled!" I said looking him steadily in the face--
"travelled! I went once up to Tudiz huckleberrying; and once
when there was a freshet you took a superannuated broom and
paddled me around the orchard in a leaky pig's-trough!"
He could not deny it; so he laughed and said--
"Ah well!--ah well! Suit yourself. Take your trunk and
pitch into Vesuvius if you like. I won't stand in your way."
His acquiescence was ungraciously and I believe I may say
ambiguously expressed; but it mattered little for I gathered
up my goods and chattels strapped them into my trunk and
waited for the summer to send us on our way rejoicing--the
gentle and gracious young summer that had come by the
calendar but had lost her way on the thermometer. O these
delaying Springs that mock the merry-making of ancestral
England! Is the world grown so old and stricken in years
that like King David it gets no heat? Why loiters where
lingers the beautiful calm-breathing June? Rosebuds are
bound in her trailing hair and the sweet of her garments
always used to waft a scented gale over the happy hills.
"Here she was wont to go! and here! and here!
Just where the daisies pinks and violets grow;
Her treading would not bend a blade of grass
Or shake the downy blow-ball from his stalk!
But like the soft west-wind she shot along;
And where she went the flowers took thickest root
As she had sowed them with her odorous foot."
So sang a rough-handed silver-voiced sturdy old fellow
harping unconsciously the notes of my lament and the tones of
his sorrow wail through the green boughs today though he has
been lying now these two hundred years in England's Sleeping
Palace among silent kings and queens. Fair and fresh and
always young is my lost maiden and "beautiful exceedingly."
Her habit was to wreathe her garland with the May and
everywhere she found most hearty welcome; but May has come and
gone and June is still missing. I look longingly afar but
there is no flutter of her gossamer robes over the distant
hills. No white cloud floats down the blue heavens a chariot
of state bringing her royally from the court of the King. The
earth is mourning her absence. A blight has fallen upon the
roses and the leaves are gone gray and mottled. The buds
started up to meet and greet their queen but her golden sceptre
was not held forth and they are faint and stunned with terror.
The censer which they would have swung on the breezes to
gladden her heart is hidden away out of sight and their own
hearts are smothered with the incense. The beans and the peas