In San Francisco, in 1849, on Dupont Street near Washington, a wretched tent, patched together from mildewed and weather-worn sails, was pitched on a hill-side lot, unsightly with sand and thorny bushes, filthy cast-aways of clothing, worn-out boots, and broken bottles. The forlorn loneliness of this poor abode, and the perfection of its Californianness, in all the circumstances of exposure, frailness, destitution, and dirt, were enough of themselves to make it an object of interest to the not-too-busy passer; yet, to complete its pitiful picturesqueness, Pathos had bestowed a case of miniatures and a beautiful child. Beside the entrance of the tent a rough shingle was fastened to the canvas, and against this hung an unpainted picture-frame of pine, in humble counterpart of those gilded rosewood signs which, at the doors of Daguerreotype galleries, display fancy "specimens" to the goers-to-and-fro of Broadway. Attracted by an object so novel in San Francisco then, I paused one morning, in my walk officeward from the "Anglo-Saxon Dining-Saloon," to examine it.
There were six of them,—six dainty miniature portraits on ivory, elaborately finished, and full of the finest marks of talent. The whole were seemingly reproductions of but two heads, a lady's and a child's,—the lady well fitted to be the mother of the child, which might well have been divine. There were three studies of each; each was presented in three characters, chosen as by an artist possessed of a sentiment of sadness, some touching reminiscence.
In one picture, the lady—evidently English, a pensive blonde, with large and most sweet blue eyes curtained by the longest lashes, regular and refined suggestive of pure blood, budding lips full of sensibility, a chin and brow that showed intellect as well as lineage, and cheeks touched with the young rose's tint--was as a beautiful _debutante_, the flower of rich drawing-rooms, in her first season: one white moss-rosebud in her smoothly-braided hair; her dimpled, round, white shoulders left to their own adornment; and for jewels, only one opal on her ripening bosom;--as much of her dress as was shown was the simple white bodice of pure maidenhood.
In the next, she had passed an interval of trial, for her courage, her patience, and her pride,--a very few years, perhaps, but enough to bestow that haughty, defiant glance, and fix those matchless features in an almost sneer. No longer was her fair head bowed, her eyes downcast, in shrinking diffidence; but erect and commanding, she looked some tyranny, or insolence, or malice, in the face, to look it down. Jewels encircled her brow, and a bouquet of pearls was happy on her fuller bosom.
Still a few years further on,--and how changed! "So have I seen a rose," says that Shakspeare of the pulpit, old Jeremy Taylor, when it has "bowed the head and broke its stalk; and at night, having lost some of its leaves and all its beauty, it has fallen into the portion of weeds and outworn faces." Alas, Farewell, and Nevermore sighed from those hollow cheeks, those woebegone eyes, those pallid lips, that willow-like long hair, and the sad vesture of the forsaken Dido.
So with the child. At first, a rosy, careless, curly-pate of three years or so,--wonder-eyed and eager, all spring and joyance, and beautiful as Love.
Then pale and pain-fretted, heavy-eyed and weary, feebly half-lying in a great chair, still,--an unheeded locket scarce held by his thin fingers, his forehead wrinkled with cruel twinges, the sweet bowed lines of his lips twisted in whimpering puckers, the curls upon his vein-traced temples unnaturally bright, as with clamminess,--a painful picture for a mother's eyes!
But not tragic, like the last; for there the boy had grown. Nine years had deepened for his clustered curls their hue of golden brown, and set a seal of anxious thought upon the cold, pale surface of his intellectual brow, and traced his mouth about with lines of a martyr's resignation, and filled his profound eyes, dim as violets, with foreboding speculation, making the lad seem a seer of his own sad fate. Here, thought I, if I mistake not, is another melancholy chapter in this San Franciscan romance. This painter learned his art of Sorrow, and pitiless Experience has bestowed his style; he shall be for my finding-out.
Home-sickness had marked me for its own one day. I sat alone in my rude little office, conning over again for the hundredth time strange chapters of a waif's experience,--reproducing auld-lang-syne, with all its thronged streets and lonely forest-paths, its old familiar faces, talks, and songs,--ingathering there, in the name of Love or Friendship, forms that were dim and voices that were echoes; and many an "alas," and "too late," and "it might have been," they brought along with them.
"Let this remembrance comfort me,--that when
My heart seemed bursting,--like a restless wave
That, swollen with fearful longing for the shore,
Throws its strong life on the imagined bliss
Of finding peace and undisturbed calm,--
It fell on rocks and broke in many tears.
"Else could I bear, on all days of the year,--
Not now alone, this gentle summer night,
When scythes are busy in the headed grass,
And the full moon warms me to thoughtfulness,--
This voice that haunts the desert of my soul:
'It might have been!' Alas! 'It might have been!'"
I drew from my battered, weather-beaten sea-box sad store of old letters, bethumbed and soiled,--an accusation in every one of them, and small hope of forgiveness, save what the gentle dead might render. There were pretty little portraits, too.--Ah, well! I put them back, -a frown, or a shadow of reproachful sadness, on the picture of a once loving and approving face is the hardest bitterness to bide, the self-unsparing wanderer can know. Therefore I would fain let these faces be turned from me,--all save one, a merry minx of maidenhood, of careless heart, and laughing lips, and somewhat naughty eyes. It was a steel engraving, not of the finest, torn from some Book of Beauty, or other silly-sentimental keepsake of the literary catch-penny class, brought all the way from home, and tenderly saved for the sake of its strange by-chance resemblance to a smart little _lionne_ I had known in Virginia, in the days when smart little _lionnes_ made me a sort of puppy Cumming. The picture, unframed, and exposed to all the chances of rough travel, had partaken of my share of foul weather and coarse handling, and been spotted and smutched, and creased and torn, and every way defaced. I had often wished that I might have a pretty painting made from it, before it should be spoiled past copying. So here, I thought, shall be my introduction to my fly-in-amber artist, of the seedy tent and the romantic miniatures. So pocketing my picture, I hied me forthwith to Dupont Street.
The tent seemed quite deserted. At first, I feared my rare bird had flitted; I shook the bit of flying-jib that answered for a door, and called to any one within, more than once, before an inmate stirred. Then, so quietly that I had not heard his approach, a lad, of ten perhaps, came to the entrance, and, timidly peering up into my face, asked, "Is it my father you wish to see, Sir?"
How beautiful! how graceful! with what touching sweetness of voice! how intellectual his expression, and how well-bred his air!--plainly a gentleman's son, and the son of no common gentleman! Instinctively I drew back a pace to compare him with the child of the "specimens." Unquestionably the same,--there were the superior brow, the richly clustered curls of golden brown, the painful lips, and the foreboding eyes.
"If your father painted these pretty pictures, my boy,--yes, I would be glad to see him, if he is within."
"He is not here at present, Sir; he went with my mother to the ship, to bring away our things. But it is quite a long while since they went; and I think they will return presently. Take a seat, Sir, please."
I accepted the stool he offered,--a canvas one, made to "unship" and fold together,--such a patent accommodation for tired "hurdies" as amateur sketchers and promiscuous lovers of the picturesque in landscape take with them on excursions. My accustomed eye took in at a glance the poor furniture of that very Californian make-shift of a shelter for fortune-seeking heads. There were chests, boxes, and trunks, the usual complement, bestowed in every corner, as they could best be got out of the way,--a small, rough table, on temporary legs, and made, like the seats, to unship and be stowed,--several other of the same canvas stools,--a battered chest of drawers, at present doing the duty of a cupboard,--some kitchen utensils, and a few articles of table furniture of the plainest delft. As for the kitchen, I had noticed, as I passed, a portable furnace for charcoal, without, and at the rear of the tent; it was plain they did their cooking in the open air. On one side of the entrance, and near the top of the tent, a small square had been cut from the canvas, and the sides framed with slats of wood, making a sort of Rembrandtish skylight, through which some scanty rays of barbaric glory fell on an easel, with its palette, brushes, and paints. A canvas framed, on which the ground had been laid, and the outline of a head already traced, was mounted on the easel; other such frames, as if of finished portraits with their faces turned to the wall, stood on the earthen floor, supported by a strip of wood tacked to the tent-cloth near the bottom. On the floor, at the foot of the easel, lay an artist's sketch-book. A part of the tent behind was divided off from what, by way of m elancholy jest, I may call the reception-room, or the studio, by a rope stretched across, from which were suspended a blanket, a travelling shawl, and a voluminous, and evidently costly, Spanish cloak. Protruding beyond the edge of this extemporaneous screen, I could see the footposts of an iron bedstead, and the end of a large _poncho_, which served for a counterpane.
"Will you amuse yourself with this sketch-book, please," said the pretty lad, "till my father comes?"
"With pleasure, my boy,--if you are sure your father will not object."
"Oh, no, indeed, Sir! My father has told me I must always entertain any gentlemen who may call when he is out,--that is, if he is to return soon; and any one may look at this book;--it is only his portfolio, in which he sketches whatever new or pretty things we see on our travels; but there are some very nice pictures in it,--landscapes, and houses, and people."
"Have you travelled much, then?"
"Oh, yes! we have been travelling ever since I can remember; we have been far, and seen a great many strange sights, and some such queer people!--There! that is our shepherd in Australia; isn't he funny? his name was Dirk. I tied that blue ribbon round his straw hat, that seems big enough for an umbrella. He looks as if he were laughing, doesn't he? That's because I was there when my father sketched him; and he made such droll faces, with his brown skin and his great grizzly moustaches, when father told him he must make up a pleasant expression, that it set me laughing,--for my father said he looked like a Cape lion making love; and then Dirk would laugh too, and spoil his pleasant expression; and father would scold; and it was so funny! I loved Dirk very much, he was so good to me; he gave me a tame kangaroo, and a black swan, and taught me to throw the boomerang; and once, when he went to Sydney, he spent ever so much money to buy me a silver bell for Lipse, my yellow lamb. I wonder if Dirk is living yet? Do you think he is dead, Sir? I should be very much grieved, if he were; for I promised I would come back to see him when I am a man."
--"_That_ is Dolores,--dear old Dolores! Isn't she fat?"
"Yes, and good, too, I should think, from the kind face she has. Who was Dolores?"
"Ah! you never saw Dolores, did you? And you never heard her sing. She was my Chilena nurse in Valparaiso; and she had a mother--oh, so very old!--who lived in Santiago. We went once to see her; the other Santiago--that was Dolores's son--drove us there in the _veloche_. Wasn't it curious, his name should be the same as the city's? But he was a bad boy, Santiago,--so mischievous! such a scamp! Father had to whip him many times; and once the _vigilantes_ took him up, and would have put him in the chain-gang, for cutting an American sailor with a knife, in the Calle de San Francisco, if father had not paid five ounces, and become security for his good behavior. But he ran away, after all, and went as a common sailor in a nasty guano ship. Dolores cried very much, and it was long before she would sing for me again. Oh, she did know such delightful songs!--_Mi Niña_, and _Yo tengo Ojos Negros_, and
"'No quiero, no quiero casarme;
Es mejor, es mejor soltera!'"
And the delightful little fellow merrily piped the whole of that "song of pleasant glee," one of the most melodious and sauciest bits of lyric coquetry to be found in Spanish.
"Ah," said he, "but I cannot sing it half so well as Dolores. She had a beautiful guitar, with a blue ribbon, that her sweetheart gave her before I was born, when she was young and very pretty;--he brought it all the way from Acapulco."
--"And _that_ pretty girl is Juanita; she sold pine-apples and grapes in the Almendral, and every night she would go with her guitar--it was a very nice one, but did not cost near so much money as Dolores's--and sing to the American gentlemen in the Star Hotel. My mother said she was a naughty person, and that she did not dare tell where she got her gold cross and those jet ear-rings. But I liked her very much, for all that; and I'm sure she would not steal, for she used to give me a fresh pine-apple every morning; and whenever her brother José came down from Casa Blanca with the mules and the _pisco_, she sent me a large melon and some lovely roses."
--"That is the house we lived in at Baltimore. It was painted white, and there was a paling in front, and a dooryard with grass. We had some honeysuckles on the porch;--there they are, and there's the grape-vine. I had a dog-house, too, made to look like a church, and my father promised to buy me a Newfoundland dog,--one of those great hairy fellows, with brass collars, you know, that you can ride on,--when he had sold a great many pictures, and made his fortune. But we did not make our fortune in Baltimore, and I never got my dog; so we came here to Tom Tiddler's ground, to pick up gold and silver. When we are fixed, and get a new tent, my father is going to give me a little spade and a cradle, to dig gold enough to buy a Newfoundland dog with, and then I shall borrow a saw and make a dog-house, like the one I had in Baltimore, out of that green chest. Charley Saunders lived in that next house in the picture, and he had a martin-box, with a steeple to it; but his father gave fencing-lessons, and was very rich."
As the intelligent little fellow ran on with his pretty prattle, I was diligently pursuing the lady and child of the specimens through the sketches. On every leaf I encountered them, ever changing, yet always the same. Here was the child by my side,--unquestionably the same; though now I looked in vain for the anxious mouth and the foreboding eyes in his face of careless, hopeful urchinhood. But who was the other?--his mother, no doubt; and yet no trace of resemblance.
"And tell me, who is this beautiful lady, my lad,--here, and here, and here, and here again? You see I recognize her always,--so lovely, and so gentle-looking. Your mother?"
"Oh, no, Sir!" and he laughed,--"my mother is very different from that. That is nobody,--only a fancy sketch."
"Only a fancy sketch!" So, then, I thought, my pretty entertainer, confiding and communicative as you are, it is plain there are some things you do not know, or will not tell.
"She is not any one we ever saw;--she never lived. My father made her out of his own head, as I make stories sometimes; or he dreamed her, or saw her in the fire. But he is very fond of her, I suppose, because he made her himself,--just as I think my own stories prettier than any true ones; and he's always drawing her, and drawing her, and drawing her. I love her, too, very much,--she looks so natural, and has such nice ways. Isn't it strange my father--but he's _so_ clever with his pencil and brushes!--should be able to invent the Lady Angelica? --that's her name. But my mother does not like her at all, and gets out of patience with my father for painting so many of her. Mamma says she has a stuck-up expression,--such a funny word, 'stuck-up'!--and does not look like a lady. Once I told mamma I was sure she was only jealous, and she grew very angry, and made me cry; so now I never speak of Lady Angelica before her. What makes me think my father must have dreamed her is that I dreamed her once myself. I thought she came to me in such a splendid dress, and told me that she was not only a live lady, but my own mother, and that mamma was---- Hush! This is my father, Sir."
Wonderful! how the lad had changed!--like a phantom, the thoughtless prattler was gone in a moment, and in his place stood the seer-boy of the picture, the profound foreboding eyes fixed anxiously, earnestly, on the singular man who at that moment entered: a singularly small man, cheaply but tidily attired in black; even his shoes polished,--a rare and dandyish indulgence in San Francisco, before the French bootblacks inaugurated the sumptuary vanity of Day and Martin's lustre on the stoop of the California Exchange, and made it a necessity no less than diurnal ablutions; a well-preserved English hat on his head, which, when he with a somewhat formal air removed it, discovered thin black locks, beginning to part company with the crown of his head. In his large, brown eyes an expression of moving melancholy was established; a nervous tremulousness almost twitched his refined lips, which, to my surprise, were not concealed by the universal moustache,--indeed, the smooth chin and symmetrically trimmed mutton-chop whiskers, in the orthodox English mode, showed that the man shaved. His nose, slightly aquiline, was delicately cut, and his nostrils fine; and he had small feet and hands, the latter remarkably white and tender. As he stood before me, he was never at rest for an instant, but changed his support from one leg to the other,--they were slight as a young boy's,--and fumbled, as it were, with his feet; as I have seen a distinguished medical lecturer, of Boston, gesticulate with his toes. He played much with his whiskers, too, and his fingers were often in his hair--as a fidgety and vulgar man would bite his nails. From all of which I gathered that my new acquaintance was an intensely nervous person,--very sensitive, of course, and no doubt irritable.
He was accompanied by a--female, much taller than he, and as stalwart as dear woman can be; an especially common-looking person, bungled as to her dress, which was tawdry-fine, unseasonable for the place as well as time, inappropriate to herself, inharmonious in its composition, and every way most vilely put on; a clumsy and, as I presently perceived, a loud person, whose face, still showing traces of the coarse but decided beauty it must once have possessed, fell far short of compensating for the complete gracelessness of her presence.
Her eyes had a bibulous quality, and the bright redness of her nose vied vulgarly with the rusty redness of her cheeks. I suspected her complexion of potations, but charitably let it off with--beer; for she was, at first glance, English. As she jerked off her flaunting bonnet, and dragged off her loud shawl, saluting me, as she did so, with an overdone obeisance, she said, "This San Fanfrisko"--why would she, how could she, always twist the decent name of the metropolis of the Pacific into such an absurd shape?--"was a norrid 'ole; she happealed to the gentleman,"--meaning me,--"didn't 'e find it a norrid 'ole, habsolutely hawful?" And then she went clattering among tinware and crockery, and snubbed the gentlemanly boy in a sort of tender Billingsgate.
While she was thus gracefully employed, the agonized artist, his face suffused with blushes and fairly ghastly with an enforced smile, was painfully struggling to abstract himself, by changing the places of things, shifting the position of his easel, prying in a lost way into lumbered corners, and pretending to be in search of something, --ingenious, but unable to disguise his chagrin. He pranced with his legs, and tumbled his hair, and twitched at his whiskers more than ever, as he said,--
"My dear," (and the boy had called her Mamma; so, then, it must be a fancy sketch, after all,) "my dear, no doubt the gentleman is more a cosmopolite than yourself, and blessed with more facility in adapting himself to circumstances."
"You know, Madam," I came to his assistance, "we Americans have a famous trick of living and enjoying a little in advance, of 'going ahead' of the hour, as it were. We find in San Francisco rather what it promises to be than what it is, and we take it at its word."
"Oh, pray, don't mention Americans! I positively 'ate the hodious people. I confess I 'ave a hinsurmountable prejudice hagainst the race; you are not haware that I am Hinglish. I think I might endure heven San Fa nfrisko, if it were not for the Americans. Are you an American?"
Alternating between the pallor of rage and the flush of mortification, her husband now turned, with a calmness that had something of desperation in it, and saved me the trouble and the pain of replying, by asking, in the frigid tone of one who resented my presence as the cause of his shame,--
"Did you wish to see me on business, Sir? and have you been waiting long?"
"The success with which your charming little boy has entertained me has made the time seem very short. I could willingly have waited longer."
That last remark was a mere _contretemps_. I did not mean to be as severe as he evidently thought me, for he bowed haughtily and resentfully.
I came at once to business,--drew from my pocket the engraving I had brought,--"Could he copy that for me?"
"How?--in miniature or life-size?--ivory or canvas?"
"You are, then, a portrait-painter, also?--Ah! to be sure!" and I glanced at the canvas on the easel.
"Certainly,--I prefer to make portraits."
"And in this case I should prefer to have one. Extravagant as the vanity may seem, I am willing to indulge in it, for the sake of being the first, in this land of primitive wants and fierce unrefinements, to take a step in the direction of the Fine Arts,--unless you have had calls upon your pencil already."
"Then to-morrow, if you please,--for I cannot remain longer at present,--we will discuss my whim in detail."
"I shall be at your service, Sir."
"Good day, Madam! And you, my pretty lad, well met,--what is your name?"
"Ferdy, Sir,--Ferdinand Pintal."
At that moment, his father, as if reminded of a neglected courtesy, or a business form, handed me his card,--"Camillo Alvarez y Pintal."
"Thanks, then, Ferdy, for the pains you took to entertain me. You must let me improve an acquaintance so pleasantly begun."
The boy's hand trembled as it lay in mine, and his eyes, fixed upon his father's, wore again the ominous expression of the picture. He did not speak, and his father took a step toward the door significantly.
But the doleful silence that might have attended my departure was broken by a demonstration, "as per sample," from my country's fair and gentle 'ater. "She 'oped I would not be hoffended by the freedom of 'er hobservations on my countrymen. I must hexcuse 'er Hinglish bluntness; she was haware that she 'ad a somewhat hoff-'and way of hexpressing 'er hemotions; but when she 'ated she 'ated, and it relieved 'er to hout with it hat once. Certainly she would never--bless 'er 'eart, no!--'ave taken me for an American; I was so huncommonly genteel."
With my hand upon the region of my heart, as I had seen stars, when called before the curtain on the proudest evening of their lives, give anatomical expression to their overwhelming sense of the honor done them, I backed off, hat in hand.
"Camillo Alvarez y Pintal," I read again, as I approached the Plaza. "Can this man be Spanish, then? Surely not;--how could he have acquired his excellent English, without a trace of foreign accent, or the least eccentricity of idiom? His child, too, said nothing of that. English, no doubt, of Spanish parentage; or,--oh, patience! I shall know by-and-by, thanks to my merry Virginia jade, who shall be arrayed in resplendent hues, and throned in a golden frame, if she but feed my curiosity generously enough."
Next day, in the afternoon, having bustled through my daily programme of business, I betook myself with curious pleasure to my appointment with Pintal. To my regret, at first, I found him alone; but I derived consolation from the assurance, that, wherever the engaging boy had gone, his mother had acco mpanied him. Even more than at my first visit, the artist was frigidly reserved and full of warning-off politeness. With but a brief prelude of courteous commonplaces, he called me to the business of my visit.
My picture, as I have said, was a fairly executed steel engraving, taken from some one of the thousands of "Tokens," or "Keepsakes," or "Amulets," or "Gems," or such like harmless giftbooks, with which youths of tender sentiment remind preoccupied damsels of their careful _penchants_. It represented an "airy, fairy Lilian" of eighteen, or thereabouts, lolling coquettishly, fan in hand, in an antique, high-backed chair, with "carven imageries," and a tasselled cushion. She rejoiced in a profusion of brown ringlets, and her costume was pretty and quaint,--a dainty chemisette, barred with narrow bands of velvet, as though she had gone to Switzerland, or the South of Italy, for the sentiment of her bodice,--sleeves quaintly puffed and "slashed,"--the ample skirt looped up with rosettes and natty little ends of ribbon; her feet beneath her petticoat, "like little mice," stole out, "as if they feared the light." Somewhere, among the many editions of Dickens's works, I have seen a Dolly Varden that resembled her.
It was agreed between us that she should be reproduced in a life-size portrait, with such a distribution of rich colors as the subject seemed to call for, as his fine taste might select, and his cunning hand lay on. I sought to break down his reserve, and make myself acceptable to him, by the display of a discreet geniality, and a certain frankness, not falling into familiarity, which should seem to proceed from sympathy, and a _bonhommie_, that, assured of its own kindly purpose, would take no account of his almost angry distance. The opportunity was auspicious, and I was on the alert to turn it to account. I made a little story of the picture, and touched it with romance. I told him of Virginia,--especially of that part of the State in which this saucy little lady lived,--of its famous scenery, its historic places, and the peculiar features of its society. I strove to make the lady present to his mind's eye by dwelling on her certain eccentricities, and helping my somewhat particular description of her character with anecdotes, more or less pointed and amusing, especially to so grave a foreigner, of her singular ready-wittedness and graceful audacity. Then I had much to say about her little "ways" of attitude, gesture, and expression, and some hints to offer for slight changes in the finer lines of the face, and in the expression, which might make the likeness more real to both of us, and, by getting up an interest in him for the picture, procure his favorable impression for myself.
I had the gratification, as my experiment proceeded, to find that it was by no means unsuccessful. His austerity appreciably relaxed, and the kindly tone into which his few, but intelligent observations gradually fell, was accompanied by an encouraging smile, when the drift of our talk was light. Then I spoke of his child, and eagerly praised the beauty, the intelligence, and sweet temper of the lad. 'Twas strange how little pleasure he seemed to derive from my sincere expressions of admiration; indeed, the slight satisfaction he did permit himself to manifest appeared in his words only, not at all in his looks; for a shade of deep sadness fell at once upon his handsome face, and his expression, so full of sensibility, assumed the cast of anxiety and pain. "He thanked me for my eloquent praises of the boy, and--not too partially, he hoped--believed that he deserved them all. A prize of beauty and of love had fallen to him in his little Ferdy, for which he would be grieved to seem ungrateful. But yet--but yet--the responsibility, the anxiety, the ceaseless fretting care! This fierce, unbroken city";--he spoke of it as though it were a newly-lassoed and untamed mustang,--I liked the simile; "this lawless, blasphemous, obscene, and dangerous community; these sights of heartlessnes s and cruelty; these sounds of selfish, greedy contention; the absence of all taste and culture,--no lines of beauty, no strains of music, no tones of kindness, no gestures of gentleness and grace, no delicate attentions, no ladies' presence, no social circle, no books, no home, no church;--Good God! what a heathenish barbarism of coarse instincts, and irreverence, and insulting equalities, and all manner of gracelessnesses, to bring the dangerous impressionability of fine childhood to! The boy was nervous, sensitive, of a spirit quick to take alarms or hurts,--physically unprepared to wrestle with arduous toil, privation, and exposure,--most apt for the teachings of gentleness and taste. It was cruel to think--he could wish him dead first--that his clean, white mind must become smeared and spotted here, his well-tuned ear reconciled to loud discords, and his fine eye at peace with deformity; but there was no help for it." And then, as though he had suddenly detected in my face an expression of surprised discovery, he said, "But I am sure I do not know how I came to say so much, or let myself be tedious with sickly egotisms to a polite, but indifferent, stranger. If you have gathered from them more than I meant should appear, you will at least do me the justice to believe that I have not been boasting of what I regard as a calamity."
I essayed to reassure him by urging upon his consideration the manifest advantages of courage, self-reliance, ingenuity, quick and economical application of resources, independence, and perseverance, which his son, if well-trained, must derive from even those rude surroundings,--at the same time granting the necessity of sleepless vigilance and severe restraints. But he only shook his head sadly, and said, "No doubt, no doubt; and I hope, Sir, the fault is in myself, that I do not appreciate the force and value of all that."
The subject was so plainly full of a peculiar pain for him, he was so ill at mind on this point, that I could not find it in my heart to pursue it further at the cost of his feelings. So we talked of other things: of gold, and the placers, and their unimpaired productiveness, --of the prospects of the country, and of the character the mineral element must stamp upon its politics, its commerce, and its social system,--of San Francisco, and all the enchantments of its sudden upspringing,--of Alcaldes and town-councils,--of hounds and gamblers,--of real estate and projected improvements,--of canvas houses, and iron houses, and fires,--of sudden fortunes, and as sudden failures,--of speculations and markets, and the prices of clothing, provisions, and labor,--of intemperance, disease, and hospitals,--of brawls, murder, and suicide,--till we had exhausted all the Californian budget; and then I bade him good day. He parted with me with flattering reluctance, cordially shaking my hand and urging me to repeat my visit in a few days, when he should be sufficiently forward with the picture to admit me to a sight of it. I confessed my impatience for the interval to pass; for my interest was now fully awakened and very lively;--so well-informed and so polished a gentleman, so accomplished and so fluent, so ill-starred and sad, so every way a man with a history!
I saw much of Pintal after this, and he sometimes visited me at my office. Impelled by increasing admiration and esteem, I succeeded by the exercise of studious tact in ingratiating myself in his friendship and confidence; he talked with freedom of his feelings and his affairs; and although he had not yet admitted me to the knowledge of his past, he evinced but little shyness in speaking of the present. At our interviews in his tent I seldom met his wife; indeed, I suspected him of contriving to keep her out of the way; for I was always told she had just stepped out;--or if by chance I found her there, she was never again vulgarly loquacious, but on some pretext or other at once took herself away. On the other hand, the child was rarely absent,--from which I argued that I was in favor; nor was his pretty prattle, even his boldest communicativeness, harshly checked, save when, as I guessed, he was approaching too near some forbidden theme. Then a quick flash from his father's eye instantaneously imposed silence upon him: as if that eye were an evil one, and there were a malison in its glance, the whole demeanor of the child underwent at once a magical change; the foreboding look took possession of his beautiful eyes, the anxious lines appeared around his mouth, his lips and chin became tremulous, his head drooped, he let fall my hand which he was fond of holding as he talked, and quietly, penitently slunk away; and though he might presently be recalled by his father's kindliest tones, his brightness would not be restored that time.
This mysterious, severe understanding between the father and the child affected me painfully; I was at a loss to surmise its nature, whence it proceeded, or how it could be; for Ferdy evinced in his every word, look, movement, an undivided fondness for his father. And in his tender-proud allusions to the boy, at times let fall to me,--in the anxious watchfulness with which he followed him with his eye, when an interval of peace and comparative happiness had set childhood's spirit free, and lent a degree of graceful gayety to all his motions,--I saw the brimming measure of the father's love. Could it be but his morbidly repellant pride, his jealous guarding of the domestic privacies, his vigilant pacing up and down forever before the close-drawn curtain of the heart?--was there no Bluebeard's chamber there? No! Pride was all the matter,--pride was the Spartan fox that tore the vitals of Pintal, while he but bit his lips, and bowed, and passed.
Among the pictures in Pintal's tent was one which had in an especial manner attracted my attention. It was a cabinet portrait, nearly full-length, of a venerable gentleman, of grave but benevolent aspect, and an air of imposing dignity. Care had evidently been taken to render faithfully the somewhat remarkable vigor of his frame; his iron-gray hair was cropped quite short, and he wore a heavy grizzled moustache, but no other beard; the lines of his mouth were not severe, and his eye was soft and gentle. But what made the portrait particularly noticeable was the broad red ribbon of a noble order crossing the breast, and a Maltese cross suspended from the neck by a short chain of massive and curiously wrought links. I had many times been on the point of asking the name of this singularly handsome and distinguished-looking personage; but an instinctive feeling of delicacy always deterred me.
One day I found little Ferdy alone, and singing merrily some pretty Spanish song. I told him I was rejoiced to find him in such good spirits, and asked him if he had not been having a jolly romp with the American carpenter's son, who lived in the Chinese house close by. My question seemed to afflict him with puzzled surprise;--he half smiled, as if not quite sure but I might be jesting.
"Oh, no, indeed! I have never played with him; I do not know him; I never play with any boys here. Oh, no, indeed!"
"But why not, Ferdy? What! a whole month in this tiresome tent, and not make the acquaintance of your nearest neighbor,--such a sturdy, hearty chunk of a fellow as that is?--I have no doubt he's good-natured, too, for he's fat and funny, tough and independent. Besides, he's a carpenter's son, you know; so there's a chance to borrow a saw to make the dog-house with. Who knows but his father will take a fancy to you,--I'm sure he is very likely to,--and make you a church dog-house, steeple and all complete and painted, and much finer than Charley Saunders's martin-box?"
"Oh, I should like to, so much! And perhaps he has a Newfoundlander with a bushy tail and a brass collar,--that would be nicer than a kangaroo. But --but"--looking comically bothered,--"I never knew a carpenter's son in my life. I am sure my father would not give me permission,--I am sure he would be very angry, if I asked him. Are they not very disagreeable, that sort of boys? Don't they swear, and tear their clothes, and fight, and sing vulgar songs, and tell lies, and sit down in the middle of the street?"
Merciful Heaven! thought I,--here's a crying shame! here's an interesting case for professors of moral hygiene! An apt, intelligent little man, with an empty mind, and a by-no-means overloaded stomach, I'll engage,--with a pride-paralyzed father, and a beer-bewitched slattern of a mother,--with his living to get, in San Francisco, too, and the world to make friends with,--who has never enjoyed the peculiar advantages to be derived from the society of little dirty boys, never been admitted to the felicity of popular songs, nor exercised his pluck in a rough-and-tumble, nor ventilated himself in wholesome "giddy, giddy, gout,"--to whom dirt-pies are a fable!
"Ferdy," said I, "I'll talk with your father myself. But tell me, now, what makes you so happy to-day."
"My father got a letter this morning,"--a mail had just arrived; it brought no smile or tear for me,--no parallelogram of tragedy or comedy in stationery,--"such a pleasant one, from my uncle Miguel, at Florence, in Italy, you know. He is well, and quite rich, my father says; they have restored to him his property that he thought was all lost forever, and they have made him a chevalier again. But I am sure my father will tell you all about it, for he said he did hope you would come to-day; and he is so happy and so kind!"
"They have made him a chevalier again," I wondered. "Your uncle Miguel is your father's brother, then, Ferdy. And did you ever see him?"
Before he could reply, Pintal entered, stepping smartly, his color heightened with happiness, his eyes full of an extraordinary elation.
"Ah! my dear Doctor, I am rejoiced to find you here; I have been wishing for you. See! your picture is finished. Tell me if you like it."
"Indeed, a work of beauty, Pintal."
"To me, too, it never looked so well before; but I see things with glad eyes to-day. I have much to tell you. Ferdy, your mother is dining at the restaurant; go join her. And when you have finished your dinner, ask her to take you to walk. Say that I am engaged. Would you not like to walk, my boy, and see how fast the new streets spring up? When you return, you can tell me of all you saw."
The boy turned up his lovely face to be kissed, and for a moment hung fondly on his father's neck. The poor painter's lips quivered, and his eyes winked quickly. Then the lad took his cap, and without another word went forth.
"I am happy to-day, Doctor,--Heaven save the mark! My happiness is so much more than my share, that I shall insist, will ye, nill ye, on your sharing it with me. I have a heart to open to somebody, and you are the very man. So, sit you down, and bear with my egotism, for I have a little tale to tell you, of who I am and how I came here. The story is not so commonplace but that your kindness will find, here and there, an interesting passage in it.
"I have seen that that picture,"--indicating the one I have last described,--"attracted your attention, and that you were prevented from questioning me about it only by delicacy. That is my father's likeness. He was of English birth, the younger son of a rich Liverpool merchant. An impulsive, romantic, adventurous boy, seized early with a passion for seeing the world, his unimaginative, worldly-wise father, practical and severe, kept him within narrow, fretting bounds, and imposed harsh restraints upon him. When he was but sixteen years old, he ran away from home, shipped before the mast, and, after several long voyages, was discharged, at his own request, at Carthagena, where he entered a shipping-house as clerk, and, having excellent mercantile talents, was rapidly promoted.
"Meantime, through a sister, the only remaining child, except a half-witted brother, he heard at long intervals from home. His father remained strangely inexorable, fiercely forbade his return, and became violent at the slightest mention of his name by his sister, or some old and attached servant; he died without bequeathing his forgiveness, or, of course, a single shilling. But the young man thrived with his employers, whose business growing rapidly more and more prosperous, and becoming widely extended, they transferred him to a branch house at Malaga. Here he formed the acquaintance of the Don Francisco de Zea-Bermudez, whose rising fortunes made his own.
"Zea-Bermudez was at that time engaged in large commercial operations. Although, under the diligent and ambitious teaching of his famous relative, the profound, sagacious, patriotic, bold, and gloriously abused Jovellanos, he had become accomplished in politics, law, and diplomacy, he seemed to be devoting himself for the present to large speculations and the sudden acquisition of wealth, and to let the state of the nation, the Cortes, and its schemes, alone.
"Only a young, beautiful, and accomplished sister shared his splendid establishment in Malaga; and for her my father formed an engrossing attachment, reciprocated in the fullest, almost simultaneously with his friendship for her brother. Zea favored the suit of the high-spirited and clever young Englishman, whose intelligence, independence, and perseverance, to say nothing of his good looks and his engaging manners, had quite won his heart. By policy, too, no less than by pleasure, the match recommended itself to him;--my father would make a famous junior-partner. So they were married under the name of Pintal, bestowed upon his favorite English clerk by the adventurous first patron at Carthagena, who had found the boy provided with only a 'purser's name,' as sailors term it.
"I will not be so disrespectful to the memory of my distinguished uncle, nor so rude toward your intelligence, my friend, as to presume that you are not familiar with the main points of his history,--the great strides he took, almost from that time, in a most influential diplomatic career: the embassy to St. Petersburg, and the Romanzoff-Bermudez treaty of amity and alliance in 1812, by which Alexander acknowledged the legality of the ordinary and extraordinary Cortes of Cadiz; the embassy to the Porte in 1821; his recall in 1823, and extraordinary mission to the Court of St. James; his appointment to lead the Ministry in 1824; my father's high place in the Treasury; their joint efforts from this commanding position to counteract the violence of the Apostolical party, to meet the large requisitions of France, to cover the deficit of three hundred millions of reals, and to restore the public credit; the insults of the Absolutists, and their machinations to thwart his liberal and sagacious measures; his efforts to resign, opposed by the King; the suppression of a formidable Carlist conspiracy in 1825; the execution of Bessières, and the 'ham-stringing' of Absolutist leaders; his dismissal from the Ministry in October, 1825, Ferdinand yielding to the Apostolic storm; the embassy to Dresden; his appointment as Minister at London.
"And here my story begins, for I was his Secretary of Legation then; while my brother Miguel, younger than I, was _attaché_ at Paris, where he had succeeded me, on my promotion,--a promotion that procured for me congratulations for which I could with difficulty affect a decent show of gratitude, for I knew too well what it meant. It was not the enlightened, liberal Minister I had to deal with, but the hard, proud uncle, full of expediencies, and calculating schemes for family advancement, and the exaltation of a lately obscure name.
"In Paris I had been admitted first to the flattering friendship, and then to the inmost heart of--of a most lovely young lady, as noble by her character as by her lineage,"--and he glanced at the open sketch-book.
"The Lady Angelica," I quietly said.
"Sir!" he exclaimed, quickly changing color, and assuming his most frigid expression and manner. But as quickly, and before I could speak, his sad smile and friendly tone returned, and he said,--
"Ah! I see,--Ferdy has been babbling of his visions and his dreams. Yes, the Lady Angelica. 'Very charming,' my uncle granted, 'but very poor; less of the angel and more of the heiress was desirable,' he said,--'less heaven and more land. A decayed family was only a little worse than an obscure one,--a poor knight not a whit more respectable than a rich merchant. I must relinquish my little romance,--I had not time for it; I had occupation enough for the scant leisure my family duties'--and he laid stress on the words--'left me in the duties of my post. He would endeavor to find arguments for the lady and employment for me.'
"It was in vain for me to remonstrate,--I was too familiar with my uncle's temper to waste my time and breath so. I would be silent, I resolved, and pursue my honorable and gallant course without regard to his scandalous schemes. I wrote to the 'Lady Angelica,'--since Ferdy's name for her is so well chosen,--telling her all, giving her solemn assurances of my unchangeable purpose toward her, and scorn of my uncle's mercenary ambition. She replied very quietly: 'She, also, was not without pride; she would come and see for herself';--and she came at once.
"The family arrived in London in the evening. Within two hours I was sent--after the fashion of an old-time courier, 'Ride! ride! ride!--for your life! for your life! for your life!'--to Turin with despatches, and sealed instructions for my own conduct, not to be opened till I arrived; then I found my orders were, to remain at Turin until it should be my uncle's pleasure to recall me.
"I had not been in Turin a month when a letter came from------the Lady Angelica. 'It was her wish that all intercourse between us, by interview or correspondence, should cease at once and forever. She assumed this position of her own free will, and she was resolute to maintain it. She trusted that I would not inquire obtrusively into her motives,--she had no fear that I would doubt that they were worthy of her. Her respect for me was unabated,--her faith in me perfect. I had her blessing and her anxious prayers. I must go on my way in brave silence and patience, nor ever for one moment be so weak as to fool myself into a hope that she would change her purpose.'
"What should I do? I had no one to advise with; my mother, whose faith in her brother's wisdom was sure, was in Madrid, and my father had been dead some years. At first my heart was full of bitter curses, and my uncle had not at his heels a heartier hater than I. Then came the merely romantic thought, that this might be but a test she would put me to,--that he might be innocent and ignorant of my misfortune. With the thought I flung my heart into writing, and madly plied her with one long, passionate letter after another. I got no answers; but by his spies my uncle was apprised of all I did.
"About this time,--it was in 1832,--Zea-Bermudez was recalled to Madrid in a grave crisis, and appointed to the administration of foreign affairs. Ferdinand VII. was apparently approaching the end of his reign and his life. The Apostolical party, exulting in their strength, and confiding in those well-laid plans which, with mice and men, 'gang aft agley,' imprudently showed their hand, and suffered their favorite project to transpire; which was, to set aside the ordinance by which the King had made null the Salic law, in favor of his infant daughter, and to support the pretensions of the King's brother, Carlos, to the throne.
"By this stupid flourish the Apostolical party threw themselves bound at the feet of Zea. All of their persuasion who filled high places under government were without ceremony removed, and their seats filled by Liberals. Many of them did not escape without more crippling blows. As for me, I looked on with indifference, or at most some philosophic sneers. What had I to fear or care? In my uncle's estimation, my politics had been always healthy, no doubt; and although he had on more than one occasion hinted, with sarcastic wit, that such a lady's-man must, of his devoir, be a 'gallant champion of the Salic law,' and dropped something rude and ill-natured about my English blood,--still, that was only in his dyspeptic moods; his temper was sure to improve, I fancied, with his political and material digestion.
"But I deceived myself. When, in the name of the infant Queen, Isabella Segunda, and in honor of the reestablishment of order and public safety, the pleasant duty devolved upon Zea-Bermudez of awarding approbation and encouragement to all the officers, from an ambassador to the youngest _attaché_ of foreign legations, and presenting them with tokens of the nation's happiness in the shape of stars, and seals with heraldic devices, and curious chains of historic significance, not even a paltry ribbon fell to my share, but only a few curt lines of advice, 'to look well to my opinions, and be modest,--obediently to discharge the duties prescribed to me, and remember that presumption was a fault most intolerable in a young gentleman so favored by chance as to be honored with the confidence of government.'
"That exhausted the little patience I had left. Savagely I tore the note into contemptible fragments, tossed into my travelling-boxes as much of my wardrobe as happened to be at hand, consigned to a sealed case my diplomatic instructions and all other documents pertaining to my office, placed them in the hands of a confidential friend, Mr. Ballard, the British Agent, and secretly took passage for England, where, without losing an hour, I made the best of my way to the abode of an ambitious cockney wine-merchant, to whose daughter I had not been disagreeable in other days, and within a fortnight married her. You have seen the lady, Sir," he said, eyeing me searchingly as he spoke, with a sardonic smile,--the only ugly expression I ever saw him wear.
"Certain title-deeds and certificates of stock, part of my father's legacy, which, as if foreseeing the present emergency, I had brought away with me, were easily converted into cash. I had then twenty thousand sterling pounds, to which my father-in-law generously added ten thousand more, by way of portion with his daughter.
"And now to what should I betake myself? I had small time to cast about me, and was easy to please; any tolerably promising enterprise, so the field of it were remote, would serve my purpose. The papers were full of Australian speculations, the wonderful prosperity of the several colonies there, the great fortunes suddenly made in wool. Good! I would go to Australia, and be a gentle shepherd on an imposing scale. But first I sought out my father's old friends, my Lords Palmerston and Brougham, and the Bishop of Dublin, and besought the aid of their wisdom. With but slight prudential hesitation they with one accord approved my project. Observe: a first-rate Minister, especially if he be a very busy one, always likes the plan that pleases his young friend best,--that is, if it be not an affair of State, and all the risks lie with his young friend. They would have spoken of Turin and Zea-Bermudez; but I had been bred a diplomat and knew how to stick to my point, which, this time, was wool. In another fortnight I had sailed for Sydney with my shekels and my wife. But first, and for the first time, I caused the announcement of my marriage to appear in the principal papers of London, Paris, St. Petersburg, and Madrid.
"Arrived in Australia, I at once made myself the proprietor of a considerable farm, and stocked it abundantly with sheep. Speculation had not yet burst itself, like the frog in the fable; and large successes, as in water-lot and steamboat operations here, to-day, were the rule. On the third anniversary of my landing at Sydney, I was worth three hundred thousand pounds, and my commercial name was among the best in the colony. Six months after that, the rot, the infernal rot, had turned my thriving populous pastures into shambles for carrion-mutton, and I had not sixpence of my own in the wide world. A few of the more generous of my creditors left me a hundred pounds with which to make my miserable way to some South American port on the Pacific.
"So I chose Valparaiso, to paint miniatures, and teach English, French, Italian, and German in. But earthquakes shook my poor house, and the storm-fiend shook my soul with fear;--for skies in lightning and thunder are to me as the panorama and hurly-burly of the Day of Wrath, in all the stupid rushing to and fro and dazed stumbling of Martin's great picture. I shall surely die by lightning; I have not had that live shadow of a sky-reaching fear hanging over me, with its black wings and awful mutterings, so long for nothing; in every flash my eyes are scathed by the full blaze of hell. If I had been deaf and blind, I might have lived in Valparaiso. As it was, I must go somewhere where I need not sit all day and night stopping my ears and with my face covered, fearing that the rocks would fall upon me too soon.
"So, with my wife and the child,--we have had no other, thank God!--I got round Cape Horn--Heaven knows how! I dare not think of that time--to the United States. We were making for Boston; but the ship, strained by long stress of heavy weather, sprung a leak, and we put in at Baltimore. I was pleased with the place; it is picturesque, and has a kindly look; and as all places were alike to me then, save by the choice of a whim, I let go my weary anchor there.
"But the Baltimoreans only admired my pictures,--they did not buy them; they only wondered at my polyglot accomplishment, and were content with ringing silly-kind changes on an Encyclopaedic compliment about the Admirable Crichton, and other well-educated personages, to be found alphabetically embalmed in Conversations-Lexicons,--they did not inquire into my system of teaching, or have quarterly knowledge of my charges. So I fled from Baltimore, pretty speeches, and starvation, to San Francisco, plain talk, and pure gold. And now--see here, Sir!--I carry these always about with me, lest the pretty pickings of this Tom Tiddler's ground should make my experience forget."
He drew from his pocket an "illuminated" card, bearing a likeness of Queen Victoria, and a creased and soiled bit of yellow paper. The one was, by royal favor, a complimentary pass to a reserved place in Westminster Abbey, on the occasion of the coronation of her Britannic Majesty, "For the Señor Camillo Alvarez y Pintal, Chevalier of the Noble Order of the Cid, Secretary to His Catholic Majesty's Legation near the Court of St. James,"--the other, a Sydney pawnbroker's ticket for books pledged by "Mr. Camilla Allverris i Pintal." He held these contrasted certificates of Fortune,--her mocking visiting-cards, when she called on him in palace and in cabin,--one in each hand for a moment; and bitterly smiling, and shaking his head, turned from one to the other. Then suddenly he let them fall to the ground, and, burying his face in his hands, was roughly shaken through all his frame by a great gust of agony.
I laid my hand tenderly on his shoulder: "But, Pintal," I said,--"the Lady Angelica,--tell me why she chose that course."
In a moment the man was fiercely aroused. "Ah, true! I had forgotten that delectable passage in my story. Why, man, Bermudez went to her, told her that my aspirations and my prospects were so and so,--faring, brilliant,--that she, only she, stood in the way, an impa ssable stumbling-block to my glorious advancement,--told her, (devil!) that, with all my fine passion for her, he was aware that I was not without embarrassment on this score,--appealed to her disinterested love, to her pride,--don't you see?--to her pride."
"And where is she now, Pintal?"
No anger now, no flush of excitement;--the man, all softened as by an angel's touch, arose, and, with clasped hands and eyes upturned devoutly, smiled through big tears, and without a word answered me.
I, too, was silent. Whittier had not yet written,--
"Of all sad words of tongue or pen
The saddest are these: 'It might have been!'
"Ah, well! for us all some sweet hope lies
Deeply buried from human eyes;
"And, in the hereafter, angels may
Roll the stone from its grave away!"
Then Pintal paced briskly to and fro a few turns across the narrow floor of his tent, and presently stopping, said,--his first cheerfulness, with its unwonted smile, returning,--
"But I must tell you why I should be happy today. I have a letter from my brother Miguel, who is Secretary to the Legation at the Porte. He has leave of absence, and is happy with his dearest friends in Florence. He shared my disgrace until lately, but bore it patiently; and now is reinstated in his office and his honors, a large portion of his property restored, which had been temporarily confiscated, while he was under suspicion as a Carlist. He is authorized to offer me pardon, and all these pretty things, if I will return and take a new oath of allegiance."
"And you will accept, Pintal?"
"Why, in God's name, what do you take me for?--Pardon! I forgot myself, Sir. Your question is a natural one. But no, I shall surely not accept. Zea-Bermudez is dead, but there is a part of me which can never die; and I am happy today because I feel that I am not so poor as I thought I was."
Ferdy entered, alone. He went straight to his father and whispered something in his ear,--about the mother, I suspected, for both blushed, and Pintal said, with a vexed look,--"Ah, very well! never mind that, my boy."
Then Ferdy threw off his cap and cloak, and, seating himself on a pile of books at his father's feet, quietly rested his head upon his knee. I observed that his face was vividly flushed, and his eyes looked weary. I felt his pulse,--it indicated high fever; and to our anxious questions he answered, that his head ached terribly, and he was "every minute hot or cold." I persuaded him to go to bed at once, and left anxious instructions for his treatment, for I saw that he was going to be seriously ill.
In three days little Ferdy was with the Lady Angelica in heaven. He died in my arms, of scarlet fever. In the delirium of his last moments he saw _her_, and he departed with strange words on his lips: "I am coming, Lady, I am coming!--my father will be ready presently!"
Some strangers from the neighborhood helped me to bury him; we laid him near the grave of the First Lady; but very soon his pretty bones were scattered, and there's a busy street there now.
Pintal, when I told him that the boy was dead, only bowed and smiled. He did not go to the grave, he never again named the child, nor by the least word or look confessed the change. But when, a little later, a fire swept down Dupont Street and laid the poor tent in ashes, spoiling the desolate house whose beautiful _lar_ had flitted,--when his wife went moaning maudlinly among the yet warm ashes, and groping, in mean misery, with a stick, for some charred nothing she would cheat the Spoiler of, there was a dangerous quality in Pintal's look, as, with folded arms and vacant eyes, he seemed to stare upon, yet not to see, the shocking scene. Presently the woman, poking with the stick, found something under the ashes. With her naked hands she greedily dug it out;--it was a tin shaving-case. Another moment, and Pintal had snatched it from her grasp, torn it open, and had a naked razor in his hand. I wrested it from him, as he fairly foamed, and dragged him from the place.
A few days after that, I took leave of them on board a merchant ship bound for England, and with a heavy-hearted prayer sped them on their way. On the voyage, as Pintal stood once, trembling in a storm, near the mainmast, a flash of lightning transfixed him.--That was well! He had been distinguished by his sorrows, and was worthy of that special messenger.
* * * * *
That picture,--it was the first and last he painted in California. I kept it long, rejoicing in the admiration it excited, and only grieved that the poor comfort of the praises I daily heard lavished upon it could never reach him.
Once, when I was ill in Sacramento, my San Francisco house was burned, but not before its contents had been removed. In the hopeless scattering of furniture and trunks, this picture disappeared,--no one knew whither. I sought it everywhere, and advertised for it, but in vain. About a year afterward, I sailed for Honolulu. I had letters of introduction to some young American merchants there, one of whom hospitably made me his guest for several weeks. On the second day of my stay with him, he was showing me over his house, where, hanging against the wall in a spare room, I found,--not the Pintal picture, but a Chinese copy of it, faithful in its every detail. There were the several alterations I had suggested, and there the rich, warm colors that Pintal's taste had chosen. Of course, it was a copy. No doubt, my picture had been stolen at the fire, or found its way by mistake among the "traps" of other people. Then it had been sold at auction,--some Chinaman had bought it,--it had been shipped to Canton or Hong Kong,--some one of the thousand "artists" of China Street or the Victoria Road had copied it for the American market. A ship-load of Chinese goods--Canton crape shawls, camphor-boxes, carved toys, curiosities, and pictures--had been sold in Honolulu,--and here it was. </prose>
Oh, the houses are all alike, you know,–
All the houses alike, in a row!
You'll see a hat-stand in the hall,
Against the painted and polished wall;
And the threaded sunbeams softly fall
On the long stairs, winding up, away
Up to the garret, lone and gray:
And you can hear, if you wait awhile,
Odd little noises to make you smile;
And minutes will be as long as a mile;–
Just as they would in the house below,
Were you in the entry waiting to go.
Oh, the houses are all alike, you know,–
All the houses alike, in a row!