The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 24/Number 145/The Brick Moon
THE BRICK MOON.
[From the Papers of Colonel Frederic Ingham.]
How we built it.
THE orange was squeezed dry! And how little any of us knew,—skilful George Orcutt, thoughtful Ben Bran- nan, loyal Haliburton, ingenious Q., or poor painstaking I,—how little we knew, or any of us, where was another orange, or how we could mix malic acid and tartaric acid, and citric acid and auric acid and sugar and water so as to imitate orange-juice, and fill up the bank-account enough to draw in the conditioned subscriptions, and so begin to build the MOON. How often, as I lay awake at night, have I added up the diiferent subscriptions in some new order, as if that would help the matter : and how steadily they have come out. one hundred and sixty-two thousand dollars, or even less, when I must needs, in my sleepiness, forget somebody's name ! So Haliburton put into rail- road stocks all .the money he collected, and the rest of us ground on at our mills, or flew up oh our own wings towards Heaven. Thus Orcutt built more tun- nels, Q. prepared for more commence- ments, Haliburton calculated more pol- icies, Ben Brannan created more civili- zation, and I, as I could, healed the hurt of my people of Naguadavick for the months there were left to me of my stay in that thriving town.
None of us had the wit to see how the problem was to be wrought out further. Xo. The best things come to us when we have faithfully and well made all the preparation and done our best ; but they come in some way that is none of ours. So was it now, that to build the BRICK MOON it was ne- cessary that I should be turned out of Naguadavick ignominiously, and that Jeff. Davis and some seven or eight oth- er bad men should create the Great Re- bellion. Hear how it happened.
Dennis Shea, my Double,—other- wise, indeed, called by my name and legally so,—undid me, as my friends supposed, one evening at a public meet- ing called by poor Isaacs in Naguada- vick. Of that transaction I have no oc- casion here to tell the story. But of that transaction one consequence is that the BRICK MOON now moves in ether. I stop writing, to rest my eye upon it, through a little telescope of Alvan Clark's here, which is always trained near it. It is moving on as placidly as ever.
It came about thus. The morning after poor Dennis, whom I have long since forgiven, made his extraordinary speeches, without any authority from me, in the Town Hall at Naguadavick, I thought, and my wife agreed with me, that we had better both leave town with the children. Auchmuty, our dear friend, thought so too. We left in the ten-thirty Accommodation for Skowhe- gan, and so came to Township No. 9 in the 3rd Range, and there for years we resided. That whole range of town- ships was set off under a provision admirable in its character, that the first settled minister in each town should receive one hundred acres of land as the " minister's grant," and the first settled schoolmaster eighty. To No. 9 therefore I came. I constituted a little Sandemanian church. Auchmuty and Delafield came up and installed me, and with these hands I built the cabin in which, with Polly and the little ones, I have since spent many happy nights and days. This is not the place for me to publish a map, which I have by me, of No. 9, nor an account of its many ad- vantages for settlers. Should I ever print my papers called " Stay-at-Home Robinsons," it will be easy with them to explain its topography and geography. Suffice it now to say, that, with Alice and Bertha and Polly, I took tramps up and down through the lumbermen's roads, and soon knew the general features of the lay of the land. Nor was it long, of course, before we came out one day upon the curious land- slides, which have more than once averted the flow of the little Carrotook River, where it has washed the rocks away so far as to let down one section more of the overlying yielding yellow clay.
Think how my eyes flashed, and my wife's, as, struggling through a wilder- ness of moosewood, we came out one afternoon on this front of yellow clay ! Yellow clay, of course, when properly treated by fire, is brick ! Here we were surrounded by forests, only waiting to be burned ; yonder was clay, only wait- ing to be baked. Polly looked at me, and I looked at her, and with one voice, we cried out, " The Moox."
For here was this shouting river at our feet, whose power had been run- ning to waste since ^the day when the Laurentian hills first heaved themselves above the hot Atlantic ; and that day, I am informed by Mr. Agassiz, was the first day in the history of this solid world. Here was water-power enough for forty fly-wheels, were it necessary to send heavenward twenty moons. Here was solid timber enough for a hundred dams, yet only one was neces- sary to give motion to the fly-wheels. Here was retirement, freedom from criticism, an escape from the journal- ists, who would not embarrass us by telling of every cracked brick which had to be rejected from the structure. We had lived in No. 9 now for six weeks, and not an "own correspondent" of them all had yet told what Rev. Mr. Ingham had for dinner.
Of course I wrote to George Orcutt at once of our great discovery, and he came up at once to examine the situa- tion. On the whole, it pleased him. He could not take the site I proposed for the dam, because this very clay there made the channel treacherous, and there was danger that the stream would work out a new career. But lower down we found a stony gorge with which George was satisfied ; he traced out a line for a railway by which, of their own weight, the brick-cars could run to the centrings ; he showed us where, with some excavations, the fly-wheels could be placed exactly above the great mill-wheels, that no power might be wasted, and explained to us how, when the gigantic structure was finished, the BRICK MOON would gently roll down its ways upon the rapid wheels, to be launched instant into the sky!
Shall I ever forget that happy Octo- ber day of anticipation ?
We spent many of those October days in tentative surveys. Alice and Bertha were our chain-men, intelligent and obedient. I drove for George his stakes, or I cut away his brush, or I raised and lowered the shield at which he sighted ; and at noon Polly appeared with her baskets, and we would dine al fresco, on a pretty point which, not many months after, was wholly covered by the eastern end of the dam. When the field-work was finished we retired to the cabin for days, and calculated and drew, and drew and calculated. Estimates for feeding Irishmen, esti- mates of hay for mules, George was sure he could work mules better than oxen, estimates for cement, estimates for the preliminary saw - mills, esti- mates for rail for the little brick-road, for wheels, for spikes, and for cutting ties; what did we not estimate for on a basis almost wholly new, you will observe. For here the brick would cost us less than our old conceptions, our water-power cost us almost nothing, but our stores and our wages would cost us much more.
These estimates are now to me very curious, a monument, indeed, to dear George's memory, that in the result they proved so accurate. I would gladly print them here at length, with some illustrative cuts, but that I know the impatience of the public, and its indifference to detail. If we are ever able to print a proper memorial of George, that, perhaps, will be the fitter place for them. Suffice it to say that with the subtractions thus made from the original estimates even with the additions forced upon us by working in a wilderness George was satisfied that a money charge of $ 197,327 would build and start THE MOON. As soon as we had determined the site, we marked off eighty acres, .which con- tained all the essential localities, up and down the little Carrotook River, I engaged George for the first school- master in No. 9, and he took these eighty acres for the schoolmaster's res- ervation. Alice and Bertha went to school to him the next day, taking les- sons in civil engineering ; and I wrote to the Bingham trustees to notify them .that I had engaged a teacher, and that he had selected his land.
Of course we remembered, still, that we were near forty thousand dollars short of the' new estimates, and also that much of our money would not be paid us but on condition that two hun- dred and fifty thousand were raised. But George said that his own subscrip- tion was wholly unhampered : with that we would go to work on the preliminary work of the dam, and on the flies. Then, if the flies would hold together, and they should hold if mortise and iron could hold them, they might be at work summers and winters, days and nights, storing up Power for us. This would encourage the subscribers, nay, would encourage us ; and all this preliminary work would be out of the way when we were really ready to be- gin upon the MOON.
Brannan, Haliburton, and O. readily agreed to this when they were consult- ed. They were the other trustees un- der an instrument which we had got St. Leger to draw up. George gave up, as soon as he might, his other ap- pointments ; and taught me, meanwhile, where and how I was to rig a little saw-mill, to cut some necessary lumber. I engaged a gang of men to cut the timber for the dam, and to have it ready; and, with the next spring, we were well at work on the dam and on the flies ! These needed, of course, the most solid foundation. The least irregularity of their movement might send the MOON awry.
Ah me ! would I not gladly tell the history of every bar of iron which was bent into the tires of those flies, and of every log which was mortised into its place in the dam, nay, of every curling mass of foam which played in the eddies beneath, when the dam was finished, and the waste water ran so smoothly over ? Alas ! that one drop should be wasted of water that might move a world, although a small one ! I almost dare say that I remember each and all these, with such hope and happiness did I lend myself, as I could, each day to the great enterprise ; lending to dear George, who was here and there and everywhere, and was this and that and everybody, lending to him, I say, such poor help as I could lend, in whatever way. We waked, in the two cabins, in those happy days, just before the sun came up, when the birds were in their loudest clamor of morning joy. Wrapped each in a blan- ket, George and I stepped out from our doors, each trying to call the oth- er, and often meeting on the grass between. We ran to the river and plunged in, O, how cold it was ! laughed and screamed like boys, rubbed ourselves aglow, and ran home to build Polly's fire beneath the open chimney which stood beside my cabin. The bread had risen in the night. The wa- ter soon boiled above the logs. The children came, laughing, out upon the grass, barefoot, and fearless of the dew. Then Polly appeared with her gridiron and bear-steak, or with her griddle and eggs, and, in fewer min- utes than this page has cost me, the breakfast was ready for Alice to carry, dish by dish, to the white-clad table on the piazza. Not Raphael and Adam more enjoyed their watermelons, fox- grapes, and late blueberries ! And, in the long croon of the breakfast, linger- ing at the board, we revenged ourselves for the haste with which it had been prepared.
When we were well at table, a horn from the cabins below sounded the re- veille for the drowsier workmen. Soon above the larches rose the blue of their smokes ; and when we were at last nodding to the children, to say that they might leave the table, and Polly was folding her napkin as *to say she wished we were gone, we would see tall Asaph Langdon, then foreman of the carpenters, sauntering up the val- ley with a roll of paper, or an adze, or a shingle with some calculations on it, with something on which he wanted Mr. Orcutt's directions for the day.
An hour of nothings set the carnal machinery of the day agoing. We fed the horses, the cows, the pigs, and the hens. We collected the eggs and cleaned the hen-houses and the barns. We brought in wood enough for the day's fire, and water enough for the day's cooking and cleanliness. These heads describe what I and the children did. Polly's life during that hour was more mysterious. That great first hour of the day is devoted with women to the deepest arcana of the Eleusinian mysteries of the divine science of house- keeping. She who can meet the requi- sitions of that hour wisely and bravely conquers in the Day's Battle. But what she does in it, let no man try to say! It can be named, but not de- scribed, in the comprehensive formula, "Just stepping round."
That hour well given to chores and to digestion, the children went to Mr. Orcutt's open-air school, and I to my rustic study, a separate cabin, with a rough square table in it, and some book- boxes equally rude. No man entered it, excepting George and me. Here for two hours I worked undisturbed, how happy the world, had it neither post- man nor door-bell ! worked upon my Traces of Sandemanianism in the Sixth and Seventh Centuries, and then was ready to render such service to the cause and to George as the day might demand. Thus I rode to Lincoln or to Foxcroft to order supplies ; I took my gun and lay in wait on Chairback for a bear ; I transferred to the hewn lum- ber the angles or bevels from the care- ful drawings : as best I could, I filled an apostle's part, and became all things to all these men around me. Happy those days ! and thus the dam was built ; in such Arcadian simplicity was reared the mighty wheel ; thus grew on each side the towers which were to sup- port the flies ; and thus, to our delight not unmixed with wonder, at last we saw those mighty flies begin to turn. Not in one day, nor in ten ; but in a year or two of happy life, full of the joy of joys, the "joy of eventful liv- ing!"
Yet, for all this, $152,000 was not $197,000, far less was it $250,000; and but for Jeff. Davis and his crew the BRICK MOON would not have been born.
But at last Jeff. Davis was ready. " My preparations being completed," wrote General Beauregard, " I opened fire on Fort Sumter." Little did he know it, but in that explosion the BRICK MOON also was lifted into the sky!
Little did we know it, when, four weeks after, George came up from the settlements, all excited with the news ! The wheels had been turning now for four days, faster of course and faster. George had gone down for money to pay off the men, and he brought us up the news that the Rebellion had begun.
" The last of this happy life," he said ; "the last, alas, of our dear MOON." How little he knew and we !
But he paid off the men, and they packed their traps and disappeared, and, before two months were over, were in the lines before the enemy. George packed up, bade us sadly good-by, and before a week had offered his service to Governor Fenton in Albany. For us, it took rather longer ; but we were soon packed ; Polly took the children to her sister's, and I went on to the De- partment to offer my service there. No sign of 'life left in No. 9, but the two gigantic Fly-Wheels, moving faster and faster by day and by night, and accumu- lating Power till it was needed. If only they would hold together till the mo- ment came !
So we all ground through the first slow year of the war. George in his place, I in mine, Brannan in his, we lifted as we could. But how heavy the weight seemed ! It was in the second year, when the second large loan was placed, that Haliburton wrote to me, I got the letter, I think, at Hilton Head, that he had sold out every penny of our railroad stocks, at the high prices which railroad stocks then bore, and had invested the whole fifty- nine thousand in the new Govern- ments. " I could not call a board meet- ing," said Haliburton, "for I am here only on leave of absence, and the rest are all away. But the case is clear enough. If the government goes up, the MOON will never go up ; and, for one, I do not look beyond the veil." So he wrote 'to us all, and of course we all approved.
So it was that Jeff. Davis also served. Deep must that man go into the Pit who does not serve, though uncon- scious. For thus it was that, in the fourth year of the war, when gold was at 290, Haliburton was receiving on his fifty-nine thousand dollars seventeen per cent interest in currency ; thus was it that, before the war was over, he had piled up, compounding his interest, more than fifty per cent addition to his capital ; thus was it that, as soon as peace came, all his stocks were at a handsome percentage ; thus was it that, before I returned from South America, he reported to all the subscribers that the full quarter-million was secured ; thus was it that, when I returned after that long cruise of mine in the Florida, I found Polly and the children again at No. 9, George there also, directing a working party of nearly eighty brick- layers and hodmen, the lower centrings wellnigh filled to their horizons, and the BRICK MOON, to the eye, seeming almost half completed.
Here it is that I regret most of all that I cannot print the working-draw- ings with this paper. If you will cut open the seed-vessel of Spergularia Rubra, or any other carpel that has a free central placenta, and observe how the circular seeds cling around the cir- cular centre, you will have some idea of the arrangement of a transverse hori- zontal section of the completed MOON. Lay three croquet-balls on the piazza, and call one or two of the children to help you poise seven in one plane above the three ; then let another Child place three more above the seven, and you have the core of the MOON completely. If you want a more poetical illustration, it was what Mr. Wordsworth calls a mass
" Of conglobated bubbles undissolved."
Any section through any diameter looked like an immense rose-window, of six circles grouped round a seventh. In truth, each of these sections would reveal the existence of seven chambers in the moon, each a sphere itself, whose arches gave solidity to the whole ; while yet, of the whole moon, the great- er part was air. In all there were thir- teen of these moonlets, if I am so to call them ; though no one section, of course, would reveal so many. Sus- tained on each side by their groined arches, the surface of the whole moon was built over them and under them, simply two domes connected at the bases. The chambers themselves were made lighter by leaving large, round windows or open circles in the parts of their vaults farthest from their points of contact, so that each of them looked not unlike the outer sphere of a Japanese ivory nest of concentric balls. You see the object was to make a moon, which, when left to its own gravity, should be fitly supported or braced within. Dear George was sure that, by this constant repetition of arches, we should with the least weight unite the greatest strength. I believe it still, and experience has proved that there is strength enough.
When I went up to No. 9, on my re- turn from South America, I found the lower centring up. and half full of the working-bees, who were really Keltic laborers, all busy in bringing up the lower half-dome of the shell. This lower centring was of wood, in form exactly like, a Roman amphitheatre if the seats of it be circular ; on this the lower or inverted brick dome was laid. The whole fabric was on one of the terraces which were heaved up in some old geological cataclysm, when some lake gave way, and the Carrotook River was born. The level was higher than that of the top of the fly-wheels, which, with an awful velocity now, were circling in their wild career in the ravine below. Three of the lowest moonlets, as I have called them, separate croquet-balls, if you take my other illustration, had been completed ; their centrings had been taken to pieces and drawn out through the holes, and were now set up again with other new centrings for the second story of cells.
I was received with wonder and de- light. I had telegraphed my arrival, but the despatches had never been for- warded from Skowhegan. Of course, we all had a deal to tell ; and, for me, there was no end to inquiries which I had to make in turn. I was never tired of exploring the various spheres, and the nameless spaces between them. I was never tired of talking with the laborers. All of us, indeed, became skilful bricklayers ; and on a pleasant afternoon you might see Alice and Bertha, and George and me, all laying brick together, Polly sitting in the shade of some wall which had been built high enough, and reading to us from Jean Ingelow or Monte-Christo or Jane Austen, while little Clara brought to us our mortar. Happily and lightly went by that summer. Haliburton and his wife made us a visit ; Ben Brannau brought up his wife and children ; Mrs. Haliburton herself put in the keystone to the central chamber, which had al- ways been named G. on the plans ; and at her suggestion, it was named Grace now, because her mother's name was Hannah. Before winter we had passed the diameter of I, J, and K, the three uppermost cells of all ; and the surrounding shell was closing in upon them. On the whole, the funds had held out amazingly well. The wages had been rather higher than we meant ; but the men had no chances at liquor or dissipation and had worked faster than we expected ; and, with our new brick-machines, we made brick incon- ceivably fast, while their quality was so good that dear George said there was never so little waste. We celebrated Thanksgiving of that year together, my family and his family. We had paid off all the laborers ; and there were left, of that busy village, only Asaph Langdon and his family, Levi Jordan and Levi Ross, Horace Leonard and Seth Whitman with theirs. " Theirs," I say, but Ross had no family. He was a nice young fellow who was there as Haliburton's representative, to take care of the accounts and the pay-roll ; Jordan was the head of the brick-kilns ; Leonard, of the carpenters ; and Whit- man, of the commissariat, and a good commissary Whitman was.
We celebrated Thanksgiving to- gether ! Ah me ! what a cheerful, pleasant time we had ; how happy the children were together ! Polly and I and our bairns were to go to Boston the next day. I was to spend the win- ter in one final effort to get twenty-five thousand dollars more if I could, with which we might paint the MOON, or put on some ground felspathic granite dust, in a sort of paste, which in its hot flight through the air might fuse into a white enamel. All of us who saw the MOON were so delighted with its success that we felt sure " the friends " would not pause about this trifle. The rest of them, were to stay there to watch the winter, and to be ready to begin work the moment the snow had gone. Thanksgiving afternoon, how well I remember it, that good fellow, Whit- man, came and asked Polly and me to visit his family in their new quarters. They had moved for the winter into cells B and E, so lofty, spacious, and warm, and so much drier than their log-cabins. Mrs. Whitman, I remem- ber, was very cheerful and jolly ; made my children eat another piece of pie, and stuffed their pockets with raisins ; and then with great ceremony and fun we christened room B by the name of Bertha, and E, Ellen, which was Mrs. Whitman's name. And the next day we bade them all good by, little think- ing what we said, and with endless promises of what we would send and bring them in the spring.
Here are the scraps of "letters from Orcutt, dear fellow, which tell what more there is left to tell:—
" December loth.
" . . . . After you left we were a lit- tle blue, and hung round loose for a day or two. Sunday we missed you especially, but Asaph made a good sub- stitute, and Mrs. Leonard led the sing- ing. The next day we moved the Leonards into L and M, which we christened Leonard and Mary (Mary is for your wife). They are pretty dark, but very dry. Leonard has swung hammocks, as Whitman did.
Asaph came to me Tuesday and said he thought they had better turn to and put a shed over the unfinished circle, and so take occasion of warm days for dry work there. This we have done, and the occupation is good for us "
" I have had no chance to write for a fortnight. The truth is, that the weath- er has been so open that I let Asaph go down to No. 7 and to Wilder's, and engage five-and-twenty of the best of the men, who, we knew, were hanging round there. We have all been at work most of the time since, with very good success. H is now wholly cov- ered in, and the centring is out. The men have named it Haliburton. I is well advanced. J is as you left it. The work has been good for us all, morally."
" February nth.
" . . . . We got your mail unexpect- edly by some lumbermen on their way to the 9th Range. One of them has cut himself, and takes this down.
" You will be amazed to hear that I and K are both done. We have had splendid weather, and have worked half the time. We had a great jollification when K was closed in, called it Kil- patrick, for Seth's old general. I wish you could just run up and see us. You must be quick, if you want to put in any of the last licks "
" March i2th.
" DEAR FRED, I have but an in- stant. By all means make your prep- arations to be here by the end of the month or early in next month. The weather has been faultless, you know. Asaph got in a dozen more men, and we have brought up the surface farther than you could dream. The ways are well forward, and I cannot see why, if the freshet hold off a little, we should not launch her by the loth or i2th. I do not think it worth while to wait for paint or enamel. Telegraph Brannan that he must be here. You will be amused by our quarters. We, who were the last outsiders, move into A and D to-morrow, for a few weeks. It is much warmer there.
" Ever yours, "G. O."
I telegraphed Brannan, and in reply he came with his wife and his children to Boston. I told him that he could not possibly get up there, as the roads then were ; but Ben said he would go to Skowhegan, and take his chance there. He would, of course, communi- cate with me as soon he get there. Accordingly I got a note from him at Skowhegan, saying he had hired a sleigh to go over to No. 9 ; and in four days more I got this letter :
" March 27th.
" DEAR FRED, I am most glad I came, and I beg you to bring your wife as soon as possible. The river is very full, the wheels, to which Leonard has added two auxiliaries, are moving as if they could not hold out long, the ways are all but ready, and we think we must not wait. Start with all hands as soon as you can. I had no difficulty in coming over from Skowhegan. We did it in two days."
This note I sent at once to Halibur- ton ; and we got all the children ready for a winter journey, as the spectacle of the launch of the MOON was one to be remembered their life long. But it was clearly impossible to attempt, at that season, to get the subscribers to- gether. Just as we started, this de- spatch from Skowhegan was brought me, the last word I got from them :
" Stop for nothing. There is a jam below us in the stream, and we fear back-water.
Of course we could not go faster than we could. We missed no connec- tion. At Skowhegan, Haliburton and I took a cutter, leaving the ladies and children to follow at once in larger sleighs. We drove all night, changed horses at Prospect, and kept on all the next day. At No. 7 we had to wait over night. We started early in the morning, and came down the Spoon- wood Hill at four in the afternoon, in full sight of our little village.
It was quiet as the grave ! Not a smoke, not a man, not an adze-blow, nor the tick of a trowel. Only the gigantic fly-wheels were whirling as I saw them last.
There was the lower Coliseum-like centring, somewhat as I first saw it.
But where was the Brick Dome of the MOON ?
" Good Heavens ! has it fallen on them all ? cried I.
Haliburton lashed the beast till he fairly ran down that steep hill. We turned a little point, and came out in front of the centring. There was no MOON there ! An empty amphithea- tre, with not a brick nor a splinter within !
We were speechless. We left the cutter. We ran up the stairways to . the terrace. We ran by the familiar | paths into the centring. We came out upon the ways, which we had never seen before. These told the story too well ! The ground and crushed surface of the timbers, scorched by the rap- idity with which THE MOON had slid down, told that they had done the duty for which they were built.
It was too clear that in some wild rush of the waters the ground had yield- ed a trifle. We could not find that the foundations had sunk more than six inches, but that was enough. In that fatal six inches' decline of the centring, the MOON had been launched upon the ways just as George had intended that it should be when he was ready. But it had slid, not rolled, down upon these angry fly-wheels, and in an instant, with all our friends, it had been hurled into the sky !
" They have gone up ! " said Hali- burton ; " She has gone up ! " said I ; both in one breath. And with a common instinct, we looked up into the blue.
But of course she was not there.
Not a shred of letter or any other tidings could we find in any of the shanties. It was indeed six weeks since George and Fanny and their children had moved into Annie and Diamond, two unoccupied cells of the MOON, so much more comfortable had the cells proved than the cabins, for winter life. Returning to No. 7, we found there many of the laborers, who were astonished at what we told them. They had been paid off on the 3oth, and told to come up again on the I5th of April, to see the launch. One of them, a man named Rob Shea, told me that George kept his cousin Peter to help him move back into his house the be- ginning of the next week.
And that was the last I knew of any of them for more than a year. At first I expected, each hour, to hear that they had fallen somewhere. But time passed by, and of such a fall, where man knows the world's surface, there was no tale. I answered, as best I could, the letters of their friends, by saying I did not know where they were, and had not heard from them. My real thought was, that if this fatal MOON did indeed pass our atmosphere, all in it must have been burned to death in the transit. But this I whispered to no one save to Polly and Annie and Haliburton. In this terrible doubt I remained, till I noticed one day in the Astronomical Record the memorandum, which you perhaps remember, of the observa- tion, by Dr. Zitta, of a new asteroid, with an enormous movement in decli- nation.
[Mr. Ingham's observations on this asteroid will be published in our next number.]