Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

and instrumentalist, the most intelligent nevertheless, decidedly startled within and the most impassioned interpreter of Schumann in this country. Others assert that they can discover no charm whatsoever in either herself or her musical performances. All parties will be,

the next year at her sudden departure for Germany. She will leave her maiden name on these shores. Verily, that wave in her hair denotes obstinacy and warmth."

66

THE THREE GRACES:

A MADRIGAL.

TELL me, little trembling rose,
Thou whose sweet, coy crimson glows
Where her lilies, chaste and pale,
Mutely tell their pensive tale—

What your name, and whence you came?
Whence your glory, or your shame ?

Tell me, faint æolian moan,
Thou whose plaintive monotone,
Like the widowed dove's at night,
Chides a cheerful chirp's delight-

What your name, and whence your pain?
Why that trouble in your strain?

Tell me, brilliant, pure and clear,
Loth to leave thy purer sphere-

Some dumb sorrow's darkened plight
Broke in poetry and light-

What thy name, thy pleading charm?

Who could do thee any harm?

Blush am I; but by and by,
If I live, they'll call me Sigh.
I'm a sigh; but if I grow,

Tear they'll name me, for my woe.
Call me Tear, dear, if I move
Thee to pity-if I prove

Wanton vanity above.

I was Blush once, I was Sigh;

I'll be Memory by and by.

-But our sorrow's name is Love!

THE WEDDING AT THE PARKER HOUSE.

For two weeks we had been coasting the Florida shore in the genial springtime. Whether the gentle wind filled the sails, or our little yacht tossed aimlessly up and down on the transparent waters of the Gulf, we were always in sight of the land, sometimes rising into bluffs crowned, as our pilot said, with groves of orange and lemon trees, and again low and covered with pines, but always blue and pleasant. At length we entered the Caloosahatchie river, and began to approach Punta Rasa, our place of destination. Its appearance hardly fulfilled the expectations which we had formed. A point of land running out into the always pleasant and sunny waters of this region, low and almost denuded of its larger vegetation, as its name imports, and its only sign of civilization a huge barrack-like building raised with a kind of comically conceited air upon stilts, and bearing upon its front, in irregular and huge letters of black paint, Parker House, did not seem to promise much either of comfort or romance. And yet, upon a nearer approach, the scene lacked little of interest or variety. Scores of white tents gradually appeared, ranged on each side of the Parker House, which served as headquarters for the commanding officer, while in the early morning-light dark bodies of men could be seen drilling, some in compact order and closed ranks, and others, further in the distance, scattered as skirmishers behind bush, or stump, or tree, a darkly-moving speck, or an occasional reflection of the sun upon a gleaming gun-barrel, alone betraying their existence. Islands, too, opened before us on the broad bosom of the river, and on a sutler's schooner which was anchored just off of the wharf, a huge shark had recently been hooked, which was darting hither and thither in the water, amid a scattering fire of pistol-shots from on board the schooner,

and a crowd of boats with which the water was covered.

As we neared the wharf, and before we made fast to it, a confused mass of human beings of all ages and colors crowded to the shore,-white soldiers, long, cadaverous, and slim, with straight hair and an unmistakable Southern air about them, but all clothed in the familiar uniform of the United States; other soldiers of ebony black or chocolate color, stout, full-chested, and strong, weighing more than their white comrades, and capable of far more labor at throwing up intrenchments or any kind of fatigue duty; officers in full or undress uniform; pale, sickly women, wives, mothers, and friends of the firstmentioned soldiers, with troops of towheaded children; while raised upon the steps of the Parker House, too dignified to be interested, and having no friends on board, but unable wholly to escape the contagious influence of those about them, sat a party of Indians in paint and gew-gaws, proud representatives of a proud race, the only quiet and unmoved spectators of the scene. Vociferous greetings from friends on shore to those on board, and as vociferous returns; eager inquiries for the mail, now many weeks over-due, in more languages than one, and the loud orders of the skipper, half-drowned by the prevailing noises, made a “very proper confusion."

I seated myself on the rail. We had a little dog on board of a wonderful fashion, short-legged, and with a long body and most preposterous length of tail, with curl enough in it for two dogs, and as little like a poet's ideal as dog-meat could be. Notwithstanding his ridiculous appearance, which was a standing joke, he had quite won my respect during the voyage by his dignified and quiet bearing. He was not illnatured, nor apparently insensible to friendship; but a respectful wag of the

tail was all the return he condescended to make after the most cordial advances. Once or twice, wishing to know if his dignified reserve could not be overcome by unusual demonstrations of regard, he walked quietly away, as if he appreciated at their proper value the hypocritical blandishments I used. To-day he seemed like another dog; the body was still there, but a diverse spirit occupied it. Always something of a Pythagorean, I comprehended his .case at once. We had had but half a dog with us on the voyage; his spirit had been at Punta Rasa with his master, whom he soon recognized in one of the officers on shore. Now he jumped and capered, barked vociferously, wagged not merely the superfluous length of his tail, but uncoiled it in a wonderful manner, so that it stood straight out from his body; threw himself in every one's way, and conducted generally in a manner so regardless of his reputation, that I hardly knew him. Jeff, our cook, was in perplexed and ludicrous amazement. He had placed a pan of hot soup on some barrels near the galley in a place of apparent safety, and the dog, heretofore far the more dignified of the two, plunged insanely into it, scattering the contents into the faces of several of us, and then jumped overboard-not a minute too soon for his personal safety-swimming ashore and rubbing his greasy coat affectionately upon half a dozen new uniforms worn by his acquaintances. Jeff, whom I always thought entertained a kind of superstitious respect for the dog, never got over it. "De debbil's in dat ar fice," he would say a dozen times a-day, and shake his gray head doubtfully.

On landing we were hospitably received at the Parker House-a huge, comfortless affair of one immense room, the several corners of which were occupied respectively by the post commissary, quartermaster, surgeon, and adjutant, while a space had been hastily boarded up for the commanding officer and one or two other officials, to whom the preservation of dignity was no small affair; in fact, one of the necessi

ties of the position. It had been originally erected as a commissary storehouse by General Harney during the Indian wars, and since the rebellion broke out some luckless wight stationed thereabout, munching his pork and hard-tack, had named it the Parker House, in memory of better days.

I amused myself during the morning in wandering about among the tents, and observing the peculiarities and habits of the men. Parts of three regiments were stationed here. The 2d and 99th United States Colored Infantry, and the 2d Florida Cavalry (loyal). The first-named regiment was raised at Washington, D. C., and officered with care. During the months the regiment was encamped at Arlington Heights, it was visited by scores of officials and distinguished persons from our Own and foreign countries, and had every advantage of drill and criticism. Then and subsequently it attained such proficiency and exactness, that perhaps not a regiment in the service, regular or volunteer, surpassed it. With shining muskets, and white gloves, and glittering brasses, and a light, springy step which constant drill had made to supersede the heavy plantation gait, they looked the very beau ideal of black soldiery, and were, of course, properly puffed up with their own conceit. The 99th, on the contrary, had been raised in Louisiana as part of the corps d'afrique. They were fine men physically, and had seen much rough work, but did not pretend to compete with the 2d in drill. They were fresh from the Red River dam, which they had powerfully contributed to raise. Being mostly from the Creole parishes, they of course talked a patois very astonishing to their brethren from Virginia and Maryland. I shall not soon forget the amazement and disgust with which the men of the 2d, being informed at Key West of the arrival of another colored regiment upon the island, attempted, without success, to hold communication with them. Surprise, mortification, and anger were plainly to be seen among a party which I heard discussing

[ocr errors]

cre

the arrival of the new-comers. "Dese fellows aren't smart, dey can't talk plain," was the common conclusion. Finally, an officer suggested they were Creoles. "Cre-owls!" said a smart sergeant, the oracle of the group; owls! ah, I see," tapping his forehead significantly, and looking for confirmation to the officer, who mischievously nodded assent. "Dese niggers is stupid, I see." That one mysterious word was enough. No further explanations were wanted; a kind of contemptuous pity took the place of any other feeling; and not even the attractions of the very superior drum-corps which the new-comers brought with them, and to which the negro is very sensitive, nor more or less intercourse for months, entirely removed the feeling, until after the battle of the Natural Bridge, where the "cre-owls" were so stupid as not even to know enough to run, when a more cordial feeling was established.

The 2d Florida Cavalry differed hardly more in color than in character from the others. Cavalry they were called, and as cavalry they were paid, but they never were mounted, much to their disgust. This was a regiment not to be lumped. Each man had a history of his own, sometimes more startling than fiction. In some the burning cottage, the destruction of home and household goods, the exposure of wife and children to cold, penury, and starvation, if not a worse fate, filled the background of a picture not colored by imagination. Nearly all had been hunted, many by dogs. It's not a pleasant thing for a man to be hunted as though human life was of no more value than that of a fox or a wolf, and it leaves bitter thoughts behind. Finally, through many perils, after lying for weeks in swamps and woods, they had straggled one by one into the Union lines. Happy were they who carried no corroding recollections of sudden death to friends, nor of fearful and bloody work to avenge them. Tall, thin, and loose-jointed were these men, incapable of rigid discipline, and of all ages; but the best shots, guides, and

They freely travenemy's country;

scouts in the army. ersed at night the were gone weeks, and safely returned with their families. Bitter experience had made them familiar with every outlying track and swamp; had taught them their friends and their foes, and established in the country a sort of masonic brotherhood in danger. Some, it is true, attached to neither side, and alternately deserting from each, intent only on plunder and villany, were among the rarest scoundrels and cutthroats which unsettled and perilous times produce; but the greater number were stanch and true.

After dinner and a comfortable siesta, we rode over the surrounding country, but not far, for the enemy were supposed to be in the immediate vicinity; returning in time for the dress-parade. The splendid drill of the 2d attracted admiration, of course. The 99th also did well, but the glory of the occasion was their drum-corps. Where they picked it up I never knew, nor the uniform in which it was dressed; but from the bright-red mandils to the shining buckles of their shoes, all was perfection in dress, in step, and in execution. As one man they emerged on the right of the line, marched slowly down, and as slowly retraced their steps. Never were drums so sonorous, and yet not a drummer's elbow moved; the drumsticks seemed to grow from the palms of their hands, and vibrated obedient to some unknown power, but with marvellous precision and abandon. Every head was erect and every eye fixed, and as they marched they were enveloped in a whirlwind of sound. Evidently, in their estimation, the feature of the occasion was the drum-corps, and the troops had been paraded as an accessory but for their benefit, and as an escort. And so indeed it seemed to me; and as such I remember it, and shall always remember it.

Among

many that I have seen, there lingers in my mind the recollection of but one drum-corps, and that was at Punta Rasa.

In the evening I strolled into the tent

of Lieutenant de an officer of the 2d. I found him looking over some documents and mementos of his life in the Old World. How strange it seemed in that far-off Florida wilderness, so secluded from the busy world and its cares and celebrities, to see familiar letters from men whose reputation was world-wide, and yet whom most of us know, and will know, only in books! The Lieutenant was a democrat, a European democrat; not an enthusiastic dreamer, who, secure in his own study, builds from his fancy ideal republics, but a man to whom democracy meant something; a man beside whom our halting and prudent enthusiasm seemed tempered and tame; a man with a history, and who had suffered for his principles.

I took up a curious revolver which lay upon the bed, elaborately finished, and of the finest workmanship, though of a pattern unknown to me, and searched it over in vain for the maker's

name.

"Who made it?" said I. "It was made in France." "But why didn't the maker put his name on so good a piece of workmanship?"

The Lieutenant answered with a smile and a shrug of the shoulders, which, familiar as I was with a portion of his. history, told me all I wanted to know; and I could not help contrasting France under the Emperor, with our own happy country, where every free and enlightened citizen may make a walking arsenal of himself, to his own deadly peril, if not that of his loving neighbors. And yet that revolver had a history, and a startling one, though not to be related here.

"The boat is ready, sir," said an orderly, respectfully, appearing at the

door of the tent.

"Will you go with me?" said the Lieutenant. "We are to make a midnight excursion to Fort Myers, and I shall be glad of your company."

"Nothing would delight me more." "Well, then," said he, "if you are ready, we will start in fifteen minutes

from the landing; " and I hurried off to make immediate preparation.

"Give way," said the Lieutenant, as I took my seat in the stern-sheets of the barge. There were eight oarsmen, picked men and tough, selected with care from the Lieutenant's company, and as much at home upon the water as on the land; for the trip might have its adventures, and at all events it would have to be a severe pull. The barge had belonged to the ill-fated San Jacinto, then recently wrecked. The night was dark, and two dim objects were sitting on a thwart, immediately before us, without oars, and whom I could not immediately make out. "Indians," said the Lieutenant, CC squaws who wanted to go up to Fort Myers. We can save them a long walk.”

The river was smooth, and without much current; the oars kept perfect time, hardly making a ripple on the water as we rapidly and noiselessly skirted the low shore. For a few miles we thus continued, until, getting further from our own camp, we judged it more prudent to put out into the stream, to avoid any possible surprise from the bank.

Fort Myers, some twenty or thirty miles up the river, had been, until recently, the only post held by our troops in this part of the country. It was built during the old Indian wars, and had been garrisoned during a part of the rebellion, and until quite recently, by several companies of the 2d United States Colored Infantry and the Florida Cavalry. It afforded a convenient place from which to make raids, and a secure and provoking refuge for the flying loyalists who wished to reach our lines. In fact, it was an eyesore to the rebels of long standing and no common magnitude. A few weeks previously, with pluck and endurance worthy of a better cause, they had marched a long distance through the wilderness, dragging their cannon with them, intending to reduce the Yankee stronghold, and blot it out from the land. They arrived near the fort at noonday, and were wholly unexpected; and had they

« IndietroContinua »