Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

in the air; but with no rock, no mountain-crag, on which to rest.

I saw also two handsome houses, with their gardens, and two handsome, kind ladies. One of them was really beautiful, but sorrowing: death had lately taken from her her heart's joy. In the second home joy and happiness were the dwellers; there was no mistake about that. I was obliged to promise to return there in the spring, and there to witness that lovely season. But I wonder how many breaches of promise I shall be guilty of in this country!

Mr. Putnam conveyed me back to New York, and to the kind Mrs. S., who now took charge of me, and with her I visited various public institutions, among which were a couple of large schools, where I saw hundreds of cheerful children, as well as young people. I remarked, in particular, the bright, animated, beautiful eyes of the children. The mode of instruction seemed to me especially calculated to keep the children awake and attentive. One building contained many, or all gradations of schol. ars. The lowest rooms are appropriated to the smallest children, of from four to six years old (each child having its little chair and detached desk standing before it), and with each story ascends the age of the pupils, and the branches of knowledge in which they are instructed. In the uppermost story they have advanced to nineteen or twenty, or even above (as well in the girls' school as the boys'), take diplomas, and go thence out into the world to live and teach according as they have learned here. I, however, did not gain much information. I wished to put questions, but they gave themselves little time to answer, and I saw that my visit was regarded not as for instruction, but for display. In the institution for the deaf and dumb, a young teacher indicated by signs to the pupils a long history, which they were to write upon the writing-tablets which hung around the walls. They did

it excellently; and I could not but marvel at their powers of memory, and their quickness of apprehension and expression.

The following day an excursion was proposed to one of the islands in the neighborhood of the city, where rightminded men have established a large institution for the reception and assistance of emigrants, who, in sickness or destitution, arrive in New York from Europe. The island is called “Ward's Island,” the institution" the Emigrant's Asylum.” One of its principal founders and supporters, Mr. Colden, formerly one of the chief lawyers of New York, and now a man of affluence, occupying himself solely and entirely with benevolent institutions, conducted Mrs. S. and myself, as well as Bergfalk, whom I persuaded to accompany us thither, in his carriage. Bergfalk is addicted to burying himself among law books and acts of Parliament, to living with the dead, and I must decoy him forth to breathe the fresh air with the living, and to live among them.

The day was glorious, and the sail in the boat upon that calm, fragrant water (I never knew water give forth a fragrance as it does here) in that warm antumnal sun, was one of the most agreeable imaginable. On Ward's Island people may form a slight idea of the difficult question which the Americans have to meet in the reception of the poor, and often most wretched population of Europe, and how they endeavor to meet it. Thousands who come clad in rags, and bowed down with sickness, are brought hither, succored, clothed, fed, and then sent out westward to the states of the Mississippi, in case they have no friends or relations to receive them at a less remote distance. Separate buildings have been erected for the sick of typhus fever ; for those afflicted with diseases of the eye; for sick children ; for the convalescent; for lying-in women. Several new houses were in progress of erection. Upon those verdant, open hills, fanned by the soft sea

breezes, the sick must, if possible, regain health, and the weak become strong. We visited the sick; many hundreds were ill of typhus fever. We visited also the convalescent at their well-supplied dinner-table.

“But if,” said I to Mr. Colden, “ they are supplied every day with such soup and such meat as this, how can you manage to get rid of them, at least of such as live only to eat ???

“With them we do as the Quaker did with his adversary,” replied Mr. Colden, smiling: “he took hold of him in a rough manner. “How now?' said the enemy. You are really not going to strike me : that is against your religious principles! No,' said the Quaker, “I shall not strike thee; but I shall keep hold of thee in a very uncomfortable manner.?"

Bergfalk was as much pleased as I was in seeing this noble, flourishing institution, which the people of the New World have established for the unfortunate children of the Old; and I enjoyed no less the peculiar individuality of Mr. Colden, one of those strong characters who sustain such institutions as easily as a mother her child upon her arm-a man strong of heart, soul, and body. For such men I feel an admiration which is akin to a child-like love; I would willingly serve them as a daughter. They have the magnetism which is ascribed to the mountain character.

I visited also with Mrs. S. the home established for the restoration of fallen women; it appeared to me excellent, and well arranged. Miss Sedgwick is one of the managers, and does a very great deal of good. She reads to the women stories which call forth their better nature, and talks to them cordially and wisely. She must be one of the most active supporters of this reformatory home.

•Mrs. S., who is a gentle, motherly, and domestic woman, as well as a good citizen even beyond the sphere of her own house—and every noble woman ought to be the same -was an amiable hostess to me; and the only thing which I lacked was, that I was unable to talk more with her. But these schools, asylums, etc., they are in the highest degree excellent and estimable; but ah! how they weary me! Mrs. S. conducted me to the house of Miss Lynch, where I saw a whole crowd of people, and among them Bryant the poet, who has a beautiful, characteristic head, with silvery locks.

From Miss Lynch's I was taken by a kind and respectable professor-Hackitt I believe he was called—to the Elysian Fields, a park-like tract near New York, and so called from their beautiful idyllian scenery; and they were beautiful as an idyll—and the day and the air-nay, my child, we have nothing like them in the Old World! at least, I have never felt any such. I drink in this air as I would drink nectar, and feel it almost like a pleasant intoxication; it must belong to this time of the year, and to the magic life of this Indian summer. I wandered in the Elysian Fields with really Elysian feelings, saw flock: of white sails coming down the Hudson, like winged bird: of peace, and I allowed my thoughts to float up it to the friends there, the new and yet so dear; far from me, and yet so near. It was an enchanting day, that day in the Elysian Fields of the New World. My professor was good and wise, as Mentor in “ Les Aventures de Télémaque,” and I fancy wiser, because he did not talk, but followed me with fatherly kindness, and seemed to enjoy my pleasure. In the evening he conducted me across the East River to Rose Cottage, in that quiet Brooklyn; and there I shall rest some days, a little apart from the world.

Now a word about my new friends, Marcus and Rebecca. They are a very peculiar kind of people; they have a something about them remarkably simple and humane, serene, and beautiful, which seems to me of angelic puri. ty. The first day that I dined at their house they called me by my name, and wished that I should call them the same; and now I live with them familiarly as with a brother and a sister. They have been, and are indescribably kind to me. The first day I was there I was somewhat out of humor; I suffered from the cold, especially in my bed-room, and from having to place myself in new circumstances, to which I always have a repugnance. But they had a stove set in my chamber, made it warm and comfortable, and I soon felt myself at home with them, and happy.

Marcus is also what is called a self-made man. But I rather suspect that our Lord himself was of his kind, both in heart and head. His countenance reminds me of Sterne's expression about a face—" it resembles a blessing." His wife, Rebecca, comes of the race of Quakers, and has something about her of that quiet, inward light, and that reflectiveness which, it is said, belongs to this sect. Besides this, she has much talent and wit, and it is especially agreeable to hear her converse. Her exterior is pleasing, without being beautiful; her mouth remarkably fresh and cheerful, and her figure classically beauti. ful. Both husband and wife are true patriots and warm friends of humanity, loving the ideal in life, and living for it. They are people of affluence, and are able to do much good. They are interested in Socialism, but rather as amateurs than as the actually initiated. Yet Marcus has associated several of his clerks with him in his business. But he is one of that class who do not like to talk about what they do, or that others should busy themselves therewith. His wife and friends like to talk about him; and I do not wonder at it. The family consists of three chil. dren. Eddy, the eldest boy, twelve years old-and who might serve as a model either for a Cupid or for one of Raphael's angels-has a quiet, thoughtful demeanor, with great refinement of expression. Little Jenny, the only daughter, is a sweet little girl ; and then comes “ the baby,” a yellow-haired little lad, with his father's brow and clear blue eyes; a delicate, but delightful child.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »