Palmetto-Leaves
Гарриет Бичер-Стоу

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Palmetto-Leaves
Harriet Stowe

Stowe Harriet Beecher

Palmetto-Leaves

NOBODY'S DOG

YES, here he comes again! Look at him! Whose dog is he? We are sitting around the little deck-house of the Savannah steamer, in that languid state of endurance which befalls voyagers, when, though the sky is clear, and the heavens blue, and the sea calm as a looking-glass, there is yet that gentle, treacherous, sliding rise and fall, denominated a ground-swell.

Reader, do you remember it? Of all deceitful demons of the deep, this same smooth, slippery, cheating ground-swell is the most diabolic. Because, you see, he is a mean imp, an underhanded, unfair, swindling scamp, who takes from you all the glory of endurance. Fair to the eye, plausible as possible, he says to you, "What's the matter? What can you ask brighter than this sky, smoother than this sea, more glossy and calm than these rippling waves? How fortunate that you have such an exceptionally smooth voyage!"

And yet look around the circle of pale faces fixed in that grim expression of endurance, the hands belonging to them resolutely clasping lemons, – those looks of unutterable, repressed disgust and endurance. Are these people seasick? Oh, no! of course not. "Of course," says the slippery, plausible demon, "these people can't be sick in this delightful weather, and with this delightful, smooth sea!"

But here comes the dog, now slowly drooping from one to another, – the most woe-begone and dejected of all possible dogs. Not a bad-looking dog, either; not without signs about him of good dog blood.

We say one to another, as we languidly review his points, "His hair is fine and curly: he has what might be a fine tail, were it not drooping in such abject dejection and discouragement. Evidently this is a dog that has seen better days, – a dog that has belonged to somebody, and taken kindly to petting." His long nose, and great limpid, half-human eyes, have a suggestion of shepherd-dog blood about them.

He comes and seats himself opposite, and gazes at you with a pitiful, wistful, intense gaze, as much as to say, "Oh! do you know where HE is? and how came I here? – poor, miserable dog that I am!" He walks in a feeble, discouraged way to the wheel-house, and sniffs at the salt water that spatters there; gives one lick, and stops, and comes and sits quietly down again: it's "no go."

"Poor fellow! he's thirsty," says one; and the Professor, albeit not the most nimble of men, climbs carefully down the cabin-stairs for a tumbler of water, brings it up, and places it before him. Eagerly he laps it all up; and then, with the confiding glance of a dog not unused to kindness, looks as if he would like more. Another of the party fills his tumbler, and he drinks that.

"Why, poor fellow, see how thirsty he was!" "I wonder whose dog he is?" "Somebody ought to see to this dog!" are comments passing round among the ladies, who begin throwing him bits of biscuit, which he snaps up eagerly.

"He's hungry too. Only see how hungry he is! Nobody feeds this dog. Whom does he belong to?"

One of the ship's stewards, passing, throws in a remark, "That dog's seasick: that's what's the matter with him. It won't do to feed that dog; it won't: it'll make terrible work."

Evidently some stray dog, that has come aboard the steamer by accident, – looking for a lost master, perhaps; and now here he is alone and forlorn. Nobody's dog!

One of the company, a gentle, fair-haired young girl, begins stroking his rough, dusty hair, which though fine, and capable of a gloss if well kept, now is full of sticks and straws. An unseemly patch of tar disfigures his coat on one side, which seems to worry him: for he bites at it now and then aimlessly; then looks up with a hopeless, appealing glance, as much as to say, "I know I am looking like a fright; but I can't help it. Where is HE? and where am I? and what does it all mean?"

But the caresses of the fair-haired lady inspire him with a new idea. He will be "nobody's dog" no longer: he will choose a mistress.

From that moment he is like a shadow to the fair-haired lady: he follows her steps everywhere, mournful, patient, with drooping tail and bowed head, as a dog not sure of his position, but humbly determined to have a mistress if dogged faith and persistency can compass it. She walks the deck; and tick, tick, pitapat, go the four little paws after her. She stops: he stops, and looks wistful. Whenever and wherever she sits down, he goes and sits at her feet, and looks up at her with eyes of unutterable entreaty.

The stewards passing through the deck-house give him now and then a professional kick; and he sneaks out of one door only to walk quietly round a corner and in at the other, and place himself at her feet. Her party laugh, and rally her on her attractions. She now and then pats and caresses and pities him, and gives him morsels of biscuit out of her stores. Evidently she belongs to the band of dog-lovers. In the tedious dulness of the three-days' voyage the dog becomes a topic, and his devotion to the fair-haired lady an engrossment.

We call for his name. The stewards call him "Jack: " but he seems to run about as well for one name as another; and it is proposed to call him "Barnes," from the name of the boat we are on. The suggestion drops, from want of energy in our very demoralized company to carry it. Not that we are seasick, one of us: oh, no! Grimly upright, always at table, and eating our three meals a day, who dares intimate that we are sick? Perish the thought! It is only a dizzy, headachy dulness, with an utter disgust for every thing in general, that creeps over us; and Jack's mournful face reflects but too truly our own internal troubles.

But at last here we are at Savannah and the Scriven House; and the obliging waiters rush out and take us in and do for us with the most exhaustive attention. Here let us remark on the differences in hotels. In some you are waited on sourly, in some grudgingly, in some carelessly, in some with insolent negligence. At the Scriven House you are received like long-expected friends. Every thing is at your hand, and the head waiter arranges all as benignantly as if he were really delighted to make you comfortable. So we had a golden time at the Scriven House, where there is every thing to make the wayfarer enjoy himself.

Poor Jack was overlooked in the bustle of the steamer and the last agonies of getting landed. We supposed we had lost sight of him forever. But lo! when the fair-haired lady was crossing the hall to her room, a dog, desperate and dusty, fought his way through the ranks of waiters to get to her.

"It isn't our dog; put him out gently; don't hurt him," said the young lady's father.

But Jack was desperate, and fought for his mistress, and bit the waiter that ejected him, and of course got kicked with emphasis into the street.

The next morning, one of our party, looking out of the window, saw Jack watching slyly outside of the hotel. Evidently he was waiting for an opportunity to cast himself at the feet of his chosen protectress.

"If I can only see her, all will yet be right," he says to himself.

We left Savannah in the cars that afternoon; and the last we heard of Jack, he had been seen following the carriage of his elected mistress in a drive to Bonaventure.

What was the end of the poor dog's romance we have never heard. Whether he is now blessed in being somebody's dog, – petted, cared for, caressed, – or whether he roves the world desolate-hearted as "nobody's dog," with no rights to life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness, we have no means of knowing.

But the measureless depth of dumb sorrow, want, woe, entreaty, that there are in a wandering dog's eyes, is something that always speaks much to us, – dogs in particular which seem to leave their own kind to join themselves to man, and only feel their own being complete when they have formed a human friendship. It seems like the ancient legends of those incomplete natures, a little below humanity, that needed a human intimacy to develop them. How much dogs suffer mentally is a thing they have no words to say; but there is no sorrow deeper than that in the eyes of a homeless, friendless, masterless dog. We rejoice, therefore, to learn that one portion of the twenty thousand dollars which the ladies of Boston have raised for "Our Dumb Animals" is about to be used in keeping a home for stray dogs.

Let no one sneer at this. If, among the "five sparrows sold for two farthings," not one is forgotten by our Father, certainly it becomes us not to forget the poor dumb companions of our mortal journey, capable, with us, of love and its sorrows, of faithfulness and devotion. There is, we are told, a dog who haunts the station at Revere, daily looking for the return of a master he last saw there, and who, alas! will never return. There are, many times and oft, dogs strayed from families, accustomed to kindness and petting, who have lost all they love, and have none to care for them. To give such a refuge, till they find old masters or new, seems only a part of Christian civilization.

The more Christ's spirit prevails, the more we feel for all that can feel and suffer. The poor brute struggles and suffers with us, companion of our mysterious travel in this lower world; and who has told us that he may not make a step upward in the beyond? For our own part, we like that part of the poor Indian's faith, —

"That thinks, admitted to yon equal sky,

His faithful dog shall bear him company."

So much for poor Jack. Now for Savannah. It is the prettiest of Southern cities, laid out in squares, planted with fine trees, and with a series of little parks intersecting each street, so that one can walk on fine walks under trees quite through the city, down to a larger park at the end of all. Here there is a fountain whose charming sculpture reminds one of those in the south of France. A belt of ever-blooming violets encircles it; and a well-kept garden of flowers, shut in by an evergreen hedge, surrounds the whole. It is like a little bit of Paris, and strikes one refreshingly who has left New York two days before in a whirling snow-storm.

The thing that every stranger in Savannah goes to see, as a matter of course, is Bonaventure.

This is an ancient and picturesque estate, some miles from the city, which has for years been used as a cemetery.

How shall we give a person who has never seen live-oaks or gray moss an idea of it?

Solemn avenues of these gigantic trees, with their narrow evergreen leaves, their gnarled, contorted branches feathered with ferns and parasitic plants, and draped with long swaying draperies of this gray, fairy-like moss, impress one singularly. The effect is solemn and unearthly; and the distant tombs, urns, and obelisks gleaming here and there among the shadows make it more impressive.

Beneath the trees, large clumps of palmetto, with their waving green fans, give a tropical suggestion to the scene; while yellow jessamine wreathe and clamber from tree to tree, or weave mats of yellow blossoms along the ground. It seems a labyrinth of fairy grottoes, and is in its whole impression something so unique, that no one should on any account miss of seeing it.

Savannah is so pleasant a city, and the hotels there are so well kept, that many find it far enough south for all their purposes, and spend the winter there. But we are bound farther towards the equator, and so here we ponder the question of our onward journey.

A railroad with Pullman sleeping-cars takes one in one night from Savannah to Jacksonville, Fla.; then there is a steamboat that takes one round by the open sea, and up through the mouth of the St. John's River, to Jacksonville. Any one who has come to see scenery should choose this route. The entrance of the St. John's from the ocean is one of the most singular and impressive passages of scenery that we ever passed through: in fine weather the sight is magnificent.

Besides this, a smaller boat takes passengers to Jacksonville by what is called the inside passage, – a circuitous course through the network of islands that lines the shore. This course also offers a great deal of curious interest to one new to Southern scenery, and has attractions for those who dread the sea. By any of these courses Florida may be gained in a few hours or days, more or less, from Savannah.

A FLOWERY JANUARY IN FLORIDA

Mandarin, Fla., Jan. 24, 1872

YES, it is done. The winter is over and past, and "the time of the singing of birds is come." They are at it beak and claw, – the red-birds, and the cat-birds, and the chattering jays, and the twittering sparrows, busy and funny and bright. Down in the swamp-land fronting our cottage, four calla-lily buds are just unfolding themselves; and in the little garden-plat at one side stand rose-geraniums and camellias, white and pink, just unfolding. Right opposite to the window, through which the morning sun is pouring, stands a stately orange-tree, thirty feet high, with spreading, graceful top, and varnished green leaves, full of golden fruit. These are the veritable golden apples of the Hesperides, – the apples that Atalanta threw in the famous race; and they are good enough to be run after. The things that fill the New-York market, called by courtesy "oranges," – pithy, wilted, and sour, – have not even a suggestion of what those golden balls are that weigh down the great glossy green branches of yonder tree. At the tree's foot, Aunt Katy does her weekly washing in the open air the winter through. We have been putting our tape-measure about it, and find it forty-three inches in girth; and for shapely beauty it has no equal. It gives one a sort of heart-thrill of possession to say of such beauty, "It is mine." No wonder the Scripture says, "He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot." The orange-tree is, in our view, the best worthy to represent the tree of life of any that grows on our earth. It is the fairest, the noblest, the most generous, it is the most upspringing and abundant, of all trees which the Lord God caused to grow eastward in Eden. Its wood is white and hard and tough, fit to sustain the immense weight of its fruitage. Real good ripe oranges are very heavy; and the generosity of the tree inclines it to fruit in clusters. We counted, the other day, a cluster of eighteen, hanging low, and weighing down the limb.

But this large orange-tree, and many larger than this, which are parts of one orchard, are comparatively recent growths. In 1835, every one of them was killed even with the ground. Then they started up with the genuine pluck of a true-born orange-tree, which never says die, and began to grow again. Nobody pruned them, or helped them, or cared much about them any way; and you can see trees that have grown up in four, five, and six trunks, – just as the suckers sprung up from the roots. Then, when they had made some progress, came the orange-insect, and nearly killed them down again. The owners of the land, discouraged, broke down the fences, and moved off; and for a while the land was left an open common, where wild cattle browsed, and rubbed themselves on the trees. But still, in spite of all, they have held on their way rejoicing, till now they are the beautiful creatures they are. Truly we may call them trees of the Lord, full of sap and greenness; full of lessons of perseverance to us who get frosted down and cut off, time and time again, in our lives. Let us hope in the Lord, and be up and at it again.

It is certainly quite necessary to have some such example before our eyes in struggling to found a colony here. We had such a hard time getting our church and schoolhouse! – for in these primitive regions one building must do for both. There were infinite negotiations and cases to go through before a site could be bought with a clear title; and the Freedman's Bureau would put us up a building where school could be taught on week-days, and worship held on Sundays: but at last it was done; and a neat, pleasant little place it was.

We had a little Mason and Hamlin missionary organ, which we used to carry over on Sundays, and a cloth, which converted the master's desk of week-days into the minister's pulpit; and as we had minister, organist, and choir all in our own family, we were sure of them at all events; and finally a good congregation was being gathered. On week-days a school for whites and blacks was taught, until the mismanagement of the school-fund had used up the sum devoted to common schools, and left us without a teacher for a year. But this fall our friend Mr. D., who had accepted the situation of county overseer of schools, had just completed arrangements to open again both the white and the black schools, when, lo! in one night our poor little schoolhouse was burned to the ground, with our Mason and Hamlin organ in it. Latterly it had been found inconvenient to carry it backward and forward; and so it had been left, locked in a closet, and met a fiery doom. We do not suppose any malicious incendiarism. There appears evidence that some strolling loafers had gotten in to spend the night, and probably been careless of their fire. The southern pine is inflammable as so much pitch, and will almost light with the scratch of a match. Well, all we had to do was to imitate the pluck of the orange-trees, which we immediately did. Our neighborhood had increased by three or four families; and a meeting was immediately held, and each one pledged himself to raise a certain sum. We feel the want of it more for the schoolhouse than even for the church. We go on with our Sunday services at each other's houses; but alas for the poor children, black and white, growing up so fast, who have been kept out of school now a year, and who are losing these best months for study! To see people who are willing and anxious to be taught growing up in ignorance is the sorest sight that can afflict one; and we count the days until we shall have our church and schoolhouse again. But, meanwhile, Mandarin presents to our eyes a marvellously improved aspect. Two or three large, handsome houses are built up in our immediate neighborhood. Your old collaborator of "The Christian Union" has a most fascinating place a short distance from us, commanding a noble sweep of view up and down the river. On our right hand, two gentlemen from Newark have taken each a lot; and the gables of the house of one of them overlook the orange-trees bravely from the river.

This southern pine, unpainted, makes a rich, soft color for a house. Being merely oiled, it turns a soft golden brown, which harmonizes charmingly with the landscape.

How cold is it here? We ask ourselves, a dozen times a day, "What season is it?" We say, "This spring," "This summer," and speak of our Northern life as "last winter." There are cold nights, and, occasionally, white frosts: but the degree of cold may be judged from the fact that the Calla Ethiopica goes on budding and blossoming out of doors; that La Marque roses have not lost their leaves, and have long, young shoots on them; and that our handmaiden, a pretty, young mulattress, occasionally brings to us a whole dish of roses and buds which her devoted has brought her from some back cottage in the pine-woods. We have also eaten the last fresh tomatoes from the old vines since we came; but a pretty severe frost has nipped them, as well as cut off a promising lot of young peas just coming into pod. But the pea-vines will still grow along, and we shall have others soon.
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