Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

which place he wrote me, under date of October 9, 1840, as follows. I give his own orthography, to show that, although acquainted with our language to such a degree that he was able to lecture in it, as Kossuth did, and to speak it with uncommon readiness, he must have learnt it by ear, like many others with which he was familiar enough for ordinary purposes.

"One of my last occupation upon American soil is one of a painful, and at the same times pleasant nature, to wit, to address you, my noble, my chivalerouse, my excellent friend. My God revard you and may he for the benefit of mankind scater many such persons trought the world — it would prevent misantropy and it would serve as the best antidote against crimes and deceptions, persecutions and sufferings. O could you know all what I suffered in my eventful life, you would indead belive that no romance is equal to reality. But — basta—God is great and merciful, and I never yit and I hope never will find occassion to doubt the wunda

ful ways of his mercy Perhaps

no times since I cam to America, I had occassion for more patience than during the first days of my arrival in N. Y. Harshed by law, cut by some friends, findig once more by European new a change in Greece, with my funds low, I began indeed to feel bitterly my sad fate — when by one of this suden fricks which I offen prouve that man must never despair all changed quit casualy it was raported to the German Association that I am her:—immediately I was invited to ther mittings, the French Lafayette Club followed suit, and yesterday evning your humble servant was by acclamation apointed VicePresident of the General Union of all the forign assotiations of the city of New York (the German Tepcanoe Club 30 pers. excepted)

"I am very sorry that I cannot tell you where I go—I sail in the cliper armed brig Fairfield for the West India unter very avantageouse circumstances a eccelent pay rang and emoluments you may guess the rest

be assured it is a honorable a very honorable employment. My next for the South wia Havanna or New York or New Orleans will inform you of the rest."

Accompanying this letter was a slip from one of the large New York dailies confirming his story, and reporting the resolutions passed at a great public meeting, of which A. Sarony was President and Chairman, John Bratish, Vice-President, and George Sonne, Secretary. "The call of the meeting was read and adopted," says the report, "when General Bratish addressed the assemblage in the English, French, and German languages, in the most patriotic and eloquent manner. His speech was received with enthusiastic and repeated applause."

And here for a long season we- lost sight of the General, though two or three circumstances occurred, each trivial in itself, but all tending to give a new aspect to the affair. Just before he left us, we had a small party at our house, where, among other amusements, a game called "The Four Elements " was introduced. When it was all over, and our visitors were gone, a costly handkerchief, with a lace border, was not to be found. It had been last seen in the hands of General Bratish. Having no idea that, if he had pocketed it by mistake, it would not be returned, we waited patiently,— very patiently, — supposing he might have thrown aside his company dresscoat without examining the pockets, and that when he put it on again the handkerchief would be forthcoming, of course. But no, — nothing was heard of it, until one evening at a lecture my wife suddenly caught my arm, and, pointing to a white handkerchief the General was flourishing within reach, said, "There's Aunt Mary's handkerchief, now!" — " Nonsense, my dear !" — " It is, I tell you; I can see where he has ripped off the lace." I thought her beside herself; but still — why the sudden substitution of a large red Spitalfields for the white handkerchief? "Perhaps," said I to my wife, — "perhaps the handkerchief was not marked, and he did not know where to find the owner."—"But it was marked, and he knows the owner as well as you do," was the reply. Of course, I had nothing more to say; and so I laughed the exhibition off, as a sort of pas de mouchoir, like that which brought Forrest into a controversy with Macready.

And then something else happened. I missed the only copy I had in the world of "Niagara and Goldau," which he had borrowed of me and returned, with emphasis; and many months after he had disappeared, I received a volume of poems from the heart of Germany, entitled, " Der Heimathgruss, Eine Pfingstgabe von Mathilde von Tabouillot, geborene Giester," published at Wesel, 1840, with a letter from the lady herself, thanking me with great warmth and earnestness for my pamphlet in defence of General British. Putting that and that together, I began to have a suspicion that my copy of " Niagara and Goldau" had been presented to the authoress by my friend, the General, — perhaps in the name of the author.

Yet more. While these little incidents were accumulating and seething and simmering, I received a letter from Louis Bratish, in beautiful French, dated Birmingham, 7th October, 1841, in which he thanked me most heartily for what I had done as the friend of his brother, "John Bratish," — withholding the "General,"— and begging me to consider it as coming from the family; and about the same time, another letter, and the last I ever received, from the General himself. It was dated "Torrington House, near London, 12th October, 1841," and contained the following passages: —

"I cannot account for the very extraordinary silence in speite of all my request that you would at leas be so kind as to inform me if you realy don't wish to hear more from me. I know your Hart too well not to be persuaded that it must be some mistake or some intrigue.

"At last my family begin to understand how much they did wrong me and I have the pleasure to enclose you a letter of my yungest brother, which is now at the house of Messrs. Toniola brothers, a volunteer partner, to learn

the english

"Mr. Josua Dodge, late Special Agent of the U. S. in Germany, is returning in one or two days to America; this gentleman in consequence of his mission crossed and recrossed all Germany and Belgium. I met him in Germany; he was present at Stuttgard in a most critical moment, when, denunced by the Germanic Federation (in the name of Austria) I was in iminent peril. He acted as a true American, boldly stepped forward, asked the way and the werfore and united with my firmness, the American passports where respected, and Mr. Dodge succeded to get an official acknowledgment that nothing was known against my moral character, and they took refuge upon some little irregularity in the passport He, my

friends and my family wished very much that I should at lease for some times rethum to America (pour resott bien juste) but the recollection is too

bitter yet Several Americans

are now visiting my sister and her husband in Belgium — among them Mr. Bishop of Cont. and Mr. Rowly, C. S. of N. Y. — What would I give to see J. N and his amable family! . . . . "My address is Monsieur Le General Bratish (Eliovich), raccommande- a. Mons. Latard, Vervois Belgique.

"P. S. Great excitement at London. The Morning Chronicle is out upon me for having done I don't know what in North America and Germany. All fidle-stik. I send you the paper to see how eassy John Bull is gulled. I could send you some important news. Attention!!! keep your powder dray!" Nothing more was heard of our mysterious General until a letter fell into my hands, purporting to be written by his brother Luigi. It was in choice Italian, and dated Birmingham, 16th April, 1842, charging the "Caro Fratello" with having deceived him about Mr. Everett, complaining of his behavior to Dr. Sleigh and others who had befriended him; telling him that Dr. Sleigh, to whom he referred, doubted his Spanish commission, and believed him to have been a member of the "Hunter's Association," — a band of horse-thieves in Canada,— and signifying, in language not to be misunderstood, that the family had given up all hope of him.

The next information we had was that the General had turned up at Havre, and was about being married to the daughter of a wealthy banker, and carried a commission as MajorGeneral from the Governor of Maine! And then, after a lapse of two years, that he had been travelling with a British nobleman, whose baggage he had run away with, — that he was arrested for the offence, and tried in Malta, I do not know with what result; but I have now before me a supplement of the Malta Times of October 9, 1844, in Italian, Spanish, and English, wherein he refers to the testimonials of my friend, Albert Smith, Ex-M. C, and Levi Cutter, Mayor of Portland; complains bitterly of the late Mr. Carr, Minister of the United States at Constantinople; and says, among other things, what of itself were enough to show that he had claimed to be a General of the State of Maine, and thereby settling the question most conclusively and forever. His language is: "To one charge of Mr. Everett, I plead guilty; to wit, to have usurped, or succeeded to gain the good opinion of respectable people in the United States, and here I am glad, at the same time, to put Mr. Everett's mind at rest; he thinks it possible that I may be a General of the State of Maine, but he admits only the possibility, and expresses the hope that it

may not be so, — this, after the pretension to know my birthplace, life, death, and miracles, and an assertion on his part to have had, or seen, a correspondence with the Executive of Maine, in my regard, is very diplomatic — very ! — but his Excellency may be easy on this head. I do not share now the military glory and honor of fellowship with that very numerous body of generals of the United States Militia; and if evidence may be produced that I was attended by a staff, I assure his Excellency, that it was only to have my boots cleaned by a captain, to be shaved by a major, to be helped by a colonel, and to get my meals at the private personal headquarters of a Gineral at one dollar per day."

And here I stop. From that day to this, nothing has been heard of General Bratish; but I should not be surprised to have him reappear, as if he had risen from the dead, in some new character, and so managing as to deceive the very elect. No such pretender has appeared since Cagliostro; and nobody ever succeeded so well in misleading public opinion, and embroiling so many persons of consideration, both in this country and in Europe, not excepting the Chevalier d'Eon, and the Princess Cariboo. Many other strange things might be related of Bratish, as, for example, his great speech in the Hungarian Diet, reported in the Allgemeine Zeitung,— the most impudent forgery of our day. But this paper is already longer than I intended; and I have only to add, that I have reason to believe now that he was indeed a native of Trieste, and that Colonel Stille and Mr. Mcllvaine were right in saying what they did of him generally, though wrong in many of the particulars upon which they chiefly relied.

A TOUR IN THE DARK.

ONE February evening, more than a year ago, after a drive of fourteen miles over a lonely Kentucky road, I drew rein in front of a huge, rambling wooden building, standing solitary in the midst of the forest.

There was no village in sight to account for the presence of so large a structure, no adjacent farms, and, except a little patch in front of the house, no fields, — nothing but the solemn woods which nearly shut it in on every side.

I did not ask if this was the Mammoth Cave Hotel. I knew it without asking.

Here I was, then, at last, — about to see what I had desired to see ever since I was a boy!

But delay frequently comes with the certainty of accomplishing any longcherished desire; and though I had driven with a hasty whip from the railway station fourteen miles away, and though the hotel proprietor offered to procure me a guide that evening, my haste to see the cave was unaccountably over. I ordered a fire in my room, and concluded to wait until morning.

It was too early in the season for the usual summer visitors, and I found myself the sole guest in this big, lonesome caravansary, that looked as though a dozen old-fashioned Dutch farm-houses had been placed in the midst of a wood-lot, and then connected by the roofs, the whole forming one straggling, weather-stained, labyrinthine building, full of little nests of rooms, high-pitched gables, cumbrous outside chimney-stacks, cavernous fireplaces, and low, wide corridors open at either, end, where were uncertain shadows, and draughts of damp air that whispered and moaned all night long.

In the evening, as I sat before the blazing pile of logs in the fireplace, some one knocked at my door, and a negro servant looked in. Would I like to see the guide?

"Certainly. What is his name?" . "Nicholas, sah, Nicholas! But we all calls him Ole Nick."

Rather an ominous name, to be sure! but then, if one goes to the regions below, what guide so appropriate?

On presentation, his Majesty proved to be an interesting black man, considerably past middle age; wrinkled, as none but a genuine negro ever becomes; a short, broad, strong man, with a grizzled beard and mustache, quiet but steady eyes, grave in his demeanor, and concise in his conversation. He tells me of two routes by which I can make a tour through his dominions. The shortest one will require six hours to travel, and at the farthest will take me to the banks of the river Styx, six miles from the entrance to the cave. The other route will take the whole day, and will lead as far as the so-called "Maelstrom,"

— a singular pit, a hundred and seventy-five feet deep, — and place nine miles of gloom between me and this outer world. And with these facts to be juggled and distorted in ridiculous combinations with remembrances of many persons and places in the vagaries of dreams, I went to bed and to sleep.

As the sun came up, we went down,

— my guide and I, — down a rocky path along the side of a ravine that grew narrower and deeper until we came to a dilapidated house where the ravine seemed to end. Stepping upon the rotting piazza of this old house and facing "right about," there opened before us, as broad and lofty as the entrance to some ancient Egyptian temple, the mouth of the cave. From where we stood, a path, as wide as an ordinary city sidewalk and as smooth, sloped gently downward through the portal.

Turning to the right to avoid the drip of a limpid stream, — that falls over the entrance like a perpetual libation to Pluto, — a few minutes' walk places us many hundred feet vertically beneath the surface, and in the "Rotunda/' an enlargement of the cave, which looks about as large as the interior of Trinity Church, but is in reality larger; being quite as lofty, and measuring at its greatest diameter a hundred and seventy-five feet.

Here, as we paused to look, with our flaring lamps poised above our heads, a strange squeaking noise was heard, which seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere in particular. I glanced inquiringly at my guide, in answer to which he simply replied," Bats," and pointed to the walls,, where, on closer inspection, I found these creatures clinging by thousands, literally blackening the wall, and hanging in festoons a foot or two in length. The manner of forming these festoons was curious enough: three or four bats having first taken hold of some sharp projecting ledge with their hindmost claws, and hanging thereby with their heads downward, others had seized their leathery wings at the second joint, and they too, hanging with downward heads, had offered their wings as holdingplaces for still others; and so the unsightly pendent mass had grown, until in some instances it contained as many as twenty or thirty bats. The wonder seemed that four or five pairs of little claws not so large as those of a mouse could sustain a weight that must have been in some instances as much as three pounds.

The mysterious influence of the approaching spring had penetrated even into these abodes of darkness, and aroused in the bats a little life after their long hibernation; and their weak, plaintive squeak, which had something impish in it withal, came from every shadowy recess, and from the dark vault overhead. This "Rotunda" should have been called the "Bower of Bats."

As they all hung too high to reach by other means, I flung my stick at random upward against the wall, and brought down two of the black masses, that writhed helpless upon the stony

floor of the cave. Poor, palpitating things, unable to loose their clutch upon each other's wings, it was hard to say whether they were more- disgusting or pitiful. What Eshcol clusters these, to bear back from this Canaan of darkness, saying, "This is the fruit of it!"

Such an immense number of bats had harbored and died here from time immemorial, that more than a hundred acres of the earthy floor of the cave had, from their decomposing remains, become impregnated with nitre; and during the years 1812 to 1814, a party of saltpetre-makers took up their residence here. They made great vats in the cave, in which they lixiviated the impregnated earth, and by wooden pipes conveyed it to a place where they boiled the water drawn from the vats. Their rude mechanical contrivances are standing yet, in the same positions in which they were left so long ago; and so dry and pure is the air of the cave, that, though more than half a century has passed, these wooden pipes and vats show no more indication of decay than they did when first put in. In one place my guide dug up from the clayey floor — where it was their custom to feed the oxen employed in drawing the materials to and fro — some corn-cobs, very dry and light, but as perfect as though they were only a few months old.

The footprints of the oxen, made in the earth that was then moist, are plainly visible in many places; and the clay has since become almost as hard as stone, so that I found it difficult to make any impression in it with the point of my pocket-knife.

A few minutes' walk brought us in front of the "Giant's Coffin," an enormous rock forty feet in length, which has fallen from the ceiling. The resemblance to a coffin is so strangely exact, that, having heard mention of it before coming in, I recognized it at the first glance. The upper part of the rock is composed of a stratum whiter than the rest, and gives it the appearance of having a border of white ornamentation around it, just below the lid. It

« ПредишнаНапред »