Графични страници
PDF файл

words used by Mr. Webster himself, can not be recalled, nor the inimitable bonhommie with which it was related by him.”

When entertaining a party at dinner or holding a levee, Mr. Webster always looked the gentleman superbly; when out on a fishing excursion, he could not be taken for anything but an angler; and when on a shooting frolic, he was a genuine rustic Nimrod. And hereby hangs an incident. He was once tramping over the Marshfield meadows, shooting ducks, when he encountered a couple of Boston sporting snobs, who happened to be in trouble just then about crossing a bog. Not knowing Mr. Webster, and believing him to be strong enough to help them over the water, they begged to be conveyed to a dry point upon his back. The request was of course complied with, and after the cockneys had paid him a quarter of a dollar each for his trouble, they inquired if Old Webster was at home,' for as they had had poor luck in shooting, they would honor him with a call. Mr. Webster replied, that the gentleman alluded to was not at home just then, but would be as soon as he could walk to the house,' and added, that he would be glad to see them at dinner.' As may be presumed, the cockneys were never seen to cross the threshold of Old Webster.'

:"") “Two hours before he was to appear before the most magnificent of audiences, on the occasion of his last speech in New York, at Niblo's saloon, Mr. Webster was telling stories at his dinner-table, as unconcernedly as if he was only intending to take his usual nap. On being questioned as to what he proposed to say, he remarked as follows: 'I am going to be excessively learned and classical, and shall talk much about the older citizens of Greece. When I make my appearance in Broadway to-morrow, people will accost me thus—Good morning Mr. WEBSTER. Recently from Greece, I understand. How did you leave Mr. Pericles and Mr. ARISTOPHANES ?'

The following is one among the many New Hampshire anecdotes which Mr. Webster was in the habit of occasionally narrating to his friends. It is given in nearly the narrator's own words:

“Soon after commencing the practice of my profession at Portsmouth, I was waited on by an old acquaintance of my father's, resident in an adjacent county, who wished to engage my professional services. Some years previous, he had rented a farm, with the clear understanding that he could purchase it, after the expiration of his lease, for one thousand dollars. Finding the soil productive, he soon determined to own it, and as he laid aside money for the purchase, he was prompted to improve what he felt certain he would possess. But his landlord finding the property greatly increased in value, coolly refused to receive the one thousand dollars, when in due time it was presented; and when his extortionate demand of double that sum was refused, he at once brought an action of ejectment. The man had but the one thousand dollars, and an unblemished reputation, yet I willingly undertook the


“The opening argument of the plaintiff's attorney left me little ground for hope. He stated that he could prove that my client hired the farm, but there was not a word in the lease about the sale, nor was there a word spoken about the sale when the lease was signed, as he should prove by a witness. In short, his was a clear case, and I left the court-room at dinner time with feeble hopes of success. By chance, I sat at the table next a newly-commissioned militia officer, and a brother-lawyer began to joke him about his lack of martial knowledge ; 'Indeed,' he jocosely remarked, 'you should write down the orders, and get old Wto beat them into your sconce, as I saw him this morning, with a paper in his hand, teaching something to young M in the court house entry.”

“Can it be, I thought, that old W-, the plaintiff in the case, was instructing young M, who was his reliable witness ?

“ After dinner, the court was re-opened, and M-was put on the stand. He was examined by the plaintiff's counsel, and certainly told a clear, plain story, repudiating all knowledge of any agreement to sell. When he had concluded, the opposite counsel

with a triumphant glance turned to me, and asked me if I was satisfied ? Not quite,' I replied.

I had noticed a piece of paper protruding from M-'s pocket, and hastily approaching him. I seized it before he had the least idea of my intention. 'Now,' I asked. ' tell me if this paper does not detail the story you have so clearly told. and is it not false ? ' The witness hung his head with shame; and when the paper was found to be wnat I nad supposed, and in the very handwriting of old W- he lost his case at once. Nay, there was such a storm of indignation against him, that he soon removed to the West.

“ Years afterwards, visiting New Hampshire, I was the guest of my professional brethren at a public dinner ; and toward the close of the festivities, I was asked if I would solve a great doubt by answering a question “Certainly.' 'Well then, Mr. Webster, we have often wondered how you knew what was in M—'s pocket.'

Of Mr. Webster's life it may be said, " that nothing became it more” than the manner in which he consigned it to "the God who gave it.” A lover and a habitual reader of the Bible, he derived in his dying hours his chiefest support from the divine consolations which its teachings afford. The “ rod and the staff” of the Almighty were his support, as he entered upon the valley of the shadow of death. He who never while living spake or thought, save with awful reverence, of the power and presence of God, went calmly to meet his Maker in the world beyond the grave. His profound intellect was clear, serene, unclouded to the last, triumphing over all the infirmities of physical decay. In the sententious and beautiful words of another, “We see, in his deportment at the hour of his last great trial, the graceful submission of a truly majestic nature. We behold a lofty and commanding intellect becoming obedient to the summons which ordered him from a world he loved but too well, forgetting none of the duties, the demands or the proprieties of mortal existence about

to close. His life did not end as the lives of most end, with thoughts of self merely, or struggles to forget self. He recognized the condition of those friends he was about to leave behind him, with a singular mixture of consideration, tenderness, and collectedness of soul. He was not only cool and self-possessed himself, his vigorous spirit even buoyed up and animated those who surrounded him in his last moments. He recognized his own condition in the same spirit of philosophic and self-sustaining contemplation. He looked steadfastly in the face of the grim messenger, and calmly held out the hand of recognition as he approached. He accompanied him without a shudder within the gates of eternity, which swung wide to receive him. He passed the threshold with a tranquil majesty, casting upon the world a last look which was at once his calmest and noblest." Like the sun itself, he “Shone largest at his setting.”

His resting place is where it should be; in the fields which he has tilled; near the haunts alike of his hours of sublime contemplation, and his brighter and more genial moods; within sight of the window from which he looked, in the pauses of his study, upon the white tomb-stones which he had placed over his family—all but one

gone before !

It is all over! The last struggle is past; the struggle, the strife, the anxiety, the pain, the turmoil of life is over : the tale is told, and finished, and ended. It is told and done; and the seal of death is set upon it. Henceforth that great life, marked at every step! chronicled in journals; waited on by crowds ; told to the whole country by telegraphic tongues of flames—that great life shall be but a history, a biography, 'a tale told in an evening tent.' In the tents of life it shall long be recited; but no word shall reach the ear of that dead sleeper by the ocean shore. Fitly will he rest there. Like the granite rock, like the heaving ocean, was his mind! Let the rock guard his rest: let the ocean sound his dirge !"


Mr. Webster died at Marshfield, on Sunday morning, October 24th, 1852.

His health as has been intimated, had failed during the summer from his severe public labors and from the progress of an obscure disease in the liver of long standing, accelerated, no doubt, by the shock which his whole system had received when he was thrown from his carriage in the preceding May. He was aware of his decline, and watched it with a careful observation ; frequently giving intimations to those nearest to him of the failure in strength which he noticed, and of the result which he apprehended must be approaching. Towards the end of September he seemed, indeed, to rally a little ; but it was soon apparent to others, no less than to himself, that, as the days passed on, each brought with it some slight proof of a gradual decay in his bodily powers and rescources.

On Sunday evening, October 10, he desired a friend, who was sitting with him, to read to him the passage in the ninth chapter of St. Mark's Gospel, where the man brings his child to Jesus to be cured, and the Saviour tells him, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth; and straightway the father of the child cried out, with tears, Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” “Now,” he continued, “turn to the tenth chapter of St. John, and read from the verse where it is said, “Many of the Jews believed on him.'” After this he dictated a few lines, and directed them to be signed with his name and dated Sunday Evening, Oct.

« ПредишнаНапред »