« 前へ次へ »
and, by Jove, should be one day." So Nolan was permitted to join the circle one afternoon when a lot of them sat on deck smoking and reading aloud. Well, so it happened that in his turn Nolan took the book and read to the others; and he read very well, as I know. Nobody in the circle knew a line of the poem, only it was all magic and Border chivalry, and was ten thousand years ago. Poor Nolan read steadily through the fifth canto and then began, without a thought of what was coming,
Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said, It seems impossible to us that anybody ever heard this for the first time; but all these fellows did then, and
poor Nolan himself went on, still unconsciously or mechanically,
This is my own, my native land ! Then they all saw that something was to pay ; but he expected to get through, I suppose, turned a little pale, but plunged on,
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burned,
From wandering on a foreign strand ?
If such there breathe, go, mark him well, By this time the men were all beside themselves, wishing there was any way to make him turn over two pages; but he had not quite presence of mind for that; he gagged a little, colored crimson, and staggered on,
For him no minstrel raptures swell;
The wretch, concentred all in self, and here the poor fellow choked, could not go on, but started up, swung the book into the sea, vanished into his stateroom, “And by Jove,” said Phillips, "we did not see him for two months again."
He never read aloud again, unless it was the Bible or Shakespeare, or something else he was sure of. But it was not that merely. He never entered in with the other young men exactly as a companion again. He was always shy afterwards, very seldom spoke, unless he was spoken to, except to a very few friends. He lighted up occasionally, but generally he had the nervous, tired look of a heart-wounded man.
Till he grew very old, he went aloft a great deal. He always kept up his exercise ; and I never heard that he was ill. If any other man was ill, he was the kindest nurse in the world; and he knew more than half the surgeons do. Then if anybody was sick or died, or if the captain wanted him to, on any other occasion, he was always ready to read prayers. I bave said that he read beautifully.
My own acquaintance with Philip Nolan began six or eight years after the English war, on my first voyage after I was appointed a midshipman. It was in the first days after our Slave-Trade treaty, while the Reigning House, which was still the House of Virginia, had still a sort of sentimentalism about the suppression of the horrors of the Middle Passage, and something was sometimes done that way. We were in the South Atlantic on that business.
I first came to understand anything about “the man without a country one day when we overhauled a dirty little schooner which had slaves on board. An officer was sent to take charge of her, and, after a few minutes, he sent back his boat to ask that some one might be sent him who could speak Portuguese. Nolan stepped out and said lie should be glad to interpret, if the captain wished, as he understood the language. The captain thanked him, fitted out another boat with him, and in this boat it was my luck
When we got there, it was such a scene as you
seldom and never want to. Nastiness beyond account, and chaos run loose in the midst of the nastiness. There were not a great many of the negroes; but by way of making what there were understand that they were free, Vaughan had had their hand-cuffs and ankle-cuffs knocked off, and, for convenience' sake, was putting them upon the rascals of the schooner's crew.
As we came on deck. Varghan looked down from a hogshead, on which he had mounted in desperation, and said :
“For God's love, is there anybody who can make these wretches understand something?"
Nolan said he could speak Portuguese, and one or two fine-looking Kroomen were dragged out, who, as it had been found already, had worked for the Portuguese on the coast at Fernando Po.
“Tell them they are free,” said Vaughan; “and tell them that these rascals are to be hanged as soon as we can get rope enough.”
Nolan "put that into Spanish,” – that is, he explained it in such Portuguese as the Kroomen could understand, and they in turn to such of the negroes as could understand them. Then there was a yell of delight, clinching of fists, leaping and dancing, kissing of Nolan's feet, and a general rush made to the hogshead by way of spontaneous worship of Vaughan.
“ Tell them,” said Vaughan, well pleased, “that I will take them all to Cape Palmas.”
This did not answer so well. Cape Palmas was practically as far from the homes of most of them as New Orleans or Rio Janeiro was; that is, they would be eternally separated from home there. And their interpreters, as we could understand, instantly said, " Ah, non Palmas.” The drops stood on poor Nolan's white forehead, as he hushed the men down, and said:
“He says, 'Not Palmas.' He says, “Take us home, take us to our own country, take us to our own house, take us to our own pickaninnies and our own women.' He says has an old father and mother who will die if they do not see him. And this one says he left his people all sick, and paddled down to Fernando to beg the white doctor to come and help them, and that these devils caught him in the bay just in sight of home, and that he has never seen anybody from home since then. And this one says,” choked out Nolan, “ that he has not heard a word from his home in six months, while he has been locked up in an infernal barracoon."
Vaughan always said he grew gray himself while Nolan struggled through this interpretation. I, who did not understand anything of the passion involved in it, saw that the very elements were melting with fervent heat, and that
something was to pay somewhere. Even the negroes themselves stopped howling, as they saw Nolan's agony, and Vaughan's almost equal agony of sympathy. As quick as he could get words, he said:
“Tell them yes, yes, yes; tell them they shall go to the Mountains of the Moon, if they will. If I sail the schooner through the Great White Desert, they shall go home!”
And after some fashion Nolan said so. And then they all fell to kissing him again, and wanted to rub his nose with theirs.
But he could not stand it long; and getting Vaughan to say he might go back, he beckoned me down into our boat. As we lay back in the stern-sheets and the men gave way, he said to me : Youngster, let that show you what it is to be without a family, without a home, and without a country. And if you are ever tempted to say a word or to do a thing that shall put a bar between you and your family, your home, and your country, pray God in his mercy to take you that instant home to His own heaven. Stick by your family, boy; forget you have a self, while you do everything for them. Think of your home, boy; write and send, and talk about it. Let it be nearer and nearer to your thought, the farther you have to travel from it; and rush back to it when you are free, as that poor black slave is doing now. And for your country, boy,” and the words rattled in his throat, “ and for that flag,” and he pointed to the ship, “never dream a dream but of serving her as she bids you, though the service carry you through a thousand hells. No matter what happens to you, no matter who flatters you or who abuses you, never look at another flag, never let a night pass but you pray God to bless that flag. Remember, boy, that behind all these men you have to do with, behind officers, and government, and people even, there is the Country Herself, your Country, and that you belong to Her as you belong to your own mother. Stand by Her, boy, as you would stand by your mother, if those devils there had got hold of her to-day!”
After this cruise I never saw Nolan again. The other men told me that in those fifteen years he aged very fast. as well he might indeed, but that he was still the same gentle, uncomplaining, silent sufferer that he ever was, bearing as best he could his self-appointed punishment. And now it seems the dear old fellow is dead. He has found a home at last, and a country
Since writing this, and while considering whether or no I would print it, as a warning to the young Nolans and Vallandighams and Tatnalls of to-day of what it is to throw away a country, I have received a letter which gives an account of Nolan's last hours. It removes all my doubts about telling this story. Here is the conclusion of the letter:
But in an hour, when the doctor went in gently, he found Nolan had breathed his life away with a smile. He had something pressed close to his lips. It was his father's badge of the Order of the Cincinnati.
We looked in his Bible, and there was a slip of paper at the place where he had marked the text:
They desire a country, even a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God : for He hath prepared for them a city." On this slip of paper he had written :
Bury me in the sea ; it has been my home, and I love it. But will not some one set up a stone for my memory at Fort Adams or at Orleans, that my disgrace may not be more than I ought to bear? Say on it:
“ In Memory of
her; but no man deserved less at her hands." 1 1 Used with the kind permission of the publishers, Little, Brown and Conipany.