Illustrating, By A Moral Connecticut Tale, The Fallacy Of That Political Inspiration Which Is Derived From The Graves Of Great Men; Picturing The Solemn Impeachment Of A. Johnson, At The Bar Of The Senate, And Showing The Great Public Demoralization Ensuing Therefrom.
WASHINGTON, D. C, March 12, 1868.
As we survey Old Age, my boy, through a piece of Smoked Glass, and observe its impressive use of colored silk handkerchiefs; as we note how much respectability it can express in a sonorous cough, and how much knowledge of our own inmost thoughts and insignificant youth-tfulness it can impress upon us with the gleam of its remorseless spectacles, -as we survey and note these things, I say, we must indeed feel inspired with abject reverence for all that is past sixty, and refuse to consider a scratch-wig and gold-headed cane in any way detrimental to the hoary majesty of the patriarch.
But if these mere externals of benignant longevity make us feel, by comparison, like superfluous babes, what tender sensations lift the soft mist of nature's distillations to our eyes, when we see the tranquil hearts of the old clinging one to another in a friendship as deep and quiet as the long sleep in which they must soon be still! By that intuitive sympathy which makes natural friends of all men when they stand together upon the verge of a land equally strange to all, the withered hand clasps strong the withered hand on the borders of an unexplored Eternity.
In a village, on the blue Connecticut, where young shad arc salted and sold for the best No. 1 Mackerel, and negro suffrage is considered an insidious device of federal tyranny,-in this Arcadian hamlet, where innocence exists to a degree that is oppressive to the senses,-I once knew two venerable men, whoso friendship for each other I have never seen equalled, save by that of Secretary Seward for the Czar of Russia. For years they had peregrinated together in this vale of tears, until they actually became as like as brothers, even in physical aspect. The nose of one had the same caloric hue with the nose of the other. The breath of one exhaled the aroma of a liquid of the tropical isles, only to exactly counterfeit the West Indian fragrance labiated by the other. Even in the management of their tumblers they were like a man and his glass; and one, who remembered having seen them sober once (when they were children), said that they seemed much drawn together whenever they got into the same wagon.
At last one of them died suddenly of a distracted panorama of black monkeys, and was placed in the village graveyard, under a stone bearing the simple Latin inscription "Hic!"
The survivor uttered no lamentations; his only words for a week were but reiterations of the one syllable of his friend's epitaph; yet he shed tears to an extent which (inasmuch as he never touched water) made his frequent falls the evident result of "drop"-sy. One night, while returning in great mental anguish from a protracted interview with the glass-clerk of the village hotel, he was attacked with great violence by both sides of the road, and driven irregularly into the wayside inclosure where rested his ancient friend. And upon that friend's grave did he sadly stretch himself; nor was the touching pathos of the act lessened by his simple-hearted belief that he was retiring to bed at home, nor by his broken utterance of the word,- "Wairzerquilt?"
At morn they found him there, roused him from his slumber, and rudely dragged him before the 'squire.
" What is the matter with you ? " asked the latter.
The bereaved old man leaned heavily upon a constable for support, under his emotion, and said solemnly, -
" And is it friendship, too, which makes you speak in that thick way ? " queried the 'squire.
" Yeshir," murmured the aged mourner, - " Yeshir! "
" I am afraid," added the magistrate, " that you are intoxicated".
The venerable prisoner smiled seraphically; but, happening to remember himself, he immediately frowned terribly. Then he smiled very violently again, and laid himself more comfortably upon the constable. After which, he repeated his friend's epitaph several times - with tears.
" Noshir," said ho, - " noshir ! "
"How, then, does it happen," went on the 'squire, "that you are found in your present condition? "
"Condizh'n?" ejaculated the venerable Damon, forming his lips suddenly into the shape of a very tight rose, and swaying majestically - " Condizh'n ? Did you know my fren', shir? lie was a drink'nman. Yeshir!-an' • I caught it from siz-siz-szleepin' on's grave! "
I was reminded of this small and excellent Connecticut tale on Wednesday morning last, when the Venerable Gammon laid bare his benignant heart to such inalienable worshippers as had just invited him to take a brevet with them at the bar of Willard's Hotel.
"My children," said the aged benefactor of the universe, smiling mournfully at the boiled slice of lemon which ho was about to swallow from a goblet, "my. children, when I compare the Union of to-day with the Union formed by my old friend, George Washington, I feel that the present is not the past, and that the abyss toward which wo are drifting is the chasm whither our footsteps tend. If to feel thus is to be disloyal," said the Venerable Gammon, with much oily effulgence of double-chin, "then was the male parent of his country disloyal; for I breathe but the warning spirit of the great Sleeper at Mount Vernon." Whereupon everybody admitted that Washington was, indeed, rather less ruinous than our present sagacious Congress to everything national whatsoever; and it was proposed to present an immediate service of plate to the friend of the Pater patria.
It is sweet and soothing to know, my boy, that those who, by virtue of inexpressibly superior years, or recent political snubblings, are placed upon the particular watch-towers of the country, -it is sweet and soothing, I say, to know, that vigilant watchers like those, can detect coming Ruin at such a very long distance; that we are allowed plenty of time to avert it if we choose - by letting them ruin us beforehand.