Harper's Weekly 12/17/1864


A Strange Story.—A truly melodramatic anecdote is
in circulation in Paris, which must be accepted without
notarial vouching, but still as indorsed by being given to
the world by those who are not ordinarily bravards. A
Russian nobleman, extremely wealthy, and very reserved
and melancholy, has appeared of late in the best circles,
to which he has had most distinguished introducers. The
Russian became remarkable for wearing a ring of colossal
proportions, covering nearly the entire finger, and of sin-
gular appearance, the centre being composed of a sub-
stance resembling jet, which was set in gold. No one
ventured to ask the character of the ring or the cause of
its being worn, and placing the wearer, a studiously quiet
man, in the light of being an eccentric individual. A
lady, however, who was piqued to know something about
the matter, at last mustered the requisite courage, and
said, “Monsieur, every one is very much struck with the
singular character of the ring you wear, and I for one
should be delighted to know its origin.” The Russian
made a nervous twitch with his hand, as though he would
like to hide it, while he replied, “Madame, the ring is
not a jewel, as you suppose, but a tomb.” The curious
gathered round while he continued: “This jet substance
is the body of my wife; she had a horror of a tomb in
Russia; she was Italian. I promised her that I would
guard her day and night during my life, and she reposed
in my word, which had never been broken. I took the
body of my wife to Germany, where the most able chemist
of the day promised to reduce it, by powerful dissolvents
and by great compression, to a size which would enable
me to wear it as a souvenir. For eight days he labored
almost constantly in my presence, and I saw the dear re-
mains gradually dissolve and intensify till the residue was
the compact mass which you see in the ring, which is my
dear wife, who, as I promised, I will never quit day or
night during my life.”

Family Courtesies.—In the family the law of pleasing
ought to extend from the highest to the lowest. You are
bound to please your children; and your children are
bound to please each other; and you are bound to please
your servants, if you expect them to please you. Some
men are pleasant in the household, and nowhere else. I
have known such men. They were good fathers and kind
husbands. If you had seen them in their own home you
would have thought they were almost angels; but if you
had seen them in the street, or in the counting-house, or
any where else outside of their own house, you would have
thought them almost demoniac. But the opposite is apt
to be the case. When we are among our neighbors, or
among strangers, we hold ourselves with self-respect, and
endeavor to act with propriety; but when we get home
we say to ourselves, “I have played a part long enough,
and now I am going to be natural.” So we sit down, and
are ugly, and snappish, and blunt, and disagreeable. We
lay aside those little courtesies that make the roughest
floor smooth, that make the hardest things like velvet,
and that make life pleasant. We expend all our polite-
ness in places where it will be profitable—where it will
bring silver and gold.

National Ideas of Paradise.—The Laplander believes
Paradise to be situated in the centre of the snows of Swe-
den. The Muscogulgees imagine it among the islands of the
vast Pacific. The Mexicans conceived that those who died
from wounds, or were drowned, went to a cool and delight-
ful place, there to enjoy all manner of pleasure; those
who died in battle or captivity were wafted to the palace
of the sun, and led a life of endless delight. After an
abode of four more years in this splendid habitation, they
animate clouds and birds of beautiful feather and of sweet
song; having at the same time liberty to ascend to heaven
or descend to earth, to suck sweet flowers, and warble en-
chanting songs. The Tonquinese imagine the forest and
the mountains to be peopled with a peculiar kind of genii,
who exercise an influence over the affairs of mankind; and
in their ideas relative to a state of future happiness they
regard a delightful climate, and atmosphere surcharged
with a throne profusely covered with garlands of flowers,
as the summit of earthly felicity. Among the Arabs a fine
country, with abundance of shade, forms the principal ob-
ject of their promised bliss. There is a tribe of America
who believe that the souls of good men are conveyed to a
pleasant valley, abounding with guavas and other deli-
cious fruits. The heaven of the Celts was called “Flash-
innis,” the “island of the good and brave;” their hell,
“Ilfurin,”“the island of cold climate.” While the Druids,
as we are informed by Ammianus Marcellus, believed that
the souls of good men were wafted, in progressive course,
from planet to planet, enjoying, at every successive
change, a more sublime felicity than in the last.

The following is a carefully prepared estimate of the
number of slaves thus far set free by free the Administration,
or by the events of the war, viz.: In Utah and Nebraska,
44; in Delaware, 592; in the District of Columbia, 3185;
in Indian Territory, 7360; in Texas, 30,427; in North
Carolina, 55,176; in South Carolina, 67,066; in Arkansas,
74,074; in Kentucky, 75,163; in Maryland, 87,188; in
Missouri, 114,965; in Alabama, 145,028; in Georgia,
154,066; in Mississippi, 155,540; in Virginia, 163,629; in
Tennessee, 183,912; in Louisiana, 201,150; total liberated,

The vintage of Savoy is one of the loveliest sights in all
the world. The land holds then its great feast of taber-
nacles, all festooned with purple wreaths. Every where
the men are gathering the sweet grapes and dropping the
bunches to the women and children, who catch them in
their hands and stow them away in the white wooden
pails. At the corner of each field stands the heavy old
cart, with its gray oxen patiently chewing the cud, and
now and then stamping at too intrusive flies which the
pretty nets on their foreheads have not sufficed to banish;
while some little child of five or six sits by them and plays
at keeping the beautiful beasts, or climbs up and helps
himself to some of the grapes in the huge tubs on the
wagon. And round and beyond us on every side are other
fields of corn and vines, and lanes of walnut and acacia;
and further yet the grand mountains and the lovely lake—
now emerald green, now turquoise blue—gleaming through
the trees and the garlands till, far away, Mont Cenis with
its crown of snow grows rosy in the setting sun.

The Wrong Instrument.—A native church had re-
cently been erected, and some friends of the Maori race
had subscribed to purchase a harmonium, capable of playing
a certain number of sacred airs without the aid of an organ-
ist. It was, in fact, constructed on the same principle as the
hurdy-gurdies to be seen in the streets of London, and dif-
fered only from them in its airs being sacred and not sec-
ular. It so happened that the tradesman from whom it was
bought had imported at the same time another instrument
similar in appearance and construction, intended for the
amusement of a Maori chief who had a taste for the
popular airs of the day. By some mistake the secular
instrument was forwarded instead of the sacred; and no-
thing was known of this till the opening of the church. A
stalwart Maori had been selected to grind the music, and
the officiating minister, suspecting nothing, gave out a
hymn. When the Maori began to turn the handle the
accursed instrument gave no uncertain sound; it struck
up that lively popular air, “Pop goes the Weasel.” The
poor minister was speechless with horror and surprise, but
the congregation innocently joined in with the lively notes,
and rather admired the new air selected for the solemnity.
The minister held up his hand as a signal to stop; but the
former mistaking his meaning, only made the handle re-
volve with greater rapidity; he stamped with rage and
impatience, but faster and faster went the instrument, till
the congregation were almost breathless in their efforts to
keep up with it. At length the minister took a sensible
view of the subject; he observed that the congregation sus-
pected nothing, and came to the sound conclusion that
there is no scandal where there is no discovery. He sub-
mitted to the evil for one day, but had the mistake recti-
fied without delay. It is said that the congregation still
regret the absence of the lively instrument which led their
devotions at the opening of the church.

Sneezing.—Almost throughout Africa there is some
superstition connected with this convulsion. In Senaar
courtiers turn the back and slap the right thigh. Old au-
thors tell us that when the “King of Monomotapa” sneezed
it became a national concern. Those nearest the royal per-
son howled a salutation, which was taken up by the ante-
chamber; and when the horrid cry had run through the
palace it was re-echoed by the whole city. In Europe the
superstition is, that St. Gregory instituted a benediction
upon the sneezer, because during a certain pestilence the
unseemly act was a fatal symptom.

Passion for Display.—The world is crazy for show.
There is not one person in a thousand who dares fall back
on nothing but his real simple self for power to get through
the world, and to extract enjoyment as he goes along.
There is too much of that living in the eyes of other peo-
ple. There is no end to the aping, the mimicry, the false
airs, and the superficial arts. It requires rare courage,
we admit, to live up to one's enlightened convictions in
these times. Unless you consent to join in the general
cheat you are jostled out of reach; there is no room for you
among the great mob of pretenders. If a man dares to
live considerably within his means, and is resolute in his
purpose not to appear more than he really is, let him be
applauded, for there is something fresh and rare in such
an example.

“To My Mother in Heaven.“—A lady residing in the
Rue de Rivoli, Paris, returned some time since from a visit
she had made in the department of Finistere, bringing
with her a young orphan girl, poor, but very pretty,
named Yvonne S—, whom she engaged as her waiting-
maid. Last month, a short time after her return to Paris,
the lady died. When the body had been prepared for the
coffin, and was for a short time left alone, Yvonne was
seen to go stealthily into the room, lift up the shroud, and
then hastily leave. The first idea was that she had taken
a ring which, at the express desire of the deceased, had
been left on her finger. On examination, however, the
ring was discovered to be untouched, but a paper was seen
attached with a pin to the shroud. On inspection it was
found to be a letter addressed by the young orphan to her
mother, who died two years ago, and was as follows:
“My good Mother,—I have to tell you that M. B—has
made me an offer of marriage. As you are no longer here,
I beg you to make known to me in a dream, whether I
ought to marry him, and to give me your consent. I avail
myself, in order to write you, of the opportunity of my
mistress, who is going to Heaveno” The letter was ad-
dressed “To my Mother in Heaven.” The person alluded
to in the letter is one of the tradesmen of the deceased
lady, who, having been struck with the good conduct of
the young girl, had made her an offer of marriage.

An amusing anecdote is related as having occurred just
about the time of the flight of King James. Mordaunt was
in love—it may, indeed, be doubted that he was ever out
of love. Mordaunt was in love with a lady who had a
fancy to a beautiful canary belonging to the proprietress
of a coffee-house, near Charing Cross, and insisted that
her noble lover should, at any price, procure it for her.
Lord Mordaunt endeavored to do so, but the landlady re-
fused to part with her pet for any sum of money. The
lady insisted. He must bring the bird, or not presume to
see her face again. Thus goaded, Mordaunt hit upon a
very clever expedient. Searching the dépôts of the bird-
fanciers, he found a canary closely resembling the superb
songster which had so charmed his lady-love; but it was a
hen canary, and could not chirrup a note. Hastening to
the coffee-house Lord Mordaunt contrived to get rid of the
landlady—a Catholic, and devoted Loyalist—for a few min-
utes, and adroitly substituted his female for the male cana-
ry. After a considerable time he called at the coffee-house
and asked the proprietress if she did not regret having re-
fused the handsome offer he had made for her bird. “Oh
dear no,” said the woman, “he is more precious to me
than ever; for do you know that, since our good King was
compelled to leave his kingdom, he has not sung a single

A Brigadier and soldier of the French gendarmery were
recently returning from Castro to Ceprano. On arriving
at a certain point they were met by three armed men, two
of whom were the celebrated brigand chiefs Guerra and
Cedrone. Instead of flying, they advanced confidently,
mistaking the French for Pontifical guards. To all ques-
tions they replied readily, and gradually were deprived
of their arms, when two were arrested and bound, the
third getting off. Guerra, it is added, offered 200 scudi
to be released, which were refused, and captors and cap-
tives continued their march until, arriving near a bridge
called Sacratino, they were encountered by the band of
Capasso, which had been brought up promptly by the
third man, who had fled. To Capasso's order to release
the brigands a refusal was given, when a volley of shots
laid one of the gens d'armes on the ground, and the other,
on flying, was killed by a second volley. Not content
with this, the brigands pierced the bodies with their dag-
gers, broke their heads with the but-ends of their mus-
kets, cut off their ears, and mutilated them. Such is the
report of one who resides near the spot, and it is far from in-
credible when we call to mind the well-authenticated bru-
talities which have been perpetrated during the last four
years by the babes of the Church, the defenders of Divine
right. The French military authorities were soon on the
alert. A strong detachment was sent to the scene of ac-
tion, and in a few hours twelve prisoners were captured
and taken to Rome.

Wonderful. Mechanical Contrivances.—In the year
1578 a blacksmith of London, named Mark Scaliot, made
for exhibition and trial of skill a lock of iron, steel, and
brass, composed of eleven several pieces, and a pipe key,
all clean wrought, which weighed but one grain of gold.
He also made a chain of gold of forty-three links, to which
was fastened the lock and key. All these being put about
the neck of a flea, it drew the same with ease. The chain,
lock, and key weighed but one grain and a half. In 1829
a man exhibited in London two fleas, one drawing a kind
of car, and the other a lock and chain, with the greatest
ease. In Nottingham, also, in the same year, there were
two fleas shown which had gold chains placed round their
neck; one of them drew a carved cherry-stone, and the
other a silver cannon. In 1711 a Mr. Penketham exhibit-
ed a wonderful invention called “The Pantheon; or, the
Temple of the Gods,” the work of several years and great
expense. It consisted of five curious pictures, the painting
and contrivances of which were equally admirable. The
figures, about one hundred in number, moved their heads,
legs, arms, and fingers, and set one foot before another like
living creatures.

Old English Manners.—In the reign of James I. men
and women wore looking-glasses publicly—the men, as
brooches or ornaments in their hats, and the women at
their girdles, or on their bosoms, or sometimes (like the
ladies of our day) in the centre of their fans, which were
then made of feathers, inserted into silver or ivory tubes.
At feasts every guest brought his own knife, and a whet-
stone was placed behind the door, upon which he sharp-
ened his knife as he entered. In 1564 a Dutchman, named
William Boonen, brought the first coach into England,
and it is said the sight of it put both horses and men into
amazement. Some said it was a crab-shell, brought out
of China; and some imagined it to be one of the Pagan
temples in which the cannibals adored the devil. The
business of cap-making was ruined in 1591 by the common
wearing of hats, which then came into vogue. Smoothing-
irons are of late invention; in the reign of Queen Eliz-
abeth and James I. large stones, inscribed with texts of
Scripture, were used for that purpose. A Mrs. Isabel Dan-
ton, of Leeds, is said to have first invented hats and bask-
ets made of straw.

Southern Gentleman (about to Fire the Hotel).—“These Yankees will learn what it is to incur the Enmity of a proud and chivalric People.”

Little Child.—“God bless dear Papa, and bring him safe Home. Forgive our Enemies, and turn their Hearts—”

[From the New York Express.]

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