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Page 67

15. XV.

On the following morning Kavanagh sat musing
upon his worldly affairs, and upon various little
household arrangements which it would be
necessary for him to make. To aid him in
these, he had taken up the village paper, and
was running over the columns of advertisements,
—those narrow and crowded thoroughfares, in
which the wants and wishes of humanity display
themselves like mendicants without disguise. His
eye ran hastily over the advantageous offers
of the cheap tailors and the dealers in patent
medicines. He wished neither to be clothed
nor cured. In one place he saw that a young
lady, perfectly competent, desired to form a
class of young mothers and nurses, and to instruct
them in the art of talking to infants so
as to interest and amuse them; and in another,


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that the firemen of Fairmeadow wished well to
those hostile editors who had called them gamblers,
drunkards, and rioters, and hoped that they
might be spared from that great fire which they
were told could never be extinguished! Finally
his eye rested on the advertisement of a carpet
werehouse, in which the one-price system was
strictly adhered to. It was farther stated that a
discount would be made “to clergymen on small
salaries, feeble churches, and charitable institutions.”
Thinking that this was doubtless the
place for one who united in himself two of these
qualifications for a discount, with a smile on
his lips, he took his hat and sallied forth into
the street.

A few days previous, Kavanagh had discovered
in the tower of the church a vacant room, which
he had immediately determined to take possession
of, and to convert into a study. From this
retreat, through the four oval windows, fronting
the four corners of the heavens, he could look
down upon the streets, the roofs and gardens of
the village,—on the winding river, the meadows,
the farms, the distant blue mountains. Here
he could sit and meditate, in that peculiar sense
of seclusion and spiritual elevation, that entire


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separation from the world below, which a chamber
in a tower always gives. Here, uninterrupted
and aloof from all intrusion, he could
pour his heart into those discourses, with which
he hoped to reach and move the hearts of his

It was to furnish this retreat, that he went forth
on the Monday morning after his first sermon.
He was not long in procuring the few things
needed,—the carpet, the table, the chairs, the
shelves for books; and was returning thoughtfully
homeward, when his eye was caught by a
sign-board on the corner of the street, inscribed
“Moses Merryweather, Dealer in Singing Birds,
foreign and domestic.” He saw also a whole
chamber window transformed into a cage, in
which sundry canary-birds, and others of gayer
plumage, were jargoning together, like people
in the market-places of foreign towns. At the
sight of these old favorites, a long slumbering
passion awoke within him; and he straightway
ascended the dark wooden staircase, with the
intent of enlivening his solitary room with the
vivacity and songs of these captive ballad-singers.

In a moment he found himself in a little room
hung round with cages, roof and walls; full of


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sunshine; full of twitterings, cooings, and flutterings;
full of downy odors, suggesting nests, and
dovecots, and distant islands inhabited only by
birds. The taxidermist—the Selkirk of the
sunny island—was not there; but a young lady
of noble mien, who was looking at an English
goldfinch in a square cage with a portico, turned
upon him, as he entered, a fair and beautiful face,
shaded by long, light locks, in which the sunshine
seemed entangled, as among the boughs of trees.
That face he had never seen before, and yet it
seemed familiar to him; and the added light in
her large, celestial eyes, and the almost imperceptible
expression that passed over her face,
showed that she knew who he was.

At the same moment the taxidermist presented
himself, coming from an inner room;—a little
man in gray, with spectacles upon his nose,
holding in his hands, with wings and legs drawn
close and smoothly together, like the green husks
of the maize ear, a beautiful carrier-pigeon, who
turned up first one bright eye and then the other,
as if asking, “What are you going to do with
me now?” This silent inquiry was soon answered
by Mr. Merryweather, who said to the
young lady,—


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“Here, Miss Vaughan, is the best carrier-pigeon
in my whole collection. The real Columba
Tabullaria. He is about three years
old, as you can see by his wattle.”

“A very pretty bird,” said the lady; “and
how shall I train it?”

“O, that is very easy. You have only to keep
it shut up for a few days, well fed and well
treated. Then take it in an open cage to the
place you mean it to fly to, and do the same
thing there. Afterwards it will give you no
trouble; it will always fly between those two

“That, certainly, is not very difficult. At all
events, I will make the trial. You may send the
bird home to me. On what shall I feed it?”

“On any kind of grain,—barley and buck-wheat
are best; and remember to let it have a
plenty of gravel in the bottom of its cage.”

“I will not forget. Send me the bird to-day,
if possible.”

With these words she departed, much too
soon for Kavanagh, who was charmed with her
form, her face, her voice; and who, when left
alone with the little taxidermist, felt that the
momentary fascination of the place was gone.


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He heard no longer the singing of the birds; he
saw no longer their gay plumage; and having
speedily made the purchase of a canary and a
cage, he likewise departed, thinking of the carrier-pigeons
of Bagdad, and the columbaries of Egypt,
stationed at fixed intervals as relays and resting-places
for the flying post. With an indefinable
feeling of sadness, too, came wafted like a perfume
through his memory those tender, melancholy
lines of Maria del Occidente:—
“And as the dove, to far Palmyra flying,
From where her native founts of Antioch beam,
Weary, exhausted, longing, panting, sighing,
Lights sadly at the desert's bitter stream;
So many a soul, o'er life's drear desert faring,—
Love's pure, congenial spring unfound, unquaffed,—
Suffers, recoils, then, thirsty and despairing
Of what it would, descends and sips the nearest draught.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Merryweather, left to himself,
walked about his aviary, musing, and talking
to his birds. Finally he paused before the tin
cage of a gray African parrot, between which
and himself there was a strong family likeness,
and, giving it his finger to peck and perch upon,
conversed with it in that peculiar dialect with


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which it had often made vocal the distant groves
of Zanguebar. He then withdrew to the inner
room, where he resumed his labor of stuffing a
cardinal grossbeak, saying to himself between

“I wonder what Miss Cecilia Vaughan means
to do with a carrier-pigeon!”

Some mysterious connection he had evidently
established already between this pigeon and Mr.
Kavanagh; for, continuing his revery, he said,
half aloud,—

“Of course she would never think of marrying
a poor clergyman!”