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WE stopped some time at one of the plantations, to rest
ourselves and refresh the horses. We had a chatty
conversation with several gentlemen present; but there was
one person, a middle aged man, with an absent look in his face,
who simply glanced up, gave us good-day and lapsed again into
the meditations which our coming had interrupted. The
planters whispered us not to mind him—crazy. They said he
was in the Islands for his health; was a preacher; his home,
Michigan. They said that if he woke up presently and fell to
talking about a correspondence which he had some time held
with Mr. Greeley about a trifle of some kind, we must humor
him and listen with interest; and we must humor his fancy
that this correspondence was the talk of the world.

It was easy to see that he was a gentle creature and that his
madness had nothing vicious in it. He looked pale, and a little
worn, as if with perplexing thought and anxiety of mind. He
sat a long time, looking at the floor, and at intervals muttering
to himself and nodding his head acquiescingly or shaking it
in mild protest. He was lost in his thought, or in his memories.
We continued our talk with the planters, branching
from subject to subject. But at last the word “circumstance,”
casually dropped, in the course of conversation, attracted his
attention and brought an eager look into his countenance. He
faced about in his chair and said:

“Circumstance? What circumstance? Ah, I know—I


Page 505
know too well. So you have heard of it too.” [With a sigh.]
“Well, no matter—all the world has heard of it. All the
world. The whole world. It is a large world, too, for a thing
to travel so far in—now isn't it? Yes, yes—the Greeley correspondence
with Erickson has created the saddest and bitterest
controversy on both sides of the ocean—and still they keep it
up! It makes us famous, but at what a sorrowful sacrifice!
I was so sorry when I heard that it had caused that bloody and
distressful war over there in Italy. It was little comfort to
me, after so much bloodshed, to know that the victors sided
with me, and the vanquished with Greeley.—It is little comfort
to know that Horace Greeley is responsible for the battle of
Sadowa, and not me. Queen Victoria wrote me that she felt
just as I did about it—she said that as much as she was opposed
to Greeley and the spirit he showed in the correspondence
with me, she would not have had Sadowa happen for hundreds
of dollars. I can show you her letter, if you would like to see
it. But gentlemen, much as you may think you know about
that unhappy correspondence, you cannot know the straight of
it till you hear it from my lips. It has always been garbled in


Page 506
the journals, and even in history. Yes, even in history—think
of it! Let me—please let me, give you the matter, exactly as
it occurred. I truly will not abuse your confidence.”

Then he leaned forward, all interest, all earnestness, and told
his story—and told it appealingly, too, and yet in the simplest
and most unpretentious way; indeed, in such a way as to suggest
to one, all the time, that this was a faithful, honorable
witness, giving evidence in the sacred interest of justice, and
under oath. He said:

“Mrs. Beazeley—Mrs. Jackson Beazeley, widow, of the village
of Campbellton, Kansas,—wrote me about a matter which was
near her heart—a matter which many might think trivial, but
to her it was a thing of deep concern. I was living in Michigan,
then—serving in the ministry. She was, and is, an estimable
woman—a woman to whom poverty and hardship have
proven incentives to industry, in place of discouragements.
Her only treasure was her son William, a youth just verging
upon manhood; religious, amiable, and sincerely attached to
agriculture. He was the widow's comfort and her pride. And
so, moved by her love for him, she wrote me about a matter,
as I have said before, which lay near her heart—because it lay
near her boy's. She desired me to confer with Mr. Greeley
about turnips. Turnips were the dream of her child's young
ambition. While other youths were frittering away in frivolous
amusements the precious years of budding vigor which
God had given them for useful preparation, this boy was patiently
enriching his mind with information concerning turnips.
The sentiment which he felt toward the turnip was akin to
adoration. He could not think of the turnip without emotion;
he could not speak of it calmly; he could not contemplate it
without exaltation. He could not eat it without shedding tears.
All the poetry in his sensitive nature was in sympathy with
the gracious vegetable. With the earliest pipe of dawn he
sought his patch, and when the curtaining night drove him
from it he shut himself up with his books and garnered statistics
till sleep overcame him. On rainy days he sat and talked


Page 507


[Description: 504EAF. Page 507. In-line image of a young man and an old woman sitting together at a table looking at a book.]
hours together with his mother about turnips. When company
came, he made it his loving duty to put aside everything else
and converse with them all the day long of his great joy in
the turnip. And yet, was this joy rounded and complete?
Was there no secret alloy of unhappiness in it? Alas, there
was. There was a canker gnawing at his heart; the noblest
inspiration of his soul eluded his endeavor—viz: he could not
make of the turnip a climbing vine. Months went by; the
bloom forsook his cheek, the fire faded out of his eye; sighings
and abstraction usurped the place of smiles and cheerful converse.
But a watchful eye noted these things and in time a
motherly sympathy unsealed the secret. Hence the letter to
me. She pleaded for attention—she said her boy was dying
by inches.

“I was a stranger to Mr. Greeley, but what of that? The
matter was urgent. I wrote and begged him to solve the difficult
problem if possible and save the student's life. My interest
grew, until it partook of the anxiety of the mother. I
waited in much suspense.— At last the answer came.


Page 508

“I found that I could not read it readily, the handwriting
being unfamiliar and my emotions somewhat wrought up. It
seemed to refer in part to the boy's case, but chiefly to other
and irrelevant matters—such as paving-stones, electricity, oysters,
and something which I took to be `absolution' or `agrarianism,'
I could not be certain which; still, these appeared to
be simply casual mentions, nothing more; friendly in spirit,
without doubt, but lacking the connection or coherence necessary
to make them useful.—I judged that my understanding
was affected by my feelings, and so laid the letter away till

“In the morning I read it again, but with difficulty and
uncertainty still, for I had lost some little rest and my mental
vision seemed clouded. The note was more connected, now,
but did not meet the emergency it was expected to meet. It
was too discursive. It appeared to read as follows, though I
was not certain of some of the words:

`Polygamy dissembles majesty; extracts redeem polarity; causes hitherto exist.
Ovations pursue wisdom, or warts inherit and condemn. Boston, botany, cakes,
folony undertakes, but who shall allay? We fear not. Yrxwly,

Hevace Eveeloj.'

“But there did not seem to be a word about turnips. There
seemed to be no suggestion as to how they might be made to
grow like vines. There was not even a reference to the Beazeleys.
I slept upon the matter; I ate no supper, neither any
breakfast next morning. So I resumed my work with a brain
refreshed, and was very hopeful. Now the letter took a different
aspect—all save the signature, which latter I judged to be
only a harmless affectation of Hebrew. The epistle was necessarily
from Mr. Greeley, for it bore the printed heading of
The Tribune, and I had written to no one else there. The
letter, I say, had taken a different aspect, but still its language
was eccentric and avoided the issue. It now appeared to say:

`Bolivia extemporizes mackerel; borax esteems polygamy; sausages wither in
the east. Creation perdu, is done; for woes inherent one can damn. Buttons,
buttons, corks, geology underrates but we shall allay. My beer's out. Yrxwly,

Heavce Eveeloj.'


Page 509

“I was evidently overworked. My comprehension was impaired.
Therefore I gave two days to recreation, and then
returned to my task greatly refreshed. The letter now took
this form:

`Poultices do sometimes choke swine; tulips reduce posterity; causes leather
to resist. Our notions empower wisdom, her let's afford while we can. Butter
but any cakes, fill any undertaker, we'll wean him from his filly. We feel hot.


Hevace Eveeloj.'


Page 510

“I was still not satisfied. These generalities did not meet
the question. They were crisp, and vigorous, and delivered
with a confidence that almost compelled conviction; but at such
a time as this, with a human life at stake, they seemed inappropriate,
worldly, and in bad taste. At any other time I
would have been not only glad, but proud, to receive from a
man like Mr. Greeley a letter of this kind, and would have
studied it earnestly and tried to improve myself all I could;
but now, with that poor boy in his far home languishing for
relief, I had no heart for learning.

“Three days passed by, and I read the note again. Again
its tenor had changed. It now appeared to say:

`Potations do sometimes wake wines; turnips restrain passion; causes necessary
to state. Infest the poor widow; her lord's effects will be void. But dirt, bathing,
etc., etc., followed unfairly, will worm him from his folly—so swear not.


Hevace Eveeloj.'

“This was more like it. But I was unable to proceed. I
was too much worn. The word `turnips' brought temporary
joy and encouragement, but my strength was so much impaired,
and the delay might be so perilous for the boy, that I relinquished
the idea of pursuing the translation further, and resolved
to do what I ought to have done at first. I sat down
and wrote Mr. Greeley as follows:

Dear Sir: I fear I do not entirely comprehend your kind note. It cannot
be possible, Sir, that `turnips restrain passion'—at least the study or contemplation
of turnips cannot—for it is this very employment that has scorched our poor
friend's mind and sapped his bodily strength.—But if they do restrain it, will you
bear with us a little further and explain how they should be prepared? I observe
that you say `causes necessary to state,' but you have omitted to state them.

“Under a misapprehension, you seem to attribute to me interested motives in
this matter—to call it by no harsher term. But I assure you, dear sir, that if I
seem to be `infesting the widow,' it is all seeming, and void of reality. It is from
no seeking of mine that I am in this position. She asked me, herself, to write
you. I never have infested her—indeed I scareely know her. I do not infest
anybody. I try to go along, in my humble way, doing as near right as I can, never
harming anybody, and never throwing out insinuations. As for `her lord and his
effects,' they are of no interest to me. I trust I have effects enough of my own
—shall endeavor to get along with them, at any rate, and not go mousing around
to get hold of somebody's that are `void” But do you not see?—this woman is
a widow—she has no `lord.' He is dead—or pretended to be, when they buried


Page 511
him. Therefore, no amount of `dirt, bathing,' etc., etc., howsoever `unfairly followed'
will be likely to `worm him from his folly'—if being dead and a ghost is
`folly.' Your closing remark is as unkind as it was uncalled for; and if report
says true you might have applied it to yourself, sir, with more point and less impropriety.

Very Truly Yours,

Simon Erickson.

“In the course of a few days, Mr. Greeley did what would
have saved a world of trouble, and much mental and bodily
suffering and misunderstanding, if he had done it sooner. Towit,
he sent an intelligible rescript or translation of his original
note, made in a plain hand by his clerk. Then the mystery
cleared, and I saw that his heart had been right, all the time.
I will recite the note in its clarified form:


`Potatoes do sometimes make vines; turnips remain passive: cause unnecessary
to state. Inform the poor widow her lad's efforts will be vain. But diet, bathing,
etc. etc., followed uniformly, will wean him from his folly—so fear not.


Horace Greeley.'

“But alas, it was too late, gentlemen—too late. The criminal
delay had done its work—young Beazely was no more.
His spirit had taken its flight to a land where all anxieties
shall be charmed away, all desires gratified, all ambitions realized.
Poor lad, they laid him to his rest with a turnip in each

So ended Erickson, and lapsed again into nodding, mumbling,
and abstraction. The company broke up, and left him so....
But they did not say what drove him crazy. In the momentary
confusion, I forgot to ask.