Support the Monkey! Tell All your Friends and Teachers

Help / FAQ



<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next ->
PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau


The last inhabitant of these woods before me was an Irishman, Hugh
Quoil (if I have spelt his name with coil enough), who occupied
Wymanís tenement-Col. Quoil, he was called. Rumor said that he
had been a soldier at Waterloo. If he had lived I should have made
him fight his battles over again. His trade here was that of a ditcher.
Napoleon went to St. Helena; Quoil came to Walden Woods. All I
know of him is tragic. He was a man of manners, like one who had
seen the world, and was capable of more civil speech than you could
well attend to. He wore a greatcoat in midsummer, being affected
with the trembling delirium, and his face was the color of carmine.
He died in the road at the foot of Bristerís Hill shortly after I came to
the woods, so that I have not remembered him as a neighbor. Before
his house was pulled down, when his comrades avoided it as "an un-
lucky castle," I visited it. There lay his old clothes curled up by use,
as if they were himself, upon his raised plank bed. His pipe lay
broken on the hearth, instead of a bowl broken at the fountain. The
last could never have been the symbol of his death, for he confessed
to me that, though he had heard of Bristerís Spring, he had never
seen it; and soiled cards, kings of diamonds, spades, and hearts, were
scattered over the floor. One black chicken which the administrator
could not catch, black as night and as silent, not even croaking,
awaiting Reynard, still went to roost in the next apartment. In the
rear there was the dim outline of a garden, which had been planted
but had never received its first hoeing, owing to those terrible
shaking fits, though it was now harvest time. It was overrun with
Roman wormwood and beggar-ticks, which last stuck to my clothes
for all fruit. The skin of a woodchuck was freshly stretched upon the
back of the house, a trophy of his last Waterloo; but no warm cap or
mittens would he want more.

Now only a dent in the earth marks the site of these dwellings, with
buried cellar stones, and strawberries, raspberries, thimbleberries,
hazel-bushes, and sumachs growing in the sunny sward there; some
pitch pine or gnarled oak occupies what was the chimney nook, and
a sweet-scented black birch, perhaps, waves where the door-stone
was. Sometimes the well dent is visible, where once a spring oozed;
now dry and tearless grass; or it was covered deep-not to be
discovered till some late day-with a flat stone under the sod, when
the last of the race departed. What a sorrowful act must that be-the
covering up of wells! coincident with the opening of wells of tears.
These cellar dents, like deserted fox burrows, old holes, are all that is
left where once were the stir and bustle of human life, and "fate, free
will, foreknowledge absolute," in some form and dialect or other
were by turns discussed. But all I can learn of their conclusions
amounts to just this, that "Cato and Brister pulled wool"; which is
about as edifying as the history of more famous schools of
philosophy.

Still grows the vivacious lilac a generation after the door and lintel
and the sill are gone, unfolding its sweet-scented flowers each
spring, to be plucked by the musing traveller; planted and tended
once by childrenís hands, hi front-yard plots-now standing by
wallsides in retired pastures, and giving place to new-rising forests;-
the last of that stirp, sole survivor of that family. Little did the dusky
children think that the puny slip with its two eyes only, which they
stuck in the ground in the shadow of the house and daily watered,
would root itself so, and outlive them, and house itself in the rear
that shaded it, and grown manís garden and orchard, and tell their
story faintly to the lone wanderer a half-century after they had grown
up and died-blossoming as fair, and smelling as sweet, as in that first
spring. I mark its still tender, civil, cheerful lilac colors.

But this small village, germ of something more, why did it fail while
Concord keeps its ground? Were there no natural advantages-no
water privileges, for-sooth? Ay, the deep Walden Pond and cool
Bristerís Spring-privilege to drink long and healthy draughts at
these, all unimproved by these men but to dilute their glass. They
<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next ->
PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-Walden by Henry David Thoreau



All Contents Copyright © All rights reserved.
Further Distribution Is Strictly Prohibited.

About Us | Advertising | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Home Page


Search:
Keywords:
In Association with Amazon.com