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 Forrest made his first appearance in New Orleans, at the American Theatre, as Jaffier in Venice Preserved, February 4th, 1824, Caldwell sustaining the part of Pierre. His individuality and his acting immediately made a strong impression on the general audience, and drew towards him the fervent personal interest of those particular individuals, both men and women, whose qualities of character caused them to feel a vivid curiosity and sympathy for highly-marked and expressive specimens of human nature. Accordingly, he very soon had many intimate friends among both sexes,—friends whose pronounced types of being and impassioned styles of life wrought assimilatingly upon him in that frank, lusty, and plastic period of his experience.
New Orleans at that time was a city of about thirty thousand inhabitants. It was the chief commercial and social capital of the South, and thoroughly conscious of its pre-eminence. On its small but concentrated scale it was the gayest, most Parisian city in the country. The Spanish and French blood of the original settlers of Louisiana and of their early followers was largely represented in its leading families. Then and there the chivalry of the slave-holding South, in all its patrician characteristics both of virtue and of vice, was at the acme of its glory. The types of men were unquestionably the most varied and sharply defined and pushed to the greatest extremes of development, the freedom and beauty of the women the most intoxicating and dangerous, the social life the most voluptuous, passionate, and reckless, of those of any city in the United States. Wealth was great, easily found, carelessly lost, leisure ample, pride intense, living luxurious, manly sports and exercises in physical training assiduously cultivated, gambling common, duelling and every form of desperate personal conflict constant, the code of man
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ners alternately bewitching in courtesy and terrible in ferocity. From every part of the State the gentlemen planters loved to congregate in New Orleans, perfect masters of their limbs, their faculties, their weapons, and their horses, not knowing fear or embarrassment, living their thoughts and passions spontaneously out, their tall forms aflush with bold sensibility, the rich strength and grace of the thoroughbred pointing their elastic motions. And in the parlor, the ball-room, at fashionable resorts, on the promenades, the women were the peers of the men in their intensity of being, their fondness of adventure, their courage, brilliance, and piquancy. The crossing of tropical bloods, the long lineage of aristocratic habitudes of ardent indulgence and leisurely culture, had produced a class of women famed throughout the land for the symmetry of their forms, the visible music of their movements, the dreamy softness of their voices, and the bewildering charm of their eyes, swimming seas of languor and fire. Many an imaginative and burning nature asked no other paradise than the arms of these Creole houris. But, unfortunately, the reverse of being immortal, its dissolving views melted into degradation and vanished in death, too often with accompaniments of frantic jealousy, crime, and horror.
These men and these women, naturally enough, were fascinating to the adolescent actor, whose faculties were all aglow with ambition to excel, whose curiosity was on edge in every direction to know the contents of the living world which it was his profession to portray, and whose passions were just breaking from their fullest bud. Nor was he any less fascinating to them. His bluff courage, his young formative docility and eagerness, his smiling openness of face and bearing, so sadly changed in later years, and the nameless badge of personal distinction and original force he bore on his front and in his accent, drew the men to make much of him. So the outlines of his slender but sinewy and breathing form with the muscles so superbly defined, the deep and mellow tones of his ringing voice in which the clang-tints of the whole organism were audible, his large and dark-brown eyes so clearly set and brilliant, his fresh blood teeming over him in vital revelation at each vehement mood, and the speaking truthfulness of his portrayals of thought and sentiment in character, magnetized the women, secured him many a flattering smile
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 and note and flower, and led to no slight experience in amours, which put their permanent stamp upon his inner being, and often rose out of the vistas of memory in pictures when he shut his eyes and mused in his lonely old age. A biography of Forrest which omitted these things would be like a description of the Saint Lawrence without an allusion to Niagara.
In his opening manhood, before repeated experiences of injustice, slander, and treachery had in any degree soured and closed his soul, Forrest had a heart as much formed for friendship as for love. He was full of ingenuous life, sportive, affectionate, every way most companionable. His friendships were fervent and faithfully cherished. The disappointments, the revulsions of feeling, and the results on his final character, we shall see in the later stages of this biography.
Caldwell felt a strong interest in the young actor, and was of service to him outside of the theatre as well as within it. He introduced him to a higher order of society with more aristocratic manners and refined accomplishments than he had been accustomed to, thus affording him an opportunity, had he been so minded, to make his upward way socially not less than professionally. As a keen observer and a quick learner, he did not fail to reap some valuable fruits from the advantages thus afforded him. But his forte lay not in this direction. He had then, and always afterwards, a deep distaste to all that is called fashionable society. He was insuperably democratic in his very bones. For the elaborate forms and conventionalities of the polite world he had a rooted repugnance. He wanted to be free and downright in honest speech and demeanor, making his outer manifestations correspond exactly with his inner states. He could not bear, in accordance with the conventions of the best society, to pretend to be inferior where he felt himself superior, to affect to be interested when he was bored, to express insincere nothings to give pleasure, and carefully hide his most earnest thoughts and feelings lest they should give pain. This art of polished intercourse—quite necessary in our world, and often as artistic and useful as it is artificial and compromising—he vehemently disliked and was never an adept in. Instead of gracefully appropriating it for its gracious uses while spurning its evils, he impatiently rebelled against it, stigmatizing it in blunt phrase as a
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 cursed hypocrisy. This defect in him it is needful to recognize as one of the keys to his character and career. His athletic, bluff nature, true and generous, lacked the flexible suavity of the spirituelle qualities, a lack which prevented his universal success, causing him to jar on persons of squeamish disposition or fastidious taste. Until a long series of revulsive experiences had trained him to be silent and reticent, his impulsive frankness and passionate love of freedom made it extremely irksome and chafing to him purposely to adapt himself to others at the expense of his own honest emotions. He never could be in the slightest degree a courtier or a tuft-hunter, but—like Edmund Kean, and many another man of genius whose abounding and impetuous soul loved nature and truth in their spontaneous forms more than any of the gilded substitutes for them—he ever preferred to be with those in whose presence he could act himself out just as he was and just as he felt. His playing in the theatre, instead of fitting, by reaction unfitted him for playing in society. If, on the stage, he consented to seem, all the more, off from it, he desired to be. The basis of this veritable self-assertion was his vigorous manliness; and so far it was creditable to him. But the extravagance to which he carried it partook of pride and wilfulness, and was an error and a fault. The code of fashion, tyrannical and imperfect as it is, has uses without which society could scarcely get on. It cannot be neglected with impunity. Forrest was no exception, but paid the penalty for his independence in the neglect with which Fashion, as such, always treated him.
Among the foibles which especially beset the histrionic profession are vanity, greed of applause, jealousy, invidious rivalry. Manager Caldwell was not free from these weaknesses. His pride as a player was as strong as his prudential regard for the interests of his theatre. No actor in the South had been a greater favorite, and no member of his company had ever rivalled him. He had carefully awakened an interest in advance for his protégé, saying to his friends that he had engaged in Kentucky a young man named Edwin Forrest, who had high talent, was industrious, resolved to rise to the top of the profession, and who, he was sure, would greatly please the New Orleans public. But when the pupil made such rapid progress and gained such loud plaudits that the master felt himself in danger of being
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 eclipsed, he had recourse to an artifice not uncommon, though certainly somewhat ungenerous. He reserved the best parts for himself, and cast his rising competitor in inferior or repulsive characters, most often in the part of an old man. Forrest saw the design and inwardly resented it, though he said nothing. He followed the wise course of trying to make the best he could of the part assigned him. He made a careful study of the peculiarities of age, in feature, in gait, in voice. He would often sit in places of public resort and critically watch every old man who came in or went out. Many a time when he had chanced to discover some striking example of power and dignity or of weakness and decrepitude in an old man he would follow him in the street and mentally imitate him, reproducing and fixing what he saw. In this way he soon attained such skill that his representations of these parts won him as much approval as he had ever received for the more congenial and showy rôles to which he had been accustomed.
Caldwell was fond of society, cared little for individuals, and, as some thought, held his theatrical vocation subsidiary to personal ends. The superficialities and insincerities of fashion did not distress him. Forrest had an aversion to society, a passion for individuals, and an intense ambition to excel in his art, which he loved for itself. It was quite natural that the friendship of men so unlike, to say nothing of their great disparity in years, should be streaked with coolnesses and gradually cease. It was not long in dying, though they continued to get along together comfortably, with some trifling exceptions, until their bond was suddenly ruptured by an irritating event which will be narrated on a succeeding page.
But it was outside of the circle of the theatrical company with which he was associated in New Orleans that Forrest found the most rich and decisive influences, at the same time developing his organism, moulding his character, and enhancing his dramatic powers. These influences were exerted on him chiefly through the five closest friends he had in the city, five men intimately grouped, to be the confidant of one of whom was to be the confidant of all, men of the most remarkable force and finish of personality each in his own kind, each of them an intense type of the class he represented. They were all men of great personal
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 beauty and strength, tall, supple, lithe, absolutely ignorant of fear, chivalrous in disposition, loose in habits, kind and loving in their native moods, but relentless and terrible in their wrath. Some insight into the sympathetic assimilation of these superb and fearful persons upon Forrest, and some tracing of the effect on his nature and on his art of the cycle of experience which they revealed to him partly by description, partly by personal introduction, are essential to an understanding of his great career.
Those who are often and long together influence one another more than is usually supposed. Their giving and taking of opinions, prejudices, habits, and even organic peculiarities, are far beyond their own conscious purpose or recognition. Not unfrequently intimate associates obviously grow like one another in look, action, voice, passion, type of character, quality of temper, style of manners, and mode of life. This is confessedly matter of observation; but the law of its operation or the importance of the results very few understand. It is the sympathetic impartation and reproduction, between two or more parties, of inner states through outer signs; and, as to noble qualities, it is proportioned in degree to the docility of the persons, combined with their richness of organization. Those who have plastic nervous systems copiously furnished with force, and who are eager to improve, take possession of one another's knowledge and accomplishments with marvellous celerity. By intuition and instinct they seem to reflect their contents and transmit their habitudes with mutual appropriation. In this unpurposed but saturating school of real life what the superior knows and does passes into the sympathetic observer by a sort of contagion. Those whose nerves are capable of the same kinds and rates of vibration play into each other and are attuned together, as the sounding string of one musical instrument propagates its pulses through the air and awakens a harmonic sound in the corresponding string of another instrument. This is the scientific basis of what is loosely called human magnetism, and it is a factor of incomparable import in the problem of human life.
The one of Forrest's New Orleans friends first to be named is James Bowie, inventor and unrivalled wielder of that terrible weapon for hand-to-hand fights named from him the bowie-knife. He was a member of the aristocratic class of the South, planter,
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 gentleman, traveller, adventurer, sweet-spoken, soft-mannered, poetic, and chivalrous, and possessed of a strength and a courage, a cool audacity and an untamable will, which seemed, when compared with any ordinary standard, superhuman. These qualities in a hundred conflicts never failed to bring him off conqueror. In heart, when not roused by some sinister influence, he was as open as a child and as loving as a woman. In soul high-strung, rich and free, in physical condition like a racing thoroughbred or a pugilist ready for the ring, an eloquent talker, thoroughly acquainted with the world from his point of view, he was a charming associate for those of such tastes, equally fascinating to friends and formidable to foes. As a personal competitor, taken nakedly front to front, few more ominous and magnificent specimens of man have walked on this continent.
His favorite knife, used by him awfully in many an awful fray, he presented as a token of his love to Forrest, who carefully preserved it among his treasured keepsakes. It was a long and ugly thing, clustering with fearful associations in its very look; plain and cheap for real work, utterly unadorned, but the blade exquisitely tempered so as not to bend or break too easily, and the handle corrugated with braids of steel, that it might not slip when the hand got bloody. Journeying in a stage-coach, in cold weather, after stopping for a change of horses a huge swaggering fellow usurped a seat belonging to an invalid lady, leaving her to ride on the outside. In vain the lady expostulated with him; in vain several others tried to persuade him to give up the place to her. At last a man who sat in front of the offender, so muffled and curled up in a great cloak that he looked very small, dropped the cloak down his shoulders, took his watch in his left hand, lifted a knife in his right, and, straightening himself up slowly till it seemed as if his head was going through the top of the coach, planted his unmoving eyes full on those of the intruder, and said, in a perfectly soft and level tone which gave the words redoubled power, "Sir, if within two minutes you are not out of that seat, by the living God I will cut your ears off!" The man paused a few seconds to take in the situation. He then cried, "Driver, let me out! I won't ride with such a set of damned murderers!" That was Bowie with his knife. Fearful, yet not without something admirable. Another anecdote of him
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 will illustrate still better the atmosphere of the class of men under whose patronizing influence Forrest came in the company of his friend Bowie.
The plantations of Bowie and a very quarrelsome Spaniard joined each other. The proprietors naturally fell out. The Spaniard swore he would shoot Bowie on the first chance. The latter, not liking to live with such an account on his hands, challenged his neighbor, who was a very powerful and skilful fighter with all sorts of weapons and had in his time killed a good many men. The Spaniard accepted the challenge, and fixed the following conditions for the combat. An oak bench six feet long, two feet high, and one foot wide should be firmly fastened in the earth. The combatants, stark naked, each with a knife in his right hand, its blade twelve inches in length, should be securely strapped to the bench, face to face, their knees touching. Then, at a signal, they should go at it, and no one should interfere till the fight was done. The murderous temper of the arrangements was not more evident than the horrible death of one of the men or of both was sure. But Bowie did not shrink. He said to himself, "If the Spaniard's hate is so fiendish, why, he shall have his bellyful before we end." All was ready, and a crowd stood by. Bowie may tell the rest himself, as he related it a dozen years after to Forrest, whose blood curdled while he listened:
"We confronted each other with mutual watch, motionless, for a minute or two. I felt that it was all over with me, and a slight chill went through my breast, but my heart was hot and my brain was steady, and I resolved that at all events he should die too. Every fight is won in the eye first. Well, as I held my look rooted in his eye, I suddenly saw in it a slight quiver, an almost imperceptible sign of giving way. A thrill of joy shot through my heart, and I knew that he was mine. At that instant he stabbed at me. I took his blade right through my left arm, and at the same time, by an upward stroke, as swift as lightning and reaching to his very spine, I ripped him open from the abdomen to the chin. He gave a hoarse grunt, the whole of his insides gushed out, and he tumbled into my lap, dead."
An intimate of Bowie, and a firm patron and friend of Forrest, teaching him much by precept in answer to his inquiries, and contagiously imparting to him yet more by personal contact and
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 example, was Colonel Macaire. The real name of this man, and also those of the two succeeding members of the group, are replaced here by fictitious ones on account of their relatives who are still living. The two most prominent traits of Macaire in social life were his enthusiasm for the military art and his extreme fondness for horses. He was a finished soldier and officer. The martial discipline had left its results plainly all through his mind and his person, in a sensitive loyalty to the code of honor, an easy precision of movement, and an authoritative suavity of demeanor. The military art, on the whole, regarded in its influences on individuals and nations, is perhaps the richest in its power and the most exact in its methods of all the disciplines thus far developed in history. Its drill, faithfully applied to a fair subject, nourishes the habit of obedience and the faculty of command, regulates and refines the behavior, lifts the head, throws back the shoulders, brings out the chest, deepens the breathing, frees the circulation, and through its marching time-beat exalts the rank of the organism by co-ordinating its functions in a spirit of rhythm. It changes the contracted and fixed action of the muscles for an action flowing over the shoulders and hips and drawing on the spinal column instead of the brain. And every work which can be shifted from the brain to the spine is a mental economy especially needed in these days of excessive mental action and deficient vital action.
Macaire was a great expert in horses, ever to be found where the best thoroughbreds were to be seen, attending races with the most avid relish. And it is well known that hardly anything else is so effective in imparting vitality and courage to a man as the habit of sympathetic contact with horses, looking at them, breathing with them, handling them, driving them. The popular instinct says they give their magnetism to their keepers. The fact is, the vibrations of the blood and nerves of the animal are communicated to those of the man and strengtheningly mix with them. The evil connected with this good is that the companionship often not only imparts vital force and courage but likewise stimulates the coarser animal passions. The tendency, however, is neutralized in the man of refinement.
It was from his friendship with Macaire—attending races, going through stables, visiting armories, drills, and fields of re
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view—that Forrest first learned to feel that keen love for horses which was one of his passions to the end of his life, and first took that intelligent interest in the law of the military drill which gradually grew upon him until he had appropriated its fruits. For the inartistic rudeness of his early gymnastic, his rough circus-tumbling, had left him somewhat stiff and enslaved in parts of his body. But rhythmic movements, regulated by will until they become automatic, free the muscles and joints and give the organism a liberal grace, a generous openness and ease of bearing. A few months after his début in New Orleans the "Advertiser" remarked, "We are happy to be able to say that Mr. E. Forrest now uses his limbs with freedom and grace." The improvement had made itself plain.
The third of the set of comrades grouped about Forrest at this time was Gazonac, one of the most remarkable of the gentlemen gamblers and duellists for whom the Crescent City was famous fifty years ago. Such were the qualities of this smooth, imperturbable, and accomplished man, consummate master of every trick of his art and of every weapon of offence or defence, and such was the tone of popular sentiment in the place, that although gambling was his profession and duelling his diversion he neither had a bad conscience in himself nor was regarded as an outcast by the community. He was a rare judge and adept in everything concerning the physical powers of men, and the expression of their passions in real life under the most concentrated excitements. And he was himself trained to the very nicest possible degree of self-control. His muscular tissue, of the most elastic and tenacious texture, covered him like a garment flowing around his joints as if it had no fastenings, and under it he moved in subtle ease and concealment, allowing no conceivable provocation to extort any signal without consent of his will. His nervous system had been drilled to act with the precision of astronomical clock-work. His conscious calculations had the swiftness and exactitude of the instincts of animals. What he did not know concerning the public sporting life and the secret passionate life of the city was not worth knowing; and he knew it not superficially but through and through. He had fought a dozen duels and always killed his opponent. "How have you invariably come off victor?" Forrest once asked him. "It is
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 easy enough," he answered, "if one is but complete master of himself, of his weapon, and of the situation, cool as personified mathematics. I always shoot, on an exact calculation, just enough quicker than my adversary for my ball to strike him as he fires, and so disorder his aim."
An absolute social nonchalance in every emergency, a perfect superiority to the fear of our fellow-beings singly or collectively, is attainable only in one of three ways, if we omit idiotic insensibility, sheer brute stolidity. First, by ourselves, as it were, impersonating and representing the established standard of judgment, the code by which we and our conduct are to be tested. This is the assured ease of the fashionable leader, the noble, the king. Second, by utterly defying that standard, and ignoring it, substituting for it a personal standard of our own, or the code of some special class of our associates. This is the sang-froid of the gambler, the stony courage of the habituated criminal. He is immovably collected, cool, and brave, in spite of his condemnation by law and morality, because he has displaced from his consciousness the social standard of judgment prevalent around him which he disobeys, and set up in its stead another standard which he obeys. His conscience then does not make a coward of him. Self-poised in what he himself thinks, he is not disturbed by mental reaction on what he imagines other people think. The moment he violates his own conscience or the code which he professes loyalty to, he feels guilty, and to that extent becomes weak and cowardly. The third method of superiority to fear is by conscious and direct obedience to the intrinsic right, the will of God. This is the imperial heroism of the saint and the martyr. Then the supreme code of the universe makes the harmonious conscience indomitably superior to the frowning penalties of all lesser and meaner codes, and no personal enemy, no hostile public opinion, can terrify.
It was partly by the first, chiefly by the second, hardly at all, it is to be feared, by the third, of these methods that Gazonac acquired his marvellous self-possession and marble equilibrium of nerve. But he had it. And the perfected empire of his being in the range of his daily life, his transcendent fearlessness of everything external, his superlative feeling of competency to every occasion, was in itself a rare achievement and an enviable
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 prize. He had disentangled and freed the fibres of his brain from all imaginative references to the opinions of other persons or to the requirements of any code but the one enthroned in his own bosom. To this imperfect code he was true, and therefore, however wrong and guilty he may have been, in his self-sufficingness he did not suffer the retributions of a bad conscience. He was shielded in the partial insensibility of a defective conscience. If the conscience of a man be pure and expansive enough properly to represent to him the will of God or the whole truth of his duty, then a neglectful superiority to individual censures and to social opinion is an heroic exaltation, which the more it sets other men against him so much the more it shows him to be diviner than they.
Under the guidance of this typical man, who was always scrupulously tender and careful with him, Forrest was initiated into all the mysteries, all the heights and depths, of a world of experience kept veiled and secret from most people. It was a world of dreadful fascinations and volcanic outbreaks, extravagant pleasures and indescribable horrors,—a world whose heroes are apt, as the proverb goes, to die with their boots on. Together they visited cock-pits, race-courses, bar-rooms, gambling-saloons, and every other resort of disorderly passion and disreputable living. And the young actor with his professional eyes drank in many a revelation of human nature uncovered at its deepest places and in its wildest moods. It was a fearful exposure, and he did not escape unscathed, though it seems from his after-life that he was more instructed than he was infected. He never forgot the impression made on him in the cock-pit by the rings of staring visages, tier above tier, massed in frenzied eagerness and regularly vibrating with the struggles of the feathered and gaffed champions whose untamable ferocity of valor and pluck seemed to satirize the vulgar pride of human battle. Still deeper was the effect on his memory of the scene when, at a race, he saw a vast crowd, including the governor of the State, the mayor of the city, members of Congress, rich planters, leading lawyers and merchants, boatmen, bullies, and loafers, all armed, yet behaving as politely as in a parlor, restrained by the knowledge that at the slightest insult knives would gleam, pistols crack, blood flow, and no one could foretell where the fray would end.
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On one occasion, taking a swim with Gazonac in Lake Pontchartrain, Forrest saw a thick-set and commanding sort of man, with flashing black eyes, his breast scarred all over with stabs. "Who is that?" he asked. "It is Lafitte, the pirate," his comrade replied. A week or two afterwards, he saw Lafitte, in the square fronting the cathedral, running like a deer, chased by a man with a knife. Gazonac said, "Oh, on the quarter-deck, with his myrmidons around him, he could play the hero; but he was not a brave man. Some men can fight in crowds but cannot fight singly. This requires courage." He then proceeded to relate some examples of single-handed fights. Two friends of his fought a duel on this wise. They were locked in a room in the dark, naked, each having a knife. In the morning they were found dead in a bloody heap, cut almost into strips. A man who can foresee such a result yet go resolutely into it is no coward, Gazonac said.
Two others fought thus. They were to begin with rifles at three hundred paces; if these failed, advance with pistols; and, these failing, close with knives. At the first shot both dropped dead: the bullet of one struck exactly between the eyes, that of the other pierced the pit of the stomach.
In still another case, two men of his acquaintance were addressing the same woman, and were very jealous of each other. At an offensive remark of one the other said, "I will take your right eye for that!" "Will you?" was the retort, which was scarcely spoken before his enemy had gouged the eye from his head and politely handed it to him. He quietly replied, "I thank you," and put the palpitating orb in his pocket. Then, regardless of the streaming socket and the agony, with the ferocity and swiftness of a tiger he turned on his remorseless mutilator and with one stroke of a long and heavy knife nearly severed his head from his body, and dilated above him shuddering with revengeful joy.
Besides listening to innumerable descriptions of this sort, nearly as vivid as sight itself, Forrest actually saw many terrible quarrels and several fatal fights. And the convulsive exhibitions of human passion and energy in their elemental rawness thus afforded were recorded in his imagination and reproduced in the most sensational of his poses and bursts. That he should be,
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 under such a training, melodramatic sometimes, whatever else he added, was inevitable. His school was naturalistic and appalling. Even when he attained to so much that was finer and higher, some portion of this still clung to him. He had, it must be remembered, no academic advantages and no tutor, but was a child of nature.
The fourth member of the Forrest group in New Orleans was Charles Graham, captain of a steamer on the Mississippi. He was originally a flatboatman, and was not only familiar with the traditions of the river and the rude border-life concentrated on its current for so many years, but well represented it all in himself. He was widely known among all classes, and especially was such a favorite with the boatmen as to be a sort of a king over them. Though of a kind heart, he was not incapable of taking a frightful revenge when wronged or provoked. One of his men having been abused in a house of disreputable women, he fastened a cable around a large wooden pier on which the house rested, and, starting his steamer, pulled the house over into the river and drowned the whole obscene gang, then proceeded on his way as if nothing had happened.
Such were the typical men in that half-barbaric and reckless civilization. And it was by his intimacy with them at the most plastic period of his life that Forrest so completely absorbed and stood for the most distinctive Americanism of half a century ago. Graham was fond of the drama, and was drawn warmly to Forrest from his first appearance in Jaffier. He used to come to the theatre sometimes with a throng of fifty or even a hundred boatmen in his train. And whenever the actor indulged in his most carnivorous rages then their delight and their applause were the most unbounded. It will be seen that the young tragedian was at that time in a poor school for guiding to artistic delicacy, but in a capital school for developing natural truth and power.
The last of the five friends who were most constantly with Forrest and in one way or another exerted the strongest influences on him was Push-ma-ta-ha, chief of the Choctaw tribe of Indians, who had a liking for the white men and some of their arts and was in the custom of paying long visits to New Orleans. Push-ma-ta-ha was indeed a striking figure and an interesting character. He was in the bloom of opening manhood, erect as
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 a column, graceful and sinewy as a stag, with eyes of piercing brilliancy, a voice of guttural music like gurgling waters, the motions of his limbs as easy and darting as those of a squirrel. His muscular tissue in its tremulous quickness seemed made of woven lightnings. His hair was long, fine, and thick, and of the glossiest blackness; his skin, mantled with blood, was of the color of ruddy gold, and his form one of faultless proportions. A genuine friendship grew up between this chief and Forrest, not without some touch of simple romance, and leading, as we shall see, to lasting results in the life of the latter.
Push-ma-ta-ha was a natural orator of a high order. He inherited this gift from his father, for whom he had a superstitious veneration, claiming that the Great Spirit had created him without human intervention. Whether this idea had been implanted in him in his childhood by some medicine-man, or was a poetic pretence of his own, Forrest could not tell. The elder chief died in Washington, where he was tarrying with a deputation. His dying words to his comrades are a fine specimen of his eloquence; "I shall die, but you will return to our brethren. As you go along the paths, you will see the flowers and hear the birds sing, but Push-ma-ta-ha will see them and hear them no more. When you shall come to your home, they will ask you, Where is Push-ma-ta-ha? And you will say to them, He is no more. They will hear the tidings like the sound of the fall of a mighty oak in the stillness of the woods."
The North American Indian seen from afar is a picturesque object. When we contemplate him in the vista of history, retreating, dwindling, soon to vanish before the encroachments of our stronger race, he is not without mystery and pathos. But studied more nearly, inspected critically in the detail of his character and habits, the charm for the most part disappears and is replaced with repulsion. The freedom of savages from the diseased vices of a luxurious society, the proud beauty of their free bearing, the relish of their wild liberty with nature, exempt from the artificial burdens and trammels of our complicated and stifling civilization, appeal to the imagination. Poetical writers accordingly have idealized the Indian and set him off in a romantic light, forgetting that savage life has its own vices, degradations, and hardships. Cooper, the novelist, paints Indian life as a series
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 of attractive scenes and adventures, full of royal traits. Palfrey, the historian, describes it as cheap, tawdry, nasty, and horrid. There is truth, no doubt, in both aspects of the case; but the artist naturally selects the favorable point of view, and the dramatist impersonating a barbaric chieftain very properly tries to emphasize his virtues and grandeur, leaving his meanness and squalor in shadow. It is truth of history that the American Indian had noble and great qualities. His local attachment, tribal patriotism, and sensitiveness to public opinion, were as deep and strong, and produced as high examples of bravery and self-sacrifice, as were ever shown in Greece or Rome, Switzerland or Scotland. Nothing of the kind ever surpassed his haughty taciturnity and indomitable fortitude. And if his spirit of revenge was infernal in the level of its quality, it was certainly sublime in the intensity and volume of its power. Although in richness of mental equipment and experience there can be no comparison between them, yet if we had the data for a series of complete parallels and portraits; it would be extremely instructive to confront Philip of Pokanoket with Philip of Macedon, Push-ma-ta-ha with Alcibiades, Tecumseh with Attila, and Osceola with Spartacus. In kinds of passion, in modes of thought, in styles of natural and social scenery, in varieties of pleasure and pain, what correspondences and what contrasts there would be!
The acquaintance of Forrest with Push-ma-ta-ha was the first cause of his deep interest in the subject of the American Aborigines, of his subsequent extensive researches into their history, and finally of his offering a prize for a play which should embody a representative idea of their genius and their fate.
However wild and questionable in a moral point of view were some of Forrest's closest friends in New Orleans, and freely as he himself indulged in pleasure, he shed the worst influences exerted on him, was never recklessly abandoned to any vice whatever, but held a strong curb over his passions, and was uniformly faithful and punctual in the extreme to all his professional duties, steadily working in every way he knew to improve and to rise. And he owed in several respects an immense debt to these friends. For, stimulated by the sight of their superb poise, courage, and exuberant fulness of animal life and passion, he took them as models, and labored with unflagging patience by a care
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ful hygiene and gymnastic and critical self-control to fortify his weak places and lift his constitutional vitality and confidence to the highest point. He was temperate in food and drink, scrupulous as to rest and sleep, abundant in bathing, manipulation, and athletics. His development was steady, and he became in a certain personal centrality of balance, an assured and massive authority of bearing, unquestionably one of the most pronounced and imposing men on the continent.
Nor, in that remote situation, in those tempted days, did he forget his distant home, with the humble and repulsive hardships pressing on the dear ones within it. He wrote to them affectionately, cheering them up, sending them such small remittances as he could afford, and promising larger ones in the future. With the very first money he received from Caldwell, after paying his landlady, he purchased and forwarded by ship to his mother a barrel of flour, a half-barrel of sugar, and a box of oranges. His youngest sister, in the last year of her life, described the scene in their home when these things arrived. She was out of the house on an errand when they came. Entering the door, there sat her mother weeping for joy, with an open letter in her hand. Caroline stood with her bonnet on, just starting to take a dish of oranges to one of their neighbors, and Henrietta rushed forward, crying, "Oh, Eleanora, here is something from our dear Edwin!"
One evening, near the close of the season, Forrest had made so great a sensation in the audience that they stamped, clapped, shouted, and insisted on his coming before the curtain to receive their plaudits. But he had left the theatre in haste to fulfil an appointment elsewhere, and knew not of the honor designed for him. The people, ignorant of his absence, were furious at what they chose to interpret as his want of respect for them. They vowed vengeance. His benefit was to come off a few nights later. It was whispered abroad that the audience would not suffer him to perform unless he offered a meek apology for his insolent disregard of their wishes. He determined that he would not apologize, and that he would act. His friends, already described, with a good number of trusty followers, each a match for ten untrained men in a fight, were on hand, resolved to protect him, and, as they phrased it, to put him through. As the curtain rose and the youthful actor stepped forward, he was greeted with
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 a shower of hisses, mixed with cries of "Apology! Apology!" It was the first experience of the kind he had ever known, and he felt for an instant that horripilating chill called gooseflesh creep over some parts of his skin. But, nothing daunted, he at once, in the fixed attitude he had assumed, turned his level eyes on the noisy crowd, and said, in a calm, clear voice, "Gentlemen, not being guilty of any offence, I shall make no apology. When you called me, I was out of hearing. Is it just to punish me for a fault of which I am innocent?" A perfect hush followed, and in a moment the changed temper of the audience declared itself in a unanimous cheer, and the play went swimmingly on to the close.
Soon after the theatre had closed for the summer, about the middle of June, Forrest was attacked by the dreadful fever to which the city was periodically exposed. The low state of his finances caused him to dwell in a malarious quarter near the river, and to stay there at a time when the city was largely deserted by the better classes. It was the first severe and serious illness he had suffered. His best friends were away. He could not afford to hire special attendance. The disease raged terribly. His pain was extreme, and his depression worse. He thought he should die; and then bitterly he lamented that he had ever left his home, to perish in this awful way among strangers. "And yet," he said, "I meant it for the best; and what else could I do? Oh, my mother, where are you? How little you imagine the condition your poor boy is in now!" In his delirium he raved continually about his mother, and sometimes fancied she was with him, and lavished endearing epithets on her. So they told him after his recovery.
When he had been confined twelve or fourteen days, left alone one afternoon, he managed to get on his clothes and crawl into the open air. He was a most forlorn and miserable wretch, emaciated, trembling, with a nauseous stomach and a reeling brain. The scene without was in full keeping with his feelings. The squares were empty and silent. The grass was growing in the deserted street. The air was thick, lurid, and quivering with a sickly heat, while to his distempered fancy, through the steamy haze above, the sun seemed to hang like a great yellow scab. At that moment a crocodile five or six feet long crept up in the
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 gutter, and stared stupidly at him with its glazed and devilish eyes. Horrified, he shook his fist with a feeble cry at the ominous apparition, and the giant reptile waddled slowly away. He sat down on the curb-stone, faint and despairing, when who should come along but his good friend Captain Graham, just then landed at the wharf a few rods below! Gazing with astonishment at the haggard wreck before him, the captain exclaimed, "Why, good God, my boy, is that you?" "Yes," gasped the poor fellow, piteously, "this is all there is left of Edwin Forrest." The captain lifted him up and almost carried him to his boat, laid him on his own bed in the cabin, had him carefully sponged all over, first with warm water, finally with brandy, then gave him a heavy dose of raw whiskey. This acted as a benign emetic, and greatly relieved him. He fell asleep, and slept sweetly all night. The next day he returned to his lodgings convalescent. And in about three weeks he was well enough to start off with Caldwell and a part of his company on a theatrical tour through Virginia. The following letter tells us how he was then, and what he was doing:
"Petersburg, July 26th, 1824.
"Beloved Mother,—I must indeed beg ten thousand pardons for not writing to you earlier. Although we are separated, think not you are forgotten by me. Oh, no, dear mother, you are ever in my memory, and your happiness is my greatest wish. I hope, my dear mother, in the course of three or four weeks, to be with you on a visit of a fortnight or so, but must then return here to perform at Richmond and Norfolk. I sincerely desire that this vacation may occur. Then I shall see you; and I assure you such a meeting will be as great a happiness as I can possess in this world.
"I hope all the family have enjoyed full health since you last wrote. For myself, I have not altogether been myself since the severe attack of the fever which I had previous to leaving New Orleans. Well, well, I am in hopes I shall mend shortly and be myself again. The country I am now in is delightful, and the climate far more agreeable to me than that of the South. Please inform me of every little circumstance that has happened lately. How are my dear sisters? Also, where is my dear brother Lor
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man, of whom I have heard nothing for some time? Dear mother, it will relieve me much if you can give me any information concerning him.
"How does the old firm of John R. Baker, Son and—no, not clerk now! But is it still in existence? Should you see Max Stevenson, ask him whether he received my letter. Make my best regards to Sam Fisher, not forgetting the worthy Levan. Where are Joe Shipley, Charley Scriver, and Blighden Van Bann? I have not heard from them lately. Likewise give me all the information you can respecting the theatres.
"Have you seen Mrs. Page? Mother, she is indeed an excellent lady, one who merits every attention and regard; and I am sure your ever-friendly and social feelings towards her will not be lessened when you know that it will give infinite satisfaction to your wild but truly affectionate son,
"Edwin Forrest."
His anticipations of visiting home were doomed to disappointment. In a letter to his mother, dated at Fredericksburg, September 29th, we find him saying that he had been acting every night, except Sundays, and that there was no prospect of an intermission. He adds, "I performed Pythias for my opening here, and have succeeded to the delight of all the inhabitants. I had some difficulty with the manager again. He cast me, as an opening part, in Mortimer in the comedy of Laugh When You Can. I refused to play it, and left the theatre. However, in two days I saw my name in the bill for Pythias, and resumed my situation. All has gone on smoothly since, and I have triumphed over him as a tragedian in the opinions of those who recently esteemed him above praise or censure.
"As I passed through Washington on the way here, I had the satisfaction of seeing the worthy old Philadelphia manager, Warren. He expressed considerable surprise and pleasure when I introduced myself to him; for I had changed and grown entirely out of his memory."
During this trip in Virginia, Forrest saw Chief-Justice Marshall in a scene which always remained as a distinct picture in his memory. The illustrious magistrate was stopping at a country inn in the course of his circuit. The landlady was trying to
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 catch a hen to roast for dinner. The feat proving rather difficult for the aged and corpulent hostess, the Chief Justice came forth to aid her. There he stood, bare-headed, his vast silver shoe-buckles shining in the sun, a close body-coat and a pair of tight velvet breeches revealing his spare and sinewy form, striving to scare the refractory fowls into the hen-coop, awkwardly waving his hands towards them and crying, "Shoo! Shoo! Shoo!"
A few weeks later, Marshall went to the theatre in Richmond. It was the only time he had ever visited such a place. On invitation of Manager Caldwell, he went behind the scenes, examined the machinery and properties with great interest, and revealed his curiosity and naïveté in such questions, Forrest said, as a bright and innocent boy of sixteen might have asked. In recalling the incident when forty-five years had passed, Forrest remarked that nearly every great man had a good deal of the boy in him, but that Marshall showed the most of it, in his child-like simplicity and frankness, of all the great men he had ever known. Yes, those were simple times, times of high character and modest living, the purity of the early Republic. And if the above anecdote makes us smile, it also makes us love the stainless friend of Washington, the great Justice whose ermine was never soiled even by so much as a speck of suspicion.
While at Richmond, and again subsequently at New Orleans, Forrest had the felicity of seeing La Fayette, also of playing before him and winning his applause. The triumphal progress through America of this beloved hero of two hemispheres was a proud recollection to all who shared in it. It was a thrilling poem in action instead of words. The enthusiasm was something which we in our more broken and cynical times can hardly conceive. From town to town, from city to city, from State to State, whole populations turned out to meet him, with bells, guns, popular songs, garlands of flowers in the hands of school-children; and he moved on beneath a canopy of banners amidst swelling music, accompanied by the prayers and tears of the grateful people whom he had befriended in the midnight of their struggle, and who idolized him now that he had come back to bask in the noonday of their glory. It was one of the most charming episodes in history, and one which no American heart can afford to forget. Yet in this mixed world the sublime and the
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 ridiculous are usually near together. It was so in this case in an incident which came under the personal observation of Forrest. He stood near to La Fayette on one occasion when a long series of citizens were introduced to him. Of course it became a wearisome formality to the illustrious guest, who bore it with smiling fortitude by dint of converting it into an automatic performance. As he shook hands first with one, then with another, he would say, "Are you married?" If the reply was "Yes," he would add, "Happy man!" If the reply was "No," still he would add, as before, "Happy man!"
Caldwell re-opened at the American Theatre January 3d, 1825, in The Soldier's Daughter, Forrest taking the rôle of Malfort Junior. During the month he played, among other parts, Adrian in the comedy of Adrian and Orilla, Master of Ceremonies in Tom and Jerry, Joseph Surface in the School for Scandal. The "Louisiana Advertiser" says, in a notice of The Falls of Clyde, "Nothing could be more to our taste than the wild music and dramatized legends of Scotland. Mr. E. Forrest never appeared to so much advantage. Every person applauded him." Some weeks later the same paper remarks, "Mr. Forrest's Almanza is well conceived, and displays great genius."
At this period of his life Forrest was in the habit of writing verses whenever his heart was particularly touched. Quite a number of his effusions, mostly of an amatory cast, were published in the corner of a New Orleans newspaper. A diligent search has brought them to light, together with the fact that the lady to whom the most of them were addressed is yet living in that city, the widow of one of its most influential and wealthy merchants, and that she remembers well her girlish admiration for the handsome young tragedian, and still preserves in manuscript several letters and poems sent to her by him. In his latter days he himself gave the following account of this slight literary episode. "In my youth," he said, "I used to write poetry; that is, as I should say, doggerel. The editor of the 'Louisiana Advertiser' printed it, and encouraged me to compose more. I used to read it over and think it very fine. But after a few years I looked at the pieces again, and was mortified at their worthlessness. Glancing around furtively to see if any one was observing me, I rushed the whole collection into the fire. Oh, it
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 was wretched stuff, infernally poor stuff! Moses Y. Scott satirized my poetry in some lines beginning,—
'With paces long and sometimes scanty,
Thus he rides on with Rosinante!'"
A selection of three of the better among these pieces will suffice to satisfy curiosity; and it is to be feared that after perusing them the judgment of the reader will accord with that of Moses Y. Scott.
TO ——.
"Thy spell, O Love, is elysium to my soul;
Freely I yield me to thy sweet control;
For other joys let folly's fools contend,
Whether to pomp or luxury they tend.
Let sages tell us, what they ne'er believe,
That love must ever give us cause to grieve;
Mine be the bliss C——'s love to prove,
To love her still, and still to have her love.
If without her of countless worlds possessed,
I still should mourn, I still should be unblest.
For her I'd yield whole worlds of richest ore,—
Possessed of her, the gods could give no more.
For her, though Paradise itself were given,
I'd love her still, nor seek another heaven."
"Ah, go not hence, light of my saddened soul!
Nor leave me in this absence to lament;
Thy going sheds dark chaos o'er the whole,—
A noonday night from angry Heaven sent.
"Ah, go not where, now tow'ring to the skies,
Malignant hills to separate us rise;
For should those smiling eyes, attemp'ring every ray,
That now shine sweetly, lambent with celestial day,
Averted from me e'er on distant objects roll,
Melancholy's deep shade would shroud my lifeless soul.
"Oh, stay thine eyes,—diffuse their animating ray,—
And with their smiling pleasures brighten all the day.
But if relentless 'gainst me with the fates you join,
Then go! though still my heart, my soul, is thine.
And when from me so distant thou art gone,
Oh, yield one sigh responsive to mine own!"
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The third piece was composed on occasion of the military funeral of Henry K. Bunting, an intimate friend of Forrest, a young man of most estimable character, whose early death was lamented by the whole community:
"How slow they marched! each youthful face was pale,
And downcast eyes disclosed the mournful tale;
Grief was depicted on each manly brow,
And gloomy tears abundantly did flow
From each sad heart. For he whose breath had fled
Was loved by all,—in honor's path was bred.
I knew him well; his heart was pure and kind,
A noble spirit, and a lofty mind.
Virtue cast round his head her smiling wreath,
Which did not leave him on his bed of death.
His image lives, and from my grief-worn heart,
While life remains, will never, never part.
Weep, soldiers, weep! with tears of sadness lave
Your friend and brother's drear, untimely grave!"
In March the celebrated and ill-starred Conway filled an engagement in New Orleans. The witnessing of his performances formed one of the epochs in the development of Forrest's dramatic power. He played Malcolm to the Macbeth of the tall and over-impassioned tragedian, and caught some valuable suggestions from his idiomatic individuality and style. But it was the Othello of this powerful and unhappy actor which most impressed him. He played this part with a sweetness and a majestic and frenzied energy which no audience could resist. The whole truth of the course of the ambition, love, jealousy, madness, vengeance, desperation, remorse, and death of the noble but barbaric Moor was painted in volcanic and statuesque outlines. Nothing escaped the apt pupil, who with lynx-eyed observation fastened on every original point, every electric stroke, and at this adolescent period drank in the significance of the fully-developed passions of unbridled human nature. It was not long after these mimic presentments when the real passions in the darkly-tangled plot of his own existence wrought so convulsively on poor Conway, the friction sunk so profoundly into the sockets and vital seats of his being, that he went mad, threw himself overboard, and all his griefs and fears at once in the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
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Early in May, Forrest's benefit was announced, and he was underlined for Lear, "the first time in New Orleans." On account of bad weather the benefit was postponed, and, when it did occur, instead of Lear he performed Octavian, in Coleman's Mountaineers. The season closed with the end of the month, when he played Carwin, the leading rôle in the drama of Therese, by John Howard Payne.
The first actress in the company of the American Theatre at New Orleans for the season of 1825 was Miss Jane Placide. She was born at Charleston, and was then, in her twentieth year, deservedly a great favorite with the Southern public. She was extremely beautiful in her person, sweet in her disposition, piquant in her manners, and artistically natural in her rôles. Among the many private suppliants for her smiles rumor included both Caldwell and Forrest. Where the tinder of such rivalry is lying about, flashes of jealousy, easily provoked, may at any time elicit an explosion of wrath. So it happened here, and the two men had a sharp quarrel. The young actor challenged the calmer manager. He refused to accept it, saying their altercation was an inconsiderate effervescence which had better be forgotten by them both. But the temper of Forrest, aggravated by his hot associates and the local code, was not so cheaply to be assuaged. He had the following card printed and affixed in several conspicuous places: "Whereas James H. Caldwell has wronged and insulted me, and refused me the satisfaction of a gentleman, I hereby denounce him as a scoundrel and post him as a coward. Edwin Forrest."
Caldwell, so far from being enraged at this sonorous manifesto, laughed at it, quietly adding, "Like the Parthian, he wounds me as he flies." For in the afternoon of the very day of his issuing the ominous placard, Forrest had accepted an invitation from his friend Push-ma-ta-ha to spend a month with him in the wigwams and hunting-grounds of his tribe; and already, side by side, on horseback, each with a little pack at his saddle, they were scampering away towards the tents of the Choctaws, a hundred miles distant. Three reasons urged him to this interesting adventure. First, he loved his friend, the young Indian chief, and longed to see him in his glory at the head of his people. Secondly, he was poor, and there it would cost him nothing for food and lodgings.
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 And thirdly, he desired to make a personal study of Indian character, life, and manners.
The red men treated him, as the friend and guest of their chief, with marked distinction, making him quickly feel himself at home. He adapted himself to their habits, dressed in their costume, and, as far as he could, took part in all their doings, their smokes, their dances, their hunts, their songs. Their rude customs were not offensive but rather attractive to him, and he was happy, feeling that it would not be hard for him to relapse from civilization and stay permanently with these wild stepchildren of nature. He seemed to come into contact with the unwritten traditions of the prehistoric time, and to taste the simple freedom that prevailed before so many artificial luxuries, toils, and laws had made such slaves of us all. The fine chance here offered him of getting an accurate knowledge of the American Indian, alike in his exterior and his interior personality, he carefully improved, and when he came to enact the part of Metamora it stood him in good stead.
One night Push-ma-ta-ha and Forrest were lying on the ground before a big fire which they had kindled a little way out from the village. They had been conversing for hours, recalling stories and legends for their mutual entertainment. The shadows of the wood lay here and there like so many dark ghosts of trees prostrate and intangible on the earth. The pale smoke from their burning heap of brush floated towards heaven in spectral volumes and slowly faded out afar. In the unapproachable blue over their heads hung the full moon, and in the pauses of their talk nothing but the lonely notes of a night-bird broke the silence. Like an artist, or like an antique Greek, Forrest had a keen delight in the naked form of man, feeling that the best image of God we have is nude humanity in its perfection, which our fashionable dresses so travesty and degrade. Push-ma-ta-ha, then twenty-four years old, brought up from his birth in the open air and in almost incessant action of sport and command, was from head to foot a faultless model of a human being. Forrest asked him to strip himself and walk to and fro before him between the moonlight and the firelight, that he might feast his eyes and his soul on so complete a physical type of what man should be. The young chief, without a word, cast aside his
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 Choctaw garb and stepped forth with dainty tread, a living statue of Apollo in glowing bronze. "Push-ma-ta-ha," said Forrest, in wondering admiration, "who were your grandparents?" His nostrils curled with a superbly beautiful disdain, and, stretching forth his arm with a lofty grace which the proudest Roman orator could not have surpassed, he replied, "My father was never born. The Great Spirit shivered an oak with one of his thunderbolts, and my father came out, a perfect man, with his bow and arrows in his hand!"
Whether this was superstitious inspiration or theatrical brag on the part of the Indian, certainly the scene was a weird and wonderful one, and the speech extremely poetic. Forrest used in after-years to say, "My God, what a contrast he was to some fashionable men I have since seen, half made up of false teeth, false hair, padding, gloves, and spectacles!"
But a sense of duty, in a few weeks, urged the actor to be seeking an engagement for the next season, and, saying good-by forever to his aboriginal comrades, he returned to New Orleans and took passage in a small coasting-vessel for Philadelphia, where he arrived with a single notable adventure by the way. For on the third day out they were becalmed; and, suffering from the excessive heat, he thought to refresh himself by a swim. With a joyous shout and splash he sprang from the taffrail, and swam several times around the sloop, when, chancing to look down and a little way behind, he saw a huge shark making towards him. Three or four swift and tremendous strokes brought him within reach of the anchor-chain, and he convulsively swung himself on deck, and lay there panting with exhaustion. But the ruling passion was strong even then. He immediately went over and over in consciousness, in order to fix them in memory for future use in his art, the frightful emotions he had felt while chased by this white-tusked devil of the ocean!

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