Title: The Cornhill Magazine (Vol. I, No. 5, May 1860)
Release date: April 8, 2023 [eBook #70507]
Original publication: United Kingdom: Smith, Elder and Co, 1860
Credits: hekula03 and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net (This book was produced from images made available by the HathiTrust Digital Library.)
|Chapter XIII.—Delicate Hints.|
|” XIV.—Mr. Crawley of Hogglestock.|
|” XV.—Lady Lufton’s Ambassador.|
|Campaigning in China||537|
|The Carver’s Lesson||560|
|William Hogarth: Painter, Engraver, and Philosopher. Essays on the Man, the Work, and the Time||561|
|IV.—The Painter’s Progress.|
|Written in the Deepdene Album. By Washington Irving.||582|
|Lovel the Widower. (With an Illustration.)||583|
|Chapter V.—In which I am Stung by a Serpent.|
|Studies in Animal Life||598|
|Chapter V.—Talking in beetles—Identity of Egyptian animals with those now existing: does this prove fixity of species?—Examination of the celebrated argument of species not having altered in four thousand years—Impossibility of distinguishing species from varieties—The affinities of animals—New facts proving the fertility of Hybrids—The hare and the rabbit contrasted—Doubts respecting the development hypothesis—On hypothesis in Natural History—Pliny, and his notion on the formation of pearls—Are pearls owing to a disease of the oyster?—Formation of the shell; origin of pearls—How the Chinese manufacture pearls.|
|Paterfamilias to the Editor of the “Cornhill Magazine”||608|
|The Outcast Mother. By E. J. Brontë||616|
|The Portent. (With an Illustration.)||617|
|Roundabout Papers.—No. 3||631|
SMITH, ELDER AND CO., 65, CORNHILL.
LEIPZIG, B. TAUCHNITE. NEW YORK: WILLMER AND ROGERS.
MELBOURNE: G. ROBERTSON.
⁂ Communications for the Editor should be addressed to the care of Messrs. Smith, Elder and Co., 65, Cornhill, and not to the Editor’s private residence. The Editor cannot be responsible for the return of rejected contributions.
Lady Lufton had been greatly rejoiced at that good deed which her son did in giving up his Leicestershire hunting, and coming to reside for the winter at Framley. It was proper, and becoming, and comfortable in the extreme. An English nobleman ought to hunt in the county where he himself owns the fields over which he rides; he ought to receive the respect and honour due to him from his own tenants; he ought to sleep under a roof of his own, and he ought also—so Lady Lufton thought—to fall in love with a young embryo bride of his own mother’s choosing.
And then it was so pleasant to have him there in the house. Lady Lufton was not a woman who allowed her life to be what people in common parlance call dull. She had too many duties, and thought too much of them, to allow of her suffering from tedium and ennui. But nevertheless the house was more joyous to her when he was there. There was a reason for some little gaiety, which would never have been attracted thither by herself, but which, nevertheless, she did enjoy when it was brought about by his presence. She was younger and brighter when he was there, thinking more of the future and less of the past. She could look at him, and that alone was happiness to her. And then he was pleasant-mannered with her; joking with her on her little old-world prejudices in a tone that was musical to her ear as coming from him; smiling on her, reminding her of those smiles which she had loved so dearly when as yet he was all her own, lying there in his little bed beside her chair. He was kind and gracious to her, behaving like a good son, at any rate while he was there in her presence. When we add, to this, her fears that he might not be so perfect in his conduct when absent, we may well imagine that Lady Lufton was pleased to have him there at Framley Court.
She had hardly said a word to him as to that five thousand pounds. Many a night, as she lay thinking on her pillow, she said to herself that no money had ever been better expended, since it had brought him back to his own house. He had thanked her for it in his own open way, declaring that he would pay it back to her during the coming year, and comforting her heart by his rejoicing that the property had not been sold.
“I don’t like the idea of parting with an acre of it,” he had said.
“Of course not, Ludovic. Never let the estate decrease in your hands. It is only by such resolutions as that that English noblemen and English gentlemen can preserve their country. I cannot bear to see property changing hands.”
“Well, I suppose it’s a good thing to have land in the market sometimes, so that the millionnaires may know what to do with their money.”
“God forbid that yours should be there!” And the widow made a little mental prayer that her son’s acres might be protected from the millionnaires and other Philistines.
“Why, yes: I don’t exactly want to see a Jew tailor investing his earnings at Lufton,” said the lord.
“Heaven forbid!” said the widow.
All this, as I have said, was very nice. It was manifest to her ladyship, from his lordship’s way of talking, that no vital injury had as yet been done: he had no cares on his mind, and spoke freely about the property: but nevertheless there were clouds even now, at this period of bliss, which somewhat obscured the brilliancy of Lady Lufton’s sky. Why was Ludovic so slow in that affair of Griselda Grantly? why so often in these latter winter days did he saunter over to the Parsonage? And then that terrible visit to Gatherum Castle!
What actually did happen at Gatherum Castle, she never knew. We, however, are more intrusive, less delicate in our inquiries, and we can say. He had a very bad day’s sport with the West Barsetshire. The county is altogether short of foxes, and some one who understands the matter must take that point up before they can do any good. And after that he had had rather a dull dinner with the duke. Sowerby had been there, and in the evening he and Sowerby had played billiards. Sowerby had won a pound or two, and that had been the extent of the damage done.
But those saunterings over to the Parsonage might be more dangerous. Not that it ever occurred to Lady Lufton as possible that her son should fall in love with Lucy Robarts. Lucy’s personal attractions were not of a nature to give ground for such a fear as that. But he might turn the girl’s head with his chatter; she might be fool enough to fancy any folly; and, moreover, people would talk. Why should he go to the Parsonage now more frequently than he had ever done before Lucy came there?
And then her ladyship, in reference to the same trouble, hardly knew how to manage her invitations to the Parsonage. These hitherto had been very frequent, and she had been in the habit of thinking that they could hardly be too much so; but now she was almost afraid to continue the custom. She could not ask the parson and his wife without Lucy; and when Lucy was there, her son would pass the greater part of the evening in talking to her, or playing chess with her. Now this did disturb Lady Lufton not a little.
And then Lucy took it all so quietly. On her first arrival at Framley she had been so shy, so silent, and so much awe-struck by the grandeur of Framley Court, that Lady Lufton had sympathized with her and encouraged her. She had endeavoured to moderate the blaze of her own splendour, in order that Lucy’s unaccustomed eyes might not be dazzled. But all this was changed now. Lucy could listen to the young lord’s voice by the hour together—without being dazzled in the least.
Under these circumstances two things occurred to her. She would speak either to her son or to Fanny Robarts, and by a little diplomacy have this evil remedied. And then she had to determine on which step she would take.
“Nothing could be more reasonable than Ludovic.” So at least she said to herself over and over again. But then Ludovic understood nothing about such matters; and he had, moreover, a habit, inherited from his father, of taking the bit between his teeth whenever he suspected interference. Drive him gently without pulling his mouth about, and you might take him anywhere, almost at any pace; but a smart touch, let it be ever so slight, would bring him on his haunches, and then it might be a question whether you could get him another mile that day. So that on the whole Lady Lufton thought that the other plan would be the best. I have no doubt that Lady Lufton was right.
She got Fanny up into her own den one afternoon, and seated her discreetly in an easy arm-chair, making her guest take off her bonnet, and showing by various signs that the visit was regarded as one of great moment.
“Fanny,” she said, “I want to speak to you about something that is important and necessary to mention, and yet it is a very delicate affair to speak of.” Fanny opened her eyes, and said that she hoped that nothing was wrong.
“No, my dear, I think nothing is wrong: I hope so, and I think I may say I’m sure of it; but then it’s always well to be on one’s guard.”
“Yes, it is,” said Fanny, who knew that something unpleasant was coming—something as to which she might probably be called upon to differ from her ladyship. Mrs. Robarts’ own fears, however, were running entirely in the direction of her husband;—and, indeed, Lady Lufton had a word or two to say on that subject also, only not exactly now. A hunting parson was not at all to her taste; but that matter might be allowed to remain in abeyance for a few days.
“Now, Fanny, you know that we have all liked your sister-in-law, Lucy, very much.” And then Mrs. Robarts’ mind was immediately opened, and she knew the rest as well as though it had all been spoken. “I need hardly tell you that, for I am sure we have shown it.”
“You have, indeed, as you always do.”
“And you must not think that I am going to complain,” continued Lady Lufton.
“I hope there is nothing to complain of,” said Fanny, speaking by no means in a defiant tone, but humbly as it were, and deprecating her ladyship’s wrath. Fanny had gained one signal victory over Lady Lufton, and on that account, with a prudence equal to her generosity, felt that she could afford to be submissive. It might, perhaps, not be long before she would be equally anxious to conquer again.
“Well, no; I don’t think there is,” said Lady Lufton. “Nothing to complain of; but a little chat between you and me may, perhaps, set matters right, which, otherwise, might become troublesome.”
“Is it about Lucy?”
“Yes, my dear—about Lucy. She is a very nice, good girl, and a credit to her father——”
“And a great comfort to us,” said Fanny.
“I am sure she is: she must be a very pleasant companion to you, and so useful about the children; but——” And then Lady Lufton paused for a moment; for she, eloquent and discreet as she always was, felt herself rather at a loss for words to express her exact meaning.
“I don’t know what I should do without her,” said Fanny, speaking with the object of assisting her ladyship in her embarrassment.
“But the truth is this: she and Lord Lufton are getting into the way of being too much together—of talking to each other too exclusively. I am sure you must have noticed it, Fanny. It is not that I suspect any evil. I don’t think that I am suspicious by nature.”
“Oh! no,” said Fanny.
“But they will each of them get wrong ideas about the other, and about themselves. Lucy will, perhaps, think that Ludovic means more than he does, and Ludovic will——” But it was not quite so easy to say what Ludovic might do or think; but Lady Lufton went on:
“I am sure that you understand me, Fanny, with your excellent sense and tact. Lucy is clever, and amusing, and all that; and Ludovic, like all young men, is perhaps ignorant that his attentions may be taken to mean more than he intends——”
“You don’t think that Lucy is in love with him?”
“Oh dear, no—nothing of the kind. If I thought it had come to that, I should recommend that she should be sent away altogether. I am sure she is not so foolish as that.”
“I don’t think there is anything in it at all, Lady Lufton.”
“I don’t think there is, my dear, and therefore I would not for worlds make any suggestion about it to Lord Lufton. I would not let him suppose that I suspected Lucy of being so imprudent. But still, it may be well that you should just say a word to her. A little management now and then, in such matters, is so useful.”
“But what shall I say to her?”
“Just explain to her that any young lady who talks so much to the same young gentleman will certainly be observed—that people will accuse her of setting her cap at Lord Lufton. Not that I suspect her—I give her credit for too much proper feeling: I know her education has been good, and her principles are upright. But people will talk of her. You must understand that, Fanny, as well as I do.”
Fanny could not help meditating whether proper feeling, education, and upright principles did forbid Lucy Robarts to fall in love with Lord Lufton; but her doubts on this subject, if she held any, were not communicated to her ladyship. It had never entered into her mind that a match was possible between Lord Lufton and Lucy Robarts, nor had she the slightest wish to encourage it now that the idea was suggested to her. On such a matter she could sympathize with Lady Lufton, though she did not completely agree with her as to the expediency of any interference. Nevertheless, she at once offered to speak to Lucy.
“I don’t think that Lucy has any idea in her head upon the subject,” said Mrs. Robarts.
“I dare say not—I don’t suppose she has. But young ladies sometimes allow themselves to fall in love, and then to think themselves very ill-used, just because they have had no idea in their head.”
“I will put her on her guard if you wish it, Lady Lufton.”
“Exactly, my dear; that is just it. Put her on her guard—that is all that is necessary. She is a dear, good, clever girl, and it would be very sad if anything were to interrupt our comfortable way of getting on with her.”
Mrs. Robarts knew to a nicety the exact meaning of this threat. If Lucy would persist in securing to herself so much of Lord Lufton’s time and attention, her visits to Framley Court must become less frequent. Lady Lufton would do much, very much, indeed, for her friends at the Parsonage; but not even for them could she permit her son’s prospects in life to be endangered.
There was nothing more said between them, and Mrs. Robarts got up to take her leave, having promised to speak to Lucy.
“You manage everything so perfectly,” said Lady Lufton, as she pressed Mrs. Robarts’ hand, “that I am quite at ease now that I find you will agree with me.” Mrs. Robarts did not exactly agree with her ladyship, but she hardly thought it worth her while to say so.
Mrs. Robarts immediately started off on her walk to her own home, and when she had got out of the grounds into the road, where it makes a turn towards the Parsonage, nearly opposite to Podgens’ shop, she saw Lord Lufton on horseback, and Lucy standing beside him. It was already nearly five o’clock, and it was getting dusk, but as she approached, or rather as she came suddenly within sight of them, she could see that they were in close conversation. Lord Lufton’s face was towards her, and his horse was standing still; he was leaning over towards his companion, and the whip, which he held in his right hand, hung almost over her arm and down her back, as though his hand had touched and perhaps rested on her shoulder. She was standing by his side, looking up into his face, with one gloved hand resting on the horse’s neck. Mrs. Robarts, as she saw them, could not but own that there might be cause for Lady Lufton’s fears.
But then Lucy’s manner, as Mrs. Roberts approached, was calculated to dissipate any such fears, and to prove that there was no ground for them. She did not move from her position, or allow her hand to drop, or show that she was in any way either confused or conscious. She stood her ground, and when her sister-in-law came up, was smiling and at her ease.
“Lord Lufton wants me to learn to ride,” said she.
“To learn to ride!” said Fanny, not knowing what answer to make to such a proposition.
“Yes,” said he. “This horse would carry her beautifully: he is as quiet as a lamb, and I made Gregory go out with him yesterday with a sheet hanging over him like a lady’s habit, and the man got up into a lady’s saddle.”
“I think Gregory would make a better hand of it than Lucy.”
“The horse cantered with him as though he had carried a lady all his life, and his mouth is like velvet—indeed, that is his fault, he is too soft-mouthed.”
“I suppose that’s the same sort of thing as a man being soft-hearted,” said Lucy.
“Exactly: you ought to ride them both with a very light hand. They are difficult cattle to manage, but very pleasant when you know how to do it.”
“But you see I don’t know how to do it,” said Lucy.
“As regards the horse, you will learn in two days, and I do hope you will try. Don’t you think it will be an excellent thing for her, Mrs. Robarts?”
“Lucy has got no habit,” said Mrs. Robarts, making use of the excuse common on all such occasions.
“There is one of Justinia’s in the house, I know. She always leaves one here, in order that she may be able to ride when she comes.”
“She would not think of taking such a liberty with Lady Meredith’s things,” said Fanny, almost frightened at the proposal.
“Of course it is out of the question, Fanny,” said Lucy, now speaking rather seriously. “In the first place, I would not take Lord Lufton’s horse; in the second place, I would not take Lady Meredith’s habit; in the third place, I should be a great deal too much frightened; and, lastly, it is quite out of the question for a great many other very good reasons.”
“Nonsense,” said Lord Lufton.
“A great deal of nonsense,” said Lucy, laughing, “but all of it of Lord Lufton’s talking. But we are getting cold—are we not, Fanny?—so we will wish you good-night.” And then the two ladies shook hands with him, and walked on towards the Parsonage.
That which astonished Mrs. Robarts the most in all this was the perfectly collected manner in which Lucy spoke and conducted herself. This connected, as she could not but connect it, with the air of chagrin with which Lord Lufton received Lucy’s decision, made it manifest to Mrs. Robarts that Lord Lufton was annoyed because Lucy would not consent to learn to ride; whereas she, Lucy herself, had given her refusal in a firm and decided tone, as though resolved that nothing more should be said about it.
They walked on in silence for a minute or two, till they reached the Parsonage gate, and then Lucy said, laughing, “Can’t you fancy me sitting on that great big horse? I wonder what Lady Lufton would say if she saw me there, and his lordship giving me my first lesson?”
“I don’t think she would like it,” said Fanny.
“I’m sure she would not. But I will not try her temper in that respect. Sometimes I fancy that she does not even like seeing Lord Lufton talking to me.”
“She does not like it, Lucy, when she sees him flirting with you.”
This Mrs. Robarts said rather gravely, whereas Lucy had been speaking in a half-bantering tone. As soon as even the word flirting was out of Fanny’s mouth, she was conscious that she had been guilty of an injustice in using it. She had wished to say something which would convey to her sister-in-law an idea of what Lady Lufton would dislike; but in doing so, she had unintentionally brought against her an accusation.
“Flirting, Fanny!” said Lucy, standing still in the path, and looking up into her companion’s face with all her eyes. “Do you mean to say that I have been flirting with Lord Lufton?”
“I did not say that.”
“Or that I have allowed him to flirt with me?”
“I did not mean to shock you, Lucy.”
“What did you mean, Fanny?”
“Why, just this: that Lady Lufton would not be pleased if he paid you marked attentions, and if you received them;—just like that affair of the riding; it was better to decline it.”
“Of course, I declined it; of course I never dreamt of accepting such an offer. Go riding about the country on his horses! What have I done, Fanny, that you should suppose such a thing?”
“You have done nothing, dearest.”
“Then why did you speak as you did just now?”
“Because I wished to put you on your guard. You know, Lucy, that I do not intend to find fault with you; but you may be sure, as a rule, that intimate friendships between young gentlemen and young ladies are dangerous things.”
They then walked up to the hall-door in silence. When they had reached it, Lucy stood in the doorway instead of entering it, and said, “Fanny, let us take another turn together, if you are not tired.”
“No, I’m not tired.”
“It will be better that I should understand you at once,”—and then they again moved away from the house. “Tell me truly now, do you think that Lord Lufton and I have been flirting?”
“I do think that he is a little inclined to flirt with you.”
“And Lady Lufton has been asking you to lecture me about it?”
Poor Mrs. Robarts hardly knew what to say. She thought well of all the persons concerned, and was very anxious to behave well by all of them;—was particularly anxious to create no ill feeling, and wished that everybody should be comfortable, and on good terms with everybody else. But yet the truth was forced out of her when this question was asked so suddenly.
“Not to lecture you, Lucy,” she said at last.
“Well, to preach to me, or to talk to me, or to give me a lesson; to say something that shall drive me to put my back up against Lord Lufton?”
“To caution you, dearest. Had you heard what she said, you would hardly have felt angry with Lady Lufton.”
“Well, to caution me. It is such a pleasant thing for a girl to be cautioned against falling in love with a gentleman, especially when the gentleman is very rich, and a lord, and all that sort of thing!”
“Nobody for a moment attributes anything wrong to you, Lucy.”
“Anything wrong—no. I don’t know whether it would be anything wrong, even if I were to fall in love with him. I wonder whether they cautioned Griselda Grantly when she was here? I suppose when young lords go about, all the girls are cautioned as a matter of course. Why do they not label him ‘dangerous?’” And then again they were silent for a moment, as Mrs. Robarts did not feel that she had anything further to say on the matter.
“‘Poison’ should be the word with any one so fatal as Lord Lufton; and he ought to be made up of some particular colour, for fear he should be swallowed in mistake.”
“You will be safe, you see,” said Fanny, laughing, “as you have been specially cautioned as to this individual bottle.”
“Ah! but what’s the use of that after I have had so many doses? It is no good telling me about it now, when the mischief is done,—after I have been taking it for I don’t know how long. Dear! dear! dear! and I regarded it as a mere commonplace powder, good for the complexion. I wonder whether it’s too late, or whether there’s any antidote?”
Mrs. Robarts did not always quite understand her sister-in-law, and now she was a little at a loss. “I don’t think there’s much harm done yet on either side,” she said, cheerily.
“Ah! you don’t know, Fanny. But I do think that if I die—as I shall—I feel I shall;—and if so, I do think it ought to go very hard with Lady Lufton. Why didn’t she label him ‘dangerous’ in time?” and then they went into the house and up to their own rooms.
It was difficult for any one to understand Lucy’s state of mind at present, and it can hardly be said that she understood it herself. She felt that she had received a severe blow in having been thus made the subject of remark with reference to Lord Lufton. She knew that her pleasant evenings at Lufton Court were now over, and that she could not again talk to him in an unrestrained tone and without embarrassment. She had felt the air of the whole place to be very cold before her intimacy with him, and now it must be cold again. Two homes had been open to her, Framley Court and the Parsonage; and now, as far as comfort was concerned, she must confine herself to the latter. She could not again be comfortable in Lady Lufton’s drawing-room.
But then she could not help asking herself whether Lady Lufton was not right. She had had courage enough, and presence of mind, to joke about the matter when her sister-in-law spoke to her, and yet she was quite aware that it was no joking matter. Lord Lufton had not absolutely made love to her, but he had latterly spoken to her in a manner which she knew was not compatible with that ordinary comfortable masculine friendship with the idea of which she had once satisfied herself. Was not Fanny right when she said that intimate friendships of that nature were dangerous things?
Yes, Lucy, very dangerous. Lucy, before she went to bed that night, had owned to herself that they were so; and lying there with sleepless eyes and a moist pillow, she was driven to confess that the label would in truth be now too late, that the caution had come to her after the poison had been swallowed. Was there any antidote? That was all that was left for her to consider. But, nevertheless, on the following morning she could appear quite at her ease. And when Mark had left the house after breakfast, she could still joke with Fanny as to Lady Lufton’s poison cupboard.
And then there was that other trouble in Lady Lufton’s mind, the sins, namely, of her selected parson. She had selected him, and she was by no means inclined to give him up, even though his sins against parsondom were grievous. Indeed she was a woman not prone to give up anything, and of all things not prone to give up a protégé. The very fact that she herself had selected him was the strongest argument in his favour.
But his sins against parsondom were becoming very grievous in her eyes, and she was at a loss to know what steps to take. She hardly, dared to take him to task, him himself. Were she to do so, and should he then tell her to mind her own business—as he probably might do, though not in those words—there would be a schism in the parish; and almost anything would be better than that. The whole work of her life would be upset, all the outlets of her energy would be impeded if not absolutely closed, if a state of things were to come to pass in which she and the parson of her parish should not be on good terms.
But what was to be done? Early in the winter he had gone to Chaldicotes and to Gatherum Castle, consorting with gamblers, whigs, atheists, men of loose pleasure, and Proudieites. That she had condoned; and now he was turning out a hunting parson on her hands. It was all very well for Fanny to say that he merely looked at the hounds as he rode about his parish. Fanny might be deceived. Being his wife, it might be her duty not to see her husband’s iniquities. But Lady Lufton could not be deceived. She knew very well in what part of the county Cobbold’s Ashes lay. It was not in Framley parish, nor in the next parish to it. It was half-way across to Chaldicotes—in the western division; and she had heard of that run in which two horses had been killed, and in which parson Robarts had won such immortal glory among West Barsetshire sportsmen. It was not easy to keep Lady Lufton in the dark as to matters occurring in her own county.
All these things she knew, but as yet had not noticed, grieving over them in her own heart the more on that account. Spoken grief relieves itself; and when one can give counsel, one always hopes at least that that counsel will be effective. To her son she had said, more than once, that it was a pity that Mr. Robarts should follow the hounds.—“The world has agreed that it is unbecoming in a clergyman,” she would urge, in her deprecatory tone. But her son would by no means give her any comfort. “He doesn’t hunt, you know—not as I do,” he would say. “And if he did, I really don’t see the harm of it. A man must have some amusement, even if he be an archbishop.” “He has amusement at home,” Lady Lufton would answer. “What does his wife do—and his sister?” This allusion to Lucy, however, was very soon dropped.
Lord Lufton would in no wise help her. He would not even passively discourage the vicar, or refrain from offering to give him a seat in going to the meets. Mark and Lord Lufton had been boys together, and his lordship knew that Mark in his heart would enjoy a brush across the country quite as well as he himself; and then what was the harm of it?
Lady Lufton’s best aid had been in Mark’s own conscience. He had taken himself to task more than once, and had promised himself that he would not become a sporting parson. Indeed, where would be his hopes of ulterior promotion, if he allowed himself to degenerate so far as that? It had been his intention, in reviewing what he considered to be the necessary proprieties of clerical life, in laying out his own future mode of living, to assume no peculiar sacerdotal strictness; he would not be known as a denouncer of dancing or of card-tables, of theatres or of novel-reading; he would take the world around him as he found it, endeavouring by precept and practice to lend a hand to the gradual amelioration which Christianity is producing; but he would attempt no sudden or majestic reforms. Cake and ale would still be popular, and ginger be hot in the mouth, let him preach ever so—let him be never so solemn a hermit; but a bright face, a true trusting heart, a strong arm, and an humble mind, might do much in teaching those around him that men may be gay and yet not profligate, that women may be devout and yet not dead to the world.
Such had been his ideas as to his own future life; and though many will think that as a clergyman he should have gone about his work with more serious devotion of thought, nevertheless there was some wisdom in them;—some folly also, undoubtedly, as appeared by the troubles into which they led him.
“I will not affect to think that to be bad,” said he to himself, “which in my heart of hearts does not seem to be bad.” And thus he resolved that he might live without contamination among hunting squires. And then, being a man only too prone by nature to do as others did around him, he found by degrees that that could hardly be wrong for him which he admitted to be right for others.
But still his conscience upbraided him, and he declared to himself more than once that after this year he would hunt no more. And then his own Fanny would look at him on his return home on those days in a manner that cut him to the heart. She would say nothing to him. She never inquired in a sneering tone, and with angry eyes, whether he had enjoyed his day’s sport; but when he spoke of it, she could not answer him with enthusiasm; and in other matters which concerned him she was always enthusiastic.
After a while, too, he made matters worse, for about the end of March he did another very foolish thing. He almost consented to buy an expensive horse from Sowerby—an animal which he by no means wanted, and which, if once possessed, would certainly lead him into further trouble. A gentleman, when he has a good horse in his stable, does not like to leave him there eating his head off. If he be a gig-horse, the owner of him will be keen to drive a gig; if a hunter, the happy possessor will wish to be with a pack of hounds.
“Mark,” said Sowerby to him one day, when they were out together, “this brute of mine is so fresh, I can hardly ride him; you are young and strong; change with me for an hour or so.” And then they did change, and the horse on which Robarts found himself mounted went away with him beautifully.
“He’s a splendid animal,” said Mark, when they again met.
“Yes, for a man of your weight. He’s thrown away upon me;—too much of a horse for my purposes. I don’t get along now quite as well as I used to do. He is a nice sort of hunter; just rising six, you know.”
How it came to pass that the price of the splendid animal was mentioned between them, I need not describe with exactness. But it did come to pass that Mr. Sowerby told the parson that the horse should be his for 130l.
“And I really wish you’d take him,” said Sowerby. “It would be the means of partially relieving my mind of a great weight.”
Mark looked up into his friend’s face with an air of surprise, for he did not at the moment understand how this should be the case.
“I am afraid, you know, that you will have to put your hand into your pocket sooner or later about that accursed bill—” Mark shrank as the profane word struck his ears—“and I should be glad to think that you had got something in hand in the way of value.”
“Do you mean that I shall have to pay the whole sum of 500l.?”
“Oh! dear, no; nothing of the kind. But something I dare say you will have to pay: if you like to take Dandy for a hundred and thirty, you can be prepared for that amount when Tozer comes to you. The horse is dog cheap, and you will have a long day for your money.”
Mark at first declared, in a quiet, determined tone, that he did not want the horse; but it afterwards appeared to him that if it were so fated that he must pay a portion of Mr. Sowerby’s debts, he might as well repay himself to any extent within his power. It would be as well perhaps that he should take the horse and sell him. It did not occur to him that by so doing he would put it in Mr. Sowerby’s power to say that some valuable consideration had passed between them with reference to this bill, and that he would be aiding that gentleman in preparing an inextricable confusion of money-matters between them. Mr. Sowerby well knew the value of this. It would enable him to make a plausible story, as he had done in that other case of Lord Lufton.
“Are you going to have Dandy?” Sowerby said to him again.
“I can’t say that I will just at present,” said the parson. “What should I want of him now the season’s over?”
“Exactly, my dear fellow; and what do I want of him now the season’s over? If it were the beginning of October instead of the end of March, Dandy would be up at two hundred and thirty instead of one: in six months’ time that horse will be worth anything you like to ask for him. Look at his bone.”
The vicar did look at his bones, examining the brute in a very knowing and unclerical manner. He lifted the animal’s four feet, one after another, handling the frogs, and measuring with his eye the proportion of the parts; he passed his hand up and down the legs, spanning the bones of the lower joint; he peered into his eyes, took into consideration the width of his chest, the dip of his back, the form of his ribs, the curve of his haunches, and his capabilities for breathing when pressed by work. And then he stood away a little, eyeing him from the side, and taking in a general idea of the form and make of the whole. “He seems to stand over a little,” I think, said the parson.
“It’s the lie of the ground. Move him about, Bob. There now, let him stand there.”
“He’s not perfect,” said Mark. “I don’t quite like his heels; but no doubt he’s a nicish cut of a horse.”
“I rather think he is. If he were perfect, as you say, he would not be going into your stables for a hundred and thirty. Do you ever remember to have seen a perfect horse?”
“Your mare Mrs. Gamp was as nearly perfect as possible.”
“Even Mrs. Gamp had her faults. In the first place she was a bad feeder. But one certainly doesn’t often come across anything much better than Mrs. Gamp.” And thus the matter was talked over between them with much stable conversation, all of which tended to make Sowerby more and more oblivious of his friend’s sacred profession, and perhaps to make the vicar himself too frequently oblivious of it also. But no: he was not oblivious of it. He was even mindful of it; but mindful of it in such a manner that his thoughts on the subject were nowadays always painful.
There is a parish called Hogglestock lying away quite in the northern extremity of the eastern division of the county—lying also on the borders of the western division. I almost fear that it will become necessary, before this history be completed, to provide a map of Barsetshire for the due explanation of all these localities. Framley is also in the northern portion of the county, but just to the south of the grand trunk line of railway from which the branch to Barchester strikes off at a point some thirty miles nearer to London. The station for Framley Court is Silverbridge, which is, however, in the western division of the county. Hogglestock is to the north of the railway, the line of which, however, runs through a portion of the parish, and it adjoins Framley, though the churches are as much as seven miles apart. Barsetshire taken altogether is a pleasant green tree-becrowded county, with large bosky hedges, pretty damp deep lanes, and roads with broad grass margins running along them. Such is the general nature of the county; but just up in its northern extremity this nature alters. There it is bleak and ugly, with low artificial hedges and without wood; not uncultivated, as it is all portioned out into new-looking large fields, bearing turnips and wheat and mangel, all in due course of agricultural rotation; but it has none of the special beauties of English cultivation. There is not a gentleman’s house in the parish of Hogglestock besides that of the clergyman; and this, though it is certainly the house of a gentleman, can hardly be said to be fit to be so. It is ugly, and straight, and small. There is a garden attached to the house, half in front of it and half behind; but this garden, like the rest of the parish, is by no means ornamental, though sufficiently useful. It produces cabbages, but no trees: potatoes of, I believe, an excellent description, but hardly any flowers, and nothing worthy of the name of a shrub. Indeed the whole parish of Hogglestock should have been in the adjoining county, which is by no means so attractive as Barsetshire;—a fact well known to those few of my readers who are well acquainted with their own country.
Mr. Crawley, whose name has been mentioned in these pages, was the incumbent of Hogglestock. On what principle the remuneration of our parish clergymen was settled when the original settlement was made, no deepest, keenest lover of middle-aged ecclesiastical black-letter learning can, I take it, now say. That the priests were to be paid from tithes of the parish produce, out of which tithes certain other good things were to be bought and paid for, such as church repairs and education, of so much the most of us have an inkling. That a rector, being a big sort of parson, owned the tithes of his parish in full,—or at any rate that part of them intended for the clergyman,—and that a vicar was somebody’s deputy, and therefore entitled only to little tithes, as being a little body: of so much we that are simple in such matters have a general idea. But one cannot conceive that even in this way any approximation could have been made, even in those old mediæval days, towards a fair proportioning of the pay to the work. At any rate, it is clear enough that there is no such approximation now.
And what a screech would there not be among the clergy of the Church, even in these reforming days, if any over-bold reformer were to suggest that such an approximation should be attempted? Let those who know clergymen, and like them, and have lived with them, only fancy it! Clergymen to be paid, not according to the temporalities of any living which they may have acquired either by merit or favour, but in accordance with the work to be done! O Doddington! and O Stanhope, think of this, if an idea so sacrilegious can find entrance into your warm ecclesiastical bosoms! Ecclesiastical work to be bought and paid for according to its quantity and quality!
But, nevertheless, one may prophesy that we Englishmen must come to this, disagreeable as the idea undoubtedly is. Most pleasant-minded churchmen feel, I think, on this subject pretty much in the same way. Our present arrangement of parochial incomes is beloved as being time-honoured, gentlemanlike, English, and picturesque. We would fain adhere to it closely as long as we can, but we know that we do so by the force of our prejudices, and not by that of our judgment. A time-honoured, gentlemanlike, English, picturesque arrangement is so far very delightful. But are there not other attributes very desirable—nay, absolutely necessary—in respect to which this time-honoured, picturesque arrangement is so very deficient?
How pleasant it was, too, that one bishop should be getting fifteen thousand a year and another with an equal cure of parsons only four! That a certain prelate could get twenty thousand one year and his successor in the same diocese only five the next! There was something in it pleasant, and picturesque; it was an arrangement endowed with feudal charms, and the change which they have made was distasteful to many of us. A bishop with a regular salary, and no appanage of land and land-bailiffs, is only half a bishop. Let any man prove to me the contrary ever so thoroughly—let me prove it to my own self ever so often, my heart in this matter is not thereby a whit altered. One liked to know that there was a dean or two who got his three thousand a year, and that old Dr. Purple held four stalls, one of which was golden, and the other three silver-gilt! Such knowledge was always pleasant to me! A golden stall! How sweet is the sound thereof to church-loving ears!
But bishops have been shorn of their beauty, and deans are in their decadence. A utilitarian age requires the fatness of the ecclesiastical land, in order that it may be divided out into small portions of provender, on which necessary working clergymen may live,—into portions so infinitesimally small that working clergymen can hardly live. And the full-blown rectors and vicars, with full-blown tithes—with tithes when too full-blown for strict utilitarian principles—will necessarily follow. Stanhope and Doddington must bow their heads, with such compensation for temporal rights as may be extracted,—but probably without such compensation as may be desired. In other trades, professions, and lines of life, men are paid according to their work. Let it be so in the Church. Such will sooner or later be the edict of a utilitarian, reforming, matter-of-fact House of Parliament.
I have a scheme of my own on the subject, which I will not introduce here, seeing that neither men nor women would read it. And with reference to this matter, I will only here further explain that all these words have been brought about by the fact, necessary to be here stated, that Mr. Crawley only received one hundred and thirty pounds a year for performing the whole parochial duty of the parish of Hogglestock. And Hogglestock is a large parish. It includes two populous villages, abounding in brickmakers, a race of men very troublesome to a zealous parson who won’t let men go rollicking to the devil without interference. Hogglestock has full work for two men; and yet all the funds therein applicable to parson’s work is this miserable stipend of one hundred and thirty pounds a year. It is a stipend neither picturesque, nor time-honoured, nor feudal, for Hogglestock takes rank only as a perpetual curacy.
Mr. Crawley has been mentioned before as a clergyman of whom Mr. Robarts said, that he almost thought it wrong to take a walk out of his own parish. In so saying Mark Robarts of course burlesqued his brother parson; but there can be no doubt that Mr. Crawley was a strict man,—a strict, stern, unpleasant man, and one who feared God and his own conscience. We must say a word or two of Mr. Crawley and his concerns.
He was now some forty years of age, but of these he had not been in possession even of his present benefice for more than four or five. The first ten years of his life as a clergyman had been passed in performing the duties and struggling through the life of a curate in a bleak, ugly, cold parish on the northern coast of Cornwall. It had been a weary life and a fearful struggle, made up of duties ill requited and not always satisfactorily performed, of love and poverty, of increasing cares, of sickness, debt, and death. For Mr. Crawley had married almost as soon as he was ordained, and children had been born to him in that chill, comfortless Cornish cottage. He had married a lady well educated and softly nurtured, but not dowered with worldly wealth. They two had gone forth determined to fight bravely together; to disregard the world and the world’s ways, looking only to God and to each other for their comfort. They would give up ideas of gentle living, of soft raiment, and delicate feeding. Others,—those that work with their hands, even the bettermost of such workers—could live in decency and health upon even such provision as he could earn as a clergyman. In such manner would they live, so poorly and so decently, working out their work, not with their hands but with their hearts.
And so they had established themselves, beginning the world with one bare-footed little girl of fourteen to aid them in their small household matters; and for a while they had both kept heart, loving each other dearly, and prospering somewhat in their work. But a man who has once walked the world as a gentleman knows not what it is to change his position, and place himself lower down in the social rank. Much less can he know what it is so to put down the woman whom he loves. There are a thousand things, mean and trifling in themselves, which a man despises when he thinks of them in his philosophy, but to dispense with which puts his philosophy to so stern a proof. Let any plainest man who reads this think of his usual mode of getting himself into his matutinal garments, and confess how much such a struggle would cost him.
And then children had come. The wife of the labouring man does rear her children, and often rears them in health, without even so many appliances of comfort as found their way into Mrs. Crawley’s cottage; but the task to her was almost more than she could accomplish. Not that she ever fainted or gave way: she was made of the sterner metal of the two, and could last on while he was prostrate.
And sometimes he was prostrate—prostrate in soul and spirit. Then would he complain with bitter voice, crying out that the world was too hard for him, that his back was broken with his burden, that his God had deserted him. For days and days, in such moods, he would stay within his cottage, never darkening the door or seeing other face than those of his own inmates. Those days were terrible both to him and her. He would sit there unwashed, with his unshorn face resting on his hand, with an old dressing-gown hanging loose about him, hardly tasting food, seldom speaking, striving to pray, but striving so frequently in vain. And then he would rise from his chair, and, with a burst of frenzy, call upon his Creator to remove him from this misery.
In these moments she never deserted him. At one period they had had four children, and though the whole weight of this young brood rested on her arms, on her muscles, on her strength of mind and body, she never ceased in her efforts to comfort him. Then at length, falling utterly upon the ground, he would pour forth piteous prayers for mercy, and, after a night of sleep, would once more go forth to his work.
But she never yielded to despair: the struggle was never beyond her powers of endurance. She had possessed her share of woman’s loveliness, but that was now all gone. Her colour quickly faded, and the fresh, soft tints soon deserted her face and forehead. She became thin, and rough, and almost haggard: thin, till her cheek-bones were nearly pressing through her skin, till her elbows were sharp, and her finger-bones as those of a skeleton. Her eye did not lose its lustre, but it became unnaturally bright, prominent, and too large for her wan face. The soft brown locks which she had once loved to brush back, scorning, as she would boast to herself, to care that they should be seen, were now sparse enough and all untidy and unclean. It was matter of little thought now whether they were seen or no. Whether he could be made fit to go into his pulpit—whether they might be fed—those four innocents—and their backs kept from the cold wind—that was now the matter of her thought.
And then two of them died, and she went forth herself to see them laid under the frost-bound sod, lest he should faint in his work over their graves. For he would ask aid from no man—such at least was his boast through all.
Two of them died, but their illness had been long; and then debts came upon them. Debt, indeed, had been creeping on them with slow but sure feet during the last five years. Who can see his children hungry, and not take bread if it be offered? Who can see his wife lying in sharpest want, and not seek a remedy if there be a remedy within reach? So debt had come upon them, and rude men pressed for small sums of money—for sums small to the world, but impossibly large to them. And he would hide himself within there, in that cranny of an inner chamber—hide himself with deep shame from the world, with shame, and a sinking heart, and a broken spirit.
But had such a man no friend? it will be said. Such men, I take it, do not make many friends. But this man was not utterly friendless. Almost every year one visit was paid to him in his Cornish curacy by a brother clergyman, an old college friend, who, as far as might in him lie, did give aid to the curate and his wife. This gentleman would take up his abode for a week at a farmer’s in the neighbourhood, and though he found Mr. Crawley in despair, he would leave him with some drops of comfort in his soul. Nor were the benefits in this respect all on one side. Mr. Crawley, though at some periods weak enough for himself, could be strong for others; and, more than once, was strong to the great advantage of this man whom he loved. And then, too, pecuniary assistance was forthcoming—in those earlier years not in great amount, for this friend was not then among the rich ones of the earth—but in amount sufficient for that moderate hearth, if only its acceptance could have been managed. But in that matter there were difficulties without end. Of absolute money tenders Mr. Crawley would accept none. But a bill here and there was paid, the wife assisting; and shoes came for Kate—till Kate was placed beyond the need of shoes; and cloth for Harry and Frank found its way surreptitiously in beneath the cover of that wife’s solitary trunk—cloth with which those lean fingers worked garments for the two boys, to be worn—such was God’s will—only by the one.
Such were Mr. and Mrs. Crawley in their Cornish curacy, and during their severest struggles. To one who thinks that a fair day’s work is worth a fair day’s wages, it seems hard enough that a man should work so hard and receive so little. There will be those who think that the fault was all his own in marrying so young. But still there remains that question, Is not a fair day’s work worth a fair day’s wages? This man did work hard—at a task perhaps the hardest of any that a man may do; and for ten years he earned some seventy pounds a year. Will any one say that he received fair wages for his fair work, let him be married or single? And yet there are so many who would fain pay their clergy, if they only knew how to apply their money! But that is a long subject, as Mr. Robarts had told Miss Dunstable.
Such was Mr. Crawley in his Cornish curacy.
And then, in the days which followed, that friend of Mr. Crawley’s, whose name, by-the-by, is yet to be mentioned, received quick and great promotion. Mr. Arabin by name he was then;—Dr. Arabin afterwards, when that quick and great promotion reached its climax. He had been simply a Fellow of Lazarus in those former years. Then he became Vicar of St. Ewold’s, in East Barsetshire, and had not yet got himself settled there when he married the Widow Bold, a widow with belongings in land and funded money, and with but one small baby as an encumbrance. Nor had he even yet married her,—had only engaged himself so to do, when they made him Dean of Barchester—all which may be read in the diocesan and county chronicles.
And now that he was wealthy, the new dean did contrive to pay the debts of his poor friend, some lawyer of Camelford assisting him. It was but a paltry schedule after all, amounting in the total to something not much above a hundred pounds. And then, in the course of eighteen months, this poor piece of preferment fell in the dean’s way, this incumbency of Hogglestock with its stipend reaching one hundred and thirty pounds a year. Even that was worth double the Cornish curacy, and there was, moreover, a house attached to it. Poor Mrs. Crawley, when she heard of it, thought that their struggles of poverty were now well nigh over. What might not be done with a hundred and thirty pounds by people who had lived for ten years on seventy?
And so they moved away out of that cold, bleak country, carrying with them their humble household gods, and settled themselves in another country, cold and bleak also, but less terribly so than the former. They settled themselves, and again began their struggles against man’s hardness and the devil’s zeal. I have said that Mr. Crawley was a stern, unpleasant man; and it certainly was so. The man must be made of very sterling stuff, whom continued and undeserved misfortune does not make unpleasant. This man had so far succumbed to grief, that it had left upon him its marks, palpable and not to be effaced. He cared little for society, judging men to be doing evil who did care for it. He knew as a fact, and believed with all his heart, that these sorrows had come to him from the hand of God, and that they would work for his weal in the long run; but not the less did they make him morose, silent, and dogged. He had always at his heart a feeling that he and his had been ill-used, and too often solaced himself, at the devil’s bidding, with the conviction that eternity would make equal that which life in this world had made so unequal;—the last bait that with which the devil angles after those who are struggling to elude his rod and line.
The Framley property did not run into the parish of Hogglestock; but, nevertheless, Lady Lufton did what she could in the way of kindness to these new comers. Providence had not supplied Hogglestock with a Lady Lufton, or with any substitute in the shape of lord or lady, squire or squiress. The Hogglestock farmers, male and female, were a rude, rough set, not bordering in their social rank on the farmer gentle; and Lady Lufton, knowing this, and hearing something of these Crawleys from Mrs. Arabin, the dean’s wife, trimmed her lamps, so that they should shed a wider light, and pour forth some of their influence on that forlorn household.
And as regards Mrs. Crawley, Lady Lufton by no means found that her work and good-will were thrown away. Mrs. Crawley accepted her kindness with thankfulness, and returned to some of the softnesses of life under her hand. As for dining at Framley Court, that was out of the question. Mr. Crawley, she knew, would not hear of it, even if other things were fitting and appliances were at command. Indeed Mrs. Crawley at once said that she felt herself unfit to go through such a ceremony with anything like comfort. The dean, she said, would talk of their going to stay at the deanery; but she thought it quite impossible that either of them should endure even that. But, all the same, Lady Lufton was a comfort to her; and the poor woman felt that it was well to have a lady near her in case of need.
The task was much harder with Mr. Crawley, but even with him it was not altogether unsuccessful. Lady Lufton talked to him of his parish and of her own; made Mark Robarts go to him, and by degrees did something towards civilizing him. Between him and Robarts too there grew up an intimacy rather than a friendship. Robarts would submit to his opinion on matters of ecclesiastical and even theological law, would listen to him with patience, would agree with him where he could, and differ from him mildly when he could not. For Robarts was a man who made himself pleasant to all men. And thus, under Lady Lufton’s wing, there grew up a connection between Framley and Hogglestock, in which Mrs. Robarts also assisted.
And now that Lady Lufton was looking about her, to see how she might best bring proper clerical influence to bear upon her own recreant fox-hunting parson, it occurred to her that she might use Mr. Crawley in the matter. Mr. Crawley would certainly be on her side as far as opinion went, and would have no fear as to expressing his opinion to his brother clergyman. So she sent for Mr. Crawley.
In appearance he was the very opposite to Mark Robarts. He was a lean, slim, meagre man, with shoulders slightly curved, and pale, lank, long locks of ragged hair; his forehead was high, but his face was narrow; his small grey eyes were deeply sunken in his head, his nose was well-formed, his lips thin and his mouth expressive. Nobody could look at him without seeing that there was a purpose and a meaning in his countenance. He always wore, in summer and winter, a long dusky gray coat, which buttoned close up to his neck and descended almost to his heels. He was full six feet high, but being so slight in build, he looked as though he were taller.
He came at once at Lady Lufton’s bidding, putting himself into the gig beside the servant, to whom he spoke no single word during the journey. And the man, looking into his face, was struck with taciturnity. Now Mark Robarts would have talked with him the whole way from Hogglestock to Framley Court; discoursing partly as to horses and land, but partly also as to higher things.
And then Lady Lufton opened her mind and told her griefs to Mr. Crawley, urging, however, through the whole length of her narrative, that Mr. Robarts was an excellent parish clergyman,—“just such a clergyman in his church, as I would wish him to be,” she explained, with the view of saving herself from an expression of any of Mr. Crawley’s special ideas as to church teaching, and of confining him to the one subject-matter in hand; “but he got this living so young, Mr. Crawley, that he is hardly quite as steady as I could wish him to be. It has been as much my fault as his own in placing him in such a position so early in life.”
“I think it has,” said Mr. Crawley, who might perhaps be a little sore on such a subject.
“Quite so, quite so,” continued her ladyship, swallowing down with a gulp a certain sense of anger. “But that is done now, and is past cure. That Mr. Robarts will become a credit to his profession, I do not doubt, for his heart is in the right place and his sentiments are good; but I fear that at present he is succumbing to temptation.”
“I am told that he hunts two or three times a week. Everybody round us is talking about it.”
“No, Mr. Crawley; not two or three times a week; very seldom above once, I think. And then I do believe he does it more with the view of being with Lord Lufton than anything else.”
“I cannot see that that would make the matter better,” said Mr. Crawley.
“It would show that he was not strongly imbued with a taste which I cannot but regard as vicious in a clergyman.”
“It must be vicious in all men,” said Mr. Crawley. “It is in itself cruel, and leads to idleness and profligacy.”
Again Lady Lufton made a gulp. She had called Mr. Crawley thither to her aid, and felt that it would be inexpedient to quarrel with him. But she did not like to be told that her son’s amusement was idle and profligate. She had always regarded hunting as a proper pursuit for a country gentleman. It was, indeed, in her eyes one of the peculiar institutions of country life in England, and it may be almost said that she looked upon the Barsetshire hunt as something sacred. She could not endure to hear that a fox was trapped, and allowed her turkeys to be purloined without a groan. Such being the case, she did not like being told that it was vicious, and had by no means wished to consult Mr. Crawley on that matter. But nevertheless she swallowed down her wrath.
“It is at any rate unbecoming in a clergyman,” she said; “and as I know that Mr. Robarts places a high value on your opinion, perhaps you will not object to advise him to discontinue it. He might possibly feel aggrieved were I to interfere personally on such a question.”
“I have no doubt he would,” said Mr. Crawley. “It is not within a woman’s province to give counsel to a clergyman on such a subject, unless she be very near and very dear to him—his wife, or mother, or sister.”
“As living in the same parish, you know, and being, perhaps——” the leading person in it, and the one who naturally rules the others. Those would have been the fitting words for the expression of her ladyship’s ideas; but she remembered herself, and did not use them. She had made up her mind that, great as her influence ought to be, she was not the proper person to speak to Mr. Robarts as to his pernicious, unclerical habits, and she would not now depart from her resolve by attempting to prove that she was the proper person.
“Yes,” said Mr. Crawley, “just so. All that would entitle him to offer you his counsel if he thought that your mode of life was such as to require it, but could by no means justify you in addressing yourself to him.”
This was very hard upon Lady Lufton. She was endeavouring with all her woman’s strength to do her best, and endeavouring so to do it that the feelings of the sinner might be spared; and yet the ghostly comforter whom she had evoked to her aid, treated her as though she were arrogant and overbearing. She acknowledged the weakness of her own position with reference to her parish clergyman by calling in the aid of Mr. Crawley; and under such circumstances, he might, at any rate, have abstained from throwing that weakness in her teeth.
“Well, sir; I hope my mode of life may not require it; but that is not exactly to the point: what I wish to know is, whether you will speak to Mr. Robarts?”
“Certainly I will,” said he.
“Then I shall be much obliged to you. But, Mr. Crawley, pray—pray, remember this: I would not on any account wish that you should be harsh with him. He is an excellent young man, and——”
“Lady Lufton, if I do this, I can only do it in my own way, as best I may, using such words as God may give me at the time. I hope that I am harsh to no man; but it is worse than useless, in all cases, to speak anything but the truth.”
“Of course—of course.”
“If the ears be too delicate to bear the truth, the mind will be too perverse to profit by it.” And then Mr. Crawley got up to take his leave.
But Lady Lufton insisted that he should go with her to luncheon. He hummed and ha’d and would fain have refused, but on this subject she was peremptory. It might be that she was unfit to advise a clergyman as to his duties, but in a matter of hospitality she did know what she was about. Mr. Crawley should not leave the house without refreshment. As to this, she carried her point; and Mr. Crawley—when the matter before him was cold roast-beef and hot potatoes, instead of the relative position of a parish priest and his parishioner—became humble, submissive, and almost timid. Lady Lufton recommended Madeira instead of Sherry, and Mr. Crawley obeyed at once, and was, indeed, perfectly unconscious of the difference. Then there was a basket of seakale in the gig for Mrs. Crawley; that he would have left behind had he dared, but he did not dare. Not a word was said to him as to the marmalade for the children which was hidden under the seakale, Lady Lufton feeling well aware that that would find its way to its proper destination without any necessity for his co-operation. And then Mr. Crawley returned home in the Framley Court gig.
Three or four days after this he walked over to Framley Parsonage. This he did on a Saturday, having learned that the hounds never hunted on that day; and he started early, so that he might be sure to catch Mr. Robarts before he went out on his parish business. He was quite early enough to attain this object, for when he reached the Parsonage door at about half-past nine, the vicar, with his wife and sister, were just sitting down to breakfast.
“Oh, Crawley,” said Robarts, before the other had well spoken, “you are a capital fellow;” and then he got him into a chair, and Mrs. Robarts had poured him out tea, and Lucy had surrendered to him a knife and plate, before he knew under what guise to excuse his coming among them.
“I hope you will excuse this intrusion,” at last he muttered; “but I have a few words of business to which I will request your attention presently.”
“Certainly,” said Robarts, conveying a broiled kidney on to the plate before Mr. Crawley; “but there is no preparation for business like a good breakfast. Lucy, hand Mr. Crawley the buttered toast. Eggs, Fanny; where are the eggs?” And then John, in livery, brought in the fresh eggs. “Now we shall do. I always eat my eggs while they’re hot, Crawley, and I advise you to do the same.”
To all this Mr. Crawley said very little, and he was not at all at home under the circumstances. Perhaps a thought did pass across his brain, as to the difference between the meal which he had left on his own table, and that which he now saw before him; and as to any cause which might exist for such difference. But, if so, it was a very fleeting thought, for he had far other matter now fully occupying his mind. And then the breakfast was over, and in a few minutes the two clergymen found themselves together in the Parsonage study.
“Mr. Robarts,” began the senior, when he had seated himself uncomfortably on one of the ordinary chairs at the further side of the well-stored library table, while Mark was sitting at his ease in his own arm-chair by the fire, “I have called upon you on an unpleasant business.”
Mark’s mind immediately flew off to Mr. Sowerby’s bill, but he could not think it possible that Mr. Crawley could have had anything to do with that.
“But as a brother clergyman, and as one who esteems you much and wishes you well, I have thought myself bound to take this matter in hand.”
“What matter is it, Crawley?”
“Mr. Robarts, men say that your present mode of life is one that is not befitting a soldier in Christ’s army.”
“Men say so! what men?”
“The men around you, of your own neighbourhood; those who watch your life, and know all your doings; those who look to see you walking as a lamp to guide their feet, but find you consorting with horse jockeys and hunters, galloping after hounds, and taking your place among the vainest of worldly pleasure-seekers. Those who have a right to expect an example of good living, and who think that they do not see it.”
Mr. Crawley had gone at once to the root of the matter, and in doing so, had certainly made his own task so much the easier. There is nothing like going to the root of the matter at once when one has on hand an unpleasant piece of business.
“And have such men deputed you to come here?”
“No one has or could depute me. I have come to speak my own mind, not that of any other. But I refer to what those around you think and say, because it is to them that your duties are due. You owe it to those around you to live a godly, cleanly life;—as you owe it also, in a much higher way, to your Father who is in heaven. I now make bold to ask you whether you are doing your best to lead such a life as that?” And then he remained silent, waiting for an answer.
He was a singular man; so humble and meek, so unutterably inefficient and awkward in the ordinary intercourse of life, but so bold and enterprising, almost eloquent on the one subject which was the work of his mind! As he sat there, he looked into his companion’s face from out his sunken grey eyes with a gaze which made his victim quail. And then repeated his words: “I now make bold to ask you, Mr. Robarts, whether you are doing your best to lead such a life as may become a parish clergyman among his parishioners?” And again he paused for an answer.
“There are but few of us,” said Mark in a low tone, “who could safely answer that question in the affirmative.”
“But are there many, think you, among us who would find the question so unanswerable as yourself? And even, were there many, would you, young, enterprising, and talented as you are, be content to be numbered among them? Are you satisfied to be a castaway after you have taken upon yourself Christ’s armour? If you will say so, I am mistaken in you, and will go my way.” There was again a pause, and then he went on. “Speak to me, my brother, and open your heart if it be possible.” And rising from his chair, he walked across the room, and laid his hand tenderly on Mark’s shoulder.
Mark had been sitting lounging in his chair, and had at first, for a moment only, thought to brazen it out. But all idea of brazening had now left him. He had raised himself from his comfortable ease, and was leaning forward with his elbow on the table; but now, when he heard these words, he allowed his head to sink upon his arms, and he buried his face between his hands.
“It is a terrible falling off,” continued Crawley: “terrible in the fall, but doubly terrible through that difficulty of returning. But it cannot be that it should content you to place yourself as one among those thoughtless sinners, for the crushing of whose sin you have been placed here among them. You become a hunting parson, and ride with a happy mind among blasphemers and mocking devils—you, whose aspirations were so high, who have spoken so often and so well of the duties of a minister of Christ; you, who can argue in your pride as to the petty details of your church, as though the broad teachings of its great and simple lessons were not enough for your energies! It cannot be that I have had a hypocrite beside me in all those eager controversies!”
“Not a hypocrite—not a hypocrite,” said Mark, in a tone which was almost reduced to sobbing.
“But a castaway! Is it so that I must call you? No, Mr. Robarts, not a castaway; neither a hypocrite, nor a castaway; but one who in walking has stumbled in the dark and bruised his feet among the stones. Henceforth let him take a lantern in his hand, and look warily to his path, and walk cautiously among the thorns and rocks,—cautiously, but yet boldly, with manly courage, but Christian meekness, as all men should walk on their pilgrimage through this vale of tears.” And then without giving his companion time to stop him be hurried out of the room, and from the house, and without again seeing any others of the family, stalked back on his road to Hogglestock, thus tramping fourteen miles through the deep mud in performance of the mission on which he had been sent.
It was some hours before Mr. Robarts left his room. As soon as he found that Crawley was really gone, and that he should see him no more, he turned the lock of his door, and sat himself down to think over his present life. At about eleven his wife knocked, not knowing whether that other strange clergyman were there or no, for none had seen his departure. But Mark, answering cheerily, desired that he might be left to his studies.
Let us hope that his thoughts and mental resolves were then of service to him.
At a time when military operations in China are about to be undertaken upon a more extended scale than have hitherto been attempted in the Celestial Empire, some account of the longest march into the interior of the country ever yet performed by British troops may not be uninteresting. To judge from the recent accounts which we have received from India, the prospect of Chinese campaigning, so far from exciting that enthusiasm which the novelty and interest of the undertaking might have been expected to awaken, has produced the very opposite effect. The military departmental mind is filled with doubts and vague misgivings. The Quartermaster-General’s staff shake their heads with a mysterious despondency, already oppressed with the weight of prospective cares, the nature of which can only be appreciated by those who have shared in the duties and responsibilities of their office. The Commissariat is no less overwhelmed with a sense of its probable inefficiency, modestly diffident of its capacity to perform its functions in the unknown regions of the far East; while the parallel which has been drawn by those who have visited both countries, between the plains of Chih-li and the steppes of the Crimea, are by no means reassuring to the Land Transport Corps, who are reminded by the comparison of experience not altogether encouraging. So we have croaking articles in the Indian journals, and gloomy forebodings on the part of officers experienced in Indian warfare, who have never been in China, but who “know the East,” and are, therefore, qualified to speak with confidence and authority upon all affairs, military or diplomatic, which may be undertaken anywhere between Cairo and the Sandwich Islands.
It is as well that we should remember, at this early period of our operations, that whatever may be their result, there will be a large class of persons who “always told us so,” and who some years hence, on the occasion of the next Chinese war, will also inform us triumphantly that they “always said that sooner or later there would be another row.” These gentlemen now talk learnedly about blocking up the Grand Canal, which no longer exists; and occupying Nankin, which is no longer Imperial; and operating up the Yang-tse-kiang, though we are left in doubt as to the nature of the operations they propose. They foresee the most formidable obstacles to a march of thirty miles across the plains of Chih-li, but it remains to be seen whether this foresight will be made available to provide against these difficulties, or whether the greatest impediment may not arise from the entire misapplication of the very quality assumed. Some remarkable cases of this description of forethought occurred during the Crimean war, to which it is not necessary now to allude, more especially as more recent instances exist in connection with the Chinese operations contemplated in 1857. We would suggest that those ponderous iron grates, for example, which now ornament the dockyard at Hong Kong, where they are stacked in tiers, and which had considerately been supplied to the army in the event of a campaign, be left where they are, as it will probably be found that a Whitworth’s gun weighing 200 pounds will be more useful and less troublesome on the march than a grate of twice that weight: temporary fireplaces may be constructed with three bricks, and the plains of Chih-li abound in kilns. Doubtless, if the army is detained in the north until a late period of the year, fires will be an immense comfort; but if those sepoys who are destined to encounter the severity of the winter are not provided with flannel waistcoats, the tiers of iron grates will fail to supply them with a sufficient amount of caloric.
It is not improbable, that if the army reaches Tien-tsin, and its occupation of that city is protracted over any space of time, telegraphic communication with the coast may be deemed a desirable object. Should any such project be entertained, we trust it will not be considered impertinent if we express a hope that batteries be sent out as well as wire. Upon the last occasion, when a similar attempt was made in China, it was not until after the wire was laid down from the landing-place to head-quarters that the discovery was made that the most essential item had been forgotten, and that a wire, however well laid, if it had nothing but a general at one end and an admiral at the other, could not possibly convey a message.
Meantime, the observations made during a march of five days with a thousand men, in the province of Quang-tung, just a year ago, may be of interest to those who do not “know the East.” And here we would remind the reader, who may make any use of this information he pleases, that there are men in China who have an intimate knowledge of the country, who have already had a military experience of some years there, and whose hints will probably be more useful before the operations commence, than after our ignorance has led us into serious difficulty.
The expedition about to be described was undertaken in the early spring of last year. Its destination was Fayune, a town situated between thirty and forty miles north of Canton, or about the same distance as Tien-tsin is from the mouth of the Peiho. Its object was to strike terror into the Braves of the ninety-six villages—a confederation which had, during the preceding year, combined to furnish a force of local militia, or rather blackguards, for the purpose of harassing our garrison at Canton. During the summer their attacks had been constant and most annoying. The climate at that time of year rendered any attempt at retaliation on the part of our troops most dangerous; and it was, therefore, deemed more advisable to submit to a nightly discharge of rockets and gingals, than to expose the men to the risk of sunstrokes.
We were the more anxious to inflict a summary chastisement upon these so-called “Braves,” so soon as the season should admit of it, as diplomatic pressure had been exerted in vain at Tien-tsin to effect the same object; the Court of Pekin repudiating any complicity in the hostilities in the south, though documents subsequently came into the possession of the authorities, clearly proving, not only the cognizance of the government, but the fact that the military organization of the south was being actually carried on under Imperial auspices, and the leaders of it honoured with buttons and promotion. These leaders were formed into committees and sub-committees, and styled “managers of barbarian affairs.” In consequence, however, of the representations of the British authorities, their functions in this capacity were no longer recognized, and they had latterly for some time past appeared in proclamations as “Commissioners for the enlistment of militia.” The most notorious of these committees was that known as the “Gang-leang,” which was divided into four sub-committees.
The most active members were three mandarins in mourning, by name Lung, Soo, and Lo. These men were of considerable standing in the government service, but the fact of their being in mourning deprived them of the power of accepting any official position for a term of years. It did not, however, debar them from serving their country in a promiscuous manner, and they chose their present occupation of organizing Braves against barbarians, as the one most acceptable to the government, and most likely to lead to honour and distinction. In the prosecution of their functions, they levied heavy taxes upon the unfortunate country people, who thus found themselves between two fires;—in danger, on the one hand, of being mistaken for Braves by our troops, and on the other, obliged to contribute to a body of ruffians, who, when not engaged in attacking us, amused themselves in plundering the unhappy peasantry. These Committees formed, in fact, the rallying points for the miscreants of all the surrounding districts; rebels who found rebellion did not pay, robbers who had made their own neighbourhood too hot to hold them, scamps who loved plunder better than toil,—all flocked to the standards of Lung, Soo and Lo, who received them with open arms, and gave them a carte blanche to bully the country people, and squeeze their own living out of unprotected rustics.
One of the most important of the sub-committees of the Gang-leang was at a village called Shek-tsing, distant about eight miles from Canton. Here a notorious Brave leader, by name Leang-paou-heun, held his court, and from here he issued one fine morning and attacked a party of our troops exercising in the neighbourhood of Canton. It was resolved to commence the operations of the winter by honouring Leang with a morning call, of a character to which he was not accustomed. In pursuance of this design, the necessary preparations were made, and rumours thereof reaching the ears of the Fayune Commissioners, they issued a proclamation calling upon the people to arm, which was found among their papers after the capture of Shek-tsing, an extract from which, as a curious specimen of Chinese military tactics, is worthy of insertion. The various villages are directed “to provide themselves with a number of gongs and horns, and thus simulate the presence of an imposing force. At daylight on the 8th, ranges of cooking places will be constructed in the Shek-tsing hills, in which food may be prepared for the people who collect there, and permission to do so is given to all classes, whether old or young, strong or infirm. All the expenses will be defrayed by this committee; and it has been already resolved that every person coming to the assembly shall receive a daily ration of four candareens (about six cents), but this money will have in the first instance to be advanced by the committee of each village. Every person who comes armed and prepared to fight will, in addition, receive one mace of silver (about fourteen cents) as his daily pay: each committee is also requested to provide cooking utensils.”
A well-contrived attack upon the Brave position at Shek-tsing resulted in the utter discomfiture of the nondescript army, collected in obedience to the foregoing mandate, the casualties on our side amounting only to four wounded. The house of the notorious Leang-paou-heun was gutted and burned, to the great satisfaction of the country people, whom he had been squeezing for some months past, at the rate of twelve catties of grain per mow, which was, in fact, a tax of from twelve to twenty per cent. No wonder they exclaimed, as they clustered joyfully round the smouldering embers, and waited till they should cool sufficiently for purposes of closer investigation: “Oh! Amidha Buddha! blessed be Heaven for having willed its destruction, and the barbarians for having effected it.” Pihquei afterwards accused Leang of having appropriated the pay of one thousand Braves who had never been enrolled.
The affair of Shek-tsing was productive of so salutary an effect upon both the peasantry and the Braves, that it was deemed desirable to confirm the impression by military promenades in the neighbourhood of Canton, whereby we should give indisputable evidence of our power—hitherto always denied by the Chinese—to operate by land as well as by water.
The three chief Commissioners were still holding court in fancied security in the mountain village of Fayune; and although their efforts to re-enlist Braves were by no means so successful as formerly, still it was thought expedient to run these gentry to earth, if possible, and thus extinguish the vital principle of an organization which had been a source of considerable annoyance to us during our occupancy of Canton.
The force destined for this operation consisted of only a thousand men, of whom one hundred and fifty were French blue-jackets. We marched out of the north-west gate of Canton upon a sharp, clear February morning. The chances of a skirmish, though somewhat remote, were sufficient to produce an exhilarating effect upon the men, who stepped briskly out as they filed in a thin irregular line along the narrow ridges which divided the now dry rice-fields. In three hours we reached the village of Shek-tsing, with its clear winding river, spanned by a charmingly picturesque bridge of seven quaint arches, its groves of bamboo, its fir-clothed knolls, shattered yamun and field of conflict. Here the country people approached reverentially, and we once more wandered amid the ruins caused by our own artillery, and gazed from the hill in rear over the peaceful landscape, across which the progress of the troops was indicated by a winding black thread. About five miles beyond Shek-tsing we reached Kong-soong, a village situated upon a river, which it was necessary to ferry. As this was an operation which involved some delay, considering the limited number of ferry-boats, and the large quantity of camp-followers, it was decided to camp here for the night, and those among us who were mounted, and did not mind a wetting, scrambled across to the opposite shore, where a fair was going on, and the dirty little streets of the village were crowded with unctuous Chinamen. We rode among this noisy, chattering rabble without provoking the slightest expression of animosity. Curiosity and avarice were the predominating sentiments here, as they always will be wherever a European army presents itself in China. The first impulse of a peasant under these circumstances is to stare at you, the next to sell something to you. Even when alone and unarmed, it does not enter into his head to insult you, unless incited thereto by the authorities. The population at large consider an invading army hostile to the troops of their government, but by no means hostile to themselves: hence they stand and look on as impartial spectators upon the occasion of a conflict, and even before it is over come actually under fire to see if anything in the way of trade may be managed. Under these circumstances an invading force need never be under apprehension on the score of commissariat.
For months past the efforts of the Commissioners had been directed towards prejudicing the mind of the country people against us; the most absurd stories of our cruel and barbarous nature had become current among them; the government at Pekin had lent itself to the fabrication of these, and had even issued a secret edict on the subject, the nature of which will be gathered from the following extract:—
“As to the Province of Kwang-tung, which has hitherto been famed for its loyalty and patriotism, and on a former occasion received from his late Majesty the monumental inscription—‘A Sovereign’s reward for a people’s devotion,’ and a special edict expressing his marked approval of their conduct, and the gratification it afforded him,—we look to those high ministers, Lo and others (the Fayune Commissioners), to give effect to our wishes. On them the duty rests of making in secret all the necessary arrangements, of marshalling the rural population without attracting observation, and of everywhere establishing train-bands; and by seeming among them combination, as well as by rousing them to exertion, and keeping their communications everywhere complete, they may present to the outer barbarians such a display of the power of China, as shall cause them to retire from the position they have assumed.
“In order to secure secrecy in their proceedings, and to prevent any notice of the scheme escaping, the authorities must no longer appear to act a hostile part (towards the foreigners), but must only direct the people to oppose them. Nor need any communication whatever be held with the local functionaries, nor even with the governor-general and the governor of the province. Thus, if victory attend us, we may be assured that we are fulfilling the demands of heaven; but if defeat, we shall still avoid being involved in war. And it is not impossible that we may see, as the result of this scheme, peace gradually taking the place of those foreign troubles, and assaults upon our nation, which we have experienced during some years past. We may see a stop put to barbarian encroachments, and glory again descending upon the civilization of China.
“Let the efforts of you, my Ministers (the Fayune Commissioners), be directed to this end, and do not disappoint the hopes of your sovereign. When you shall have received this secret edict, hasten to draw up a minute statement of the measures which you think necessary for the execution of these objects, and forward to us by flying courier. Let there be no delay; and let this important edict, which is for the information of the Commissioners, be forwarded to them by an express of 600 li per day.”
Considering that this singular manifesto of the Imperial policy, which came into our hands in the course of our operations, reached Fayune in November, or about three months prior to our arrival there, and that during this interval no effort had been spared to incite the population against us, we had no reason to anticipate an actually friendly demeanour on the part of the people. So far, however, from the machinations of the Commissioners against us having operated to our prejudice, we found the rural population on all occasions overwhelmingly polite; and their disposition in this respect is worthy of note, as corresponding precisely to that manifested by the villagers on the banks of the Peiho; on the occasion of the ascent of the allied forces up that river after the first attack upon the forts at Taku, and entitles us to expect a similar reception again, in the event of a march across the plains of Chih-li upon Tien-tsin becoming necessary.
Our day’s march had led us through a country pleasantly diversified, although at this time of year it was dry, and the crops few and far between. Numerous undulations, and conical mounds of tumulus form, richly wooded, relieved the landscape of all monotony, and often furnished agreeable scenic effects. Clear broad streams, navigated by flat-bottomed boats, flowed between fertile banks and past flourishing villages, seaward; and picturesquely situated upon one of these was a quaint old joss-house, which was converted into General Straubenzee’s head-quarters for the night. As viewed from the edge of the river bank, the scene was eminently picturesque. Ferry-boats, crowded with men, were plying actively from shore to shore; horsemen were fording, coolies shouting, and villagers were rushing in excited groups to wonder at the strange proceedings of the barbarian horde. Meantime a canvas village is rapidly springing up all round the joss-house; arms are piled, sentries posted, camp-fires blaze, kettles bubble, corks pop, and the contents of hampers are strewn upon the ground; a Babel of tongues rises above the clatter of dinner preparations, as Hindustani and French, Chinese and English, mingle in discordant tumult. Here a group of our Gallican allies are clustered eagerly over a salad; in close proximity a party of sepoys are scouring brass cooking vessels, carefully guarding them from the defiling touch of the infidel. There some of the Coolie Corps, composed of sleek Chinamen, who have grown juicy on British pay, are returning laden with the offal of some domestic animal, or other culinary delicacy, from the village. John Bull is making a very coarse brew of coffee, and doing his best to spoil the materials with which he has been furnished for his evening meal. Then the band strikes up, and the wondering villagers, who have been sufficiently confused by strange sights, now listen to strange sounds, and only disperse reluctantly at last as evening closes in; and the men get tired of singing choruses, and crowd into the tents; and the full moon rises above the flaming waters of the river, as they rush over a pebbly bed, and throws dark shadows into the bamboo grove, upon the edge of which the flash of a sentry’s bayonet is here and there visible.
Day had not dawned before our camp was astir on the following morning, and, quitting the relics of our festivities of the previous evening, we were once more filing along the dividing ridges of paddy-fields. The narrowness of the paths and bridges caused considerable embarrassment to our artillery, although the force was only accompanied by light 3-pounder field-pieces. A log bridge is an obstacle even to this portable arm, and it is satisfactory to know that, in the country about to be traversed in the north, no difficulties of this description present themselves: the roads are broad enough for wheeled vehicles, unknown in the south, and Indian corn, and other cereals requiring dry cultivation, do not render the whole country a swamp at certain seasons of the year; but if we have every reason to congratulate ourselves upon the character of the country being totally different in Chih-li from that of Quang-tung, we may esteem ourselves no less fortunate that our experience of the disposition of the inhabitants is equally favourable in both. It will be remembered that on the occasion of the advance of the gunboats up the Peiho in 1858, after the capture of the forts at Taku, the country people on the banks welcomed us as the precursors of a new dynasty, seeking to ingratiate themselves into favour by offering us provisions, and even, according to the statement of Sir Michael Seymour, assisting us in extricating our gunboats from difficulties, in the course of their passage up that little-known stream. So, throughout our march to Fayune, we met with nothing but civility from the peasantry, although our progress was to all intents and purposes that of an invading army, hostile to their government, and avowedly undertaken for the purpose of encountering and defeating the troops raised by the Imperial government to resist us. At every village the elders came forth and stood by the roadside, presiding over tables, upon which cups of tea for the refreshment of the troops were ranged in tempting array, and presented us with slips of pink paper, the tokens of amity and good-will. In return for these, we distributed proclamations of a reassuring character, and had every reason to believe that our presence, so for from inspiring mistrust or alarm, was productive of the most wholesome effect, as tending to disabuse the minds of the people of the prejudices which had been excited against us.
A practical evidence of the confidence established was furnished by the readiness with which we obtained coolies from the villages through which we passed, to assist in the conveyance of baggage; so that, in addition to the Land Transport Corps, composed entirely of Chinamen, some hundreds of the peasantry might have been seen jogging merrily in long single file under the burdens imposed upon their shoulders by the enemy, who had become converted into friends by the transfer of a few dollars.
Although we should be far from recommending the authorities to rely absolutely upon the co-operation of the country people in the north of China, the possibility of their being rendered available should not be lost sight of, whilst it is impossible to over-estimate the value of a corps which was raised at the commencement of the operations in the south, and which proved of the utmost service throughout the hostilities at Canton. The men composing this corps are recruited from Canton and its neighbourhood: hardy, patient, and enduring, their patriotic scruples, if they ever existed, vanish before the pay and comfort with which they are now provided. The English officers in charge have always spoken in the highest terms of the obedience and efficiency of these men, and it is most desirable that their numbers should be augmented in the event of a campaign being undertaken in the north. Hitherto they have always behaved admirably under the fire of their own countrymen, and delight in contrasting their favoured condition with that of their less fortunate relatives or friends who have not shaken off their allegiance. For dragging guns, carrying sick or wounded, and doing all the heavy work of an army on the march, they answer all the purposes of beasts of burden, and, with a little previous drilling and discipline, are much more useful. Their uniform consists of a conical straw hat and cross-belt, with the name and number of the corps marked upon it.
The day’s march led us through a more arid and Indian-looking country than that of yesterday. At this time of year, almost the only grain cultivated is wheat. After two crops of rice have been taken off the ground, they are followed by an edition of wheat, so sparse and sickly as to give a somewhat sterile aspect to the country. Towards midday we halted at a pretty little village, in a fir wood, for luncheon. Here the whole population turned out, as usual, to inspect us: women, on small feet, hobbled impetuously across the rough fields, to the peril of the infants swung at their backs or carried in their arms; but female curiosity is as strong in Quang-tung as elsewhere, and doubtless was succeeded by those sentiments of admiration which a red coat always excites in the feminine breast. The chief magistrate of Fayune met us here, and endeavoured to propitiate us with sweetmeats. The Fayune Commissioners, he said, had vanished, and were nowhere to be heard of. His own heart was filled with pleasure at the prospect of a visit from so charming a company in his secluded house. Any arrangements necessary for the comfort of the troops should be promptly attended to. In fact, if this old gentleman had been the Pope, and we had been an army of Austrians, he could not have appeared more delighted to receive us.
Gaiety and merrymaking being the order of the day, the band was ordered to play, and while the elders were crowding around it, we effected a diversion in their favour by giving scrambles for cash to the juvenile portion of the community. Altogether, we had every reason to believe that, after spending two hours in this little village with a long and unpronounceable name, we left it universally beloved and regretted.
We halted for the night at a village called Ping-shan, situated upon a dry paddy-field expanse, out of which isolated wooded hills rose like islands. Here we found a magnificent ancestral hall, highly decorated, dedicated to the memory of sundry eminent men who had sprung from the surrounding villages, and whose fame and virtues were recorded upon elaborate tablets. These buildings are common throughout China, being used by the descendants of the persons in whose honour they have been erected, as a sort of club. As they are generally of great extent, containing numerous suites of apartments, and affording shelter for a large party of men and beasts, they are most convenient for officers’ quarters; and it was with no little satisfaction that we took possession of the rooms usually occupied by the Fayune Commissioners, and established ourselves luxuriously for the night. It is worthy of note that in respect of accommodation of this description, the numerous temples, yamuns, and ancestral and Confucian halls, &c., with which all districts of the empire abound, offer great advantages to an invading army.
On the following day we reached Fayune. Our first view of the town, from the summit of a hill, to which we clambered for the purpose of a general survey, was charming. Nestling snugly at the base of a range of hills from 1,500 feet to 2,000 feet in height, the little walled village looked like the stronghold of some mountain robber who had established himself on the edge of the rich country stretching away to the south. Groves of magnificent trees dotted the landscape, and seemed to bestow their especial patronage upon the town itself, a part of which was buried in rich foliage. To its left was a remarkable conical hill, surmounted by a pagoda. After feasting our eyes upon the scene at our feet, we descended into the valley, and forming in more regular order, filed between the rows of people who had come out to meet us, and passed through the massive gateway into the town, the band leading the way, and the Chinese guard turning out to salute us. So, then, we found ourselves in the lions’ den without having encountered the slightest opposition, or, apparently, excited any alarm. Although but a few weeks had elapsed since the most violent manifestoes had been issued against us from this very spot, and it had been for months the focus from whence had radiated the hostility of both the Imperial authorities and gentry, yet we found ourselves the objects of universal attention and civility, and explored at pleasure the town and neighbourhood, alone and unarmed. The town itself was mean and insignificant, but was surrounded by a wall in perfect order; the embrasures, however, had been denuded of their guns prior to our arrival. The wall was not above a mile in circumference, so that the place presented almost the appearance of a fort. It had a wild, cut-throat look—as different from an ordinary Chinese town as a pirate schooner from an old East Indiaman. We appropriated the yamun, which had been for some months past occupied by the Commissioners, who had considerately evacuated the premises in our favour. The most profound ignorance was assumed as to the present hiding-place of these gentry, so we were obliged to content ourselves with using their bedrooms and exploring their establishment. Most of the troops were comfortably lodged in the temples and public buildings of the town, others were camped on a hill in rear.
The proximity of the mountain range tempted some of us to explore its unknown beauties. Nor were we disappointed with the result of our exertions. After a hard scramble without guides, we reached the summit, Kow-pak-chang, or the thousand-chang-hill, and gazed from it over beautiful broken country, stretching northward, with secluded valleys, highly cultivated, winding between rugged mountain ranges, where villages in a setting of rich verdure hugged the banks of brawling streams, spanned by quaint high-arched bridges, and square feudal towers rose above the tree-clumps. It was singular to think that two Europeans should find themselves in a position of perfect safety, five or six miles away from assistance, looking down upon scenes, in all probability, never before witnessed by the eye of a foreigner, in the midst of a population with whom we were supposed to be in an attitude of open hostility. The top of a hill two thousand feet high, in the month of February, is a very cold place, even in the south of China, and we were glad to turn our backs upon its bleak summit, and taking one last look at the lovely scene beyond us, to hurry down into the sunny plain. We observed on our way numerous granite quarries, indicating the formation of the range.
Our exertions enabled us to do ample justice to an elaborate Chinese repast, which the chief magistrate, in the plenitude of his civility, sent over to us on our return. Before leaving Fayune, the general and a number of officers were entertained at dinner by this high functionary, and the head of the gentry of the district. The latter personage had been very active in the enlistment of Braves against us, and like the rest of his class, had hoped by the manifestation of zeal in his hostility to barbarians, to curry favour with the government: he now professed the utmost friendship for us, and expressed sincere regret for what had occurred, in opposition, as he declared, to his urgent remonstrances. After the usual interchange of pretty speeches, and consumption of greasy viands, we took leave of our smooth-tongued hosts, and once more striking camp, marched out of Fayune, having thoroughly accomplished the object of our visits. The troops re-entered Canton on the evening of the following day, having marched between sixty and seventy miles in five days, without encountering any of those difficulties which are predicted in the coming operations, and having achieved the very satisfactory result of instilling confidence into the country people, and inspiring the Braves with a due respect for our arms. Since then the neighbourhood of Canton has been tranquil, and foreigners have been enabled to extend their explorations to greater distances than formerly, with perfect security.
The same effect will be produced in the north of China if the same means are resorted to. It was not until the local militia at Canton received a lesson which taught them our power of inflicting chastisement, that they subsided into respectful quiescence. So, in 1858, the Court of Pekin changed its tone of arrogance for one of subserviency the moment we arrived at Tien-tsin: a feat supposed impracticable by the Chinese government.
The effect of our unexpected appearance there may be best appreciated by the following paragraph, extracted from the secret edict already quoted. The Emperor, apologizing for the concessions made to us upon that occasion, asks, “Why is it then that we have succumbed to circumstances, and permitted the acceptance of terms of peace from the said barbarians? It was indeed for no other reason than that war had reached the portals of our Imperial domains; the enemy was at the gates of our capital, and in the train of war follow alarm and disorder; the people are scattered and rendered homeless. How could we endure that our people should suffer? Our rest was disturbed, and we could not eat in peace. No other course, therefore, was open to us but to concede what they requested, in order to put an end to the present distress.”
The distress here alluded to was in reality not felt by the people, not one of whom was turned out of his home by our presence at Tien-tsin, but by the Emperor himself. The impression at Pekin at present is, that the river having been staked, our reappearance at Tien-tsin is impossible. Hence the stubborn attitude of the Chinese government, encouraged by their confidence in the Tartar general, Sang-ko-lin-sin, who commanded at the last Peiho affair, and who has declared his intention, on all fixture occasions, of dealing with us in the same summary manner. His defeat, and the march of our troops to Tien-tsin, will produce the same result as our march to Fayune, or as our former operations on Tien-tsin. The difficulty of our diplomatists in China consists not so much in the process of extracting a treaty from the Chinese government, as in obliging them to keep it in the spirit in which it is made. This can only be done by exerting a continuous pressure upon the Cabinet at Pekin. The moment the pressure is removed, the government interprets obnoxious stipulations in its own manner; its functionaries at distant ports take their cue from the disposition at head-quarters, and complications arise with local officials, out of which ultimately spring new wars.
By dealing directly with the highest functionaries at the capital, these may invariably be prevented; but the isolation of a foreign minister at Pekin might possibly expose him to inconveniences, and even insults, which, in the absence of any force, it would be impossible to resent. Under these circumstances the most desirable compromise which could be made, would be in the selection of Tien-tsin, as a summer abode for the British plenipotentiary, with the right reserved to him of visiting the capital at pleasure. Here, at a distance of only fifty miles from Pekin, communication with the high functionaries there could be rapidly and easily maintained, while the occasional visits of members of the foreign missions would tend to familiarize the people, as well as the authorities, with the contact of Europeans, and go far to remove those prejudices which must ever, otherwise, subsist against us, and develop themselves through the means of local authorities at distant ports. Concurrently with the establishment of a mission at Tien-tsin, that city might be opened as a port to trade, and the reassuring influence of commerce be thus brought to second the efforts of a skilful and judicious diplomacy. During the winter months, when the Peiho would be frozen, and the port closed, the Minister would remove his establishment to Shanghai, not a little pleased to return to a higher state of civilization; while the terrible heats of summer, at this latter place, would be agreeably exchanged for the dry, healthy climate of Tien-tsin. Two or three gunboats, necessary, under any circumstances, for the protection of our commerce in the gulf and river, would also serve as an adequate and efficient support to our diplomacy. We might thus hope to achieve all the advantages to be derived from a residence at Pekin, without any of its inconveniences; and while leaving the prestige of the Imperial government comparatively uninjured, pave the way for the assimilation of our diplomatic relations with China to those of other countries.
Whether this be the course ultimately adopted or not, one thing is certain,—that Tien-tsin is the key of the position. All military and diplomatic action must, for the present, be alike centred upon it; and if a campaign in this quarter becomes necessary, we have little doubt that it will terminate within two months, in a treaty embracing larger concessions, based upon broader principles, and ensuring a more durable peace than that signed by Sir Henry Pottinger in 1842, after a bloody and expensive war, which extended along the whole southern seaboard of China, and was protracted over a period of two years.
Yesterday morning, as I was walking up a street in Pimlico, I came upon a crowd of little persons issuing from a narrow alley. Ever so many little people there were streaming through a wicket; running children, shouting children, loitering children, chattering children, and children spinning tops by the way, so that the whole street was awakened by the pleasant childish clatter. As I stand for an instant to see the procession go by, one little girl pops me an impromptu curtsey, at which another from a distant quarter, not behindhand in politeness, pops me another; and presently quite an irregular little volley of curtseyings goes off in every direction. Then I blandly inquire if school is over? and if there is anybody left in the house? A little brown-eyes nods her head, and says, “There’s a great many people left in the house.” And so there are, sure enough, as I find when I get in.
Down a narrow yard, with the workshops on one side and the schools on the other, in at a little door which leads into a big room where there are rafters, maps hanging on the walls, and remarks in immense letters, such as, “Coffee is good for my Breakfast,” and pictures of useful things, with the well-thumbed story underneath; a stove in the middle of the room; a paper hanging up on the door with the names of the teachers; and everywhere wooden benches and tables, made low and small for little legs and arms.
Well, the schoolroom is quite empty and silent now, and the little turmoil has poured eagerly out at the door. It is twelve o’clock, the sun is shining in the court, and something better than schooling is going on in the kitchen yonder. Who cares now where coffee comes from? or which are the chief cities in Europe? or in what year Stephen came to the throne? For is not twelve o’clock dinner-time with all sensible people? and what periods of history, what future aspirations, what distant events are as important to us—grown-up folks, and children, too—as this pleasant daily recurring one?
The kind, motherly schoolmistress who brought me in, tells me, that for a shilling, half-a-dozen little boys and girls can be treated to a wholesome meal. I wonder if it smells as good to them as it does to me, when I pull my shilling out of my pocket. The food costs more than twopence, but there is a fund to which people subscribe, and, with its help, the kitchen cooks all through the winter months.
All the children seem very fond of the good Mrs. K——. As we leave the schoolroom, one little thing comes up crying, and clinging to her, “A boy has been and ’it me!” But when the mistress says, “Well, never mind, you shall have your dinner,” the child is instantly consoled; “and you, and you, and you,” she continues; but this selection is too heartrending; and with the help of another lucky shilling, nobody present is left out. I remember particularly a lank child, with great black eyes and fuzzy hair, and a pinched grey face, who stood leaning against a wall in the sun: once, in the Pontine Marshes, years ago, I remember seeing such another figure. “That poor thing is seventeen,” says Mrs. K——. “She sometimes loiters here all day long; she has no mother: and she often comes and tells me her father is so drunk she dare not go home. I always give her a dinner when I can. This is the kitchen.”
The kitchen is a delightful little clean-scrubbed place, with rice pudding baking in the oven, and a young mistress, and a big girl, busy bringing in great caldrons full of the mutton broth I have been scenting all this time. It is a fresh, honest, hungry smell, quite different from that unwholesome compound of fry and sauce, and hot, pungent spice, and stew and mess, which comes steaming up, some seven hours later, into our dining-rooms, from the reeking kitchens below. Here a poor woman is waiting, with a jug, and a round-eyed baby. The mistress tells me the people in the neighbourhood are too glad to buy what is left of the children’s dinner. “Look what good stuff it is,” says Mrs. K——, and she shows me a bowl full of the jelly, to which it turns when cold. As the two girls come stepping through the sunny doorway, with the smoking jar between them, I think Mr. Millais might make a pretty picture of the little scene; but my attention is suddenly distracted by the round-eyed baby, who is peering down into the great soup-jug with such wide wide open eyes, and little hands outstretched—such an eager, happy face, that it almost made one laugh, and cry too, to see. The baby must be a favourite, for he is served, and goes off in his mother’s arms, keeping vigilant watch over the jug, while four or five other jugs and women are waiting still in the next room. Then into rows of little yellow basins our mistress pours the broth, and we now go in to see the company in the dining-hall, waiting for its banquet. Ah me! but it is a pleasanter sight to see than any company in all the land. Somehow, as the children say grace, I feel as if there was indeed a blessing on the food: a blessing which brings colour into these wan cheeks, and strength and warmth into these wasted little limbs. Meanwhile, the expectant company is growing rather impatient, and is battering the benches with its spoons, and tapping neighbouring heads as well. There goes a little guest, scrambling from his place across the room and back again. So many are here to-day, that they have not all got seats. I see the wan girl still standing against the wall, and there is her brother—a sociable little fellow, all dressed in corduroys—who is making funny faces at me across the room, at which some other little boys burst out laughing. But the infants on the dolls’-benches, at the other end, are the best fun. There they are—three, four, five years old—whispering and chattering, and tumbling over one another. Sometimes one infant falls suddenly forward, with its nose upon the table, and stops there quite contentedly; sometimes another disappears entirely under the legs, and is tugged up by its neighbours. A certain number of the infants have their dinner every day, the mistress tells me. Mrs. —— has said so, and hers is the kind hand which has provided for all these young ones; while a same kind heart has schemed how to shelter, to feed, to clothe, to teach, the greatest number of these hungry, and cold, and neglected little children.
As I am replying to the advances of my young friend in the corduroys, I suddenly hear a cry “Ooo! ooo! ooo!—noo spoons—noo spoons—ooo! ooo! ooo!” and all the little hands stretch out eagerly as one of the big girls goes by with a paper of shining metal spoons. By this time the basins of soup are travelling round, with hunches of home-made bread. “The infants are to have pudding first,” says the mistress, coming forward; and, in a few minutes more, all the little birds are busy pecking at their bread and pudding, of which they take up very small mouthfuls, in very big spoons, and let a good deal slobber down over their pinafores.
One little curly-haired boy, with a very grave face, was eating pudding very slowly and solemnly—so I said to him:
“Do you like pudding best?”
Little Boy. “Isss.”
“And can you read?”
Little Boy. “Isss.”
Little Boy. “Isss.”
“And have you got a sister?”
Little Boy. “Isss.”
“And does she wash your face so nicely?”
Little Boy, extra solemn. “No, see is wite a little girl; see is on’y four year old.”
“And how old are you?”
Little Boy, with great dignity. “I am fi’ year old.”
Then he told me Mrs. Willis “wassed” his face, and he brought his sister to school.
“Where is your sister?” says the mistress, going by.
But four-years was not forthcoming.
“I s’pose see has walt home,” says the child, and goes on with his pudding.
This little pair are orphans out of the workhouse, Mrs. K—— told me. But somebody pays Mrs. Willis for their keep.
There was another funny little thing, very small, sitting between two bigger boys, to whom I said—
“Are you a little boy or a little girl?”
“Little dirl,” says this baby, quite confidently.
“No, you ain’t,” cries the left-hand neighbour, very much excited.
“Yes, she is,” says right-hand neighbour.
And then three or four more join in, each taking a different view of the question. All this time corduroys is still grinning and making faces in his corner. I admire his brass buttons, upon which three or four more children instantly crowd round to look at them. One is a poor little deformed fellow, to whom buttons would be of very little use. He is in quite worn and ragged clothes: he looks as pale and thin almost as that poor girl I first noticed. He has no mother; he and his brother live alone with their father, who is out all day, and the children have to do everything for themselves. The young ones here who have no mothers seem by far the worst off. This little deformed boy, poor as he is, finds something to give away. Presently I see him scrambling over the backs of the others, and feeding them with small shreds of meat, which he takes out of his soup with his grubby little fingers, and which one little boy, called Thompson, is eating with immense relish. Mrs. K—— here comes up, and says that those who are hungry are to have some more. Thompson has some more, and so does another rosy little fellow; but the others have hardly finished what was first given them, and the very little ones send off their pudding half eaten, and ask for soup. The mistresses here are quite touchingly kind and thoughtful. I did not hear a sharp tone. All the children seemed at home, and happy, and gently dealt with. However cruelly want, and care, and harshness haunt their own homes, here at least there are only kind words and comfort for these poor little pilgrims whose toil has begun so early. Mrs. —— told me once, that often in winter time these children come barefooted through the snow, and so cold and hungry that they have fallen off their seats half fainting. We may be sure that such little sufferers—thanks to these Good Samaritans—will be tenderly picked up and cared for. But, I wonder, must there always be children in the world hungry and deserted? and will there never, out of all the abundance of the earth, be enough to spare to content those who want so little to make them happy?
Mrs. —— came in while I was still at the school, and took me over the workshops where the elder boys learn to carpenter and carve. Scores of drawing-rooms in Belgravia are bristling with the pretty little tables and ornaments these young artificers design. A young man with a scriptural name superintends the work; the boys are paid for their labour, and send out red velvet and twisted legs, and wood ornamented in a hundred devices. There is an industrial class for girls, too. The best and oldest are taken in, and taught housework, and kitchen-work, and sewing. Even the fathers and mothers come in for a share of the good things, and are invited to tea sometimes, and amused in the evening with magic lanterns, and conjurors, and lecturings. I do not dwell at greater length upon the industrial part of these schools, because I want to speak of another very similar institution I went to see another day.
On my way thither I had occasion to go through an old churchyard, full of graves and sunshine: a quaint old suburban place, with tree-tops and old brick houses all round about, and ancient windows looking down upon the quiet tombstones. Some children were playing among the graves, and two rosy little girls in big bonnets were sitting demurely on a stone, and grasping two babies that were placidly basking in the sun. The little girls look up and grin as I go by. I would ask them the way, only I know they won’t answer, and so I go on, out at an old iron gate, with a swinging lamp, up “Church Walk” (so it is written), and along a trim little terrace, to where a maid-of-all-work is scrubbing at her steps. When I ask the damsel my way to B—— Street, she says she “do-ant know B—— Street, but there’s Little Davis Street round the corner;” and when I say I’m afraid Little Davis Street is no good to me, she says, “’Tain’t Gunter’s Row, is it?” So I go off in despair, and after some minutes of brisk walking, find myself turning up the trim little terrace again, where the maid-of-all-work is still busy at her steps. This time, as we have a sort of acquaintance, I tell her that I am looking for a house where girls are taken in, and educated, and taught to be housemaids. At which confidence she brightens up, and says, “There’s a ’ouse round the-ar with somethink wrote on the door, jest where the little boy’s a-trundlin’ of his ’oop.”
And so, sure enough, following the hoop, I come to an old-fashioned house in a courtyard, and ring at a wooden door on which “Girls’ Industrial Schools” is painted up in white letters.
A little industrious girl, in a lilac pinafore, let me in, with a curtsey.
“May I come in and see the place?” say I.
“Please, yes,” says she (another curtsey). “Please, what name?—please, walk this way.”
“This way” leads through the court, where clothes are hanging on lines, into a little office-room, where my guide leaves me, with yet another little curtsey. In a minute the mistress comes out from the inner room. She is a kind smiling young woman, with a fresh face and a pleasant manner. She takes me in, and I see a dozen more girls in lilac pinafores reading round a deal table. They look mostly about thirteen or fourteen years old. I ask if this is all the school.
“No, not all,” the mistress says, counting, “some are in the laundry, and some are not at home. When they are old enough, they go out into the neighbourhood to help to wash, or cook, or what not. Go on, girls!” and the girls instantly begin to read again, and the mistress, opening a door, brings us out into the passage. “We have room for twenty-two,” says the little mistress; “and we dress them, and feed them, and teach them as well as we can. On week-days they wear anything we can find for them, but they have very nice frocks on Sundays. I never leave them; I sit with them, and sleep among them, and walk with them; they are always friendly and affectionate to me and among themselves, and are very good companions.”
In answer to my questions, she said that most of the children were put in by friends who paid half-a-crown a week for them, sometimes the parents themselves, but they could rarely afford it. That besides this, and what the girls could earn, 200l. a year is required for the rent of the house and expenses. “It has always been made up,” says the mistress, “but we can’t help being very anxious at times, as we have nothing certain, nor any regular subscriptions. Won’t you see the laundry?” she adds, opening a door.
In the laundry is a steam, and a clatter, and irons, and linen, and a little mangle, turned by two little girls, while two or three more are busy ironing under the superintendence of a washerwoman with tucked-up sleeves; piles of shirt-collars and handkerchiefs and linen are lying on the shelves, shirts and clothes are hanging on lines across the room. The little girls don’t stop, but go on busily.
“Where is Mary Anne?” says the mistress, with a little conscious pride.
“There she is, mum,” says the washerwoman, and Mary Anne steps out blushing from behind the mangle, with a hot iron in her hand and a hanging head.
“Mary Anne is our chief laundry-maid,” says the mistress, as we come out into the hall again. “For the first year I could make nothing of her; she was miserable in the kitchen, she couldn’t bear housework, she wouldn’t learn her lessons. In fact, I was quite unhappy about her, till one day I set her to ironing; she took to it instantly, and has been quite cheerful and busy ever since.”
So leaving Mary Anne to her vocation in life, we went up-stairs to the dormitories. The first floor is let to a lady, and one of the girls is chosen to wait upon her; the second floor is where they sleep, in fresh light rooms with open windows and sweet spring breezes blowing in across gardens and courtyards. The place was delightfully trim, and fresh, and peaceful; the little gray-coated beds stood in rows, with a basket at the foot of each, and texts were hanging up on the wall. In the next room stood a wardrobe full of the girls’ Sunday clothes, of which one of them keeps the key; after this came the mistress’s own room, as fresh and light and well kept as the rest.
These little maidens scrub, and cook, and wash, and sew. They make broth for the poor, and puddings. They are taught to read and write and count, and they learn geography and history as well. Many of them come from dark unwholesome alleys in the neighbourhood—from a dreary country of dirt and crime and foul talk. In this little convent all is fresh and pure, and the sunshine pours in at every window. I don’t know that the life is very exciting there, or that the days spent at the mangle, or round the deal table, can be very stirring ones. But surely they are well spent, learning useful arts, and order, and modesty, and cleanliness. Think of the cellars and slums from which these children come, and of the quiet little haven where they are fitted for the struggle of life, and are taught to be good, and industrious, and sober, and honest. It is only for a year or two, and then they will go out into the world again; into a world indeed of which we know but little—a world of cooks and kitchen-maids and general servants. I daresay these little industrious girls, sitting round that table and spelling out the Gospel of St. John this sunny afternoon, are longing and wistfully thinking about that wondrous coming time. Meanwhile the quiet hour goes by. I say farewell to the kind, smiling mistress; Mary Anne is still busy among her irons; I hear the mangle click as I pass, and the wooden door opens to let me out.
In another old house, standing in a deserted old square near the City, there is a school which interested me as much as any of those I have come across—a school for little Jewish boys and girls. We find a tranquil roomy old house with light windows, looking out into the quiet square with its ancient garden; a carved staircase; a little hall paved with black and white mosaic, whence two doors lead respectively to the Boys’ and Girls’ schools. Presently a little girl unlocks one of these doors, and runs up before us into the schoolroom—a long well-lighted room full of other little girls busy at their desks: little Hebrew maidens with Oriental faces, who look up at us as we come in. This is always rather an alarming moment; but Dr. ——, who knows the children, comes kindly to our help, and begins to tell us about the school. “It is an experiment,” he says, “and one which has answered admirably well. Any children are admitted, Christians as well as Jews; and none come without paying something every week, twopence or threepence, as they can afford, for many of them belong to the very poorest of the Jewish community. They receive a very high class of education.” (When I presently see what they are doing, and hear the questions they can answer, I begin to feel a very great respect for these little bits of girls in pinafores, and for the people who are experimenting on them.) “But the chief aim of the school is to teach them to help themselves, and to inculcate an honest self-dependence and independence.” And indeed, as I look at them, I cannot but be struck with a certain air of respectability and uprightness among these little creatures, as they sit there, so self-possessed, keen-eyed, well-mannered. “Could you give them a parsing lesson?” the doctor asks the schoolmistress, who shakes her head, and says it is their day for arithmetic, and she may not interrupt the order of their studies; but that they may answer any questions the doctor likes to put to them.
Quite little things, with their hair in curls, can tell you about tons and hundredweights, and how many horses it would take to draw a ton, and how many little girls to draw two-thirds of a ton, if so many little girls went to a horse; and if a horse were added, or a horse taken away, or two-eighths of the little girls, or three-fourths of the horse, or one-sixth of the ton,—until the room begins to spin breathlessly round and round, and I am left ever so far behindhand.
“Is avoirdupois an English word?” Up goes a little hand, with fingers working eagerly, and a pretty little creature, with long black hair and a necklace, cries out that it is French, and means, have weight.
Then the doctor asks about early English history, and the hands still go up, and they know all about it; and so they do about civilization, and despotism, and charters, and Picts and Scots, and dynasties, and early lawgivers, and colonization, and reformation.
“Who was Martin Luther? Why did he leave the Catholic Church? What were indulgences?”
“You gave the Pope lots of money, sir, and he gave you dispensations.” This was from our little portress.
There was another little shrimp of a thing, with wonderful, long-slit, flashing eyes, who could answer anything almost, and whom the other little girls accordingly brought forward in triumph from a back row.
“Give me an instance of a free country?” asks the tired questioner.
“England, sir!” cry the little girls in a shout.
“And now of a country which is not free.”
“America,” cry two little voices; and then one adds, “Because there are slaves, sir.” “And France,” says a third; “and we have seen the emperor in the picture-shops.”
As I listen to them, I cannot help wishing that many of our little Christians were taught to be as independent and self-respecting in their dealings with the grown-up people who come to look at them. One would fancy that servility was a sacred institution, we cling to it so fondly. We seem to expect an absurd amount of respect from our inferiors; we are ready to pay back just as much to those above us in station: and hence I think, notwithstanding all the kindness of heart, all the well-meant and well-spent exertion we see in the world, there is often too great an inequality between those who teach and those who would learn, those who give and those whose harder part it is to receive.
We were quite sorry at last when the doctor made a little bow, and said, “Good morning, young ladies,” quite politely, to his pupils. It was too late to stop and talk to the little boys down below, but we went for a minute into an inner room out of the large boys’ schoolroom, and there we found half-a-dozen little men, with their hats on their heads, sitting on their benches, reading the Psalms in Hebrew; and so we stood, for this minute before we came away, listening to David’s words spoken in David’s tongue, and ringing rather sadly in the boys’ touching childish voice.
But this is not by any means the principal school which the Jews have established in London. Deep in the heart of the City—beyond St. Paul’s—beyond the Cattle Market, with its countless pens—beyond Finsbury Square, and the narrow Barbican, travelling on through a dirty, close, thickly peopled region, you come to Bell Lane, in Spitalfields. And here you may step in at a door and suddenly find yourself in a wonderful country, in the midst of an unknown people, in a great hall sounding with the voices of hundreds of Jewish children. I know not if it is always so, or if this great assemblage is only temporary, during the preparation for the Passover, but all along the sides of this great room were curtained divisions, and classes sitting divided, busy at their tasks, and children upon children as far as you could see; and somehow as you look you almost see, not these children only, but their forefathers, the Children of Israel, camping in their tents, as they camped at Succoth, when they fled out of the land of Egypt and the house of bondage. Some of these here present to-day are still flying from the house of bondage; many of them are the children of Poles, and Russians, and Hungarians, who have escaped over here to avoid conscription, and who arrive destitute and in great misery. But to be friendless, and in want, and poverty-stricken, is the best recommendation for admission to this noble charity. And here, as elsewhere, any one who comes to the door is taken in, Christian as well as Jew.
I have before me now the Report for the year 5619 (1858), during which 1,800 children have come to these schools daily. 10,000 in all have been admitted since the foundation of the school. The working alone of the establishment—salaries, repairs, books, laundresses, &c.—amounts to more than 2,000l. a year. Of this a very considerable portion goes in salaries to its officers, of whom I count more than fifty in the first page of the pamphlet. “12l. to a man for washing boys,” is surely well-spent money; “3l. to a beadle; 14l. for brooms and brushes; 1l. 19s. 6d. for repair of clocks,” are among the items. The annual subscriptions are under 500l., and the very existence of the place (so says the Report) depends on voluntary offerings at the anniversary. That some of these gifts come in with splendid generosity, I need scarcely say. Clothing for the whole school arrives at Easter once a year, and I saw great bales of boots for the boys waiting to be unpacked in their schoolroom. Tailors and shoemakers come and take measurings beforehand, so that everybody gets his own. To-day these artists having retired, carpenters and bricklayers are at work all about the place, and the great boys’ school, which is larger still than the girls’, is necessarily empty,—except that a group of teachers and monitors are standing in one corner talking and whispering together. The head master, with a black beard, comes down from a high desk in an inner room, and tells us about the place—about the cleverness of the children, and the scholarship lately founded; how well many of the boys turn out in after life, and for what good positions they are fitted by the education they are able to receive here;—“though Jews,” he said, “are debarred by their religious requirements from two-thirds of the employments which Christians are able to fill. Masters cannot afford to employ workmen who can only give their time from Monday to Friday afternoon. There are, therefore, only a very limited number of occupations open to us. Some of our boys rise to be ministers, and many become teachers here, in which case Government allows them a certain portion of their salary.”
The head mistress in the girls’ school was not less kind and ready to answer our questions. During the winter mornings, hot bread-and-milk are given out to any girl who chooses to ask for it, but only about a hundred come forward, of the very hungriest and poorest. When we came away from —— Square a day before, we had begun to think that all poor Jews were well and warmly clad, and had time to curl their hair and to look clean, and prosperous, and respectable, but here, alas! comes the old story of want, and sorrow, and neglect. What are these brown, lean, wan little figures, in loose gowns falling from their shoulders—black eyes, fuzzy, unkempt hair, strange bead necklaces round their throats, and ear-rings in their ears? I fancied these must be the Poles and Russians, but when I spoke to one of them she smiled and answered very nicely, in perfectly good English, and told me she liked writing best of all, and showed me a copy very neat, even, and legible.
Whole classes seemed busy sewing at lilac pinafores, which are, I suppose, a great national institution; others were ciphering and calling out the figures as the mistress chalked the sum upon a slate. Hebrew alphabets and sentences were hanging up upon the walls. All these little Hebrew maidens learn the language of their nation.
In the infant-school, a very fat little pouting baby, with dark eyes, and a little hook-nose and curly locks, and a blue necklace and funny ear-rings in her little rosy ears, came forward, grasping one of the mistresses’ fingers.
“This is a good little girl,” said that lady, “who knows her alphabet in Hebrew and in English.”
And the little girl looks up very solemn, as children do, to whom everything is of vast importance, and each little incident a great new fact. The infant-schools do not make part of the Bell Lane Establishment, though they are connected with it, and the children, as they grow up, and are infants no longer, draft off into the great free-school.
The infant-school is a light new building close by, with arcaded playgrounds, and plenty of light, and air, and freshness, though it stands in this dreary, grimy region. As we come into the schoolrooms we find, piled up on steps at either end, great living heaps of little infants, swaying, kicking, shouting for their dinner, beating aimlessly about with little legs and arms. Little Jew babies are uncommonly like little Christians; just as funny, as hungry, as helpless, and happy now that the bowls of food come steaming in. One, two, three, four, five little cook-boys, in white jackets, and caps, and aprons, appear in a line, with trays upon their heads, like the processions out of the Arabian Nights; and as each cook-boy appears, the children cheer, and the potatoes steam hotter and hotter, and the mistresses begin to ladle them out.
Rice and browned potatoes is the manna given twice a week to these hungry little Israelites. I rather wish for the soup and pudding certain small Christians are gobbling up just about this time in another corner of London; but this is but a halfpenny-worth, while the other meal costs a penny. You may count by hundreds here instead of by tens; and I don’t think there would be so much shouting at the little cook-boys if these hungry little beaks were not eager for their food. I was introduced to one little boy here, who seemed to be very much looked up to by his companions because he had one long curl right along the top of his head. As we were busy talking to him, a number of little things sitting on the floor were busy stroking and feeling with little gentle fingers the soft edges of a coat one of us had on, and the silk dress of a lady who was present.
The lady who takes chief charge of these 400 babies told us how the mothers as well as the children got assistance here in many ways, sometimes coming for advice, sometimes for small loans of money, which they always faithfully repay. She also showed us letters from some of the boys who have left and prospered in life. One from a youth who has lately been elected alderman in some distant colony. She took us into a classroom and gave a lesson to some twenty little creatures, while, as it seemed to me, all the 380 others were tapping at the door, and begging to be let in. It was an object-, and then a scripture-lesson, and given with the help of old familiar pictures. There was Abraham with his beard, and Isaac and the ram, hanging up against the wall; there was Moses, and the Egyptians, and Joseph, and the sack and the brethren, somewhat out of drawing. All these old friends gave one quite a homely feeling, and seemed to hold out friendly hands to us strangers and Philistines, standing within the gates of the chosen people.
Before we came away the mistress opened a door and showed us one of the prettiest and most touching sights I have ever seen. It was the arcaded playground full of happy, shouting, tumbling, scrambling little creatures: little tumbled-down ones kicking and shouting on the ground, absurd toddling races going on, whole files of little things wandering up and down with their arms round one another’s necks: a happy, friendly little multitude indeed: a sight good for sore eyes.
And so I suppose people of all nations and religions love and tend their little ones, and watch and yearn over them. I have seen little Catholics cared for by kind nuns with wistful tenderness, as the young ones came clinging to their black veils and playing with their chaplets;—little high-church maidens growing up rosy and happy amid crosses and mediæval texts, and chants, and dinners of fish, and kind and melancholy ladies in close caps and loose-cut dresses;—little low-church children smiling and dropping curtseys as they see the Rev. Mr. Faith-in-grace coming up the lane with tracts in his big pockets about pious negroes, and broken vessels, and devouring worms, and I daresay pennies and sugar-plums as well.
Who has not seen and noted these things, and blessed with a thankful, humble heart that fatherly Providence which has sent this pure and tender religion of little children to all creeds and to all the world?
About the year of grace 1727 the world began to hear of William Hogarth, not only as a designer and engraver of pasquinades and book-plates, but as a painter in oils. He had even begun to know what patronage was; and it was, doubtless, not without a reason that his Hudibras series was dedicated to “William Ward, Esquire, of Great Houghton, Northamptonshire.” In his early heraldic days, I find that he was once called upon to engrave an “Apollo in all his glory, azure.” He probably copied the figure from some French print; but in 1724 he was hard at work copying Apollo, and Marsyas to boot, at Thornhill’s Academy. Although he was sensible enough not to neglect the cultivation of the main chance, and with all convenient speed betook himself to the profitable vocation of portraiture or “face painting;” obtaining almost immediately, from his connection with the king’s sergeant painter, some aristocratic commissions—it is curious to observe that the young man’s bent lay in the direction of the historico-allegorical, then running neck-and-neck with the upholstery style of adornment. He had the epic-fever. Who among us has not suffered from that fièvre brulante—that generous malady of youth? How many contented sub-editors and quiet booksellers’ readers do we not know, who, in their hot adolescence, came to town, their portmanteaus bursting with the “Somethingiad,” in twenty-four cantos, or with blank-verse tragedies running to the orthodox five acts? Stipple, the charming domestic painter; Jonquil, who limns flowers and fruits so exquisitely, commenced with their enormous cartoons and show-clock oil-pictures: “Orestes pursued by the Eumenides,” “Departure of Regulus,”—la vieille patraque, in short—the old, heroic, impossible undertakings. And did not Liston imagine that he was born to play Macbeth? and did not Douglas Jerrold project a treatise on Natural Philosophy? and where is the little boarding-school miss that has not dreamt of riding in a carriage with a coronet on the panels, and being called her ladyship? Amina thinks the grandiloquent music of Norma would suit her; the maiden speech of young Quintus Briscus is a tremendous outburst against ministers. Quintus is going to shake the country, and cut the Gordian knot of red-tape. The session after next he will be a junior Lord of the Treasury, the demurest and most complacent of placemen. Peers, politicians, pamphleteers, and players: we all find our level. Rolling about the board is not to be tolerated for any length of time: we must peg in somewhere, and happy the man who finds himself in the right hole, and is satisfied with that state of life into which it has pleased heaven to call him!
Hogarth has his fièvre brulante; and, although he painted portraits, “conversations,” and “assemblies,” to eke out that livelihood of which the chief source was the employment given him by Philip Overton, Black-Horse Bowles, and the booksellers, he continued to hanker after torsos, and flying trumpets, and wide-waving wings, and flaunting drapery, and the other paraphernalia that went to furnish forth the apotheoses of monarchs and warriors in full-bottomed wigs. This preposterous school of art has long been in hopeless decay. You see the phantom caricature of it, only, in hair-dressers’ “toilette saloons” and provincial music-halls. Timon’s villa—the futile, costly caprice—has vanished. Old Montagu House is no more. Doctor Misaubin’s house, in St. Martin’s Lane, the staircase painted by Clermont (the Frenchman asked a thousand, and actually received five hundred guineas for his work), is not within my ken. Examples of this florid, truculent style, are becoming rarer and rarer every day. Painted ceilings and staircases yet linger in some grand old half-deserted country mansions, and in a few erst gorgeous merchants’ houses in Fenchurch and Leadenhall, now let out in flats as offices and chambers. If you have no objection to hazard a crick in your neck, you may crane it, and stare upwards at the ceil-paintings at Marlborough House, in Greenwich Hall, and on Hampton Court Palace staircase. The rest has ceded before stucco and stencilled paper-hangings; and even the French, who never neglect an opportunity or an excuse for ornamentation, and who still occasionally paint the ceilings of their palaces, seem to have quite lost the old Lebrun and Coypel traditions of perspective and foreshortening—overcharged and unnatural as they were (P. P. Rubens, in the Banqueting House, Whitehall, inventor)—and merely give you a picture stuck upon a rooftree, in which the figures are attenuated vertically, instead of sprawling down upon you, isometrically upside down.
Hogarth became useful to Sir James Thornhill. This last, a worthy, somewhat pompous, but industrious magnifico of the moment, a Covent Garden Caravaggio and cross between Raphael Mengs and the Groom-porter, had wit enough to discern the young designer and graver’s capacity, and condescended to patronize him. There is reason to believe that he employed William to assist in the production of his roomy works. When ceilings and domes were to be painted at two guineas the Flemish ell, it is not likely that Royal Sergeant painters and knights of the shire for Melcombe Regis could afford or would vouchsafe to cover with pigments and with their own courtly hands the whole of the required area. The vulgar, of course, imagined that the painter did all; that Thornhill lay for ever stretched on a mattress, swinging in a basket three hundred feet high in the empyrean of Wren’s dome, daubing away at his immense Peters and Pauls, or else stepping backwards to the edge of a crazy platform to contemplate the work he had done, and being within an ace of toppling over to inevitable crash of death beneath, when an astute colour-grinder saved his beloved master by flinging a brush at Paul’s great toe—cruel to be kind, and so causing the artist, in indignant apprehension of injury to his beloved saint, to rush forward, saving his own life and the toe likewise. A pretty parallel to this story is in that of the little boy in the Greek epigram who has crawled to the very edge of a precipice, and is attracted from his danger by the sight of his mother’s breast. A neat little anecdote, but—it is somewhat musty. It is a myth, I fear. The vulgar love such terse traditions. Zeuxis refusing to sell his pictures, because no sum of money was sufficient to buy them, and imitating fruit so nicely that the birds came and pecked at it; Parrhasius cozening Zeuxis into the belief that his simulated curtain was real, and crucifying a bondman (the wretch!) that he might transfer his contortions to canvas; Apelles inducing a horse to neigh in recognition of the steed he had drawn; Amurath teaching a French painter how properly to design the contracted muscles of the neck when the head is severed from the body by causing a slave to be decapitated in his presence: Correggio receiving the price of his master-work in farthings, or some vile copper Italian coinage, and dying under the weight of the sack in which he was carrying the sordid wage home; Cimabue ruddling the fleeces of his lambs with saintly triptichs, and the late Mr. Fuseli eating raw pork-chops for supper in order to design the “Nightmare,” more to the life: all these are ben trovati,—ma non son veri, I suspect.
Thornhill had not all his domes and ceilings and staircases to himself. When Augustus found Rome of brick and left it of marble, he did not execute all the quarrying and chiselling with his own imperial hands. In 1727, the painter M.P. for Melcombe Regis was at the high tide of celebrity. Many of the Flemish ells were covered by assistants. Here, I fancy, Van Shackaback of Little Britain, and sometime of Ghent in the Low Countries, was dexterous at war and art trophies, lyres, kettle-drums, laurel wreaths, bass-viols, and S. P. Q. R.’s, charmingly heaped up on a solid basis of cloud. Then little Vanderscamp, who had even been employed about the great king’s alcoves at Versailles, was wondrous cunning at the confection of those same purple and cream-coloured vapours. Lean Monsieur Carogne from Paris excelled in drapery; Gianbattista Ravioli, ex-history painter to the Seigniory of Venice, but vehemently suspected of having been a galley-slave in the Venetian arsenal, was unrivalled in flying Cupids. All these foreign aides-de-camp sprawled on their mattresses and made their fancy’s children to sprawl; goodman Thornhill superintending, touching up now and then, blaming, praising, pooh-poohing, talking of the gusto, taking snuff, then putting on his majestic wig and his grand laced hat, and departing in a serene manner in his coach to St. James’s or the House, thinking perhaps of one Rafaelle who painted the loggie and stanze of the Vatican, and of what a clever fellow he, James Thornhill, was.
To him presently entered young Hogarth. The indulgence of William’s own caustic whim had served an end he may not have recked of. He had contrived to pay Thornhill the most acceptable compliment that can be paid to a vain, shallow, pompous man. He had lampooned and degraded his rival. He had pilloried Kent in the parody of the wretched St. Clement Danes’ altar-piece, and had had a fling at him, besides, in Burlington Gate, where in sly ridicule of the earl’s infatuation for this Figaro of art, Kent’s effigy is placed on a pinnacle above the statues of Rafaelle and Michael Angelo. It is a capital thing to have a friend in court with a sharp tongue, or better still, with a sharp pen or pencil, who will defend you, and satirize your enemies. The watch-dog Tearem at home, to defend the treasure-chest, is all very well in his way; but the wealthy worldling should also entertain Snarler, the bull-terrier, to bite and snap at people’s heels. Not that for one moment I would insinuate that Hogarth strove at all unworthily to toady or to curry favour with Sir James Thornhill. The sturdiness and independence of the former are visible in his very first etching. The acorn does not grow up to be a parasite. But Hogarth’s poignant humour happened to tally with the knight’s little malices. Hogarth, there is reason to assume, believed in Thornhill more than he believed in Kent. The first, at least, could work, was a fair draughtsman, and a not contemptible painter, albeit his colour was garish, his conception preposterous, his execution loaded and heavy. He showed at all events a genuine interest in, and love for that art, in which he might not himself have excelled. Kent was a sheer meretricious impostor and art-manufacturing quack, and Hogarth was aware of him at once, and so scarified him. Moreover, a young man can scarcely—till his wisdom-teeth be cut—avoid drifting temporarily into some clique or another. Cibber must have had his admirers, who mauled Pope prettily among themselves; and moreover, Sir James Thornhill, knight, sergeant painter, and M.P., had a daughter—one mistress Jane—but I am forestalling matters again.
Although it is difficult to imagine anything more confused, misunderstood, and hampered with rags and tatters of ignorance, or—worse than ignorance-false taste, than was English Art in 1727, Cimmerian darkness did not wholly reign. There were men alive who had heard their fathers tell of the glories of Charles the First’s gallery at Whitehall; there were some princely English nobles, then as now patrons and collectors; there were treasures of art in England, although no Waagen, no Jameson, had arisen to describe them, and there were amateurs to appreciate those treasures. The young peer who went the grand tour took something else abroad with him besides a negro-boy, a tipsy chaplain, and a pug-dog. He brought other things home beyond a broken-nosed busto, a rusted medal, a receipt for cooking risotto and the portrait of a Roman beggar and a Venetian corteggiana. He frequently acquired exquisite gems of painting and statuary abroad, and on his return formed a noble gallery of art. It is unfortunately true that his lordship sometimes played deep at “White’s” or the “Young Man’s,” and, losing all, was compelled to send his pictures to the auction room; but even then his treasures were disseminated, and wise and tasteful men were the purchasers. To their credit, the few celebrated artists then possessed by our country were assiduous gatherers in this field. Sir Godfrey Kneller collected Vandykes. Richardson the elder, a pleasing painter, whose daughter married Hudson, Sir Joshua Reynolds’s master, left Rafaelle and Andrea del Sarto drawings, worth a large sum. Jervas, Pope’s friend, and by that polished, partial man artistically much overrated, being at the best but a weak, diaphanous, grimacing enlarger of fans and firescreens, became rich enough to form a handsome cabinet of paintings, drawings, and engravings. We are apt to bear much too hardly on the patron-lords and gentlemen of the eighteenth century. Many were munificent, enlightened, and accomplished; but we devour the piquant satires on Timon and Curio and Bubo, and have patron and insolence, patron and ignorance, patron and neglect, patron and gaol, too glibly at our tongue’s end. Is it not to be wished that thinking people should bear this in mind: that not only were there strong men who lived before Agamemnon, but that there were strong men who lived besides Agamemnon—his contemporaries, in fine, to whom posterity has not been generous, not even just, and whose strength has been forgotten?
The earliest known picture of William Hogarth is one called the Wanstead Assembly, long, and by a ridiculous blunder, corrupted into “Wandsworth.” The term “Assembly” was a little bit of art-slang. A portrait being a portrait, and a “conversation” a group of persons generally belonging to one family; by an “assembly” was understood a kind of pictorial rent-roll, or domestic “achievement,” representing the lord, or the squire, the ladies and children, the secretaries, chaplains, pensioned poets, led-captains, body-flatterers, hangers-on, needy clients, lick-trenchers, and scrape-plates, the governesses and tutors, the tenants, the lacqueys, the black-boys, the monkeys, and the lapdogs: tutta la baracca, in fact. In the Wanstead Assembly was a portrait of the first Earl Tylney, and many of his vassals and dependants; and shortly after the completion of the picture, Mitchell, for whose opera of The Highland Clans Hogarth designed a frontispiece, complimented the artist on his performance in smooth couplets:—
It was William’s frequent fortune during life to be much celebrated in verse. Swift, you know, apostrophized him as “hum’rous Hogart;” Mitchell, as we have seen, lauds his “families” and “assemblies.” Shortly afterwards, the tender and graceful Vincent Bourne, who wrote the Jackdaw, and whose innocent memory as “Vinny Bourne” is yet cherished in Westminster School, where he was junior master, addressed the painter in Latin “hendecasyllables.” Hoadley, chancellor and bishop, spurred a clumsy Pegasus to paraphrase his pictures in verse. Churchill, when he was old, tried to stab him with an epistle; David Garrick and Samuel Johnson competed for the honour of writing his epitaph.
Between 1727 and 1730, Hogarth appears to have painted dozens of single portraits, “conversations,” and “assemblies.” In the list he himself scheduled are to be noticed “four figures for Mr. Wood” (1728); “six figures for Mr. Cock” (1728); “an assembly of twenty-five figures for my Lord Castlemaine” (1729); “five for the Duke of Montagu;” nine for Mr. Vernon, four for Mr. Wood, and so forth. The prices paid for “Assemblies” appear to have fluctuated between ten and thirty guineas. The oddest, and nearly the earliest commission he received for a portrait was in 1726, when several of the eminent surgeons of the day subscribed their guinea a-piece for him to compose a burlesque “conversation” of Mary Tofts, the infamous rabbit-breeding impostor of Godalming; and St. André, chirurgeon to the King’s household, a highly successful and most impudent quack, who had made himself very busy in the scandalous hoax, and pretended to believe in Tofts. For the story that Hogarth made a drawing of Jack Sheppard in Newgate (1724), at the time when Sir James painted the robber’s half-length in oils—the imaginary scene is admirably etched by George Cruikshank in one of his illustrations to Mr. Ainsworth’s strange novel—there does not seem any foundation. W. H. certainly painted Sarah Malcolm, the murderess, in her cell, in 1733; and from that well-known and authenticated fact some persons may have jumped at the conclusion that he was limner in ordinary to the Old Bailey.
I dwelt persistently in the preceding section of these essays upon the scenes and characters, the vices and follies, the humours and eccentricities, the beauties and uglinesses, that Hogarth must have seen in his young manhood, and asked and thought about, and which must have sunk into his mind and taken root there. Satirists can owe but little to inspiration. They can move the world with the lever of wit, but they must have a fulcrum of fact. Their philosophy is properly of the inductive order. Without facts, facts to reason upon, their arguments would be tedious and pointless. Wherein lies the force or direction of satirizing that Chinese mandarin whom you never saw—that Zulu Kaffir who never came out of his kraal but once, and then to steal a cow? It was Hogarth’s faculty to catch the manners living as they rose; it was his province to watch their rising, and to walk abroad, an early bird, to pick up the worms of knavery and vice, to range the ample field, and see what the open and what the covert yielded. From twenty to thirty the social philosopher must observe. If he grovel in the mud even, he must observe and take stock of the humane passer-by who stoops to pick him up. After thirty he had better go into his study, turn on his lamp, and turn out the contents of his mind’s commonplace book upon paper. This is the only valid excuse for what is termed, after a Frenchman’s Quartier-Latin-argot phrase “Bohemianism:” the only excuse for Fielding’s Covent Garden escapades, for Callot’s gipsy flights, for Shakspeare’s deer-stealing. Young Diogenes the cynic is offensive and reprehensible, but he is no monstrosity. He is going to the deuce, but he may come back again. I will pardon him his tub, his dingy body-linen, his nails bordered sable; but the tub-career should have its term, and Diogenes should go and wash, and if he can afford it, wear fine linen with a purple hem thereunto, as Plato did. It is pleasanter to walk in the groves of Academe, than to skulk about the purlieus of the Mint. Besides, Bohemianism has its pains as well as its pleasures, and Fortune delights in disciplining with a scourge of scorpions those whom she destines to be great men: Alla gioventù molto si perdona. Cæsar was snatched from the stews of Rome to conquer the world. But for the middle-aged Bohemian—the old, ragged, uncleanly, shameful Diogenes—there is no hope and no excuse.
In that which I daresay you thought a mere digression, I strove my best to guide you through the labyrinthine London, which Hogarth must have threaded time after time before he could sit down, pencil or graver in hand, and say, “This is ‘Tom King’s coffee-house,’ this is a ‘modern midnight conversation,’ this is the ‘progress of a rake,’ and this the ‘career of a courtesan.’ I have seen these things, and I know them to be true.” Nor in the least do I wish to convey that in ranging the streets and beating the town Hogarth had any fixed notions of collecting materials for future melodramas and satires. Eminently to be distrusted are those persons who prowl about the tents of Kedar, and pry into the cave of Adullam, when they should be better employed, pleading their desire to “see life,” and to “pick up character.” They are generally blind as bats to all living, breathing life; and the only character they pick up is a bad one for themselves. I apprehend that Hogarth just took life as it came; only the Light was in him to see and to comprehend. A right moral feeling, an intuitive hatred of all wicked and cruel things, guided and strengthened him. Amid the loose life of a loose age the orgies at Moll King’s and Mother Douglass’s might have been frolics at the time to him, and only frolics. A fight in a night-cellar was to him precisely as the yellow primrose was to Peter Bell: a yellow primrose, and nothing more. He was to be afterwards empowered and commanded to turn his youthful follies to wise ends, and to lash the vices which he had once tolerated by his presence.
The philosophic prelude to his work was undoubtedly his town wanderings, 1720-30. The great manipulative skill, the grace of drawing visible when taken in comparison with the comic excrescences in the Hudibras—the brilliance and harmony of colour he manifested in the Progresses and the Marriage à la Mode—have yet to be accounted for. A lad does not step at once from the engraving bench to the easel, and handle the hog’s hair brush with the same skill as he wields the burin and the etching point. The Hogarthian transition from the first to the second of these stages is the more remarkable when it is remembered that, although bred an engraver, and although always quick, dexterous, and vigorous with the sharp needle and the trenchant blade, he could never thoroughly master that clear, harmonious, full-bodied stroke in which the French engravers excelled, in which Hogarth’s own assistants in after life (Ravenet, Scotin, and Grignion) surpassed him, but which was afterwards, to the pride and glory of English chalcography, to be brought to perfection by Woollett and Strange. Yet Hogarth the engraver seemed in 1730 to change with pantomimic rapidity into Hogarth the painter. The matter of his pictures may often be questionable: the manner leaves scarcely anything for exceptional criticism. His colour is deliciously pure and fresh; he never loads, never spatters paint about with his palette knife; never lays tint over tint till a figure has as many vests as the gravedigger in Hamlet. Whites, grays, carnations stand in his pictures and defy time; no uncertain glazings have changed his foregrounds into smears and streaks and stains. He was great at Manchester in 1857; great at the British Institution in 1814, when not less than fifty of his works were exhibited, great in body, richness, transparency; he is great, nay prodigious, in the English section of the National Gallery, where gorgeous Sir Joshua, alas! runs and welters and turns into adipocere; and Gainsborough (in his portraits—his landscapes are as rich as ever)—grows pallid and threadbare, and Turner’s suns are grimed, and even Wilkie cracks and tesselates. I think Hogarth came fresh, assured and decided, to his picture-painting work, from a kind of second apprenticeship under Thornhill, and from compassing the “conversations” and “assemblies.” The historico-allegorico-mural decorations were a species of scene-painting; they involved broad and decisive treatment. The hand learnt perforce to strike lines and mark-in muscles at once. The maul-stick could seldom be used, the fluttering wrist, the nerveless grasp were fatal, the eye could not be performing a perpetual goose-step between canvas and model. Look at Salvator, at Loutherbourg, at Stanfield, and Roberts, to show what good a scene-painting noviciate can do in teaching an artist to paint in one handling, à la brochette as it were. Who can relish a Madonna when one fancies half-a-dozen other Madonnas simpering beneath the built-up tints? Next, Hogarth went to his portraits. They were a course of physiognomy invaluable to him—of fair faces, stern faces, sensual, stupid, hideous and pretty little baby faces. From the exigencies of the “conversations” and “assemblies” he learnt composition, and the treatment of accessories; learnt to paint four-and-twenty fiddlers, not “all of a row,” but disposed in ellipse or in pyramid-form. The perception of female beauty and the power of expressing it were his by birthright, by heaven’s kindness; I am despondent only at his animals, which are almost invariably impossible deformities.
The Duke of Montagu and my Lord Castlemaine having ordered “conversations” from Hogarth, there was of course but one thing necessary to put the seal to his artistic reputation. That thing, so at least the patron may have thought, was the patronage of the eminent Morris. Morris is quite snuffed out now—evaporated even as the carbonic acid gas from yesterday’s flask of champagne; but in 1727, he was a somewhat notable person. He was a fashionable upholsterer in Pall Mall, and not only sold, but manufactured, those tapestry arras hangings which, paper-staining being in embryo, were still conspicuous ornaments of the walls of palaces, the nobility’s saloons. Morris kept a shop much frequented by the noble tribes, at the sign of the “Golden Ball,” in Pall Mall. There seems to have been a plethora of Golden Balls in London about this time, just as though all the Lombards had quarrelled among themselves, and set up in business each man for himself, with no connection with the golden ball over the way. In 1727, and, for a century and a half before, the best and most celebrated painters were employed to execute designs for tapestry. You know who drew for the Flemish weavers that immortal dozen of cartoons, seven of which are at Hampton Court, and which have been recently so wonderfully photographed. Rubens and Vandyke, the stately Lebrun, and the meek Lesueur, made designs also for these woven pictures. There are penitent thieves and jesting Pilates from Hans Holbein’s inspiration in many faded hangings. Thornhill had been himself commissioned by Queen Anne to make sketches for a set of tapestry hangings emblematic of the union between England and Scotland. And does not the fabric of the Gobelins yet flourish? Did not Napoleon the Third vouchsafe the gift of a magnificent piece of tapisserie to one of our West-end clubs? Morris, the upholsterer, had many of the “first foreign hands” in his employ; but, being a Briton, bethought himself magnanimously to encourage real native British talent. My lord duke had employed Hogarth; Morris likewise determined on giving a commission to the rising artist. He sought out William, conferred with him, explained his wishes, and a solemn contract was entered into between William Hogarth for the first part, and Joshua Morris for the second, in which the former covenanted to furnish the latter with a design on canvas of the Element of Earth, to be afterwards worked in tapestry. The painter squared his canvas and set to work; but when the design was completed Morris flatly refused to pay the thirty pounds agreed upon as remuneration. It seems that the timorous tradesman, who must clearly have possessed a large admixture of the “element of earth” in his composition, had been informed by some good-natured friend of Hogarth that the tapestry-designer was no painter, but a “low engraver.” Horror! To think of a mean wretch who had earned his livelihood by flourishing initials on flagons and cutting plates in taille douce for the booksellers, presuming to compete with the flourishing foreigners employed by the eminent and ineffable Morris! ’Twas as though some destitute index-maker of the Hop Gardens, some starved ballad-monger of Lewkner’s Lane, had seduced Mr. Jacob Tonson into giving him an order for a translation of the Æneid into heroic verse. Amazed and terrified, the deceived Joshua Morris rushed to Hogarth’s painting-room and accused him of misrepresentation, fraud, covin, and other crimes. How would ever my lord duke and her ladyship—perhaps Madam Schuylenburg-Kendal herself—tolerate tapestry in their apartments designed by a base churl, the quondam apprentice of a silversmith in Cranbourn Alley, the brother of two misguided young women who kept a slop-shop? Hogarth coolly stated that he should hold the upholsterer to his bargain. He admitted that the Element of Earth was “a bold undertaking,” but expressed an opinion that he should “get through it well enough.” He brought the thing to a termination; and it was, I daresay, sufficiently of the earth earthy. Joshua resolutely withheld payment. No copper-scratcher should defraud him of thirty pounds. The young man, formerly of Little Cranbourn Alley, was not to be trifled with. If Morris had been a lord and had refused (as one of Hogarth’s sitters absolutely did) to pay for his portrait, on the ground that it wasn’t like him, the artist might have taken a satirical revenge, and threatened to add tails to all the figures in the Element of Earth, and send the canvas to Mr. Hare, the wild-beast-man, as a showcloth. But the Pall Mall upholsterer was a tradesman, and Hogarth, all artist as he knew himself to be, was a tradesman, too. So he went to his lawyer’s, and sued Morris for the thirty pounds, “painter’s work done.” Bail was given and justified, and on the 28th of May, 1728, the great case of Hogarth against Morris came on in communi banco, before the chief justice in Eyre. The defendant pleaded non assumpsit. Issue was joined, and the gentlemen of the long-robe went to work. For the defendant, the alleged fraudulent substitution of an engraver for a painter was urged. The eminence of Morris’s tapestry and upholstery was adduced. It was sworn to that he employed “some of the finest hands in Europe.” Bernard Dorridor, De Friend, Phillips, Danten, and Pajou, “some of the finest hands,” appeared in the witness-box and deposed to what first-rate fellows they all were, and to William Hogarth being a mere mechanic, the last of the lowest, so to speak. But the ready painter was not without friends. He subpœnaed more of the “finest hands.” Up came King, Vanderbank, the opera scene-painter, Laguerre, son and successor to Charles the Second’s Laguerre, and Verrio’s partner, and the serene Thornhill himself, who, I doubt it not, was bidden by my Lord to sit on the bench, was oracular in his evidence as to the young man’s competency, smiled on the chief justice, and revolved in his majestic mind the possibility of the lords of the Treasury giving him a commission (had they the power) to paint the walls and ceilings of all the courts of justice with allegories of Themis, Draco, Solon, Justinian, and Coke upon Lyttleton, to be paid for out of the suitors’ fee fund. We know now how tawdry and trashy these painted allegories were; but Thornhill and Laguerre were really the most reliable authorities to be consulted as to the standard of excellence then accepted in such performances. The verdict very righteously went against the defendant, whose plea was manifestly bad, and Joshua Morris was cast in thirty pounds. I delight to fancy that the successful party straightway adjourned to the Philazers’ Coffee-house, in Old Palace Yard, and there, after a slight refection of hung beef and Burton ale, betook themselves to steady potations of Lisbon wine in magnums—there were prohibitive duties on claret—until each man began to see allegories of his own, in which Bacchus was the capital figure. I delight to fancy that the Anglo-Frenchman Laguerre clapped Hogarth on the back, and told him that he was “von clevare fellow,” and that Sir James shook his young friend by the hand, enjoined him to cultivate a true and proper gusto, and bade him Godspeed. Majestic man! he little thought that when his own celebrity had vanished, or was but as the shadow of the shadow of smoke, his young friend was to be famous to the nations and the glory of his countrymen.
For all the handshakings and libations of Lisbon, Sir James was to live to be very angry with his young friend, although the quarrel was to last but a little while. Hogarth had looked upon Thornhill’s daughter Jane, and she was fair, and regarded him, too, with not unfavourable eyes. He who has gained a lawsuit should surely be successful in love. Meanwhile—I don’t think he was much given to sighing or dying—he went on painting, in spite of all the Morrises in upholsterydom. Poor Joshua himself came to grief. He seems to have been bankrupt; and on the 15 th of May, 1729, the auctioneer knocked down to the highest bidder all the choice stock of tapestry in Pall Mall. Hogarth’s Element of Earth may have been “Lot 90;” but one rather inclines to surmise that Morris slashed the fatal canvas with vindictive peissors to shreds and mippets the day his lawyer’s bill came in.
To record the tremendous success of that Newgate Pastoral, the suggestion of the first idea of which lies between Swift, Pope, Arbuthnot, and Gay, does not come within my province. The history of the Beggar’s Opera, that made “Rich Gay and Gay Rich,” is too well known to bear repetition. Hogarth, however, has left his mark on the famous operatic score. For Rich, the Covent Garden manager, he painted (1729) a picture of the prison scene in which Lucy and Polly are wrangling over Macheath, of which several replicas in oil, some slightly varied, as well as engravings, were afterwards executed. Portraits of many of the great personages of the day are introduced in open boxes on the stage. Macheath was a portrait of the comedian Walker; and the Polly was the beauteous Lavinia Fenton, the handsome, kindly, true-hearted actress with whom the Duke of Bolton, to the amusement and amazement of the town, fell in love, and fairly ran away. The Duchess of Bolton was then still alive, and lived for many years afterwards; and poor Polly had to suffer some part of the penalty which falls on those with whom dukes elope; but at the duchess’s death, her lord showed that he was not of Mrs. Peachum’s opinion, that “’tis marriage makes the blemish,” and right nobly elevated Polly to the peerage. She lived long and happily with him, survived him, and died late in the last century, very old, and beloved, and honoured for her modesty, charity, and piety. “The lovely young Lavinia once had friends,” writes Thomson in the Seasons; but our Lavinia lost not her friends to her dying day. If Tenison, and Atterbury, and Sherlock, had nothing to say against Eleanor Gwyn, let us trust that the severest moralist could find charitable words wherewith to speak of Lavinia, Duchess of Bolton.
A sterner subject, the prologue to a dismal drama of human life, was now to engross the pencil of this painter, who was now making his presence known and felt among his contemporaries. I speak of the strange solemn picture of the Committee of the House of Commons taking evidence of the enormities wreaked on the wretched prisoners in the Fleet by Huggins and Bambridge. Let us drag these mouldering scoundrels from their dishonoured graves, and hang them up here on Cornhill, for all the world to gaze at, even as the government of the Restoration (but with less reason) hung the carcases of Cromwell and Bradshaw on Tyburn gibbet. Huggins—save the mark!—was of gentle birth, and wrote himself “Armiger.” He had bought the patent of the wardenship of the Fleet from a great court lord, and when the trade of torturing began, through usance, to tend towards satiety, he sold his right to one Bambridge, a twin demon. The atrocities committed by the pair may very rapidly be glanced at. Huggins’s chief delight was to starve his prisoners, unless they were rich enough to bribe him. Bambridge’s genius lay more towards confining his victims charged with fetters in underground dungeons, with the occasional recreation of attempting to pistol and stab them. The moneyed debtors both rascals smiled upon. Smugglers were let out through a yard in which dogs were kept; ran their cargoes; defrauded the revenue, and came back to “college.” One, who owed 10,000l. to the crown, was permitted to make his escape altogether. A certain T. Dumay went several times to France, being all the time in the “custody,” as the sham was facetiously termed, of the Warden of the Fleet. What was such a fraud in an age when the highest legal authorities (who would not take the fetters off Christopher Layer) gravely doubted whether the rules of the King’s Bench might not extend to Bombay, in the East Indies? These surreptitiously enlarged prisoners were called “pigeons.” They had bill transactions with the tipstaves; they drew on Huggins, and then pleaded their insolvency. On the other hand, the poor debtors were very differently treated. A broken-down baronet, Sir William Rich, on refusing to pay the “baronet’s fee,” or “garnish,” of five pounds, was heavily fettered, kept for months in a species of subterranean dog-kennel; the vivacious Bambridge sometimes enlivening his captivity by threatening to run a red-hot poker through his body. This cheerful philanthropist, who was wont to range about the prison with a select gang of turnkeys, armed with halberts and firelocks, ordered one of his myrmidons to fire on “Captain Mackpheadris”—(what a name for a captain in difficulties! Lieutenant Lismahago is nothing to it). As, however, even these callous bravoes hesitated to obey so savage a behest, and as there was absolutely nothing to be squeezed in the way of garnish out of this lackpenny Captain Mackpheadris, Bambridge locked the poor wretch out of his room, and turned him out to starve in an open yard called the “Bare.” Here, Mack, who was seemingly an old campaigner, built himself out of broken tiles and other rubbish, a little hovel in an angle of the wall, just as the evicted Irish peasantry in famine and fever times were wont to build little kraals of turf-sods and wattles over dying men in ditches; but Bambridge soon heard of the bivouac, and ordered it to be pulled down. J. Mendez Sola, a Portuguese, was by the same kind guardian fettered with a hundredweight of iron, and incarcerated in a deadhouse, with dead people in it, moreover! Others languished in dens called “Julius Cæsar’s chapel,” the upper and lower “Ease,” and the “Lyon’s Den,” where they were stapled to the floor. Attached to the prison itself was an auxiliary inferno in the shape of a spunging-house kept by Corbett, a creature of Bambridge. The orthodox process seemed to be, first to fleece you in the spunging-house, and then to flay you alive in the gaol. Of course, Mr. Bambridge went snacks with Mr. Corbett. Very few scruples were felt in getting fish for this net. In one flagrant instance, a total stranger was seized as he was giving charity at the grate for poor prisoners, dragged into Corbett’s, and only released on paying “garnish,” and undertaking not to institute any proceedings against his kidnappers. When a prisoner had money to pay the debt for which he had been arrested, he often lay months longer in hold for his “fees.” The caption fee was 5l. 16s. 4d.; the “Philazer”—who ever that functionary may have been, but his was a patent place in the Exchequer—the judge’s clerk, the tipstaves, the warden, all claimed their fees. Fees had to be paid for the favour of lighter irons, and every fresh bird in the spunging-house cage paid his “footing,” in the shape of a six shilling bowl of punch. When, as from time to time, and to the credit of human nature, occurred, a person visited the gaol, “on behalf of an unknown lady,” to discharge all claims against persons who lay in prison for their fees only, Bambridge often sequestered his prisoners till the messenger of mercy had departed. But he was always open to pecuniary conviction, and from the wife of one prisoner he took, as a bribe, forty guineas and a “toy,” being the model of a “Chinese Jonque in amber set with silver,” for which the poor woman had been offered eighty broadpieces. In these our days, Bambridge would have discounted bills, and given one-fourth cash, one-fourth wine, one-fourth camels’ bridles, and one-fourth ivory frigates. When an Insolvent Act was passed, Bambridge demanded three guineas a piece from those desirous of availing themselves of the relief extended by the law: else he would not allow them to be “listed,” or inserted in the schedule of Insolvents. And by a stroke of perfectly infernal cunning this gaoler-devil hit upon a plan of preventing his victims from taking proceedings against him by taking proceedings against them. After some outrage of more than usual enormity, he would slip round to the Old Bailey and prefer a bill of indictment against the prisoners he had maltreated, for riot, or an attempt to break prison. He had always plenty of understrappers ready to swear for him; and the poor, penniless, friendless gaol-bird was glad to compromise with his tormentor by uncomplaining silence.
Already had these things been censured by highest legal authorities; at least the judges had occasionally shaken their wise heads and declared the abuses in the Fleet to be highly improper: “You may raise your walls higher,” quoth Lord King; “but there must be no prison within a prison.” An excellent dictum if only acted upon. At last, the prisoners began to die of ill-usage, of starvation and disease, or rather, it began to be known, that they were so dying, and died every year of our Lord. A great public outcry arose. Humane men bestirred themselves. The legislature was besieged with petitions. Parliamentary commissioners visited the gaol, and a committee of the House of Commons sat to hear those harrowing details of evidence of which I have given you a summary. Bambridge was removed from his post, but the vindicte publique was not appeased. First, Huggins, the retired esquire, and Barnes, his assistant, were tried at the Old Bailey for the murder of Edward Arne, a prisoner. Page, the hanging judge, presided, but from that stern fount there flowed waters of mercy for the monster of the Fleet. Owing chiefly to his summing up, a special verdict was returned, and Huggins and the minor villain were acquitted. Huggins’s son was a well-to-do gentleman of Headley Park, Hants, had a taste for the fine arts, translated Ariosto, and collected Hogarthian drawings! It was as though Sanson should have collected miniatures of Louis the Sixteenth, or Simon the cobbler statuettes of the poor little captive Capet of the Temple.
Next, the coarser scoundrels, Bambridge and Corbett, were tried for the murder of a Mr. Castell, who had been thrust into Corbett’s spunging-house while the small-pox was raging there, and died. Bambridge, too, was acquitted through some legal quibble; but the widow of the murdered man had another quibble, by which she hoped to obtain redress. She retained the famous casuist Lee, the sage who in a single action once pleaded seventy-seven pleas. She sued out an appeal of murder against the warden and his man. This involved the “wager of battle,” which you remember in the strange Yorkshire case some forty years ago, and which was at last put an end to by statute. The appellee could either fight the appellant à la dog of Montargis, or throw himself on his country, i.e. submit to be tried again. Bambridge and Corbett chose the latter course, were again tried, and again escaped. They were, however, very near being torn to pieces by the populace. Lord Campbell says, I venture to think unjustly, that Mrs. Castell was incited to the appeal by a “mobbish confederation.” Good heaven! was anything but a confederation of the feelings of common humanity necessary to incite all honest men to bring these wretches to justice? I suppose that it was by a “mobbish confederation” that the villanous Austin, of Birmingham gaol, was tried, and that after all his atrocities of gagging, “jacketing,” and cramming salt down his prisoners’ throats, he, too, escaped with an almost nominal punishment. Lee, the casuist (he was afterwards Chief Justice), was so disgusted with the result of the trial, that he vowed he would never have aught to do with facts again, but henceforth would stick to law alone. I am not lawyer enough to know why the case against Bambridge and Corbett broke down; I only know that these men were guilty of murder most foul and most unnatural, and that one of our most ancient legal maxims is explicit as to their culpability.
A committee of gentlemen in large wigs, sitting round a table in a gloomy apartment, and examining witnesses likewise in wigs, is not a very inspiring theme for a painter; but I have always considered Hogarth’s rendering of the proceedings to be one of the most masterly of Hogarth’s tableaux. The plate was a great favourite with Horace Walpole, who described with much discrimination the various emotions of pity, horror, and indignation on the countenances of the spectators; the mutely eloquent testimony of the shackles and manacles on the table; the pitiable appearance of the half-starved prisoner who is giving evidence; and, especially, the Judas-like appearance of Bambridge (who was present), his yellow cheeks and livid lips, his fingers clutching at the button-holes in his coat, and his face advanced, “as if eager to lie.” There was a large sale for the engraving taken from this picture, and Hogarth gained largely in reputation from its production.
He had need of reputation, and of money too. A very serious crisis in his life was approaching. He had found more favour in the eyes of Jane Thornhill. “On n’épouse pas les filles de grande maison avec des coquilles de noix,” writes a wise Frenchman, and William Hogarth’s fortune might decidedly at this time have been comfortably “put into a wine-glass and covered over with a gooseberry leaf,” as was suggested of the immortal Mr. Bob Sawyer’s profits from his druggist’s shop. Sir James Thornhill was a greater don in art than Sir Godfrey, or than Richardson, or Jervas. He hated Sir Godfrey, and strove to outshine him. If extent of area is to be taken as a test of ability, Thornhill certainly beat Kneller hollow. To a Lombard Street of allegory and fable in halls and on staircases the German could only show a china orange of portraiture. Thornhill was a gentleman. His father was poor enough; but he was clearly descended from Ralph de Thornhill (12 Henry III. 1228). When he became prosperous, he bought back the paternal acres, and built a grand house at Thornhill, hard by Weymouth. He had been a favourite with Queen Anne. He had succeeded Sir Christopher Wren in the representation of Melcombe Regis, his native place. His gains were enormous. Though he received but two guineas a yard for St. Paul’s, and twenty-five shillings a yard for painting the staircase of the South Sea House (with bubbles, or with an allegory of Mercury putting the world in his pocket?), instead of 1,500l. which he demanded, he had a magnificent wage for painting the hall at Blenheim, and from the noted Styles, who is said to have spent 150,000l. in the embellishments of Moor Park, he received, after a lawsuit and an arbitration, 4,000l. To be sure Lafosse got nearly 3,000l. for the staircase and saloons of Montagu House (the old British Museum). Look at the etching of Sir James Thornhill, by Worlidge. He is painting in an elaborately-laced coat with brocaded sleeves; and his wig is as so many curds in a whey of horsehair, and no one but a Don could have such a double chin.
With the daughter of this grandee of easeldom, this favourite of monarchs, this Greenwich and Hampton Court Velasquez, William Hogarth, painter, engraver, and philosopher, but as yet penniless, had the inconceivable impudence not only to fall in love, but to run away. I rather think that Lady Thornhill connived at the surreptitious courtship, and was not inexorably angry when the stolen match took place; but as for the knight, he would very probably just as soon have thought of Mars, Bacchus, Apollo and Virorum coming down from an allegorical staircase, and dancing a saraband to the tune of “Green Sleeves” on the north side of Covent Garden Piazza, as of his young protégé and humble friend Willy Hogarth presuming to court or to marry his daughter. Oh! it is terrible to think of this rich man, this father of a disobedient Dinah, walking his studio all round, vowing vengeance against that rascally Villikins, and declaring that of his large fortune she shan’t reap the benefit of one single pin! Oh! cruel “parient,” outraged papa, Lear of genteel life! He frets, he fumes, he dashes his wig to the ground. He remembers him, perchance, of sundry small moneys he has lent to Hogarth, and vows he will have him laid by the heels in a spunging-house ere the day be out. Send for a capias, send for a mittimus! Send for the foot-guards, the tipstaves, and the train-bands, for Jane Thornhill has levanted with William Hogarth!
They were married at old Paddington Church on the 23rd of March, 1729. Thus runs the parish register: “William Hogarth, Esq. and Jane Thornhill, of St. Paul’s, Covent Garden.” Marriage and hanging go together they say, and William and Jane went by Tyburn to have their noose adjusted. In the Historical Chronicle for 1729, the bridegroom is described as “an eminent designer and engraver;” but in Hogarth’s own family Bible, a worn, squat, red-ink-interlined little volume, printed early in the reign of Charles the First, and now reverentially preserved by Mr. Graves, the eminent print-publisher of Pall Mall, there is a certain flyleaf, which I have seen, and which to me is of infinitely greater value than Historical Chronicle or Paddington Parish Register, for there, in the painter’s own handwriting, I read—“W. Hogarth married Sir James Thornhill’s daughter, March 23rd, 1729.”
Papa-in-law was in a fury, set his face and wig against the young couple, would not see them, would not give them any money, cast them out of the grand piazza mansion to starve, if they so chose, among the cabbage-stumps of the adjacent market. It behoved William to work hard. I don’t think he ever resided with his wife in Cranbourn Alley. He had given that messuage up to his sisters. What agonies the member for Melcombe Regis, the scion of Henry the Third’s Thornhills, must have endured at the thought of that abhorred “old frock-shop!” There is reason to believe that for some time previous to his marriage Hogarth had resided in Thornhill’s own house, and had so found opportunities for his courtship of the knight’s daughter. Of young Thornhill, Sir James’s son, he was the intimate friend and comrade. Where he spent his honeymoon is doubtful; but it was either in 1729 or 1730 that he began to take lodgings at South Lambeth, and to form the acquaintance of Mr. Jonathan Tyers, the lessee of Vauxhall Gardens.
In the tranquillity and sobriety of a happy married life, Hogarth began for the first time deeply to philosophize. He had eaten his cake. He had sown his wild-oats. He was to beat the town no more in mere indifference of carousal; he was to pluck the moralist’s flower from the strange wild nettles he had handled. In this age have been found critics stupid and malevolent enough to accuse every author who writes with a purpose, and who endeavours to draw attention to social vices, of imposture and of hypocrisy. He should be content, these critics hold, to describe the things he sees; he is a humbug if he moralize upon them. It is not unlikely that the vicious Fribbles of Hogarth’s time held similar opinions, and took Hogarth to be a reckless painter of riotous scenes, and who just infused sufficient morality into them “to make the thing go off.” It was otherwise with him I hope and believe. I am firmly convinced that the sin and shame of the evils he depicted were as deeply as they were vividly impressed on Hogarth’s mind—that he was as zealous as any subscriber to a Refuge, a Reformatory, or a Home can be now, to abate a dreadful social evil; that his hatred for the wickedness of dissolute men, his sympathy for women fallen and betrayed; his utter loathing for those wretched scandals to their sex, the women whose trade it is to decoy women, was intense and sincere. I do not believe in the sincerity of Fielding, who could grin and chuckle over the orgies of the Hundreds of Drury and the humours of the bagnio. I find even the gentle and pure-minded Addison simpering in the Freeholder about certain frequenters of Somerset House masquerades. But Hogarth’s satire in the Harlot’s Progress never makes you laugh. It makes you rather shudder and stagger, and turn pale. The six pictures which form this tragedy were painted immediately after his marriage. They were painted in the presence of a young, beautiful, and virtuous woman, who read her Bible, and loved her husband with unceasing tenderness; and casting to the winds the mock morality and lip-virtue that fear to speak of the things depicted in this Progress, I say that no right-minded man or woman will be the worse for studying its phases.
Some time before Hogarth painted the Harlot’s Progress, a hundred and thirty years ago, Edward Ward and Tom Brown had described in coarse, untranscribable, but yet graphic terms, the career of these unfortunates. The former, although a low-lived pottlepot at the best of times, makes some honest remarks concerning the barbarous treatment of the women in Bridewell. “It’s not the way to reform ’em,” he says, plainly. But Hogarth first told the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. He first told the story of a courtesan without either ribald jesting or sickly sentimentality; and he much more than if he had been a royal duke mincingly handling trowel and mallet, laid the first stone of the Magdalen Hospital.
“Ora,” writes an appreciative Venetian biographer of Hogarth, “conduce una bella dalla barca in cui nacque ad un albergo di Londra, da un magnifico palazzo in un lupanare, dal lupanare in prigione, dalla prigione all’ ospitale, dall’ ospitale alla fossa.” This is the tersest summary I know. The Venetian loses not a word. From the cottage where she was born to an inn; from an inn to a palace; thence to a bagnio, thence to prison, thence to a sick-room, thence to the grave. This is the history of Kate Hackabout.
Each tableau in the Harlot’s Progress is complete in itself; but there is a “solution of continuity”—the progression is not consecutive. More than once a hiatus occurs. Thus, it is Mother Needham, the horrible procuress, who first accosts the innocent country girl in the inn-yard; and it is the infamous Colonel Charteris who is leering at her. The magnificent “palazzo” belongs, however, to a Jew financier; and after the disturbance of the table kicked over, and the gallant behind the door, we can understand how she sinks into the mistress of James Dalton the highwayman. But how comes she to be dressed in brocade and silver when she is beating hemp in Bridewell? The Grub Street Journal tells us that the real Hackabout was so attired when by the fiat of nine justices she was committed to penitential fibre-thumping; but the pictorial Kate in the preceding tableau, sitting under the bed-tester with the stolen watch in her hand, is in very mean and shabby attire. Do people put on their best clothes to go to the House of Correction in? or, again, when being captured—Sir John Gonson allowed her to dress herself, discreetly waiting outside the door meanwhile—did she don her last unpawned brocaded kirtle and her showiest lappets, in order to captivate the nine stern justices withal? The fall to the garret, after her release from prison, I can well understand. Some years have elapsed. She has a ragged little wretch of a boy who toasts a scrap of bacon before the fire, while the quacks squabble about the symptoms of her malady, and the attendant harridan rifles her trunk—it is the same old trunk with her initials in brass nails on it that we see in the yard of the Bell Inn, Wood Street, in Scene the First?—of its vestiges of finery. The ragged boy is, perchance, James Dalton, the highwayman’s son, long since translated to Tyburnia. The real Hackabout’s brother was indeed hanged with much completeness. But I can’t at all understand how in the next tableau this poor creature, when her woes are all ended, has a handsome and even pretentious funeral, moribund, as we saw her, in her dismal garret but just before. Had Fortune cast one fitful ray on her as she sank into the cold dark house? Had a bag of guineas been cast to jingle on her hearse? She was a clergyman’s daughter, it seems. Had the broken-hearted old curate in the country sent up sufficient money to bury his daughter with decency? Had the sisterhood of the Hundreds of Drury themselves subscribed for the enlargement of obsequies which might excuse an orgy? There is plenty of money from somewhere in this death-scene, to a certainty. The boy who sits at the coffin foot, winding the string round his top, has a new suit of mourning, and a laced hat. That glowering undertaker has been liberally paid to provide gloves and scarves; the clergyman—I hope he’s only a Fleet chaplain—has evidently been well entertained; there is a whole Jordan of gin flowing: gin on the coffin-lid; gin on the floor; and on the wall there is even an “achievement of arms,” the dead woman’s scutcheon.
On every scene in the Harlot’s Progress a lengthy essay might be written. Well, is not every stone in this city full of sermons? Are there no essays to be written on the Kate Hackabouts who are living, and who die around us every day? Better for the nonce to close that dreary coffin, wish that we were that unconscious child who is sitting at the feet of Death, and preparing to spin his pegtop amid the shadows of all this wretchedness and all this vice.
 Richardson, senior, was a pupil of Charles the Second’s Riley. He was born in 1666, was apprenticed to a scrivener, and at twenty turned painter. In 1734, he edited an edition of Paradise Lost, with notes. He was not a highly educated man, but had given his son a university training; and, once letting fall the unfortunate expression, that “he looked at classical literature through his son,” remorseless Hogarth drew Richardson, junior, impaled with a telescope, the sire peeping through at a copy of Virgil. But Richardson seems to have been an honest, kindly-hearted man; and William Hogarth, as in every case where he had not a downright rogue to deal with, repented of his severity, cancelled the copies of his squib, and destroyed the plate. Richardson was quite a Don in the Art world. He died in 1745, and two years afterwards his collections were sold. The sale lasted eighteen days. The drawings fetched 2,060l.; the pictures, 700l. Richardson’s son, to all appearances, might have served very well as a sample of those monstrous jackasses that the South Sea Bubbler proposed to import from Spain. He declared himself “a connoisseur, and nothing but a connoisseur,” and babbled and scribbled much balderdash in Italianized English. He was not alone. Pope even proposed to found a science of “picture tasting,” and to call it “connoissance.” In our days the science has been christened “fudge.” I have seen the portrait of Richardson the elder, in whose features some one has said that “the good sense of the nation is characterized;” but if this dictum be true, the most sensible-looking man in England must have been a foolish, fat scullion.
 “J’ai vu les mœurs de mon temps, et j’ai publié ces lettres.”—J. J. Rousseau: La Nouvelle Héloise.
 Beautiful female faces in Hogarth’s plates and pictures. Among others, the bride-elect with handkerchief passed through her wedding-ring; the countess kneeling to her dying lord (in the Marriage); the charming wife mending the galligaskins in the Distressed Poet; the poor wretch whom the taskmaster is about to strike with a cane, in the Bridewell scene of the Rake’s Progress; the milkmaid, in the Enraged Musician; the blooming English girl (for she is no more an Egyptian than you or I) in “Pharaoh’s Daughter;” the pure soul who sympathizes with the mad spendthrift, in the Bedlam scene of the Rake’s Progress; the hooped belle who is chucking the little black boy under the chin, in the Taste in High Life—a priceless performance, and one that should be re-engraved in this age, as a satire against exaggerated crinoline. Lord Charlemont’s famous picture, Virtue in Danger, I have not seen.
 The damages and costs must have amounted to a round sum; but it is to me marvellous that in those days of legal chicanery the action should have been so brief, and so conclusively decided. Those were the days when, if you owed any one forty shillings, you were served with writs charging you with having committed a certain trespass, to wit at Brentford, being in the company of Job Doe (not always John Doe); with “that having no settled abode, you had been lurking and wandering about as a vagabond;” with that (this was in the Exchequer) “out of deep hatred and malice to the body politic, you had kept our sovereign lord the king from being seised of a certain sum, to wit, two millions of money, for which it was desirable to escheat the sum of forty shillings towards the use of our sovereign and suffering lord aforesaid.” In the declaration, it was set forth, that you had gone with sticks and staves, and assaulted and wounded divers people; and the damages were laid at 10,000l., of which the plaintiff was reasonable enough to claim only the moderate sum of forty shillings. The capias took you at once for any sum exceeding 2l., and you had to find and justify bail, if you did not wish to pine in a spunging-house, or rot in the Fleet. These were the days, not quite five thousand, and some of them not quite one hundred and fifty years ago, when criminal indictments were drawn in Latin, and Norman-French was an important part of legal education (see Pope and Swift’s Miscellanies, “Stradling versus Styles”), and prisoners were brought up on habeas laden with chains. See Layer’s case in the State Trials, Lord Campbell’s agreeable condensation in the Lives of the Chief Justices. Layer was a barrister, a man of birth and education, but was implicated in an abortive Jacobite plot. His chains were of such dreadful weight, that he could sleep only on his back. He was suffering from an internal complaint, and pathetically appealed to Pratt, C.J., who was suffering from a similar ailment, to order his irons to be taken off, were it only on the ground of common sympathy. The gentleman gaoler of the Tower, who stood by him on the floor of the court while he made this application, was humanely employed in holding up the captive’s fetters to ease him, partially, of his dreadful burden. Prisoner’s counsel urged that the indignity of chains was unknown to his “majesty’s prisoners in the Tower;” that the gentleman gaoler and the warders did not know how to set about the hangman’s office of shackling captives; that there were no fetters in the Tower beyond the “Scavenger’s Daughter,” and the Spanish Armada relics, and that they had been obliged to procure fetters from Newgate. But Pratt, C.J., was inexorable. He was a stanch Whig; and, so civilly, but sternly remanded the prisoner, all ironed as he was, to the Tower. Christopher Layer was soon afterwards put out of his misery by being hanged, drawn, and quartered; but he was much loved by the people, and his head had not been long on Temple Bar when it was carried off as a relic. It is almost impossible to realize this cool, civil, legal savagery, in the era so closely following Anna Augusta’s silver age. Sir Walter Scott was in evidently an analogous bewilderment of horror when he described the execution of Feargus McIvor: a fiction certainly, but with its dreadful parallels of reality in the doom of Colonel Townely, Jemmy Dawson, Dr. Cameron, and scores more unfortunate and misguided gentlemen who suffered the horrible sentence of the law of high treason at Carlisle, at Tyburn, or on Kennington Common.
 Hogarth painted a beautiful separate portrait of her—a loving, trustful face, and such lips—which has been engraved in mezzotint. I should properly have added it to my catalogue of the Hogarthian Beauties.
 A similar doubt—was it not by Lord Ellenborough?—has been expressed within our own times.
 These horrors were not confined to the Fleet. The King’s Bench and the Marshalsea were nearly as bad: and, in the former prison, gangs of drunken soldiers—what could the officers have been about?—were frequently introduced to coerce the unhappy inmates. The Bench and Marshalsea were excellent properties. The patent rights were purchased from the Earl of Radnor for 5,000l., and there were some sixteen shareholders in the profits accruing from the gaol. Of the Marshalsea, evidence is given of the turnkeys holding a drinking bout in the lodge, and calling in a poor prisoner to “divert” them. On this miserable wretch they put an iron skull-cap and a pair of thumbscrews, and so tortured him for upwards of half-an-hour. Then, somewhat frightened, they gave him his discharge, as a douceur; but the miserable man fainted in the Borough High Street, and being carried into St. Thomas’s Hospital, presently died there.
 Did the poet Thomson, the kind-hearted, tender, pure-minded man, belong to the “mobbish confederation?” Hear him in the Seasons, in compliment to the commissioners for inquiring into the state of the gaols:—
It is slightly consolatory to be told by antiquary Oldys, that Bambridge cut his throat in 1749; but the ruffian should properly have swung as high as Haman.
 “If a prisoner die through duresse of the gaoler, it is murder in the gaoler.”—St. German’s Doctor and Student. Why was this not quoted at Birmingham?
 Rev. James Dallaway, whose notes to Walpole’s Anecdotes are very excellent. Mr. Wornum, the last editor of Walpole, annotated by Dallaway, puzzles me. He must be an accomplished art-scholar: is he not the Wornum of the Marlborough House School? but he calls Swift’s Legion Club the “Congenial Club,” utterly ignoring Swift’s ferocious text, an excerpt from which he quotes.
 The clumsy police of the time seem to have entirely ignored the existence of unchaste women till they became riotous, were mixed up in tavern brawls, had given offence to the rich rakes, or, especially, were discovered to be the mistresses of thieves and highwaymen. Then they were suddenly caught up, taken before a justice, and committed to Bridewell—either the ergastolo in Bridge Street, or the presidio in Tothill Fields—I take the former. Arrived there, they were kept till noon on board-day, Wednesday. Then they were arraigned before the honourable Board of Governors; the president with his hammer in his high-backed chair. The wretched Kate stands among the beadles clad in blue, at the lower end of the room, which is divided into two by folding doors. Then, the accusation being stated, the president cries, “How say you, gentlemen, shall Katherine Hackabout receive present punishment?” The suffrages are collected; they are generally against Kate, who is forthwith seized by the beadles, half unrobed, and receives the “civility of the house,” i.e. the correction of stripes, which torture is continued (the junior beadle wielding the lash) till the president strikes his hammer on the table as a signal for execution to stop. “Knock! Sir Robert; oh, good Sir Robert, knock!” was a frequent entreaty of the women under punishment; and “Knock, knock!” was shouted after them in derision by the boys in the street, to intimate that they had been scourged in Bridewell. Being sufficiently whealed, Kate was handed over to the taskmaster, to be set to beat hemp, and to be herself caned, or scourged, or fettered with a log, like a stray donkey, according to his fancy and the interests of the hemp manufacture. Many women went through these ordeals dozens of times. “It’s not the way to reform ’em,” observes Ned Ward; and for once, I think, the satirical publican, who travelled in “ape and monkey climes,” is right—Vide Smollett: Roderick Random; Cunningham: Handbook of London; and, Bridewell Hospital Reports, 1720-1799.
June 24th, 1822.
If, when I heard Baker call out Bessy Bellenden, and adjure Jove, he had run forward and seized Elizabeth by the waist, or offered her other personal indignity, I too should have run forward on my side and engaged him. Though I am a stout elderly man, short in stature and in wind, I know I am a match for that rickety little captain on his high-heeled boots. A match for him? I believe Miss Bessy would have been a match for both of us. Her white arm was as hard and polished as ivory. Had she held it straight pointed against the rush of the dragoon, he would have fallen backwards before his intended prey: I have no doubt he would. It was the hen, in this case, was stronger than the libertine fox, and au besoin would have pecked the little marauding vermin’s eyes out. Had, I say, Partlet been weak, and Reynard strong, I would have come forward: I certainly would. Had he been a wolf now, instead of a fox, I am certain I should have run in upon him, grappled with him, torn his heart and tongue out of his black throat, and trampled the lawless brute to death.
Well, I didn’t do any such thing. I was just going to run in,—and I didn’t. I was just going to rush to Bessy’s side to clasp her (I have no doubt) to my heart: to beard the whiskered champion who was before her, and perhaps say, “Cheer thee—cheer thee, my persecuted maiden, my beauteous love—my Rebecca! Come on, Sir Brian de Bois Guilbert, thou dastard Templar! It is I, Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe.” (By the way, though the fellow was not a Templar, he was a Lincoln’s Inn man, having passed twice through the Insolvent Court there with infinite discredit.) But I made no heroic speeches. There was no need for Rebecca to jump out of window and risk her lovely neck. How could she, in fact, the French window being flush with the ground floor? And I give you my honour, just as I was crying my war-cry, couching my lance, and rushing à la recousse upon Sir Baker, a sudden thought made me drop my (figurative) point: a sudden idea made me rein in my galloping (metaphorical) steed, and spare Baker for that time.
Suppose I had gone in? But for that sudden precaution, there might have been a Mrs. Batchelor. I might have been a bullied father of ten children. (Elizabeth has a fine high temper of her own.) What is four hundred and twenty a year, with a wife and perhaps half-a-dozen children? Should I have been a whit the happier? Would Elizabeth? Ah! no. And yet I feel a certain sort of shame, even now, when I think that I didn’t go in. Not that I was in a fright, as some people choose to hint. I swear I was not. But the reason why I did not charge was this:—
Nay, I did charge part of the way, and then, I own, stopped. It was an error in judgment. It wasn’t a want of courage. Lord George Sackville was a brave man, and as cool as a cucumber under fire. Well, he didn’t charge at the battle of Minden, and Prince Ferdinand made the deuce and all of a disturbance, as we know. Byng was a brave man,—and I ask, wasn’t it a confounded shame executing him? So with respect to myself. Here is my statement. I make it openly. I don’t care. I am accused of seeing a woman insulted, and not going to her rescue. I am not guilty, I say. That is, there were reasons which caused me not to attack. Even putting aside the superior strength of Elizabeth herself to the enemy,—I vow there were cogent and honourable reasons why I did not charge home.
You see I happened to be behind a blue lilac bush (and was turning a rhyme—heaven help us!—in which death was only to part me and Elizabeth) when I saw Baker’s face surge over the chair-back. I rush forward as he cries “by Jove.” Had Miss Prior cried out on her part, the strength of twenty Heenans, I know, would have nerved this arm; but all she did was to turn pale, and say, “Oh, mercy! Captain Baker! Do pity me!”
“What! you remember me, Bessy Bellenden, do you?” asks the captain, advancing.
“Oh, not that name! please, not that name!” cries Bessy.
“I thought I knew you yesterday,” says Baker. “Only, gad, you see, I had so much claret on board, I did not much know what was what. And oh! Bessy, I have got such a splitter of a headache.”
“Oh! please—please, my name is Miss Prior. Pray! pray, sir, don’t.”—
“You’ve got handsomer—doosid deal handsomer. Know you now well, your spectacles off. You come in here—teach my nephew and niece, humbug my sister, make love to the ah——. Oh! you uncommon sly little toad!”
“Captain Baker! I beg—I implore you,” says Bess, or something of the sort: for the white hands assumed an attitude of supplication.
“Pooh! don’t gammon me!” says the rickety captain (or words to that effect), and seizes those two firm white hands in his moist, trembling palms.
Now do you understand why I paused? When the dandy came grinning forward, with looks and gestures of familiar recognition: when the pale Elizabeth implored him to spare her:—a keen arrow of jealousy shot whizzing through my heart, and caused me well-nigh to fall backwards as I ran forwards. I bumped up against a bronze group in the gardens. The group represented a lion stung by a serpent. I was a lion stung by a serpent too. Even Baker could have knocked me down. Fiends and anguish! he had known her before? The Academy, the life she had led, the wretched old tipsy, ineffective guardian of a father—all these antecedents in poor Bessy’s history passed through my mind. And I had offered my heart and troth to this woman! Now, my dear sir, I appeal to you. What would you have done? Would you have liked to have such a sudden suspicion thrown over the being of your affection? “Oh! spare me—spare me!” I heard her say, in clear—too clear—pathetic tones. And then there came rather a shrill “Ah!” and then the lion was up in my breast again; and I give you my honour, just as I was going to step forward—to step?—to rush forward from behind the urn where I had stood for a moment with thumping heart, Bessy’s “Ah!” or little cry was followed by a whack, which I heard as clear as anything I ever heard in my life;—and I saw the little captain spin back, topple over a chair heels up, and in this posture heard him begin to scream and curse in shrill tones...
Not for long, for as the captain and the chair tumble down, a door springs open;—a man rushes in, who pounces like a panther upon the prostrate captain, pitches into his nose and eyes, and chokes his bad language by sending a fist down his naughty throat.
“Oh! thank you, Bedford!—please, leave him, Bedford! that’s enough. There, don’t hurt him any more!” says Bessy, laughing—laughing, upon my word.
“Ah! will you?” says Bedford. “Lie still, you little beggar, or I’ll knock your head off. Look here, Miss Prior!—Elizabeth—dear—dear Elizabeth! I love you with all my heart, and soul, and strength—I do.”
“O Bedford! Bedford!” warbles Elizabeth.
“I do! I can’t help it. I must say it! Ever since Rome, I do. Lie still, you drunken little beast! It’s no use. But I adore you, O Elizabeth! Elizabeth!” And there was Dick, who was always following Miss P. about, and poking his head into keyholes to spy her, actually making love to her over the prostrate body of the captain.
Now, what was I to do? Wasn’t I in a most confoundedly awkward situation? A lady had been attacked—a lady?—the lady, and I hadn’t rescued her. Her insolent enemy was overthrown, and I hadn’t done it. A champion, three inches shorter than myself, had come in, and dealt the blow. I was in such a rage of mortification, that I should have liked to thrash the captain and Bedford too. The first I know I could have matched: the second was a tough little hero. And it was he who rescued the damsel, whilst I stood by! In a strait so odious, sudden, and humiliating, what should I, what could I, what did I do?
Behind the lion and snake there is a brick wall and marble balustrade, built for no particular reason, but flanking three steps and a grassy terrace, which then rises up on a level to the house-windows. Beyond the balustrade is a shrubbery of more lilacs and so forth, by which you can walk round into another path, which also leads up to the house. So as I had not charged—ah! woe is me!—as the battle was over, I—I just went round that shrubbery into the other path, and so entered the house, arriving like Fortinbras in Hamlet, when everybody is dead and sprawling, you know, and the whole business is done.
And was there to be no end to my shame, or to Bedford’s laurels? In that brief interval, whilst I was walking round the bypath (just to give myself a pretext for entering coolly into the premises), this fortunate fellow had absolutely engaged another and larger champion. This was no other than Bulkeley, my Lady B.’s first-class attendant. When the captain fell amidst his screams and curses, he called for Bulkeley: and that individual made his appearance, with a little Scotch cap perched on his powdered head.
“Hullo! what’s the row year?” says Goliah, entering.
“Kill that blackguard! Hang him, kill him!” screams Captain Blacksheep, rising with bleeding nose.
“I say, what’s the row year,” asks the grenadier.
“Off with your cap, sir, before a lady!” calls out Bedford.
“Hoff with my cap! you be blo——”
But he said no more, for little Bedford jumped some two feet from the ground, and knocked the cap off, so that a cloud of ambrosial powder filled the room with violet odours. The immense frame of the giant shook at this insult: “I will be the death on you, you little beggar!” he grunted out; and was advancing to destroy Dick, just as I entered in the cloud which his head had raised.
“I’ll knock the brains as well as the powder out of your ugly head!” says Bedford, springing at the poker. At which juncture I entered.
“What—what is this disturbance?” I say, advancing with an air of mingled surprise and resolution.
“You git out of the way till I knock his ’ead off!” roars Bulkeley.
“Take up your cap, sir, and leave the room,” I say, still with the same elegant firmness.
“Put down that there poker, you coward!” bellows the monster on board wages.
“Miss Prior!” I say (like a dignified hypocrite, as I own I was), “I hope no one has offered you a rudeness?” And I glare round, first at the knight of the bleeding nose, and then at his squire.
Miss Prior’s face, as she replied to me, wore a look of awful scorn.
“Thank you, sir,” she said, turning her head over her shoulder, and looking at me with her grey eyes. “Thank you, Richard Bedford! God bless you! I shall ever be thankful to you, wherever I am.” And the stately figure swept out of the room.
She had seen me behind that confounded statue, then, and I had not come to her! O torments and racks! O scorpions, fiends, and pitchforks! The face of Bedford, too (flashing with knightly gratitude anon as she spoke kind words to him and passed on), wore a look of scorn as he turned towards me, and then stood, his nostrils distended, and breathing somewhat hard, glaring at his enemies, and still grasping his mace of battle.
When Elizabeth was gone, there was a pause of a moment, and then Blacksheep, taking his bleeding cambric from his nose, shrieks out, “Kill him, I say! A fellow that dares to hit one in my condition, and when I’m down! Bulkeley, you great hulking jackass! kill him, I say!”
“Jest let him put that there poker down, that’s hall,” growls Bulkeley.
“You’re afraid, you great cowardly beast! You shall go, Mr. What-d’ye-call-’em—Mr. Bedford—you shall have the sack, sir, as sure as your name is what it is! I’ll tell my brother-in-law everything; and as for that woman——”
“If you say a word against her, I’ll cane you wherever I see you, Captain Baker!” I cry out.
“Who spoke to you?” says the captain, falling back and scowling at me.
“Who hever told you to put your foot in?” says the squire.
I was in such a rage, and so eager to find an object on which I might wreak my fury, that I confess I plunged at this Bulkeley. I gave him two most violent blows on the waistcoat, which caused him to double up with such frightful contortions, that Bedford burst out laughing; and even the captain with the damaged eye and nose began to laugh too. Then, taking a lesson from Dick, as there was a fine shining dagger on the table, used for the cutting open of reviews and magazines, I seized and brandished this weapon, and I daresay would have sheathed it in the giant’s bloated corpus, had he made any movement towards me. But he only called out, “hI’ll be the death on you, you cowards! hI’ll be the death of both on you!” And snatching up his cap from the carpet, walked out of the room.
“Glad you did that, though,” says Baker, nodding his head. “Think I’d best pack up.”
And now the Devil of Rage which had been swelling within me gave place to a worse devil—the Devil of Jealousy—and I turned on the captain, who was also just about to slink away:—
“Stop!” I cried out—I screamed out, I may say.
“Who spoke to you, I should like to know? and who the dooce dares to speak to me in that sort of way?” says Clarence Baker, with a plentiful garnish of expletives, which need not be here inserted. But he stopped, nevertheless, and turned slouching round.
“You spoke just now of Miss Prior?” I said. “Have you anything against her?”
“What’s that to you?” he asked.
“I am her oldest friend. I introduced her into this family. Dare you say a word against her?”
“Well, who the dooce has?”
“You knew her before?”
“Yes, I did, then.”
“When she went by the name of Bellenden?”
“Of course, I did. And what’s that to you?” he screams out.
“I this day asked her to be my wife, sir! That’s what it is to me!” I replied, with severe dignity.
Mr. Clarence began to whistle. “Oh! if that’s it—of course not!” he says.
The jealous demon writhed within me and rent me.
“You mean that there is something, then?” I asked, glaring at the young reprobate.
“No, I don’t,” says he, looking very much frightened. “No, there is nothin’. Upon my sacred honour, there isn’t, that I know.” (I was looking uncommonly fierce at this time, and, I must own, would rather have quarrelled with somebody than not.) “No, there is nothin’ that I know. Ever so many years ago, you see, I used to go with Tom Papillion, Turkington, and two or three fellows, to that theatre. Dolphin had it. And we used to go behind the scenes—and—and I own I had a row with her. And I was in the wrong. There now, I own I was. And she left the theatre. And she behaved quite right. And I was very sorry. And I believe she is as good a woman as ever stept now. And the father was a disreputable old man, but most honourable—I know he was. And there was a fellow in the Bombay service—a fellow by the name of Walker or Walkingham—yes, Walkingham; and I used to meet him at the Cave of Harmony, you know; and he told me that she was as right as right could be. And he was doosidly cut up about leaving her. And he would have married her, I dessay, only for his father the general, who wouldn’t stand it. And he was ready to hang himself when he went away. He used to drink awfully, and then he used to swear about her; and we used to chaff him, you know. Low, vulgarish sort of man, he was; and a very passionate fellow. And if you’re goin’ to marry her, you know—of course, I ask your pardon, and that; and upon the honour of a gentleman I know nothin’ against her. And I wish you joy and all that sort of thing. I do now, really now!” And so saying, the mean, mischievous little monkey sneaked away, and clambered up to his own perch in his own bedroom.
Worthy Mrs. Bonnington, with a couple of her young ones, made her appearance at this juncture. She had a key, which gave her a free pass through the garden door, and brought her children for an afternoon’s play and fighting with their little nephew and niece. Decidedly, Bessy did not bring up her young folks well. Was it that their grandmothers spoiled them, and undid the governess’s work? Were those young people odious (as they often were) by nature, or rendered so by the neglect of their guardians? If Bessy had loved her charges more, would they not have been better? Had she a kind, loving, maternal heart? Ha! This thought—this jealous doubt—smote my bosom: and were she mine, and the mother of many possible little Batchelors, would she be kind to them? Would they be wilful, and selfish, and abominable little wretches, in a word, like these children? Nay—nay! Say that Elizabeth has but a cold heart; we cannot be all perfection. But, per contra, you must admit that, cold as she is, she does her duty. How good she has been to her own brothers and sisters: how cheerfully she has given away her savings to them: how admirably she has behaved to her mother, hiding the iniquities of that disreputable old schemer, and covering her improprieties with decent filial screens and pretexts. Her mother? Ah! grands dieux! You want to marry, Charles Batchelor, and you will have that greedy pauper for a mother-in-law; that fluffy Bluecoat boy, those hob-nailed taw-players, top-spinners, toffee-eaters, those underbred girls, for your brothers- and sisters-in-law! They will be quartered upon you. You are so absurdly weak and good-natured—you know you are—that you will never be able to resist. Those boys will grow up: they will go out as clerks or shopboys: get into debt, and expect you to pay their bills: want to be articled to attornies and so forth, and call upon you for the premium. Their mother will never be out of your house. She will ferret about in your drawers and wardrobes, filch your haberdashery, and cast greedy eyes on the very shirts and coats on your back, and calculate when she can get them for her boys. Those vulgar young miscreants will never fail to come and dine with you on a Sunday. They will bring their young linendraper or articled friends. They will draw bills on you, or give their own to money-lenders, and unless you take up those bills they will consider you a callous, avaricious brute, and the heartless author of their ruin. The girls will come and practise on your wife’s piano. They won’t come to you on Sundays only; they will always be staying in the house. They will always be preventing a tête-à-tête between your wife and you. As they grow old, they will want her to take them out to tea-parties, and to give such entertainments, where they will introduce their odious young men. They will expect you to commit meannesses, in order to get theatre tickets for them from the newspaper editors of your acquaintance. You will have to sit in the back seat: to pay the cab to and from the play: to see glances and bows of recognition passing between them and dubious bucks in the lobbies: and to lend the girls your wife’s gloves, scarfs, ornaments, smelling-bottles, and handkerchiefs, which of course they will never return. If Elizabeth is ailing from any circumstance, they will get a footing in your house, and she will be jealous of them. The ladies of your own family will quarrel with them, of course; and very likely your mother-in-law will tell them a piece of her mind. And you bring this dreary certainty upon you, because, forsooth, you fell in love with a fine figure, a pair of grey eyes, and a head of auburn (not to say red) hair! O Charles Batchelor! in what a galley hast thou seated thyself, and what a family is crowded in thy boat!
All these thoughts are passing in my mind, as good Mrs. Bonnington is prattling to me—I protest I don’t know about what. I think I caught some faint sentences about the Patagonian mission, the National schools, and Mr. Bonnington’s lumbago; but I can’t say for certain. I was busy with my own thoughts. I had asked the awful question—I was not answered. Bessy had even gone away in a huff about my want of gallantry, but I was easy on that score. As for Mr. Drencher, she had told me her sentiments regarding him; and though I am considerably older, yet thought I, I need not be afraid of that rival. But when she says yes? Oh, dear! oh, dear! Yes means Elizabeth—certainly, a brave young woman—but it means Mrs. Prior, and Gus, and Amelia Jane, and the whole of that dismal family. No wonder, with these dark thoughts crowding my mind, Mrs. Bonnington found me absent; and, as a comment upon some absurd reply of mine, said, “La! Mr. Batchelor, you must be crossed in love!” Crossed in love! It might be as well for some folks if they were crossed in love. At my age, and having loved madly, as I did, that party in Dublin, a man doesn’t take the second fit by any means so strongly. Well! well! the die was cast, and I was there to bide the hazard. ‘What can be the matter? I look pale and unwell, and had better see Mr. D.?’ Thank you, my dear Mrs. Bonnington. I had a violent—a violent toothache last night-yes, toothache; and was kept awake, thank you. And there’s nothing like having it out? and Mr. D. draws them beautifully, and has taken out six of your children’s? It’s better now; I daresay it will be better still, soon. I retire to my chamber: I take a book—can’t read one word of it. I resume my tragedy. Tragedy? Bosh!
I suppose Mr. Drencher thought his yesterday’s patient would be better for a little more advice and medicine, for he must pay a second visit to Shrublands on this day, just after the row with the captain had taken place, and walked up to the upper regions, as his custom was. Very likely he found Mr. Clarence bathing his nose there, and prescribed for the injured organ. Certainly he knocked at the door of Miss Prior’s schoolroom (the fellow was always finding a pretext for entering that apartment), and Master Bedford comes to me, with a wobegone, livid countenance, and a “Ha! ha! young Sawbones is up with her!”
“So my poor Dick,” I say, “I heard your confession as I was myself running in to rescue Miss P. from that villain.”
“My blood was hup,” groans Dick,—“up, I beg your pardon. When I saw that young rascal lay a hand on her I could not help flying at him. I would have hit him if he had been my own father. And I could not help saying what was on my mind. It would come out; I knew it would some day. I might as well wish for the moon as hope to get her. She thinks herself superior to me, and perhaps she is mistaken. But it’s no use; she don’t care for me; she don’t care for anybody. Now the words are out, in course I mustn’t stay here.”
“You may get another place easily enough with your character, Bedford!”
But he shook his head. “I’m not disposed to black nobody else’s boots no more. I have another place. I have saved a bit of money. My poor old mother is gone, whom you used to be so kind to, Mr. B. I’m alone now. Confound that Sawbones, will he never come away? I’ll tell you about my plans some day, sir, and I know you’ll be so good as to help me.” And away goes Dick, looking the picture of woe and despair.
Presently, from the upper rooms, Sawbones descends. I happened to be standing in the hall, you see, talking to Dick. Mr. Drencher scowls at me fiercely, and I suppose I return him haughty glance for glance. He hated me: I him: I liked him to hate me.
“How is your patient, Mr.—a—Drencher?” I ask.
“Trifling contusion of the nose—brown paper and vinegar,” says the doctor.
“Great powers! did the villain strike her on the nose?” I cry, in terror.
“Her—whom?” says he.
“Oh—ah—yes—indeed; it’s nothing,” I say, smiling. The fact is I had forgotten about Baker in my natural anxiety for Elizabeth.
“I don’t know what you mean by laughing, sir?” says the red-haired practitioner. “But if you mean chaff, Mr. Batchelor, let me tell you I don’t want chaff, and I won’t have chaff!” and herewith, exit Sawbones, looking black doses at me.
Jealous of me, think I, as I sink down in a chair in the morning-room, where the combat had just taken place. And so thou, too, art fever-caught, my poor physician! What a fascination this girl has. Here’s the butler: here’s the medical man: here am I: here is the captain has been smitten—smitten on the nose. Has the gardener been smitten too, and is the page gnawing his buttons off for jealousy, and is Mons. Bulkeley equally in love with her? I take up a review, and think over this, as I glance through its pages.
As I am lounging and reading, Mons. Bulkeley himself makes his appearance, bearing in cloaks and packages belonging to his lady. “Have the goodness to take that cap off,” I say, coolly.
“You ’ave the goodness to remember that if hever I see you hout o’ this ’ouse I’ll punch your hugly ’ead off,” says the monstrous menial. But I poise my paper-cutter, and he retires growling.
From despondency I pass to hope; and the prospect of marriage, which before appeared so dark to me, assumes a gayer hue. I have four hundred a year, and that house in Devonshire Street, Bloomsbury Square, of which the upper part will be quite big enough for us. If we have children, there is Queen Square for them to walk and play in. Several genteel families I know, who still live in the neighbourhood, will come and see my wife, and we shall have a comfortable, cosy little society, suited to our small means. The tradesmen in Lamb’s Conduit Street are excellent, and the music at the Foundling always charming. I shall give up one of my clubs. The other is within an easy walk.
No: my wife’s relations will not plague me. Bessy is a most sensible, determined woman, and as cool a hand as I know. She will only see Mrs. Prior at proper (and, I trust, distant) intervals. Her brothers and sisters will learn to know their places, and not obtrude upon me or the company which I keep. My friends, who are educated people and gentlemen, will not object to visit me because I live over a shop (my ground floor and spacious back premises in Devonshire Street are let to a German toy-warehouse). I shall add a hundred or two at least to my income by my literary labour; and Bessy, who has practised frugality all her life, and been a good daughter and a good sister, I know will prove a good wife, and, please heaven! a good mother. Why, four hundred a year, plus two hundred, is a nice little income. And my old college friend, Wigmore, who is just on the Bench? He will, he must get me a place—say three hundred a year. With nine hundred a year we can do quite well.
Love is full of elations and despondencies. The future, over which such a black cloud of doubt lowered a few minutes since, blushed a sweet rose-colour now. I saw myself happy, beloved, with a competence, and imagined myself reposing in the delightful garden of Red Lion Square on some summer evening, and half-a-dozen little Batchelors frisking over the flower-bespangled grass there.
After our little colloquy, Mrs. Bonnington, not finding much pleasure in my sulky society, had gone to Miss Prior’s room with her young folks, and as the door of the morning-room opened now and again, I could hear the dear young ones scuttling about the passages, where they were playing at horses, and fighting, and so forth. After a while good Mrs. B. came down from the schoolroom. “Whatever has happened, Mr. Batchelor?” she said to me, in her passage through the morning-room. “Miss Prior is very pale and absent. You are very pale and absent. Have you been courting her, you naughty man, and trying to supplant Mr. Drencher? There now, you turn as red as my ribbon! Ah! Bessy is a good girl, and so fond of my dear children. ‘Ah, dear Mrs. Bonnington,’ she says to me—but of course you won’t tell Lady B.: it would make Lady B. perfectly furious. ‘Ah!’ says Miss P. to me, ‘I wish, ma’am, that my little charges were like their dear little nephews and nieces—so exquisitely brought up!’ Pop again wished to beat his uncle. I wish—I wish Frederick would send that child to school! Miss P. owns that he is too much for her. Come, children, it is time to go to dinner.” And, with more of this prattle, the good lady summons her young ones, who descend from the schoolroom with their nephew and niece.
Following nephew and niece comes demure Miss Prior, to whom I fling a knowing glance, which says, plain as eyes can speak—Do, Elizabeth, come and talk for a little to your faithful Batchelor! She gives a sidelong look of intelligence, leaves a parasol and a pair of gloves on a table, accompanies Mrs. Bonnington and the young ones into the garden, sees the clergyman’s wife and children disappear through the garden gate, and her own youthful charges engaged in the strawberry-beds; and, of course, returns to the morning-room for her parasol and gloves, which she had forgotten. There is a calmness about that woman—an easy, dauntless dexterity, which frightens me—ma parole d’honneur. In that white breast is there a white marble stone in place of the ordinary cordial apparatus? Under the white velvet glove of that cool hand are there bones of cold steel?
“So, Drencher has again been here, Elizabeth?” I say.
She shrugs her shoulders. “To see that wretched Captain Baker. The horrid little man will die! He was not actually sober just now when he—when I—when you saw him. How I wish you had come sooner—to prevent that horrible, tipsy, disreputable quarrel. It makes me very, very thoughtful, Mr. Batchelor. He will speak to his mother—to Mr. Lovel. I shall have to go away. I know I must.”
“And don’t you know where you can find a home, Elizabeth? Have the words I spoke this morning been so soon forgotten?”
“Oh! Mr. Batchelor! you spoke in a heat. You could not think seriously of a poor girl like me, so friendless and poor, with so many family ties. Pop is looking this way, please. To a man bred like you, what can I be?”
“You may make the rest of my life happy, Elizabeth!” I cry. “We are friends of such old—old date, that you know what my disposition is.”
“Oh! indeed,” says she, “it is certain that there never was a sweeter disposition or a more gentle creature.” (Somehow I thought she said the words “gentle creature” with rather a sarcastic tone of voice.) “But consider your habits, dear sir. I remember how in Beak Street you used to be always giving, and in spite of your income, always poor. You love ease and elegance; and having, I daresay, not too much for yourself now, would you encumber yourself with—with me and the expenses of a household? I shall always regard you, esteem you, love you as the best friend I ever had, and—voici venir la mère du vaurien.”
Enter Lady Baker. “Do I interrupt a tête-à-tête, pray?” she asks.
“My benefactor has known me since I was a child, and befriended me since then,” says Elizabeth, with simple kindness beaming in her look. “We were just speaking—I was just—ah!—telling him that my uncle has invited me most kindly to St. Boniface, whenever I can be spared; and if you and the family go to the Isle of Wight this autumn, perhaps you will intercede with Mr. Lovel, and let me have a little holiday. Mary will take every charge of the children, and I do so long to see my dear aunt and cousins! And I was begging Mr. Batchelor to use his interest with you, and to entreat you to use your interest to get me leave. That was what our talk was about.”
The deuce it was! I couldn’t say No, of course; but I protest I had no idea until that moment that our conversation had been about aunt and uncle at St. Boniface. Again came the horrible suspicion, the dreadful doubt—the chill as of a cold serpent crawling down my back—which had made me pause, and gasp, and turn pale, anon when Bessy and Captain Clarence were holding colloquy together. What has happened in this woman’s life? Do I know all about her, or anything; or only just as much as she chooses? O Batch—Batch! I suspect you are no better than an old gaby!
“And Mr. Drencher has just been here and seen your son,” Bessy continues, softly; “and he begs and entreats your ladyship to order Captain Baker to be more prudent. Mr. D. says Captain Baker is shortening his life, indeed he is, by his carelessness.”
There is Mr. Lovel coming from the city, and the children are running to their papa! And Miss Prior makes her patroness a meek curtsey, and demurely slides away from the room. With a sick heart I say to myself, “She has been—yes—humbugging is the word—humbugging Lady B. Elizabeth! Elizabeth! can it be possible thou art humbugging me too?”
Before Lovel enters, Bedford rapidly flits through the room. He looks as pale as a ghost. His face is awfully gloomy.
“Here’s the governor come,” Dick whispers to me. “It must all come hout now—out, I beg your pardon. So she’s caught you, has she? I thought she would.” And he grins a ghastly grin.
“What do you mean?” I ask, and I daresay turn rather red.
“I know all about it. I’ll speak to you to-night, sir. Confound her! confound her!” and he doubles his knuckles into his eyes, and rushes out of the room over Buttons, entering with the afternoon tea.
“What on earth’s the matter, and why are you knocking the things about?” Lovel asks at dinner of his butler, who, indeed, acted as one distraught. A savage gloom was depicted on Bedford’s usually melancholy countenance, and the blunders in his service were many. With his brother-in-law Lovel did not exchange many words. Clarence was not yet forgiven for his escapade two days previous. And when Lady Baker cried, “Mercy, child! what have you done to yourself?” and the captain replied, “Knocked my face against a dark door—made my nose bleed,” Lovel did not look up or express a word of sympathy. “If the fellow knocked his worthless head off, I should not be sorry,” the widower murmured to me. Indeed, the tone of the captain’s voice, his ton, and his manners in general, were specially odious to Mr. Lovel, who could put up with the tyranny of women, but revolted against the vulgarity and assumption of certain men.
As yet nothing had been said about the morning’s quarrel. Here we were all sitting with a sword hanging over our heads, smiling and chatting, and talking cookery, politics, the weather, and what not. Bessy was perfectly cool and dignified at tea. Danger or doubt did not seem to affect her. If she had been ordered for execution at the end of the evening she would have made the tea, played her Beethoven, answered questions in her usual voice, and glided about from one to another with her usual dignified calm, until the hour of decapitation came, when she would have made her curtsey, and gone out and had the amputation performed quite quietly and neatly. I admired her, I was frightened before her. The cold snake crept more than ever down my back as I meditated on her. I made such awful blunders at whist that even good Mrs. Bonnington lost her temper with her fourteen shillings. Miss Prior would have played her hand out, and never made a fault, you may be sure. She retired at her accustomed hour. Mrs. Bonnington had her glass of negus, and withdrew too. Lovel keeping his eyes sternly on the captain, that officer could only get a little sherry and seltzer, and went to bed sober. Lady Baker folded Lovel in her arms, a process to which my poor friend very humbly submitted. Everybody went to bed, and no tales were told of the morning’s doings. There was a respite, and no execution could take place till to-morrow at any rate. Put on thy night-cap, Damocles, and slumber for to-night, at least. Thy slumbers will not be cut short by the awful Chopper of Fate.
Perhaps you may ask what need had I to be alarmed? Nothing could happen to me. I was not going to lose a governess’s place. Well, if I must tell the truth, I had not acted with entire candour in the matter of Bessy’s appointment. In recommending her to Lovel, and the late Mrs. L., I had answered for her probity, and so forth, with all my might. I had described the respectability of her family, her father’s campaigns, her grandfather’s (old Dr. Sargent’s) celebrated sermons; and had enlarged with the utmost eloquence upon the learning and high character of her uncle, the Master of Boniface, and the deserved regard he bore his niece. But that part of Bessy’s biography which related to the Academy I own I had not touched upon. A quoi bon? Would every gentleman or lady like to have everything told about him or her? I had kept the Academy dark then; and so had brave Dick Bedford the butler; and should that miscreant captain reveal the secret, I knew there would be an awful commotion in the building. I should have to incur Lovel’s not unjust reproaches for suppressio veri, and the anger of those two viragines, the grandmothers of Lovel’s children. I was more afraid of the women than of him, though conscience whispered me that I had not acted quite rightly by my friend.
When, then, the bed-candles were lighted, and every one said good-night, “Oh! Captain Baker,” say I, gaily, and putting on a confoundedly hypocritical grin, “if you will come into my room, I will give you that book.”
“What book?” says Baker.
“The book we were talking of this morning.”
“Hang me, if I know what you mean,” says he. And luckily for me, Lovel giving a shrug of disgust, and a good-night to me, stalked out of the room, bed-candle in hand. No doubt, he thought his wretch of a brother-in-law did not well remember after dinner what he had done or said in the morning.
As I now had the Blacksheep to myself, I said calmly, “You are quite right. There was no talk about a book at all, Captain Baker. But I wished to see you alone, and impress upon you my earnest wish that everything which occurred this morning—mind, everything—should be considered as strictly private, and should be confided to no person whatever—you understand?—to no person.”
“Confound me,” Baker breaks out, “if I understand what you mean by your books and your ‘strictly private.’ I shall speak what I choose—hang me!”
“In that case, sir,” I said, “will you have the goodness to send a friend of yours to my friend Captain Fitzboodle? I must consider the matter as personal between ourselves. You insulted, and as I find now, for the second time—a lady whose relations to me you know. You have given neither to her, nor to me, the apology to which we are both entitled. You refuse even to promise to be silent regarding a painful scene which was occasioned by your own brutal and cowardly behaviour; and you must abide by the consequences, sir! you must abide by the consequences!” And I glared at him over my flat candlestick.
“Curse me!—and hang me!—and,” &c. &c. &c. he says, “if I know what all this is about. What the dooce do you talk to me about books, and about silence, and apologies, and sending Captain Fitzboodle to me? I don’t want to see Captain Fitzboodle—great fat brute! I know him perfectly well.”
“Hush!” say I, “here’s Bedford.” In fact, Dick appeared at this juncture, to close the house and put the lamps out.
But Captain Clarence only spoke or screamed louder. “What do I care about who hears me? That fellow insulted me already to-day, and I’d have pitched his life out of him, only I was down, and I’m so confounded weak and nervous, and just out of my fever—and—and hang it all! what are you driving at, Mr. What’s-your-name?” And the wretched little creature cries almost as he speaks.
“Once for all, will you agree that the affair about which we spoke shall go no further?” I say, as stern as Draco.
“I shan’t say anythin’ about it. I wish you’d leave me alone, you fellows, and not come botherin’. I wish I could get a glass of brandy-and-water up in my bed-room. I tell you I can’t sleep without it,” whimpers the wretch.
“Sorry I laid hands on you, sir,” says Bedford sadly. “It wasn’t worth the while. Go to bed, and I’ll get you something warm.”
“Will you, though? I couldn’t sleep without it. Do now—do now! and I won’t say anythin’—I won’t now—on the honour of a gentleman, I won’t. Good night, Mr. What-d’-ye-call—.” And Bedford leads the helot to his chamber.
“I’ve got him in bed; and I’ve given him a dose; and I put some laudanum in it. He ain’t been out. He has not had much to-day,” says Bedford, coming back to my room, with his face ominously pale.
“You have given him laudanum?” I ask.
“Sawbones gave him some yesterday,—told me to give him a little—forty drops,” growls Bedford.
Then the gloomy major-domo puts a hand into each waistcoat pocket, and looks at me. “You want to fight for her, do you, sir? Calling out, and that sort of game? Phoo!”—and he laughs scornfully.
“The little miscreant is too despicable, I own,” say I, “and it’s absurd for a peaceable fellow like me to talk about powder and shot at this time of day. But what could I do?”
“I say it’s she ain’t worth it,” says Bedford, lifting up both clenched fists out of the waistcoat pockets.
“What do you mean, Dick?” I ask.
“She’s humbugging you,—she’s humbugging me,—she’s humbugging everybody,” roars Dick. “Look here, sir!” and out of one of the clenched fists he flings a paper down on the table.
“What is it?” I ask. It’s her handwriting. I see the neat trim lines on the paper.
“It’s not to you; nor yet to me,” says Bedford.
“Then how dare you read it, sir?” I ask, all of a tremble.
“It’s to him. It’s to Sawbones,” hisses out Bedford. “Sawbones dropt it as he was getting into his gig; and I read it. I ain’t going to make no bones about whether it’s wrote to me or not. She tells him how you asked her to marry you. (Ha!) That’s how I came to know it. And do you know what she calls you, and what he calls you,—that castor-hoil beast? And do you know what she says of you? That you hadn’t pluck to stand by her to-day. There,—it’s all down under her hand and seal. You may read it, or not, if you like. And if poppy or mandragora will medicine you to sleep afterwards, I just recommend you to take it. I shall go and get a drop out of the captain’s bottle—I shall.”
And he leaves me, and the fatal paper on the table.
Now, suppose you had been in my case—would you, or would you not, have read the paper? Suppose there is some news—bad news—about the woman you love, will you, or will you not, hear it? Was Othello a rogue because he let Iago speak to him? There was the paper. It lay there glimmering under the light, with all the house quiet.
Talking in beetles—Identity of Egyptian animals with those now existing: does this prove fixity of species?—Examination of the celebrated argument of species not having altered in four thousand years—Impossibility of distinguishing species from varieties—The affinities of animals—New facts proving the fertility of Hybrids—The hare and the rabbit contrasted—Doubts respecting the development hypothesis—On hypothesis in Natural History—Pliny, and his notion on the formation of pearls—Are pearls owing to a disease of the oyster?—Formation of the shell; origin of pearls—How the Chinese manufacture pearls.
A witty friend of mine expressed her sense of the remoteness of the ancient Egyptians, and her difficulty in sympathizing with them, by declaring that “they talked in beetles, you know.” She referred, of course, to the hieroglyphics in which that curious people now speak to us from ancient tombs. Whether those swarthy sages were eloquent and wise, or obscure and otherwise, in their beetle-speech, it is certain that entomologists of our day recognize their beetles as belonging to the same species that are now gathered into collections. Such as the Egyptians knew them, such we know them now. Nay, the sacred cats found in those ancient tombs, are cats of the same kind as our own familiar mousers; they purred before Pharaoh as they purr on our hearthrugs; and the descendants of the very dogs which irreligiously worried those cats, are to this day worrying the descendants of those sacred cats. The grains of wheat, which the savans found in the tombs, were planted in the soil of France, and grew into waving corn in no respect distinguishable from the corn grown from the grain of the previous year.
Have these familiar facts any important significance? Are we entitled to draw any conclusion from the testimony of paintings and sculptures, at least four thousand years old, which show that several of our well-known Species of animals, and several of the well-marked Races of men, existed then, and have not changed since then? Nimrod hunted with dogs and horses, which would be claimed as ancestors by the dogs and horses at Melton Mowbray. The Negroes who attended Semiramis and Rhamses are in every respect similar to the Negroes now toiling amid the sugar-canes of Alabama. If, during four thousand years Species and Races have not changed, why should we suppose that they ever will change? Why should we not take our stand on that testimony, and assert that Species are unchangeable?
Such has been the argument of Cuvier and his followers; an argument on which they have laid great stress, and which they have further strengthened by a challenge to adversaries to produce one single case where a transmutation of species has taken place:—“Here we show you evidence that Species have persisted unaltered during four thousand years, and you cannot show us a single case of Species having changed—you cannot show us one case of a wolf becoming a dog, an ass becoming a horse, a hare becoming a rabbit. Yet you must admit that if there were any inherent tendency to change, four thousand years is a long enough period for that tendency to display itself in; and we ought to see a very marked difference between the Species which lived under Semiramis, and those which are living under Victoria. Instead of this, we see that there has been no change: the dog has remained a dog, the horse has remained a horse; every Species retains its well-marked characters.”
No one will say that I have not done justice to this argument. I have stated it as clearly and forcibly as possible, not with any design to captivate your assent, but to make the answer complete. This argument is the cheval de bataille of the Cuvier school; but like many other argumentative war-horses, it proves, on close inspection, to be spavined and brokenwinded. The first criticism we must pass on it is, that it implies the existence of Species as a thing, which can be spoken of as fixed or variable; whereas, as we saw last month, Species is an abstraction, like Whiteness or Strength. No one supposes that there exists any whiteness apart from white things, or strength apart from strong things; yet the naturalists who maintain the fixity of Species, constantly talk as if Species existed independently of the individual animals. Instead of saying that by the word Species is indicated a certain group of characters, and that whenever we meet with this group we say, here is an animal of the same Species; they explicitly declare, or tacitly imply, that although an individual dog may vary, there is something above all individuals—the Species—and that cannot vary. As it is possible some readers may protest that no respectable authority in modern times ever held the opinion here imputed to a school, I will quote the very explicit language of one of Cuvier’s disciples—the last editor of Buffon—who, no later than 1856, could declare that “Species are the primitive forms of Nature. Individuals are nothing but the representatives—the copies of these forms: Les espèces sont les formes primitives de la Nature. Les individus n’en sont que des représentations, des copies.” According to this very explicit, but very extravagant, statement, an individual dog is nothing but a copy of the primitive form—the typical dog—the idea of a dog, as Plato would say; and of course, if this be true, it matters little how widely individual dogs may vary, the type, or species, of which it is the representative, remains unaltered. Indeed it is on this ground that many physiologists explain the fact of hereditary transmission: the individual may vary, it is said, but the species is preserved; and if a dog, without its fore paws, has offspring, every one of which possesses the fore paws, the reason is, that l’idée de l’espèce se reproduit dans le fruit, et lui donne des organes qui manquaient au père ou à la mère. It is not easy to understand how the idea of species can reproduce itself, and give the offspring of a dog the organs which were wanting in the parents; but to those who believe that Species exist independently of individuals, and form the only real existences, the conception may be easier.
I have too much respect for the reader to drag him through a refutation of such philosophy as this; the statement of the opinion is enough. And yet, unless some such opinion be maintained, the doctrine of Fixity of Species is without a basis; for if it be said that the group of characters which constitute the dog are incapable of change, and in this sense Species are fixed, we have to ask what evidence there can be for such an assertion? since it is notorious that individual dogs do show a change in some of the characters of the group. We shall be referred to the Egyptian tombs for evidence. M. Flourens assures us that not only are these tombs evidence that Species have not changed in four thousand years, but that no species has changed—aucune espèce n’a changé—which is surely stepping a long way beyond the precincts of the tombs?
It may be paradoxical, but it is strictly true, that the fact of particular species having remained unaltered during four thousand years, does not add the slightest weight to the evidence in favour of the fixity of Species. “What!” some may exclaim, “do you pretend that four thousand years is not a period long enough to prove the fixity of animal forms?” Yes; I affirm that four thousand, or forty thousand, prove no more than four. It is only by a fallacy that the opposite opinion could gain acceptance. You would not suppose that I had strengthened my case if, instead of contenting myself with stating reasons once, I repeated these same reasons during forty successive pages; you would remind me that this iteration was not cumulation, and that no force was given to my fortieth assertion which the first wanted. Why, then, do you ask me to accept the repetition of the same fact four thousand times over, as an increase of evidence? It is a familiar fact that like produces like, that dogs resemble dogs, and do not resemble buffaloes; this fact is, of course, deepened in our conviction by the unvarying evidence we see around us, and is guaranteed by the philosophical axiom that like causes produce like effects; but when once such a conception is formed, it can gain no fresh strength from any particular instance. If we believe that crows are black, we do not hold that belief more firmly when we are shown that crows were black four thousand years ago. In like manner, if it is an admitted fact that individuals always reproduce individuals closely resembling themselves, it is not a whit more surprising that the dogs of Victoria should resemble the dogs of Semiramis, than that they should resemble their parents: the chain of four thousand years is made up of many links, each link being a repetition of the other. So long as a single pair of dogs resembling each other unite, so long will there be specimens of that species; simply because the children inherit the characteristics of the parents. So long as Negroes marry with Negroes, and Jews with Jews, so long must there be a perpetuation of the Negro and Jewish types; but the tenth generation adds nothing to the evidence of the first, nor the ten-thousandth to the tenth.
I believe that this fallacy, which destroys the whole value of the Cuvierian argument, has not before been pointed out; and even now, you may, perhaps, ask if the fixity of Species is not proved by the fact that like produces like? So far from this, that it is only by the aid of such a fact in organic nature that we can imagine new species to have arisen: in other words, those who believe in the variability of Species, and the introduction of new forms by means of modification from the old, always invoke the law of hereditary transmission as the means of establishing accidental variations. Thus, let us suppose the Egyptian king to have had one hundred dogs, all of them staghounds, and no other form of dog to have existed at that time in that country; the dog species would be represented by the staghound. These staghounds would transmit to their offspring all their specific characters. But, as every one knows, however much dogs may resemble each other, they always present individual differences in size, colour, strength, intelligence, &c. Now, if any one of these differences should happen to become marked, and to increase by the intermarriage of two dogs similarly distinguished by the marked peculiarity, this peculiarity would in time become established by hereditary transmission, and would form the starting-point of a new race of dogs—say the greyhound—unless it were obliterated by intermarriage with dogs of the old type. In the former case, we should have two races of dogs among the descendants of those figured on the Egyptian tombs; but as one of these races would still preserve the original staghound type, Cuvier would refer to it as a proof that species had not varied. We, on the other hand, should point to the greyhound as proof that animal forms are variable, and that a new form had arisen from modification of the old.
An objection will at once be raised to this illustration, to the effect that all zoologists admit the possibility of new Varieties, or Races, being formed; but they deny that new Species can be formed. It is here that the equivoque of the word Species prevents a clear understanding of each other’s argument. Whiteness may justly be said to be unalterable; but white things may vary—they may become gray, or yellow. In like manner Species must be invariable, because Species is a word indicating a particular group of characters; but animals may vary in these characters: they may present some of the characters less, or more, developed; and they may even want some of them. Now as there is no absolute standard of what constitutes Species, what Sub-species, and what Varieties, it becomes impossible to say whether any individual variation in an animal form shall constitute a new Variety, or a new Species. With regard to dogs the differences between the various races are so numerous, and so marked, as would suffice to constitute species and even genera, in other groups of animals.
We must relinquish the idea of proving anything by the paintings and sculptures of the ancients. When we find an Egyptian plough closely resembling the plough still in use in some places, we may identify it as of the same “Species” as our own; but this does not disprove the fact that steam-ploughs, and ploughs of various construction, have been since invented, all of them being modifications of the original type. Formerly, and for many years, the stage-coach was our approved mode of conveyance—and it is still kept up in some districts; nevertheless, modifications of coach-road into tramroad, and tramroad into railroad, have gradually resulted in a mode of conveyance utterly unlike the stage-coach. It is the same with animals.
Let us never forget that Species have no existence. Only individuals exist, and these all vary more or less from each other. When the variations are slight, they have no name; when they are more marked, and are transmitted from one generation to another, they constitute particular Faces, or Varieties; when the differences are still more marked they constitute Sub-species; but, as Mr. Darwin says, “Certainly no clear line of demarcation has yet been drawn between Species and Sub-species; that is, the forms which in the opinion of some naturalists come very near to, but do not quite arrive at the rank of Species; or again, between Sub-species and well-marked Varieties, or between lesser Varieties and individual differences. These differences blend into each other in an insensible series; and a series impresses the mind with the idea of an actual passage.” But the same process of divergence which establishes Varieties out of individual differences, and Species out of Varieties, also serves to establish Genera out of Species, Orders out of Genera, and Classes out of Orders. It is, doubtless, difficult to conceive by what process of modification, two animals of distinct Genera, say a dog and a cat, were produced from a common stock; but organic analogies in abundance render it easy of belief. If we knew as much of zoology as we do of embryology, in respect of the affinities of divergent forms, it would be far less surprising that two different Genera should arise from a common stock, than that all the various parts of the skeleton should arise from a common osseous element. We know that the jaws are identical with arms and legs—both being divergent modifications of a common osseous structure. We know that the arm of a man is identical with the fin of a whale, or the wing of a bird. The differences here in form, size, and function are much greater than the differences which establish orders and classes in the animal series. Unless animal forms were modifications of some common type, it would be difficult to explain their remarkable affinities. As Mr. Darwin says, “It is a truly wonderful fact—the wonder of which we are apt to overlook from familiarity—that all animals and all plants throughout all time and space should be related to each other in group, subordinate to group, in the manner which we everywhere behold, namely, varieties of the same species most closely related together, species of the same genus less closely and unequally related together, forming sections and sub-genera, species of distinct genera much less closely related, and genera related in different degrees, forming sub-families, families, orders, sub-classes, and classes. The several subordinate groups in any class cannot be ranked in a single file, but seem rather to be clustered round points, and these round other points, and so on in almost endless circles. On the view that each species has been independently created, I can see no explanation of this great fact in the classification of all organic beings; but to the best of my judgment it is explained through inheritance, and the complex action of natural selection, entailing extinction and divergence of character. The affinities of all the beings of the same class have sometimes been represented by a great tree. I believe this simile largely speaks the truth. The green and budding twigs may represent existing species; and those produced during each former year may represent the long succession of extinct species. At each period of growth all the growing twigs have tried to branch out on all sides, and to overtop and kill the surrounding twigs and branches, in the same manner as species and groups of species have tried to overmaster other species in the great struggle for life. The limbs divided into great branches, and these into lesser branches, were themselves once, when the tree was small, budding twigs; and this connection of the former and present buds by ramifying branches, may well represent the classification of all extinct and living species in groups subordinate to groups. Of the many twigs which flourished when the tree was a mere bush, only two or three, now grown into great branches, yet survive and bear all the other branches. So with the species which lived during long-past geological periods, very few now have living and modified descendants.... As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch: so by generation, I believe, it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever-branching and beautiful ramifications.”
It will not be expected that in these brief and desultory remarks I should touch on all, or nearly all, the important points in the discussion respecting the Fixity of Species. Mr. Darwin’s book is in everybody’s hands, and my object has been to facilitate, if possible, the comprehension of his book, and the adoption of a more philosophical hypothesis, by pointing out the weakness of the chief argument on the other side. There is one more argument which may be noticed—the more so as it is constantly adduced with triumph by the one school, and admitted as a difficulty by the other. Its force is so great that it prevents many from accepting the development hypothesis. It is the argument founded on the alleged impossibility of Hybrids continuing the race. More than two or three generations of Hybrids, it is said, can never be maintained; after that, the new form perishes: thus clearly showing how Nature repudiates such amalgamations, and keeps her species jealously distinct and invariable. This argument is held to be the touchstone of the doctrine of species. I wish it were so; because, in that case, the question would no longer be one of hypothesis, since we have now the indubitable proof that some Hybrids are fertile unto the thirteenth generation and onwards.
A history of the various attempts which have been made to prove and disprove the fertility of Hybrids, would lead us beyond our limits; the curious reader is referred to the works cited below. One decisive case alone shall be given here, and no one will dispute that it is decisive.
The hare (lepus timidus) is assuredly of a distinct species from the rabbit (lepus cuniculus). So distinct are these species, that any classification which should range them as one, would violate every accepted principle. The hare is solitary, the rabbit gregarious; the hare lives on the surface of the earth, the rabbit burrows under the surface; the hare makes her home among the bushes, the rabbit makes a sort of nest for her young in her burrow—keeping them there till they are weaned; the hare has reddish-brown flesh, the rabbit white flesh; while the odour exhaled by each, and the flavour of each, are unmistakeably different. The hare has many anatomical characters differing from those of the rabbit: such as greater length and strength of the hind legs, larger body, shorter intestine, thicker skin, firmer hair, and different colour. The hare breeds only twice or thrice a year, and at each litter has only two or four; the rabbit will breed eight times a year, and each time has four, six, seven, and even eight young ones. Finally, the two are violent foes: the rabbits always destroy the hares, and all sportsmen are aware that if the rabbits be suffered to multiply on an estate, there will be small chance of hares.
Nevertheless, between species so distinct as these, a new hybrid race has been reared by M. Rouy, of Angoulême, who each year sends to market upwards of a thousand of his Leporides, as he calls them. His object was primarily commercial, not scientific. His experiments, extending from 1847 to the present time, have not only been of great commercial value—introducing a new and valuable breed—but have excited the attention of scientific men, who are now availing themselves of his skill and experience to help them in the solution of minor problems. It is enough to note here, that these hybrids of the hare and the rabbit are fertile, not only with either hares or rabbits, but with each other. Thirteen generations have already been enumerated, and the last remains so vigorous that no cessation whatever is to be anticipated.
In presence of this case (and others, though less striking, might be named) there is but one alternative; either we must declare that rabbits and hares form one and the same species—which is absurd—or we must admit that new types may be formed by the union of two existing types; and consequently that species are variable. If the doctrine of Fixity of Species acknowledges the touchstone of hybridity, the fate of the doctrine is settled for ever.
Although I conceive the doctrine of Fixity of Species to be altogether wrong, I cannot say that the arguments adduced in favour of the development hypothesis rise higher than a high degree of probability, still very far from demonstration; they will leave even the most willing disciple beset with difficulties and doubts. When stated in general terms, that hypothesis has a fascinating symmetry and simplicity, but no sooner do we apply it to particular cases, than a thick veil of mystery descends, and our pathway becomes a mere blind groping towards the light. There is nothing but what is perfectly conceivable, and in harmony with all analogies, in the idea of all animal forms having arisen from successive modifications of one original form; but there are many things perfectly conceivable, which have nevertheless no existence; there are many explanations perfectly probable, which are not true; and when we come to seek for the evidence of the development hypothesis, that evidence fails us. It may be true, but we cannot say that it is true. Ten years ago, I espoused the hypothesis, and believed that it must be the truth; but ten years of study, instead of deepening, have loosened that conviction: they have strengthened my opposition to the hypothesis of fixity of species, but they have given greater force to the difficulties which beset the development hypothesis, and have made me feel that at present the requisite evidence is wanting. I conclude with reminding the reader that the question of the origin of species is at present incapable of a positive answer; of the two hypotheses, that of development seems the more harmonious with our knowledge; but it is no more than an hypothesis, and will probably for ever remain one. Now, an hypothesis, although indispensable as a provisional mode of grouping together facts, and giving them some sort of explanation, is after all only a guess, and it may be absurdly wide of the truth. In Natural History, as in all other departments of speculative ingenuity, there have been a goodly number of outrageously extravagant hypotheses, gravely propounded, and credulously accepted. Men prefer an absurd guess to a blank; they would rather have a false opinion than no opinion; and one of the last developments of philosophic culture, is the power of abstaining from forming an opinion, where the necessary data are absent.
If you wish to see how easily hypotheses are formed and accepted, you need only turn over the history of any science. If you want a laugh at credulity, read a chapter of Pliny’s Natural History. Pliny is a classic, and was for centuries an authority; but looked at with impartial eyes, he appears the veriest “old woman” that ever wrote in a beautiful style. He was a mere bookworm, without a particle of scientific insight. His was not an age when men had much regard to evidence; but to him the suspicion never seems to have occurred that Gossip Report could be given to romancing, or that travellers could “see strange things.” No fable is too monstrous for his credulity.
One of the pretty fables Pliny repeats, is, that pearls are formed by drops of dew falling into the gaping valves of the oyster. It never occurred to him to ask whether oysters were ever exposed to the dew? whether the drops could fall into their valves? whether oysters kept their valves open, except when under water? or, finally, whether, if the dew did fall in, it would remain a rounded drop? The drop of dew had a certain superficial resemblance to the pearl, and that was enough. Ælian’s hypothesis was somewhat better: he supposed that the pearls were produced by lightning flashing into the open shells.
Turning from these ancient sages, you will ask how pearls are formed? And almost any ingenious modern, not a zoologist, will tell you (and tell you falsely), that the pearl is a disease of the oyster. One is somewhat fatigued with the merciless frequency with which this notion has been dragged in, as an illustration of genius issuing out of sorrow and adversity; and it is time to stop that “damnable iteration” by discrediting the notion. Know then, that if
it is not true that oysters secrete in suffering what women wear as necklaces. Disease would be the very worst cradle for pearls. The idea of disease originated in a fanciful supposition of pearls being to the oyster and mussel what gall-stones and urinary calculi are to higher and more suffering animals. Réaumur, to whom we owe so many good observations and suggestive ideas, came near the truth when, in 1717, he showed that the structure of pearls was identical with the structure of the shells in which they grow. He attributed their formation to the morbid effusion of coagulating shell-material.
I presume you know that shells are formed by a secretion from the mantle? The mantle is that delicate semi-transparent membrane which you observe, on opening a mussel, lining the whole interior of the shells, and having at its free margins a sort of fringe of delicate tentacles, which are sensitive and retractile. A microscopic examination of these fringes shows them to be glandular in structure—that is, they are secreting organs. The whole mantle, indeed, is a secreting organ, and its secretion is the shell-material: the fringes secrete the colouring matters of the shell, and enlarge its circumference; the rest of the mantle secretes the nacre, or mother-of-pearl, and increases the thickness of the shell. Now it is obvious that the formation of pearl nacre, and of pearls, depends on the healthy condition of the mantle, not on its diseases. If the mantle be injured the nacre is not secreted at all, or in less quantities.
But, although pearls depend upon the healthy, not the diseased activity of the mantle, it is clear that there must be some unusual condition present for their formation; since the secretion of nacre does not spontaneously assume the form of pearls. What is the unusual condition? Naturalists are at present divided into two camps, fighting vigorously for victory. The one side maintains that the origin of a pearl is this—an egg of the oyster has escaped and strayed under the mantle; or the egg of a parasite has been deposited there; this egg forms the nucleus, round which the nacre forms, and thus we have the pearl. The other side maintains with great positiveness that anything will form a nucleus, a grain of sand, no less than the egg of a parasite. ’Tis a pretty quarrel, which we may leave them to settle. Some aver that grains of sand are more numerous than anything else; but Möbius says that of forty-four sea pearls, and fifteen fresh-water pearls, examined by him, not one contained a grain of sand; and Filippi, who has extensively investigated this subject, denies that a grain of sand ever forms the nucleus of a true pearl. Both Filippi and Küchenmeister declare that a parasite gets into the mussel or oyster, and its presence there stimulates an active secretion of nacre.
There are pearls, according to Möbius, which consist of three different systems of layers, like the shells in which they are formed; with this difference, that these layers are reversed: in the shell the nacre forms the innermost layer, in the pearl it forms the outermost. Hence the qualities of the pearl depend on the shell, and on the different proportions of nacre and carbonate of lime.
Since we know how pearls are made, may it not be expected that we should learn to make them? Ever since the days of Linnæus the hope has been entertained, and it is now becoming every day more likely to be realized. Imperfect pearls have been made in abundance. The Chinese have long practised the art. They simply remove the large fresh-water mussel from the water, insert a foreign substance under the mantle, and in two or three years (if I remember rightly) they take the mussels up again, and find the pearls formed. In this way they make little mother-of-pearl Josses, which are sold for a penny each; and I remember seeing a couple of large shells in the Anatomical Museum at Munich, the whole length of which was occupied by rows of little squab Josses, very comical to behold. I was informed that a copper chain of these deities had been inserted under the mollusc’s mantle, and this was the result.
 Flourens: Cours de Physiologie Comparée, 1856, p. 9.
 Burdach: Physiologie, ii. 245.
 Darwin: Origin of Species, p. 128.
 Isidore Geoffroy St. Hilaire: Hist. Nat. Générale des Règnes Organiques, 1860, iii. 207 sq. Broca: Mémoire sur l’Hybridité, in Brown-Sequard’s Journal de la Physiologie, 1859.
 See their interesting essays in Müller’s Archiv. 1856.
Sir,—To a person returning to England after an absence of many years, few things can be more striking than the progress which has been made in the art and practice of education since the commencement of the present century, the methods and contrivances which have been ingeniously and mercifully invented for imparting with greater ease the rudiments of knowledge to the young, and the new books and new devices which really merit the Old World title of Reading made Easy.
Formerly, any old paupers, who could read or write more or less intelligibly, and who were too worn or too weak to earn their subsistence in any other manner, used to be considered as perfectly qualified to instruct the rising generation of the parish to which they belonged in those necessary arts; and dire used to be the sufferings which the unhappy village children underwent, solely because their broken-down and incompetent teachers knew but little themselves, and knew not at all how to impart that little to others.
To do them justice, however, their pupils were not entirely neglected. If they could not read fluently, neither could they seat themselves with any degree of comfort; and if they were backward in summing and spelling, they seldom failed to return home at night with swollen eyes and scored palms. The tree of knowledge in those days was only valued on account of the tough and elastic materials which it furnished for the manufacture of instruments of childish torture.
The normal aspect of a village school used then to be, an aged crone in the chimney-corner, spectacles on nose, and rod in hand; a loutish boy, crowned with a fool’s cap, whining by her side; a class of trembling dunces before her, endeavouring in vain to shirk unchastised through lessons which they were as unapt to learn as their mistress was to teach; and, in the background, the body of the school, ignorant, rude, dirty, and of evil savour—just such a brutal and unpromising brood as the incapable old hen who presided over them might be expected to rear.
In the present year of our Lord 1860, a village, nay, a workhouse school, in any district of England, presents a very different, and a much pleasanter sight. Order, cleanliness, and intelligence now predominate; the active and experienced teachers—young men and women in the prime of life, carefully trained to teach—understand their duties thoroughly, and are proud of their success in discharging them. Punishments are now rare, and never cruel; the children have a happy and cultivated look, and the result of this improved system of school-teaching obtrudes itself gratefully on the eye and ear of the visitor in well-written copies and careful drawings, in distinctly enunciated reading, in harmonious singing, and in arithmetical calculations of surprising accuracy and rapidity. And all these valuable results have been produced by a very moderate degree of judicious encouragement and vigilance on the part of the legislature, which has, in the first place, taught the teachers of the children of the poor the art of teaching—an art until lately entirely neglected in this country; and, secondly, has kept them up to their work by a careful system of school inspection. Every school which now benefits by a grant of government money is examined and reported on, publicly and periodically, by the government inspectors of schools, able and accomplished men, as thoroughly versed in the art of examination as the teachers they overlook are in the art of teaching.
It is a deplorable and strange fact, that whilst all this care and forethought has been so properly bestowed on the children of the English poor, the children of our wealthier classes have been in that respect altogether neglected. Their teachers are never trained to teach at all; no government inspector ever reports on the educational merits or demerits of our old-established upper-class schools, which remain, for the most part, mere money speculations, in which the welfare and progress of the pupils are held altogether subservient to the pecuniary profits of the masters. All is left in those important establishments to self-interest and to chance; and there would even now be small hope of a change in their system for the better, were it not for external circumstances, to which I will presently advert.
Many years ago I was myself a pupil at Harchester College, one of our most celebrated public schools. It was indeed a pleasant place for a sturdy, quick-witted boy; though for a boy who was neither sturdy nor quick-witted, it was neither pleasant nor profitable: clever, studious boys did very well at it, as clever, studious boys will generally do anywhere; but boys of average ability and application learnt very little there, and dull or idle boys learnt positively nothing at all.
Nor were these unsatisfactory results surprising, when the system and the staff of the school were critically examined. The Harchester tutors were all Fellows of one small and not very distinguished college at Oxbridge, which possessed a sort of vested interest in Harchester. They came thither as masters, not because anybody believed them to be clever men, or because they were supposed to possess any natural or acquired aptitude for teaching, but solely as a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence. They wished to make money rapidly. The profits of a master at Harchester were known to be very great; and the Fellows of —— college had, according to their seniority, a prescriptive right to that position, if they pleased.
Such an arrangement as this was bad enough, but the fact that the proportion of masters to boys was dishonestly small, was worse; there were not nearly enough of them even to hear the pupils the daily tasks which were assigned to them; and as for any moral or social supervision out of school-hours, none was ever attempted—so perplexed and overwhelmed were the teachers with the burden of their scholastic duties. If the elder boys in a tutor’s house chanced to be gentlemanlike and well-conditioned lads, the juniors had a pretty good time of it, and fared tolerably; if they chanced to be roughs or snobs, which they occasionally were, the juniors had a bad time of it, and fared ill. But the whole thing was a complete matter of chance. A tutor, who from seven in the morning till ten at night, with very brief intervals for food and exercise, was occupied in teaching and hearing lessons, in examining maps, in correcting themes and verses, and who could not in that space of time hear one-fifth of the lessons his pupils were supposed, by a wild stretch of tutorial imagination, to learn, was not in a position to bestow much attention on either the morals or the manners of the boys. During the daytime they were left entirely to themselves, to ferment, and purify or corrupt, as the case might be; and at night they were in some degree supervised and controlled by the confidential servants of the houses in which they boarded.
The regular business of the school consisted solely in the study of Latin and Greek, which was taught in the precise manner in which it had been taught to our fathers and grandfathers; for no newfangled or short cuts to knowledge found favour in the eyes of the Principal of Harchester: of modern history, modern geography, modern languages, English composition and literature, arithmetic, or mathematics, we learnt nothing. There was, indeed, a slight pretence made of teaching some few of those branches of education, and French and mathematics figured occasionally as extras in our bills; but it was but a pretence—they formed no part of what was termed “the regular business of the school,” and proficiency in them obtained for a boy neither credit nor position at Harchester. Straws often show which way the wind blows. The Harchester boys were never required to touch their hats to the French or the mathematical masters; whilst to the classical masters, who alone conducted the discipline of the school, they were required to be always hat in hand.
The insufficient number of masters, and the overwhelming number of pupils, enabled the latter to shirk their lessons with great facility; and the consequence was, that the masters, conscious of the evil practice, yet unequal to prevent it, quieted their consciences by inflicting corporal punishments to an incredible amount; notwithstanding which, it is no exaggeration to say, that for one pupil who left Harchester a fair scholar, a dozen left it with scarcely any education at all.
But as the Harchester boys had plenty of holidays—as their amusements were many and varied, and as they were liberally fed and well lodged—they liked the system and the place well enough. Fives, rackets, cricket, boating, hockey, and football kept them healthy and active; they dressed well and expensively, had every opportunity they could desire for running in debt at the pastrycooks’ and the public-houses of the town, and, I am sorry to say, equal facilities for becoming initiated into some of the vices of maturer age.
The masters were scarcely to blame for this; it was the system that was mainly in fault. They had themselves been brought up under that system; they sincerely believed in it. They worked from morning till night, and more could not be expected of mortal men. If they could, they would have educated all their pupils thoroughly; they would have watched over them and kept them out of debt and difficulty of all kind; but they could not—their numbers were so few. It is true that their numbers might have been doubled, nay, trebled, with undoubted advantage to the school; but then their profits must have been proportionably diminished; and it was too much to expect from human nature that a reform, which could only be attained at such a heavy cost, should be initiated by the very individuals who would suffer from it. Government inspection would at once have shown the propriety of such a step, and would have necessitated its immediate adoption; but to talk of government inspection for such a distinguished school as Harchester would have been rank sacrilege. It might do very well for the schools of the poor, but Harchester would never have submitted to it.
Harchester was a very popular school. The sons of half the nobility and gentry of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales were sent thither, because their fathers had been there before them; and because, although it was known not to be a very good school—for learning—there was no other upper-class school which was known to be decidedly better. It used to be hinted, too, that between each generation vast improvements had taken place in its system. The high social position of the Harchester boys was sure to obtain for them a remarkably good start in the race of life, and whenever any one of them distinguished himself signally at college or in parliament, the admirers of Harchester fondly attributed his success to the excellence of the Harchester system. It never seemed to occur to them that the boy might have thriven in spite of that lax and dishonest system, and not in consequence of it. Harchester men had also a great reputation for being gentlemanlike, and on that quality they prided themselves much more than upon their scholarship. But as the sons of the best noblemen and gentlemen of England all went to Harchester, it was not very surprising that they should grow up gentlemen. They would probably have done so had they all been educated anywhere else. At any rate, the masters could claim no credit for the gentility of their pupils—unless, indeed, gentility be a plant which is best cultivated by entire neglect.
Numbers of the wealthy of the middle classes sent their sons to Harchester in imitation of their betters. It was the most expensive school in England. They imagined that its associations secured to their boys great advantages in after life; and, in truth, like their betters, they knew of no other upper-class school that was decidedly superior to it. Mothers liked it because it was fashionable, and was supposed to make their boys “gentlemen;” and country squires, who had been educated there themselves, and were not particularly conscious of their own deficiencies, were quite satisfied if their sons, after passing four or five years in happy idleness, left it accomplished oarsmen and expert cricketers.
Thirty or forty years ago such a system as this did very well for our governing classes; well or ill educated, the Houses of Lords and Commons, the Army, and the Civil Service, received with open arms the children of the powerful and the rich; eldest sons, after a couple of years’ additional idleness as gentlemen commoners at Oxbridge, went into parliament and voted all the more steadily with their party, because they were confirmed and incurable dunces; whilst younger sons obtained commissions in crack regiments, or stools in the Treasury and Foreign Office, and rose through the money and the parliamentary influence their fathers could command, rather than through their own merits and exertions. From such causes, and for such reasons, did Harchester College prosper, and set an example which was followed by most of the upper-class schools in England.
But in the present day, circumstances have arisen which must ere long shake the time-honoured Harchester system to its very foundations. The improvements which have of late years taken place in English education, have, indeed, been first made manifest in the schools of the poor; but they are swiftly surging upwards, and if Harchester, and our other great public schools, are to maintain the position which they have hitherto held, the sooner they call in the government inspector the better for them. Middle-class schools are rising around them—in London, in Liverpool, at Cheltenham, at Bradley, at Marlborough, at Bradfield, and elsewhere—which are readily adapting themselves to the altered requirements of the age; and unless Harchester means to be left in the lurch, that venerable establishment must conform also.
No boy can now enter the Army or the Civil Service until he has proved by an examination before government examiners, not only that his parents have paid for a good education for him, but that he has profited by it. The standard of education which has been erected by the Civil Service Commissioners and the Board of Military Education, is, indeed, a low one; but it has been constructed by the advice and with the concurrence of the masters of our largest schools, it is firmly based upon public opinion, and it is far more likely to be heightened than to be reduced. And there it will henceforward remain—a sure though not a severe test of the honesty and abilities of masters as well as of scholars. From a youth of seventeen or eighteen years of age it requires but little, but it insists that that little shall be well and thoroughly learnt. A correct knowledge of his mother tongue and of arithmetic, a fair acquaintance with history, geography, mathematics, and French, as well as with Latin and with Greek, if the candidate volunteers the latter, is all that is asked; and if an upper-class school does not teach that much to a boy between the age of twelve and eighteen, it is not unreasonable to inquire what it does teach him? But these are just the educational items which Harchester has hitherto evaded teaching. They are not yet part of the Harchester “school business;” the sooner they are, the better for the future prosperity of Harchester.
As matters now stand, what happens to a Harchester boy the moment he receives the promise of a commission or a clerkship, is just this: he is hastily removed from that celebrated school, and is handed over to “a crammer”—an educational empiric—who can have no pride in his calling; who deals only with full-grown and avowed dunces; and who undertakes to teach them in a few months what it is shameful to their teachers that they should not have learnt years before. The “crammer” teaches at a manifest disadvantage; he and his pupil are strangers to each other; he knows nothing of his constitution, his disposition, his capacity, or his temper; he has, and can have, no influence or control over him; all he can do, all he undertakes to do, is to hustle him, by fair means or by foul, over the low educational barrier which debars the youth from entering the profession of his choice. Sometimes he succeeds—generally after one or two mortifying failures; but very often the poor lad has been allowed to become so incurably idle as to be unable to acquire at eighteen those rudimentary parts of education, which ought to have been imparted to him when he was a child, and in which the sons of his father’s tradesmen are now mostly proficient; and he is in consequence shut out from the career to which he and his parents have for years been looking forward with eager satisfaction. In either case his friends are unfairly exposed to great expense, anxiety, and mortification. And all this happens because our old public school system is too deeply rooted in vested interests to accommodate itself readily to the altered habits and requirements of the age.
I know very well that I shall be told that our public school system is not what it used to be, and that what I have here written refers rather to what was than to what is. I am prepared to test the justice of this reproof in the manner most disadvantageous to my argument. I have before me the statistics of half-a-dozen of our largest upper-class schools; I will take up those of the most costly, the most renowned, the largest. They are those of Eton.
I find that that school lately contained between 800 and 900 boys. To teach them everything, save mathematics and French, there were twenty-one masters. But of those, one, the head master, takes no pupils: nor does the assistant master in college teach any of the boys. Upwards of 800 boys, therefore, are taught by nineteen masters. Now much economy of scholastic labour may undoubtedly be effected by teaching boys in large droves; but I am assured that the system of instruction at Eton is rather wasteful than economical of scholastic labour. All the teaching is done out of school, in the private houses of the tutors, and the boys only go into school to repeat what they have previously learnt, and to exhibit exercises that have been already examined and corrected. Therefore, as each master has a few pupils in every class in the school, each master is compelled every day to go through the entire business of every class in the school; and some of them undertake single-handed the private tuition of as many as seventy boys!
It seems absolutely impossible, under such conditions, that nineteen masters can do justice to 800 or 900 boys; and the questions naturally arise,—Do they do justice to them? Can they do justice to them? And if they do not, and cannot, why are their numbers not doubled or trebled at once? Ought not the liberal sum paid for the education of an Eton boy to ensure to him the fullest educational advantages? Ought any “crammer” to be required to prepare him for his appearance before the Civil Service Commissioners or the Board of Military Education?
Of late years we have been told that the study of modern languages has been much more attended to at our public schools than formerly; and H.R.H. the Prince Consort has kindly and thoughtfully encouraged it by offering prizes for the best scholars in that branch of knowledge at Eton. But the authorities at that school do not appear, from their published statistics, to be sensible of the importance of such acquirements, although they absolutely constitute the only current coin which will be received at the educational turnpike which the government has recently erected, and through which every boy entering on public life as a soldier or a civil servant must now pass. At that turnpike Greek and Roman money is no longer exclusively taken.
The class of youths who are educated at Eton can scarcely be said to have received the education of gentlemen, if at seventeen or eighteen they have not acquired a moderate knowledge of French. Yet to teach 800 or 900 boys French, but one master has hitherto been provided by the authorities of that school; and for their fractional share in his services, his pupils each pay 10l. 10s. a year extra. At King’s College, London,—one of the best of our middle-class schools—there are three French masters kept to instruct 880 boys, without any extra charge. At Charter-House—which enjoys the advantage of the independent supervision of its distinguished governors—there is one classical master to every twenty boys; and French—not an extra—is as well cared for as it is at King’s College; whilst at Eton there is not one classical master to every forty boys. I will, however, enter into no further comparisons of this kind. I am fearful of falling into technical errors, which might weaken the force of what I wish to say. I have no right to suppose that Eton is a bit worse than others of our public schools, or that it is not better than many of them: but I do say that the statistics to which I have here adverted call for immediate attention and explanation. It is of the utmost importance to every man in England that the schools at which our future legislators are educated should be good schools, and that the governors of this country should be at least as well educated as the governed. If they are not, in the course of a few years deplorable results must ensue.
I will now relate the accident which has decided me on calling, through your means, public attention to this matter.
Some months ago I visited one of our newly established schools, where about one hundred and fifty boys were receiving their education. The principal of it, a very distinguished man, well known for his energetic intelligence in the cause of education, told me that he felt he could not do justice to his boys unless he had one master to every twelve of them. I inquired what he paid his masters, and I found his maximum was about 800l. a year, and his minimum 300l., board included. For these sums, he assured me, he secured the best men the universities produced. All the arrangements of his school appeared to me excellent; and the conveniences and opportunities for cricket, football, and other athletic amusements, were quite equal to those we used to enjoy at Harchester. The principal himself took no part in the teaching—he merely exercised a general superintendence over the whole. I should much like to name this admirable establishment; but as I have not his permission to do so, I forbear.
Shortly afterwards I chanced to read in The Times the list of the successful competitors at one of the highest open examinations held by the Government Examiners. The boy whose name stood at the head of that list was named as having been educated at this gentleman’s school, and as having come direct from thence into the public examination room. He had won in a canter, as the number of marks assigned to him proved. Last but one on the list of sixty was the only Etonian candidate, and to his name was added, “Educated at Eton, and at subsequent private tutors’.”
In conclusion, sir, I will offer a suggestion. I do so with extreme diffidence, and with entire deference to those who are, I know, more competent to judge of educational questions than I am. I merely throw it out for consideration.
Compulsory inspection of our great schools is, I imagine, out of the question; but I would ask whether a voluntary system could not be devised which should place at the disposal of such schoolmasters as chose to avail themselves of it, accredited government inspectors, who, being invited, should repair to a school, examine its system and its pupils, and report formally and publicly upon both.
Supposing that at this moment Eton, or any other great school, confident in its system and its educational integrity, were to avail itself of this privilege, and that the government inspectors should report that they had examined that establishment; that its educational staff was abundant; that its fifth and sixth forms were generally not only good classical scholars, but so well grounded in English, French, arithmetic, and mathematics as to be able to present themselves without the intervention of “crammers” for examination for the Army or the Civil Service, with every prospect of success—what an advantage such a report as that would be to the school and to the pupils: what a load it would remove from the bosoms of hundreds of doubting and anxious parents: what a stimulus it would give to other less faithfully conducted educational establishments!
And if the inspectors’ report should happen to be not quite so favourable to its existing system,—if it recommended that the number of tutors should be at least trebled, and that modern languages, arithmetic, and mathematics, should be made part of the “regular business” of the school, would not its publicity render immediate improvement and reform the best policy—no matter at what present pecuniary sacrifice?
My suggestion is, perhaps, a crude one; nevertheless, I earnestly commend it to the attention of H.R.H. Prince Albert, and of those in authority who interest themselves in the education of this great country.
I am, Sir, your humble servant,
Haworth, July 12th, 1839.
[As the sole return which I have it in my power to make for a friendship and a skill which have greatly alleviated my sufferings, I accede to the request of Dr. —— to commit to writing one or two passages in a history which has had more than the ordinary share of the marvellous in its composition. I write them with reluctance, yet with the feeling that I owe him the narration. It will serve, it may be, if not to explain, yet to account for some of the anomalies which he confesses have perplexed him in the treatment of my case. I leave it entirely to him to direct, by will or otherwise, what is to be the fate of these papers, after his and my decease.]
Except a few acres of arable land at its foot, a bare hill formed almost the whole of my father’s possessions. The sheep ate over it, and found it good for food; I raced and bounded over it, and thought it a kingdom. In the still autumn morning, the wide moor lay outstretched in its stillness, high uplifted towards the heaven. The dew hung on every stalk in tiny drops, which, as the sun arose, sparkled and burned with all the hues shared by the whole family of gems. Here and there a bird gave a cry: all else was silence. It is strange, but I never see the statue of the Roman youth, praying with outstretched arms, and open, empty, level palms, as if waiting to receive and hold the blessing of the gods, but that outstretched barren heath rises before me, as if it meant the same thing as the statue,—or were, at least, the fit room in the middle space of which to set the praying and expectant youth. There was one spot upon the hill, half-way between the valley and the moorland above, which was my favourite haunt. This part of the hill was covered with great blocks of stone, of all shapes and sizes—here crowded together, like the slain where the battle was fiercest; there parting asunder from a space covered with the delicate green of the sweetest, softest grass. In the centre of one of these green spots, on a steep part of the hill, were three huge rocks—two projecting out of the hill, rather than standing up from it, and one, likewise projecting from the hill, but lying across the tops of the two others, so as to form a little cave, the back of which was the side of the hill. This was my refuge, my home within a home, my study, and, in the hot noons, often my sleeping chamber, and my house of dreams. If the wind blew cold on the hill-side, a hollow of lulling warmth was there, scooped as it were out of the body of the blast, which swept around, and whistled keen and thin through the cracks and crannies of the great rocky chaos that lay all about, and in which the wind plunged, and flowed, and eddied and withdrew, as the sea-waves on the cliffy shores or the unknown rugged bottoms. When I lifted my eyes, before me lay, but at some miles’ distance, behind another hill, which on the opposite side of the valley ran parallel to mine, a great mountain; not like that on which I was seated, but a mighty thing, a chieftain of the race, seamed and scarred, featured with chasms, and precipices, and overleaning rocks, themselves huge as hills; here blackened with shade, there overspread with glory; interlaced with the silvery lines of many falling streams, which, hurrying from heaven to earth, cared not how they went, so it were downwards. Fearful stories were told of many an awful gulf, many a sullen pool, and many a dread and dizzy height upon that terror-haunted mountain. But, except in storms, when the wind roared like thunder in its caverns and along the jagged sides of its cliffs, no sound from that uplifted land—uplifted, yet secret and full of dismay—ever reached my ears. Did I say no sound? But I must not anticipate.
I will now describe that peculiarity to which I have referred. I have some reason to believe that I have inherited it from a far-off ancestor. It seemed to have its root in an unusual delicacy of hearing, which often conveyed to me sounds inaudible to those about me. This I had many opportunities of proving. It likewise, however, brought me sounds which I could never trace back to their origin; but which, notwithstanding, may have arisen from some natural operation which I had not perseverance or mental acuteness sufficient to discover. From this, or, it may be, from some deeper cause with which this was associated, arose a certain kind of fearfulness connected with the sense of hearing, of which I have never heard a corresponding instance, but which I think I can easily make you understand. Full as my mind was of the wild and sometimes fearful tales of a Highland nursery, fear never entered my mind by the eyes; nor, when I brooded over tales of terror, and fancied new and yet more frightful embodiments of horror, did I shudder at any imaginable spectacle, or tremble lest the fancy should become fact, and from behind the whin-bush or the elder-hedge should glide forth the tall swaying form of the Boneless. Indeed, when I was alone in bed, I used to lie awake, and look out into the room, peopling it with the forms of all the persons who had died within the scope of my memory and acquaintance. These fancied forms were vividly present to my imagination. I pictured them pale, with dark circles around their hollow eyes, visible by a light which glimmered within them; not the light of life, but a pale greenish phosphorescence, generated by the decay of the brain inside. Their garments were white and trailing, but torn and soiled, as if by trying often in vain to get up out of the buried coffin. So far from being terrified by these imaginings, I used to delight in them; and even, when on a long winter evening I did not happen to have any book to read that interested me sufficiently, to look forward with expectation to the hour when, laying myself straight upon my back, as if my bed were my coffin, I could call up from underground all who had passed away, and see how they fared, yea even what progress they had made towards final dissolution of form;—but, observe, all the time with my fingers pushed hard into my ears, lest any the faintest sound should invade the silent citadel of my soul. If by chance I removed one of my fingers, the agony of terror I instantly experienced was such as to be, by me at least, indescribable. I can compare it to nothing but the rushing in upon my brain of a whole churchyard of spectres. The very possibility of hearing a sound in such a mood, and at such a time, was enough to torture me. So I could scare myself in broad daylight, on the open hill-side, by imaginary unintelligible sounds; and my imagination was both original and fertile in the invention of such. But my mind was too active to be often subjected to such influences. Indeed life would have been hardly endurable, had these moods been of more than occasional occurrence. As I grew older, I almost outgrew them. Yet sometimes one awful dread would seize me—that, perhaps, the prophetic power manifest in the gift of second sight, which had belonged to several of my ancestors, according to the testimony of my old nurse, had been in my case transformed in kind, without losing its nature, and had transferred its abode from the sight to the hearing, whence resulted its keenness, and my fear and suffering.
One summer evening, I had lingered longer than usual in my rocky retreat: I had lain half-dreaming in the mouth of the cave, till the shadows of evening had fallen, and the gloaming had deepened half-way towards the night. But the night had no more terrors for me than the day. Indeed, in such regions there is a solitude, for the recognition of which there almost seems to exist a peculiar sense in the human mind, and upon which the shadows of night seem to sink with a strange relief, closing in around, and hiding from the eye the wide space which yet they throw more open to the imagination. When I lifted my head, a star here and there caught my eye; but when I looked intently into the depths of blue gray, I saw that they were crowded with twinkles. The mountain rose before me a huge mass of gloom; but its several peaks stood out against the sky with a clear, pure, sharp outline, and seemed nearer than the chaos from which they rose heavenwards. One star trembled and throbbed upon the very tip of the loftiest, the central peak, which seemed the spire of a mighty temple, where the light was worshipped—crowned, therefore, in the darkness, with the emblem of the day. This fancy was still in my thought, when I heard, clear, though faint and far away, the sound as of the iron-shod hoofs of a horse, in furious gallop along an uneven rocky surface. It was more like a distinct echo than an original sound. It seemed to come from the face of the mountain, where I knew no horse could go at that speed, even if its rider courted his certain destruction. There was a peculiarity too in the sound—a certain tinkle, or clank, which seemed only to mingle with the body of the sound, and which I fancied myself able, by auricular analysis, to separate from it, assigning to it a regular interval of recurrence. Supposing the sound to be caused by the feet of a horse, the peculiarity was just such as would result from one of the shoes being loose. A strange terror seized me, and I hastened home. The sounds gradually died away as I descended the hill. I could not account for them, except on the supposition that they were an echo from the precipice. But I knew of no road lying so that, if a horse were galloping upon it, the sounds would be reflected from the mountain to me.
The next day, in one of my rambles, I found myself near the cottage of my old foster-mother, who was distantly related to us, and was a trusted servant in the family at the time I was born. On the death of my mother, which took place almost immediately after my birth, she took the entire charge of me, and brought me up, though with difficulty; for she used to tell me I should never be either folk or fairy. For some years she had lived alone in a cottage, which lay at the bottom of a deep green circular hollow, upon which one came with a sudden surprise in walking over a heathy table-land. I was her frequent visitor. She was a tall, thin, aged woman, with eager eyes, and well-defined, clear-cut features. Her voice was harsh, but with an undertone of great tenderness. She was scrupulously careful in her attire, which was rather above her station. Altogether she had much the bearing of a gentlewoman. Her devotion to me was quite motherly. Never having had any family of her own, although she had been the wife of one of my father’s shepherds, the whole maternity of her nature was expended upon me; but this without much show of affection, compared with what would be expected in a more southern climate. She was always my first resource in any perplexity, for I was sure of all the help she could give me. And as she had much influence with my father, who was rather severe in his notions, I had now and then occasion to beg her interference in regard to some slight aberration or other from what he considered the path of strict decorum. Nothing of the sort, however, led to my visit on the present occasion.
I ran down the side of the basin and entered the little cottage. Nurse was seated on a chair by the wall, with her usual knitting, a stocking, in one hand; but her hands were motionless, and her eyes wide open and fixed. I knew that the neighbours stood rather in awe of her, on the ground that she had the second sight; but although she often told us frightful enough stories, she never alluded to such a gift as being in her possession. Now I concluded at once that she was seeing. I was confirmed in this conclusion when, seeming to come to herself suddenly, she covered her head with her plaid, and sobbed audibly, in spite of her efforts to command herself. But I did not dare to ask her any questions, nor did she attempt any excuse for her behaviour. After a few moments, she unveiled herself, rose, and welcomed me with her usual kindness; then got me some refreshment, and began to question me about matters at home. After a pause, she said suddenly: “When are you going to get your commission, Duncan, do you know?” I replied, that I had heard nothing of it; that I did not think my father had influence or money enough to procure me one, and that I feared I should have no such good chance of distinguishing myself. She did not answer, but nodded her head three times, slowly and with compressed lips, apparently as much as to say, “I know better.”
Just as I was leaving her, it occurred to me to mention that I had heard an odd sound the night before. She turned full towards me, and looked at me fixedly. “What was it like, Duncan, my dear?”
“Like a horse galloping with a loose shoe,” I replied.
“Duncan, Duncan, my darling,” she said, with a low, trembling voice, but with passionate earnestness, “you did not hear it? Tell me that you did not hear it! You only want to frighten poor old nurse: some one has been telling you the story!”
It was my turn to be frightened now; for the matter became at once associated with my fears as to the possible nature of my auricular peculiarities. I assured her that nothing was farther from my intention than to frighten her; that, on the contrary, she had rather alarmed me; and I begged her to explain. But she sat down white and trembling, and did not speak. Presently, however, she rose again, and saying, “I have known it happen sometimes without anything very bad following,” began to put away the basin and plate I had been eating and drinking from, as if she would compel herself to be calm before me. I renewed my entreaties for an explanation, but without avail; for she begged me to be content for a few days, as she was quite unable to tell the story at present. She promised, however, of her own accord, that before I left home, she would tell me all she knew about it. The next day a letter arrived announcing the death of a distant relation, by whose influence my father had had a lingering hope of obtaining an appointment for me. There was nothing left but to look out for a situation as tutor.
I was now nineteen. I had completed the usual curriculum of study at one of the Scotch universities; and, possessed of a fair knowledge of mathematics and physics, and what I considered rather more than a good foundation of classical and metaphysical acquirement, I resolved to apply for the first suitable situation that offered. But I was spared even this trouble in the matter. Through a circuitous channel, a certain Lord Hilton, an English nobleman, residing in one of the southern counties of England, having heard that one of my father’s sons was desirous of such a situation, wrote to him, offering me the post of tutor to his two boys, of the ages of ten and twelve. He had himself been partly educated at a Scotch university; and this, it may be, had prejudiced him in favour of a Scotch tutor; while an ancient alliance of the families by marriage was supposed by my nurse to be the cause of his offering me the post. Of this connection, however, my father said nothing to me, and it went for nothing in my anticipations. I was to receive a hundred pounds a year, and to hold in the family the position of a gentleman; which might mean anything or nothing, according to the disposition of the heads of the family. Preparations for my departure were immediately commenced; and I set out one evening for the cottage of my old nurse, to bid her good-bye for many months, or probably years. I was to leave the next day for Edinburgh, on my way to London, whence I had to repair by coach to my new abode—almost to me like the land beyond the grave, so little did I know about it, and so wide was the separation between it and my home. The evening was sultry when I began my walk, and before I arrived at nurse’s cottage, the clouds rising from all quarters of the horizon, and especially gathering around the peaks of the mountain, betokened the near approach of a thunder-storm. This was a great delight to me. Gladly would I take leave of my home with the memory of a last night of tumultuous magnificence, followed, probably, by a day of weeping rain, well suited to the mood of my own heart in bidding farewell to the best of parents and the dearest of homes. Besides, in common with most Scotchmen who are young and hardy enough to be unable to realize to themselves the existence of coughs and rheumatic fevers, it was a positive pleasure to me to be out in rain, hail, or snow.
“I am come to bid you good-bye, Margaret, and to hear the story which you promised to tell me before I left home: I go to-morrow.”
“Do you go so soon, my darling? Well, it will be an awful night to tell it in; but, as I promised, I suppose I must.”
At the moment, down the wide chimney fell two or three great drops of rain, with slight explosions upon the clear turf-fire, the first of the storm.
“Yes, indeed you must,” I replied; and she commenced. Of course it was all told in Gaelic; and I translate from my recollection of the Gaelic; or, perhaps, rather from the impression left upon my mind, than from any recollection of the words. We sat a little way back from the fire, which we had reason to fear would soon be put out by the falling rain.
“How old the story is, I do not know. It has come down through many generations. My grandmother told it to me, as I tell it to you; and her mother and my mother sat beside, never interrupting, but nodding their heads at every turn. Almost it ought to begin like the fairy tales, Once upon a time,—it took place so long ago; but it is too dreadful and too true to tell like a fairy tale. There were two brothers, sons of the chief of our clan, but as different in appearance and disposition, as two men could be. The elder was fair-haired and strong, much given to hunting and fishing; fighting too, upon occasion, I daresay, when they made a foray upon the Saxon, to get back a mouthful of their own. But he was gentleness itself to every one about him, and the very soul of honour in all his doings. The younger was very dark in complexion, and tall and slender compared to his brother. He was very fond of book-learning, which, they say, was an uncommon taste in those times. He did not care for any sports or bodily exercises but one, and that too, was unusual in these parts. It was horsemanship. He was a fierce rider, and seemed as much at home in the saddle as in his study chair. You may think that, so long ago, there was not much fit room for riding hereabouts; but, fit or not fit, he rode. From his reading and riding, the neighbours looked doubtfully upon him, and whispered about the black art. He usually bestrode a great powerful black horse, without a white hair on him; and people said it was either the devil himself, or a demon-horse from the devil’s own stud. What favoured this notion was, that the brute would let no other than his master go near him, in or out of the stable. Indeed no one would venture, after he had already killed two men, and grievously maimed a third, tearing him with his teeth and hoofs like a wild beast. But to his master he was obedient as a hound, and was sometimes seen to tremble in his presence.
“The youth’s temper corresponded to his habits. He was both gloomy and passionate. Prone to anger, he had never been known to forgive. Debarred from anything on which he had set his heart, he would have gone mad with longing if he had not gone mad with rage. His soul was like the night around us now, dark and sultry and silent, but lighted up by the red levin of wrath, and torn by the bellowings of thunder passion. He must have his will: hell might have his soul. Imagine then the rage and malice in his heart, when he suddenly became aware that an orphan girl, distantly related to them, who had lived with them for nearly two years, and whom he had loved for almost all that period, was loved by his elder brother, and loved him in return. He flung his right hand above his head, swore a terrible oath that if he might not his brother should not, rushed out of the house, and galloped off among the hills.
“The orphan was a beautiful girl, tall, pale, and slender, with plentiful dark hair, which, when released from the snood, rippled down below her knees. Her appearance consequently formed a strong contrast with that of her favoured lover, and of course there was some resemblance between her and the other. This fact seemed, to the fierce selfishness of the younger, to be ground for a prior claim.
“It may seem strange that a man like him should not have had instant recourse to his superior and hidden knowledge, by means of which he might have got rid of his rival with far more certainty and less risk; but I presume that for the moment his passion overwhelmed his consciousness of skill. Yet I do not suppose that he foresaw the mode in which his hatred was about to operate. At the moment when he learned their mutual attachment, probably through a domestic, the lady was on her way to meet her lover as he returned from the day’s sport. The appointed place was on the edge of a deep rocky ravine, down in whose dark bosom brawled and foamed a little mountain torrent. You know the place, Duncan, my dear, I daresay.”
(Here she gave me a minute description of the spot, with directions how to find it.)
“Whether any one saw what I am about to relate, or whether it was put together afterwards, partly from conjecture, I cannot tell. The story is like an old tree—so old that it has lost the marks of its growth. But this is how my grandmother told it to me. An evil chance led him in the right direction. The lovers, startled by the sound of the approaching horse, parted in opposite directions along a narrow mountain-path on the edge of the ravine. Into this path he struck at a point near where the lovers had met, but to opposite sides of which they had now receded; so that he was between them on the path. Turning his horse up the course of the stream, he soon came in sight of his brother on the ledge before him. With a suppressed scream of rage, he rode headlong at him, and ere he had time to make the least defence, hurled him over the precipice. The weakness of the strong man was uttered in one single despairing cry as he shot into the abyss. Then all was still. The sound of his fall could not reach the edge of the gulf. Divining in a moment that the lady, whose name was Elsie, must have fled in the opposite direction, he reined his steed on his haunches. He could touch the precipice with his bridle hand half outstretched; his sword hand outstretched would have dropped a stone to the bottom of the ravine. There was no room to wheel. One desperate practicability alone remained. Turning his horse’s head towards the edge, he compelled him by means of the powerful bit alone, to rear till he stood almost erect; and so, his body swaying over the gulf, with quivering and straining muscles to turn on his hind-legs. Having completed the half-circle, he let him drop on all fours, and urged him furiously in the opposite direction. It must have been by the devil’s own care that he was able to continue his gallop along that ledge of rock.
“He soon caught sight of the maiden, as she leaned half-fainting against the precipice. She had heard her lover’s last cry, and although it conveyed no suggestion of his voice to her ear, she trembled from head to foot, and her limbs could bear her no farther. He checked his speed, rode gently up to her, lifted her unresisting, laid her across the shoulders of his reeking horse, and riding carefully till he reached a more open path, dashed again wildly along the mountain-side. The lady’s long hair was shaken loose, and dropped trailing on the ground. The horse trampled upon it, and stumbled, half dragging her from the saddle-bow. He caught her, lifted her up, and looked at her face. She was dead. I suppose he went mad. He laid her again across the saddle before him, and rode on, reckless whither. Horse and man and maiden were found the next day, lying at the foot of a cliff, dashed to pieces. It was observed that a hind-shoe of the horse was loose and broken. Whether this had been the cause of his fall, could not be told; but ever when he races, as race he will, till the day of doom, along that mountain side, his gallop is mingled with the clank of the loose and broken shoe. For the punishment is awful like the sin: he shall carry about for ages the phantom-body of the girl, knowing that her soul is away, sitting with the soul of his brother, down in the deep ravine, or scaling with his the topmost crags of the towering mountain-peaks. There are some who see him from time to time, careening along the face of the mountain, with the lady hanging across the steed; and they say it always betokens a storm, such as this which is now raving all about us.”
I had not noticed till now, so absorbed had I been in her tale, that the storm had risen to a very ecstasy of fury.
“They say, likewise, that the lady’s hair is still growing; for, every time they see her, it is longer than before; and that now, such is its length and the headlong speed of the horse, it floats and streams out behind like one of those curved clouds that lie like a comet’s tail far up in the sky; only the cloud is white, and the hair dark as night. And they say it will go on growing till the Last Day, when the horse will falter and fall, and her hair will gather in, and twist, and twine, and wreathe itself like a mist of threads about him, and blind him to everything but her. Then the body will rise up within it, face to face with him, animated by a fiend, who, twining her arms around him, will drag him down to the bottomless pit.”
I may just mention here one little occurrence which seemed to have a strange effect on my old nurse; and which illustrates the assertion that we see around us only what is within us: marvellous things enough will show themselves to the marvellous mood. During a short lull in the storm, we heard the sound of iron-shod hoofs approaching the cottage. There was no bridleway into the glen. A knock came to the door, and, on opening it, we saw an old man seated on a horse, with a long slenderly-filled sack lying across the saddle before him. He said he had lost his way in the storm, and seeing the light, had scrambled down to inquire his way. I saw at once from the scared and mysterious look of the old woman’s eyes, that to her dying day nothing would persuade her that this appearance had not something to do with the awful rider, the terrific storm, and myself who had heard the sound of the phantom-hoofs. She looked after him as he again ascended the hill, with wide and pale but unshrinking eyes; and turning in, shut and locked the door behind her, as by a natural instinct. Then, after two or three of her significant nods, accompanied by the compression of her lips, she said:—
“He need not think to take me in, wizard as he is, with his disguises. I can see him through them all. Duncan, my dear, when you suspect anything, do not be too incredulous. This human demon is of course a wizard still; and knows how to make himself, and anything he has to do with, take quite different appearances from their real ones; only the appearances must always bear some resemblance, however distant, to the natural forms. That man you saw at the door was the phantom of which I have been telling you. What he is after now, of course I cannot tell; but you must keep a bold heart, and a firm and wary foot, as you go home to-night.”
I showed some surprise, I do not doubt, and, perhaps, some fear as well; but only said, “How do you know him, Margaret?”
“I can hardly tell you,” she replied; “but I do know him. I think he hates me. Often, of a wild night, when there is moonlight enough by fits, I see him tearing around this little valley, just on the top edge, all round; the lady’s hair and the horse’s mane and tail driving far behind, and mingling, vaporous, with the stormy clouds. About he goes, in wild careering gallop; now lost as the moon goes in, then visible far round when she looks out again—an airy, pale gray spectre, which few eyes could see but mine. There is no sound, except now and then a clank from the broken shoe. But I did not mean to tell you that I had ever seen him. I am not a bit afraid of him. He cannot do more than he may. His power is limited, else ill enough would he work, the miscreant.”
“But,” said I, “what has all this, terrible as it is, to do with the fright you were put in, by my telling you that I had heard the sound of the broken shoe? Surely you are not afraid of only a storm?”
“No, my boy; I fear no storm. But the fact is, that that sound is seldom heard, and never, as far as I know, by any of the blood of that wicked man, without betokening some ill that will happen to one of the family, and most probably to the one who hears it. But I am not quite sure about that. Only some evil it does portend, although a long time may elapse before it shows itself; and I have a hope it may mean some one else than you.”
“Do not wish that,” I replied. “I know no one better able to bear it than I am; and I will hope, whatever it may be, that I only shall have to meet it. It must surely be something serious to be so foretold—it can hardly be connected with my disappointment in being compelled to be a pedagogue instead of a soldier.”
“Do not trouble yourself about that, Duncan,” replied she; “a soldier you must be. The same day you told me of the clank of the broken horse-shoe, I saw you return wounded from battle, and, in the street of a great city, fall fainting from your horse—only fainting, thank God. But I have particular reasons for being uneasy at your hearing that boding sound. Can you tell me the day and hour of your birth?”
“No,” I replied. “It seems very odd when I think of it, but I really do not know even the day.”
“Nor any one else, which is stranger still,” she answered.
“How does that happen, nurse?”
“We were in terrible anxiety about your mother at the time. So ill was she, after you were just born, in a strange, unaccountable way, that you lay almost neglected for more than an hour. In the very act of giving birth to you, she seemed to the rest around her to be out of her mind, so wildly did she talk; but I knew better. I knew that she was fighting some evil power; and what power it was, I knew full well; for, three times, during her pains, I heard the click of the horse-shoe. But no one could help her. After her delivery, she lay as if in a trance, neither dead, nor at rest, but as if frozen to ice, and conscious of it all the while. Once more I heard the terrible sound of iron; and at the moment your mother started from her trance, screaming, ‘My child! my child!’ We suddenly became aware that no one had attended to the child; and rushed to the place where he lay, wrapped in a blanket. On uncovering him, he was black in the face, and spotted with dark spots upon the throat. I thought he was dead; but with great and almost hopeless pains, we succeeded in making him breathe, and he gradually recovered. But his mother continued dreadfully exhausted. It seemed as if she had spent her life for her child’s defence and birth. That was you, Duncan, my dear. I was in constant attendance upon her.
“About a week after your birth, as near as I can guess, just in the gloaming, I heard yet again the awful clank—only once. Nothing followed till about midnight. Your mother slept, and you lay asleep beside her. I sat by the bedside. A horror fell upon me suddenly, though I neither saw nor heard anything. Your mother started from her sleep with a cry, which sounded as if it came from far away, out of a dream, and did not belong to this world. My blood curdled with fear. She sat up in bed, with wide staring eyes, and half-open rigid lips, and, feeble as she was, thrust her arms straight out before her with great force, her hands open and lifted up, with the palms outwards. The whole action was of one violently repelling another. She began to talk wildly as she had done before you were born, but though I seemed to hear and understand it all at the time, I could not recall a word of it afterwards. It was as if I had listened to it when half-asleep. I attempted to soothe her, putting my arms round her, but she seemed quite unconscious of my presence, and my arms seemed powerless upon the fixed muscles of hers. Not that I tried to constrain her, for I knew that a battle was going on of some kind or other, and my interference might do awful mischief. All the time I was in a state of indescribable cold and suffering; whether more bodily or mental I could not tell. But at length I heard yet again the clank of the shoe. A sudden peace seemed to fall upon my mind—or was it a warm, odorous wind that filled the room? Your mother dropped her arms, and turned feebly towards her baby. She saw that he slept a blessed sleep. She smiled like a glorified spirit, and fell back exhausted on the pillow. I went to the other side of the room to get a cordial, but when I returned to the bedside, I saw at once that she was dead. Her face smiled still, with an expression of the uttermost bliss.”
Nurse ceased, trembling as if overcome by the recollection; and I was too much moved and awed to speak. At length, resuming the conversation, she said: “You see it is no wonder, Duncan, my dear, if, after all this, I should find, when I wanted to fix the date of your birth, that I could not determine the day or the hour when it took place. All was confusion in my poor brain. But it was strange that no one else could, any more than I. One thing only I can tell you about it. As I carried you across the room to lay you down, for I assisted at your birth, I happened to look up to the window, and then saw what I did not forget, although I did not think of it again till many days after,—that a bright star shone within the half-circle of the thin crescent moon.”
“Oh, then,” said I, “it will be quite easy to determine the exact day and the very hour when my birth took place.”
“See the good of book-learning,” replied she. “When you work it out, just let me know, my dear, that I may remember it.”
“That I will.”
A silence of some moments followed. Margaret resumed:
“I am afraid you will laugh at my foolish fancies, Duncan; but in thinking over all these things, as you may suppose I often do, lying awake in my lonely bed, the notion sometimes comes to me: What if my Duncan be the spirit of the youth whom his wicked brother hurled into the ravine, come again in a new body to live out yet his life on the earth, cut short by his brother’s hatred? If so, then his persecution of you, and of your mother for your sake, would be easily understood. And if so, you will never be able to rest till you find your mate, wherever she may have been born on the face of the wide earth. For born she must be, long ere now, for you to find. I misdoubt me much, however, should this be the case, whether you will find her without great conflict and suffering between, for the Powers of Darkness will be against you; though I have good hope that you will overcome at last. You must forgive the fancies of a foolish old woman, my dear.”
I will not try to describe the strange feelings, almost sensations, that arose in me while listening to these extraordinary utterances, lest it should be supposed I was ready to believe all that Margaret narrated or concluded. I could not help doubting her sanity; but no more could I help feeling very peculiarly moved by her narrative. Few more words were spoken on either side.
After receiving renewed exhortations to carefulness on my way home, I said good-bye to dear old nurse, considerably comforted, I must confess, that I was not doomed to be a tutor all my days; for I never questioned the truth of nurse’s vision and consequent prophecy. I went home in the full ecstasy of the storm, through the alternating throbs of blackness and radiance; now the possessor of no more room than what my body filled, and now isolated in world-wide space—and the thunder filled it all.
Absorbed in the story I had heard, I took my way, as I thought, homewards. The whole country was well known to me. I should have said, before that night, that I could have gone home blindfold. Whether the lightning bewildered me and made me take a false turn, I cannot tell; for the hardest thing to understand, in moral as well as physical mistakes, is how we came to go wrong. But after wandering for some time, plunged in meditation, and with no warnings whatever of the presence of inimical powers, a most brilliant lightning-flash showed me that at least I was not near home. The flash was prolonged by a slight electric pulsation, which continued for a second or two; and by that I distinguished a wide space of blackness on the ground in front of me. Once more wrapt in the folds of a thick darkness, I dared not move. Suddenly it occurred to me what the blackness was, and whither I had wandered. It was a huge quarry, of great depth, long disused, and half filled with water. I knew the place perfectly. A few more steps would have carried me over the brink. I stood still, waiting for the next flash, that I might be quite sure of the direction I was taking before I dared to move. While I stood, I fancied that I heard a single hollow plunge in the black water far below. When the lightning came, I turned, and took my way back. After walking for some time across the heath, I stumbled, and to my horror found I was falling. The fall soon became a roll, however, and down a steep declivity I went, over and over, arriving at the bottom uninjured.
Another flash soon showed me where I was—in the hollow valley, within a couple of hundred yards from nurse’s cottage. I made my way towards it. There was no light in it, except the feeblest glow from the embers. “She is in bed,” I said to myself, “and I will not disturb her; ”yet something drew me to look in at the little window. At first@ I could see nothing. At length, as I kept gazing, I saw something, indistinct in the darkness, like an outstretched human form.
By this time the storm had lulled. The moon had been up for some time, but had been quite concealed by tempestuous clouds. Now, however, these had begun to break up; and, while I looked into the cottage, they scattered away from the face of the moon, and a faint vapoury gleam of her light, entering the cottage through a window opposite that at which I stood, fell directly on the face of my old nurse, as she lay on her back outstretched upon chairs, pale as death, and with her eyes closed. A stranger to her habits would have thought she was dead; but she had so much of the same appearance as she had had in a former instance which I have described, that I concluded at once she was in one of her trances. Having often heard that persons in such a condition ought not to be disturbed, and feeling quite sure she knew best how to manage herself, I turned, though reluctantly, and left the lone cottage in the stormy night, with the death-like woman lying motionless in the midst of it. I found my way home without any further difficulty, and went to bed, where I soon fell asleep, thoroughly wearied, more by the mental excitement I had been experiencing, than by the amount of bodily exercise I had gone through.
My sleep was tormented with awful dreams; yet, strange to say, I awoke in the morning refreshed and fearless. The sun was shining through several chinks in my shutters, and making, even upon the gloomy curtains, streaks and bands of golden brilliancy. I had dressed and completed my preparations long before I heard the steps of the servant who came to call me.
What a wonderful thing waking is! The time of the ghostly moonshine—we sleep it by; and the great positive sunlight comes: it fills me with thoughts. As with a man who dreams, and knows that he is dreaming, and thinks he knows what waking is, but knows it so little that he mistakes, one after another, many a vague and dim change in his dream for an awaking, and when the true waking comes at last, is filled and overflowed with the power of its reality: so shall it be with us when we wake from this dream of life into the truer life beyond, and find all our present notions of being, thrown back as into a dim vapoury region of dreamland, where yet we thought we knew, and whence we looked forward into the present: as (to use another likeness) a who, in the night, when another is about to cause light in the room, lies trying to conceive, with all the force of his imagination, what the light will be like, is yet, when most successful, seized as by a new and unexpected thing, different from and beyond all his imagining, when the reality flames up before him, and he feels as if the darkness were cast to an infinite distance behind him. This must be what Novalis means when he says: Our life is not a dream; but it may become a dream, and perhaps ought to become one.
I left my home, and have never since revisited it. When I next heard the sound of the clanking iron, although it affected me with irresistible terror, I little anticipated the influence of the event with which it was associated. Before many years had elapsed, my foster-mother’s prevision of my fall from a horse in the street of a city, was fulfilled: this, too, was immediately preceded by the ominous sound, easily distinguishable by me from the innumerable strokes of iron-shod hoofs upon the stones around me. But both of these occasions are connected with a period of my history involving such events, that the thought of writing it makes me tremble.
The uncle of the present Sir Louis N. Bonaparte, K.G., &c., inaugurated his reign as Emperor over the neighbouring nation by establishing an Order, to which all citizens of his country, military, naval, and civil—all men most distinguished in science, letters, arts, and commerce—were admitted. The emblem of the Order was but a piece of ribbon, more or less long or broad, with a toy at the end of it. The Bourbons had toys and ribbons of their own, blue, black, and all-coloured; and on their return to dominion such good old Tories would naturally have preferred to restore their good old Orders of Saint Louis, Saint Esprit, and Saint Michel: but France had taken the ribbon of the Legion of Honour so to her heart that no Bourbon sovereign dared to pluck it thence.
In England, until very late days, we have been accustomed rather to pooh-pooh national Orders, to vote ribbons and crosses tinsel gewgaws, foolish foreign ornaments, and so forth. It is known how the Great Duke (the breast of whose own coat was plastered with some half-hundred decorations) was averse to the wearing of ribbons, medals, clasps, and the like, by his army. We have all of us read how uncommonly distinguished Lord Castlereagh looked at Vienna, where he was the only gentleman present without any decoration whatever. And the Great Duke’s theory was, that clasps and ribbons, stars and garters, were good and proper ornaments for himself, for the chief officers of his distinguished army, and for gentlemen of high birth, who might naturally claim to wear a band of garter blue across their waistcoats; but that for common people your plain coat, without stars and ribbons, was the most sensible wear.
And no doubt you and I are as happy, as free, as comfortable; we can walk and dine as well; we can keep the winter’s cold out as well, without a star on our coats, as without a feather in our hats. How often we have laughed at the absurd mania of the Americans for dubbing their senators, members of Congress, and States’ representatives, Honourable! We have a right to call our privy councillors Right Honourable, our lords’ sons Honourable, and so forth: but for a nation as numerous, well educated, strong, rich, civilized, free as our own, to dare to give its distinguished citizens titles of honour—monstrous assumption of low-bred arrogance and parvenue vanity! Our titles are respectable, but theirs absurd. Mr. Jones, of London, a chancellor’s son, and a tailor’s grandson, is justly honourable, and entitled to be Lord Jones at his noble father’s decease: but Mr. Brown, the senator from New York, is a silly upstart for tacking Honourable to his name, and our sturdy British good sense laughs at him. Who has not laughed (I have myself) at Honourable Nahum Dodge, Honourable Zeno Scudder, Honourable Hiram Boake, and the rest? A score of such queer names and titles I have smiled at in America. And, mutato nomine? I meet a born idiot, who is a peer and born legislator. This drivelling noodle and his descendants through life are your natural superiors and mine-your and my children’s superiors. I read of an alderman kneeling and knighted at court: I see a gold-stick waddling backwards before majesty in a procession, and if we laugh, don’t you suppose the Americans laugh too?
Yes, stars, garters, orders, knighthoods, and the like are folly. Yes, Bobus, citizen and soap-boiler, is a good man, and no one laughs at him or good Mrs. Bobus, as they have their dinner at one o’clock. But who will not jeer at Sir Thomas on a melting day, and Lady Bobus, at Margate, eating shrimps in a donkey-chaise? Yes, knighthood is absurd: and chivalry an idiotic superstition: and Sir Walter Manny was a zany: and Nelson, with his flaming stars and cordons, splendent upon a day of battle, was a madman: and Murat, with his crosses and orders, at the head of his squadrons charging victorious, was only a crazy mountebank, who had been a tavern-waiter, and was puffed up with absurd vanity about his dress and legs. And the men of the French line at Fontenoy, who told Messieurs de la Garde to fire first, were smirking French dancing-masters; and the Black Prince, waiting upon his royal prisoner, was acting an inane masquerade; and Chivalry is naught; and Honour is humbug; and Gentlemanhood is an extinct folly; and Ambition is madness; and desire of distinction is criminal vanity; and glory is bosh; and fair fame is idleness; and nothing is true but two and two; and the colour of all the world is drab; and all men are equal; and one man is as tall as another; and one man is as good as another—and a great dale betther, as the Irish philosopher said.
Is this so? Titles and badges of honour are vanity; and in the American Revolution you have his Excellency General Washington sending back, and with proper spirit sending back, a letter in which he is not addressed as Excellency and General. Titles are abolished; and the American Republic swarms with men claiming and bearing them. You have the French soldier cheered and happy in his dying agony, and kissing with frantic joy the chief’s hand who lays the little cross on the bleeding bosom. At home you have the dukes and earls jobbing and intriguing for the Garter; the military knights grumbling at the civil knights of the Bath; the little ribbon eager for the collar; the soldiers and seamen from India and the Crimea marching in procession before the queen, and receiving from her hands the cross bearing her royal name. And, remember, there are not only the cross wearers, but all the fathers and friends; all the women who have prayed for their absent heroes; Harry’s wife, and Tom’s mother, and Jack’s daughter, and Frank’s sweetheart, each of whom wears in her heart of hearts afterwards the badge which son, father, lover has won by his merit; each of whom is made happy and proud, and is bound to the country by that little bit of ribbon.
I have heard, in a lecture about George the Third, that, at his accession, the king had a mind to establish an Order for literary men. It was to have been called the Order of Minerva—I suppose with an Owl for a badge. The knights were to have worn a star of sixteen points, and a yellow ribbon; and good old Samuel Johnson was talked of as President, or Grand Cross, or Grand Owl, of the society. Now about such an order as this there certainly may be doubts. Consider the claimants, the difficulty of settling their claims, the rows and squabbles amongst the candidates, and the subsequent decision of posterity! Dr. Beattie would have ranked as first poet, and twenty years after the sublime Mr. Hayley would, no doubt, have claimed the Grand Cross. Mr. Gibbon would not have been eligible on account of his dangerous freethinking opinions; and her sex, as well as her republican sentiments, might have interfered with the knighthood of the immortal Mrs. Catharine Macaulay. How Goldsmith would have paraded the ribbon at Madame Cornelys’s, or the Academy dinner! How Peter Pindar would have railed at it! Fifty years later, the noble Scott would have worn the Grand Cross and deserved it; but Gifford would have had it; and Byron, and Shelley, and Hazlitt, and Hunt would have been without it; and had Keats been proposed as officer, how the Tory prints would have yelled with rage and scorn! Had the star of Minerva lasted to our present time——but I pause, not because the idea is dazzling, but too awful. Fancy the claimants, and the row about their precedence! Which philosopher shall have the grand cordon?—which the collar?—which the little scrap no bigger than a buttercup? Of the historians—A, say,—and C, and F, and G, and S, and T,—which shall be Companion and which Grand Owl? Of the poets, who wears, or claims, the largest and brightest star? Of the novelists, there is A, and B and C D; and E (star of first magnitude, newly discovered), and F (a magazine of wit), and fair G, and H, and I, and brave old J, and charming K, and L, and M, and N, and O (fair twinklers), and I am puzzled between three P’s—Peacock, Miss Pardoe, and Paul Pry—and Queechy, and R, and S, and T, mère et fils, and very likely U, O gentle reader, for who has not written his novel now-a-days?—who has not a claim to the star and straw-coloured ribbon?—and who shall have the biggest and largest? Fancy the struggle! Fancy the squabble! Fancy the distribution of prizes!
Who shall decide on them? Shall it be the sovereign? shall it be the minister for the time being? and has Lord Palmerston made a deep study of novels? In this matter the late ministry, to be sure, was better qualified; but even then, grumblers who had not got their canary cordons, would have hinted at professional jealousies entering the cabinet; and, the ribbons being awarded, Jack would have scowled at his because Dick had a broader one; Ned been indignant because Bob’s was as large: Tom would have thrust his into the drawer, and scorned to wear it at all. No—no: the so-called literary world was well rid of Minerva and her yellow ribbon. The great poets would have been indifferent, the little poets jealous, the funny men furious, the philosophers satirical, the historians supercilious, and, finally, the jobs without end. Say, ingenuity and cleverness are to be rewarded by State tokens and prizes—and take for granted the Order of Minerva is established—who shall have it? A great philosopher? no doubt, we cordially salute him G.C.M. A great historian? G.C.M. of course. A great engineer? G.C.M. A great poet? received with acclamation G.C.M. A great painter? oh! certainly, G.C.M. If a great painter, why not a great novelist? Well, pass, great novelist, G.C.M. But if a poetic, a pictorial, a story-telling or music-composing artist, why not a singing artist? Why not a basso-profondo? Why not a primo tenore? And if a singer, why should not a ballet-dancer come bounding on the stage with his cordon, and cut capers to the music of a row of decorated fiddlers? A chemist puts in his claim for having invented a new colour; an apothecary for a new pill; the cook for a new sauce; the tailor for a new cut of trowsers. We have brought the star of Minerva down from the breast to the pantaloons. Stars and garters! can we go any farther; or shall we give the shoemaker the yellow ribbon of the Order for his shoetie?
When I began this present Roundabout excursion, I think I had not quite made up my mind whether we would have an Order of all the Talents or not: I think I rather had a hankering for a rich ribbon and gorgeous star, in which my family might like to see me at parties in my best waistcoat. But then the door opens, and there come in, and by the same right too, Sir Alexis Soyer! Sir Alessandro Tamburini! Sir Agostino Velluti! Sir Antonio Paganini (violinist)! Sir Sandy McGuffog (piper to the most noble the Marquis of Farintosh)! Sir Alcide Flicflac (premier danseur of H.M. Theatre)! Sir Harley Quin and Sir Joseph Grimaldi (from Covent Garden)! They have all the yellow ribbon. They are all honourable, and clever, and distinguished artists. Let us elbow through the rooms, make a bow to the lady of the house, give a nod to Sir George Thrum, who is leading the orchestra, and go and get some champagne and seltzer-water from Sir Richard Gunter, who is presiding at the buffet. A national decoration might be well and good: a token awarded by the country to all its bene-merentibus: but most gentlemen with Minerva stars would, I think, be inclined to wear very wide breast-collars to their coats. Suppose yourself, brother penman, decorated with this ribbon, and looking in the glass, would you not laugh? Would not wife and daughters laugh at that canary-coloured emblem?
But suppose a man, old or young, of figure ever so stout, thin, stumpy, homely, indulging in looking-glass reflections with that hideous ribbon and cross called V. C. on his coat, would he not be proud? and his family, would not they be prouder? For your noblemen there is the famous old blue garter and star, and welcome. If I were a marquis—if I had thirty—forty thousand a year (settle the sum, my dear Alnaschar, according to your liking), I should consider myself entitled to my seat in parliament and to my garter. The garter belongs to the Ornamental Classes. Have you seen the new magnificent Pavo Spicifer at the Zoological Gardens, and do you grudge him his jewelled coronet and the azure splendour of his waistcoat? I like my lord mayor to have a gilt coach; my magnificent monarch to be surrounded by magnificent nobles: I huzzay respectfully when they pass in procession. It is good for Mr. Briefless (50, Pump Court, fourth floor) that there should be a Lord Chancellor, with a gold robe and fifteen thousand a year. It is good for a poor curate that there should be splendid bishops at Fulham and Lambeth: their lordships were poor curates once, and have won, so to speak, their ribbon. Is a man who puts into a lottery to be sulky because he does not win the twenty thousand pounds prize? Am I to fall into a rage, and bully my family when I come home, after going to see Chatsworth or Windsor, because we have only two little drawing-rooms? Welcome to your garter, my lord, and shame upon him qui mal y pense!
So I arrive in my roundabout way near the point towards which I have been trotting ever since we set out.
In a voyage to America, some nine years since, on the seventh or eighth day out from Liverpool, Captain L—— came to dinner at eight bells as usual, talked a little to the persons right and left of him, and helped the soup with his accustomed politeness. Then he went on deck, and was back in a minute, and operated on the fish, looking rather grave the while.
Then he went on deck again; and this time was absent, it may be, three or five minutes, during which the fish disappeared, and the entrées arrived, and the roast beef. Say ten minutes passed—I can’t tell after nine years.
Then L—— came down with a pleased and happy countenance this time, and began carving the sirloin: “We have seen the light,” he said. “Madam, may I help you to a little gravy, or a little horse-radish?” or what-not?
I forget the name of the light; nor does it matter. It was a point of Newfoundland for which he was on the look-out, and so well did the Canada know where she was, that, between soup and beef, the captain had sighted the headland by which his course was lying.
And so through storm and darkness, through fog and midnight, the ship had pursued her steady way over the pathless ocean and roaring seas, so surely that the officers who sailed her knew her place within a minute or two, and guided us with a wonderful providence safe on our way. Since the noble Cunard Company has run its ships, but one accident, and that through the error of a pilot, has happened on the line.
By this little incident (hourly of course repeated, and trivial to all sea-going people) I own I was immensely moved, and never can think of it but with a heart full of thanks and awe. We trust our lives to these seamen, and how nobly they fulfil their trust! They are, under heaven, as a providence for us. Whilst we sleep, their untiring watchfulness keeps guard over us. All night through that bell sounds at its season, and tells how our sentinels defend us. It rang when the Amazon was on fire, and chimed its heroic signal of duty, and courage, and honour. Think of the dangers these seamen undergo for us: the hourly peril and watch; the familiar storm; the dreadful iceberg; the long winter nights when the decks are as glass, and the sailor has to climb through icicles to bend the stiff sail on the yard. Think of their courage and their kindnesses in cold, in tempest, in hunger, in wreck! “The women and children to the boats,” says the captain of the Birkenhead, and, with the troops formed on the deck, and the crew obedient to the word of glorious command, the immortal ship goes down. Read the story of the Sarah Sands:—
“The screw steam-ship Sarah Sands, 1,330 registered tons, was chartered by the East India Company in the autumn of 1858, for the conveyance of troops to India. She was commanded by John Squire Castle. She took out a part of the 54th Regiment, upwards of 350 persons, besides the wives and children of some of the men, and the families of some of the officers. All went well till the 11th November, when the ship had reached lat. 14 S., longitude 56 E., upwards of 400 miles from the Mauritius.
“Between three and four p.m. on that day a very strong smell of fire was perceived arising from the after-deck, and upon going below into the hold, Captain Castle found it to be on fire, and immense volumes of smoke arising from it. Endeavours were made to reach the seat of the fire, but in vain; the smoke and heat were too much for the men. There was, however, no confusion. Every order was obeyed with the same coolness and courage with which it was given. The engine was immediately stopped. All sail was taken in, and the ship brought to the wind, so as to drive the smoke and fire, which was in the after-part of the ship, astern. Others were, at the same time, getting fire-hoses fitted and passed to the scene of the fire. The fire, however, continued to increase, and attention was directed to the ammunition contained in the powder magazines, which were situated one on each side the ship immediately above the fire. The starboard magazine was soon cleared. But by this time the whole of the after-part of the ship was so much enveloped in smoke that it was scarcely possible to stand, and great fears were entertained on account of the port magazine. Volunteers were called for, and came immediately, and, under the guidance of Lieutenant Hughes, attempted to clear the port magazine, which they succeeded in doing, with the exception, as was supposed, of one or two barrels. It was most dangerous work. The men became overpowered with the smoke and heat, and fell; and several, whilst thus engaged, were dragged up by ropes senseless.
“The flames soon burst up through the deck, and running rapidly along the various cabins, set the greater part on fire.
“In the meantime Captain Castle took steps for lowering the boats. There was a heavy gale at the time, but they were launched without the least accident. The soldiers were mustered on deck;—there was no rush to the boats;—and the men obeyed the word of command as if on parade. The men were informed that Captain Castle did not despair of saving the ship, but that they must be prepared to leave her if necessary. The women and children were lowered into the port lifeboat, under the charge of Mr. Very, third officer, who had orders to keep clear of the ship until recalled.
“Captain Castle then commenced constructing rafts of spare spars. In a short time, three were put together, which would have been capable of saving a great number of those on board. Two were launched overboard, and safely moored alongside, and then a third was left across the deck forward, ready to be launched.
“In the meantime the fire had made great progress. The whole of the cabins were one body of fire, and at about 8.30 p.m., flames burst through the upper deck, and shortly after the mizen rigging caught fire. Fears were entertained of the ship paying off, in which case the flames would have been swept forwards by the wind; but fortunately the after-braces were burnt through, and the main-yard swung round, which kept the ship’s head to wind. About nine p.m., a fearful explosion took place in the port magazine, arising, no doubt, from the one or two barrels of powder which it had been impossible to remove. By this time the ship was one body of flame, from the stern to the main rigging, and thinking it scarcely possible to save her, Captain Castle called Major Brett (then in command of the troops, for the colonel was in one of the boats) forward, and, telling him that he feared the ship was lost, requested him to endeavour to keep order amongst the troops till the last, but, at the same time, to use every exertion to check the fire. Providentially, the iron bulkhead in the after part of the ship withstood the action of the flames, and here all efforts were concentrated to keep it cool.
“‘No person,’ says the captain, ‘can describe the manner in which the men worked to keep the fire back; one party were below, keeping the bulkhead cool, and when several were dragged up senseless, fresh volunteers took their places, who were, however, soon in the same state. At about ten p.m., the maintopsail-yard took fire. Mr. Welch, one quartermaster, and four or five soldiers, went aloft with wet blankets, and succeeded in extinguishing it, but not until the yard and mast were nearly burnt through. The work of fighting the fire below continued for hours, and about midnight it appeared that some impression was made; and after that, the men drove it back, inch by inch, until daylight, when they had completely got it under. The ship was now in a frightful plight. The after-part was literally burnt out—merely the shell remaining—the port quarter blown out by the explosion: fifteen feet of water in the hold.’
“The gale still prevailed, and the ship was rolling and pitching in a heavy sea, and taking in large quantities of water abaft: the tanks, too, were rolling from side to side in the hold.
“As soon as the smoke was partially cleared away, Captain Castle got spare sails and blankets aft to stop the leak, passing two hawsers round the stem, and setting them up. The troops were employed baling and pumping. This continued during the whole morning.
“In the course of the day the ladies joined the ship. The boats were ordered alongside, but they found the sea too heavy to remain there. The gig had been abandoned during the night, and the crew, under Mr. Wood, fourth officer, had got into another of the boats. The troops were employed the remainder of the day baling and pumping, and the crew securing the stern. All hands were employed during the following night baling and pumping, the boats being moored alongside, where they received some damage. At daylight, on the 13th, the crew were employed hoisting the boats, the troops were working manfully baling and pumping. Latitude at noon, 13 deg. 12 min. south. At five p.m., the foresail and foretopsail were set, the rafts were cut away, and the ship bore for the Mauritius. On Thursday, the 19th, she sighted the island of Rodrigues, and arrived at Mauritius on Monday the 23rd.”
The Nile and Trafalgar are not more glorious to our country, are not greater victories than these won by our merchant seamen. And if you look in the captains’ reports of any maritime register, you will see similar acts recorded every day. I have such a volume, for last year, now lying before me. In the second number, as I open it at hazard, Captain Roberts, master of the ship Empire, from Shields to London, reports how on the 14th ult. (the 14th December, 1859), he, “being off Whitby, discovered the ship to be on fire between the main hold and boilers: got the hose from the engine laid on, and succeeded in subduing the fire; but only apparently; for at seven, the next morning, the Dudgeon bearing S. S. E. seven miles’ distance, the fire again broke out, causing the ship to be enveloped in flames on both sides of midships: got the hose again into play and all hands to work with buckets to combat with the fire. Did not succeed in stopping it till four p.m., to effect which, were obliged to cut away the deck and top sides, and throw overboard part of the cargo. The vessel was very much damaged and leaky: determined to make for the Humber. Ship was run on shore, on the mud, near Grimsby harbour, with five feet water in her hold. The donkey-engine broke down. The water increased so fast as to put out the furnace fires and render the ship almost unmanageable. On the tide flowing, a tug towed the ship off the mud, and got her into Grimsby to repair.”
On the 2nd of November, Captain Strickland, of the Purchase brigantine, from Liverpool to Yarmouth, U. S., “encountered heavy gales from W.N.W. to W.S.W, in lat. 43° N., long. 34° W., in which we lost jib, foretopmast, staysail, topsail, and carried away the foretopmast stays, bobstays and bowsprit, headsails, cut-water and stern, also started the wood ends, which caused the vessel to leak. Put her before the wind and sea, and hove about twenty-five tons of cargo overboard to lighten the ship forward. Slung myself in a bowline, and by means of thrusting 2½-inch rope in the opening, contrived to stop a great portion of the leak.
“December 16th.—The crew, continuing night and day at the pumps, could not keep the ship free; deemed it prudent for the benefit of those concerned to bear up for the nearest port. On arriving in lat. 48° 45′ N., long. 23° W., observed a vessel with a signal of distress flying. Made towards her, when she proved to be the barque Carleton, water-logged. The captain and crew asked to be taken off. Hove to, and received them on board, consisting of thirteen men: and their ship was abandoned. We then proceeded on our course, the crew of the abandoned vessel assisting all they could to keep my ship afloat. We arrived at Cork harbour on the 27th ult.”
Captain Coulson, master of the brig Othello, reports that his brig foundered off Portland, December 27;—encountering a strong gale, and shipping two heavy seas in succession, which hove the ship on her beam-ends. “Observing no chance of saving the ship, took to the long boat, and within ten minutes of leaving her saw the brig founder. We were picked up the same morning by the French ship Commerce de Paris, Captain Tombarel.”
Here, in a single column of a newspaper, what strange, touching pictures do we find of seamen’s dangers, vicissitudes, gallantry, generosity! The ship on fire—the captain in the gale slinging himself in a bowline to stop the leak—the Frenchman in the hour of danger coming to his British comrade’s rescue—the brigantine, almost a wreck, working up to the barque with the signal of distress flying, and taking off her crew of thirteen men: “We then proceeded on our course, the crew of the abandoned vessel assisting all they could to keep my ship afloat.” What noble, simple words! What courage, devotedness, brotherly love! Do they not cause the heart to beat, and the eyes to fill?
This is what seamen do daily, and for one another. One lights occasionally upon different stories. It happened, not very long since, that the passengers by one of the great ocean steamers were wrecked, and, after undergoing the most severe hardships, were left, destitute and helpless, at a miserable coaling port. Amongst them were old men, ladies, and children. When the next steamer arrived, the passengers by that steamer took alarm at the haggard and miserable appearance of their unfortunate predecessors, and actually remonstrated with their own captain, urging him not to take the poor creatures on board. There was every excuse, of course. The last-arrived steamer was already dangerously full: the cabins were crowded; there were sick and delicate people on board—sick and delicate people who had paid a large price to the company for room, food, comfort, already not too sufficient. If fourteen of us are in an omnibus, will we hear three or four women say, “Come in,” because this is the last ’bus, and it rains? Of course not: but think of that remonstrance, and of that Samaritan master of the Purchase brigantine!
In the winter of ’53, I went from Marseilles to Civita Vecchia, in one of the magnificent P. and O. ships, the Valetta, the master of which subsequently did distinguished service in the Crimea. This was his first Mediterranean voyage, and he sailed his ship by the charts alone, going into each port as surely as any pilot. I remember walking the deck at night with this most skilful, gallant, well-bred, and well-educated gentleman, and the glow of eager enthusiasm with which he assented, when I asked him whether he did not think a ribbon or order would be welcome or useful in his service.
Why is there not an Order of Britannia for British seamen? In the Merchant and the Royal Navy alike, occur almost daily instances and occasions for the display of science, skill, bravery, fortitude in trying circumstances, resource in danger. In the First Number of our Magazine, a friend contributed a most touching story of the M’Clintock expedition, in the dangers and dreadful glories of which he shared; and the writer was a merchant captain. How many more are there (and, for the honour of England, may there be many like him!)—gallant, accomplished, high-spirited, enterprising masters of their noble profession! Can our Fountain of Honour not be brought to such men? It plays upon captains and colonels in seemly profusion. It pours forth not illiberal rewards upon doctors and judges. It sprinkles mayors and aldermen. It bedews a painter now and again. It has spirted a baronetcy upon two, and bestowed a coronet upon one noble man of letters. Diplomatists take their Bath in it as of right; and it flings out a profusion of glittering stars upon the nobility of the three kingdoms. Cannot Britannia find a ribbon for her sailors? The Navy, royal or mercantile, is a Service. The command of a ship, or the conduct of her, implies danger, honour, science, skill, subordination, good faith. It may be a victory, such as that of the Sarah Sands; it may be discovery, such as that of the Fox; it may be heroic disaster, such as that of the Birkenhead; and in such events merchant seamen, as well as royal seamen, take their share.
Why is there not, then, an Order of Britannia? One day a young officer of the Euryalus may win it; and, having just read the memoirs of Lord Dundonald, I know who ought to have the first Grand Cross.