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Title: Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 437 - Volume 17, New Series, May 15, 1852
Author: Various
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 437 - Volume 17, New Series, May 15, 1852" ***

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                     CHAMBERS' EDINBURGH JOURNAL

  CONDUCTED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS, EDITORS OF 'CHAMBERS'S
  INFORMATION FOR THE PEOPLE,' 'CHAMBERS'S EDUCATIONAL COURSE,' &c.


  No. 437. NEW SERIES.   SATURDAY, MAY 15, 1852.   PRICE 1-1/2_d._



LONDON CROSSING-SWEEPERS.


There is no occupation in life, be it ever so humble, which is justly
worthy of contempt, if by it a man is enabled to administer to his
necessities without becoming a burden to others, or a plague to them
by the parade of shoeless feet, fluttering rags, and a famished face.
In the multitudinous drama of life, which on the wide theatre of the
metropolis is ever enacting with so much intense earnestness, there
is, and from the very nature of things there always must be, a
numerous class of supernumeraries, who from time to time, by the force
of varying circumstances, are pushed and hustled off the stage, and
shuffled into the side-scenes, the drear and dusky background of the
world's proscenium. Of the thousands and tens of thousands thus rudely
dealt with, he is surely not the worst who, wanting a better weapon,
shoulders a birch-broom, and goes forth to make his own way in the
world, by removing the moist impediments of filth and refuse from the
way of his more fortunate fellows. Indeed, look upon him in what light
you may, he is in some sort a practical moralist. Though far remote
from the ivy chaplet on Wisdom's glorious brow, yet his stump of
withered birch inculcates a lesson of virtue, by reminding us, that we
should take heed to our steps in our journeyings through the
wilderness of life; and, so far as in him lies, he helps us to do so,
and by the exercise of a very catholic faith, looks for his reward to
the value he supposes us to entertain for that virtue which, from time
immemorial, has been in popular parlance classed as next to godliness.

Time was, it is said, when the profession of a street-sweeper in
London was a certain road to competence and fortune--when the men of
the brooms were men of capital; when they lived well, and died rich,
and left legacies behind them to their regular patrons. These palmy
days, at any rate, are past now. Let no man, or woman either, expect a
legacy at this time of day from the receiver of his copper dole. The
labour of the modern sweeper is nothing compared with his of half a
century ago. The channel of viscous mud, a foot deep, through which,
so late as the time when George the Third was king, the carts and
carriages had literally to plough their way, no longer exists, and the
labour of the sweeper is reduced to a tithe of what it was. He has no
longer to dig a trench in the morning, and wall up the sides of his
fosse with stiff earth, hoarded for the purpose, as we have seen him
doing in the days when 'Boney' was a terror. The city scavengers have
reduced his work to a minimum, and his pay has dwindled
proportionately. The twopences which used to be thrown to a sweeper
will now pay for a ride, and the smallest coin is considered a
sufficient guerdon for a service so light. But what he has lost in
substantial emolument, he has gained in _morale_; he is infinitely
more polite and attentive than he was; he sweeps ten times as clean
for a half-penny as he did for twopence or sixpence, and thanks you
more heartily than was his wont in the days of yore. The truth is,
that civility, as a speculation, is found to pay; and the want of it,
even among the very lowest rank of industrials in London, is at the
present moment not merely a rarity, but an actual phenomenon--always
supposing that something is to be got by it.

The increase of vehicles of all descriptions, but more especially
omnibuses, which are perpetually rushing along the main thoroughfares,
has operated largely in shutting out the crossing-sweepers from what
was at one period the principal theatre of their industry.
Independent, too, of the unbroken stream of carriages which renders
sweeping during the day impossible, and the collection of small coin
from the crowd who dart impatiently across the road when a practicable
breach presents itself, equally so, it is found that too dense a
population is less favourable to the brotherhood of the broom than one
ever so sparse and thin. Had the negro of Waithman's obelisk survived
the advent of Shillibeer, he would have had to shift his quarters, or
to have drawn upon his three-and-a-half per cents. to maintain his
position. The sweepers who work on the great lines of traffic from
Oxford Street west to Aldgate, are consequently not nearly so numerous
as they once were, though the members of the profession have probably
doubled their numbers within the last twenty years. They exercise
considerable judgment in the choice of their locations, making
frequent experiments in different spots, feeling the pulse of the
neighbourhood, as it were, ere they finally settle down to establish a
permanent connection.

We shall come to a better understanding of the true condition of these
muddy nomads by considering them in various classes, as they actually
exist, and each of which may be identified without much trouble. The
first in the rank is he who is bred to the business, who has followed
it from his earliest infancy, and never dreamed of pursuing any other
calling. We must designate him as

No. 1. _The Professional Sweeper_.--He claims precedence before all
others, as being to the manner born, and inheriting his broom, with
all its concomitant advantages, from his father, or mother, as it
might be. All his ideas, interests, and affections are centered in one
spot of ground--the spot he sweeps, and has swept daily for the last
twenty or thirty years, ever since it was bequeathed to him by his
parent. The companion of his childhood, his youth, and his maturer
age, is the post buttressed by the curb-stone at the corner of the
street. To that post, indeed, he is a sort of younger brother. It has
been his friend and support through many a stormy day and blustering
night. It is the confidant of his hopes and his sorrows, and
sometimes, too, his agent and cashier, for he has cut a small basin in
the top of it, where a passing patron may deposit a coin if he choose,
under the guardianship of the broom, which, while he is absent for a
short half-hour discussing a red herring and a crust for his dinner,
leans gracefully against his friend the post, and draws the attention
of a generous public to that as the deputy-receiver of the exchequer.
Our professional friend has a profound knowledge of character: he has
studied the human face divine all his life, and can read at a glance,
through the most rigid and rugged lineaments, the indications of
benevolence or the want of it; and he knows what aspect and expression
to assume, in order to arouse the sympathies of a hesitating giver. He
knows every inmate of every house in his immediate neighbourhood; and
not only that, but he knows their private history and antecedents for
the last twenty years. He has watched a whole generation growing up
under his broom, and he looks upon them all as so much material
destined to enhance the value of his estate. He is the humble
pensioner of a dozen families: he wears the shoes of one, the
stockings of another, the shirts of a third, the coats of a fourth,
and so on; and he knows the taste of everybody's cookery, and the
temper of everybody's cookmaid, quite as well as those who daily
devour the one and scold the other. He is intimate with everybody's
cat and everybody's dog, and will carry them home if he finds them
straying. He is on speaking terms with everybody's servant-maid, and
does them all a thousand kind offices, which are repaid with interest
by surreptitious scraps from the larder, and jorums of hot tea in the
cold wintry afternoons. On the other hand, if he knows so much, he is
equally well known: he is as familiar to sight as the Monument on Fish
Street Hill to those who live opposite; he is part and parcel of the
street view, and must make a part of the picture whenever it is
painted, or else it wont be like. You cannot realise the idea of
meeting him elsewhere; it would be shocking to your nerves to think of
it: you would as soon think of seeing the Obelisk walking up Ludgate
Hill, for instance, as of meeting him there--it could not be. Where he
goes when he leaves his station, you have not the least notion. He is
there so soon as it is light in the morning, and till long after the
gas is burning at night. He is a married man, of course, and his wife,
a worthy helpmate, has no objection to pull in the same boat with him.
When Goggs has a carpet to beat--he beats all the carpets on his
estate--Mrs Goggs comes to console the post in his absence. She
usually signalises her advent by a desperate assault with the broom
upon the whole length of the crossing: it is plain she never thinks
that Goggs keeps the place clean enough, and so she brushes him a
hint. Goggs has a weakness for beer, and more than once we have seen
him asleep on a hot thirsty afternoon, too palpably under the
influence of John Barleycorn to admit of a doubt, his broom between
his legs, and his back against his abstinent friend the post. Somehow,
whenever this happens, Mrs G. is sure to hear of it, and she walks him
off quietly, that the spectacle of a sweeper overtaken may not bring a
disgrace upon the profession; and then, broom in hand, she takes her
stand, and does his duty for the remainder of the day. The receipts of
the professional sweeper do not vary throughout the year so much as
might be supposed. They depend very little upon chance contributions:
these, there is no doubt, fall off considerably, if they do not fail
altogether, during a continuance of dry weather, when there is no need
of the sweeper's services; but the man is remunerated chiefly by
regular donations from known patrons, who form his connection, and
who, knowing that he must eat and drink be the weather wet or dry,
bestow their periodical pittances accordingly.

No. 2 is the _Morning Sweeper_.--This is rather a knowing subject,
one, at least, who is capable of drawing an inference from certain
facts. There are numerous lines of route, both north and south of the
great centres of commerce, and all converging towards the city as
their nucleus, which are traversed, morning and evening, for two or
three consecutive hours, by bands of gentlemanly-looking individuals:
clerks, book-keepers, foremen, business-managers, and such like
responsible functionaries, whose unimpeachable outer integuments
testify to their regard for appearances. This current of
respectability sets in towards the city at about half-past six in the
morning, and continues its flow until just upon ten o'clock, when it
may be said to be highwater. Though a large proportion of these agents
of the world's traffic are daily borne to and from their destination
in omnibuses, still the great majority, either for the sake of
exercise or economy, are foot-passengers. For the accommodation of the
latter, the crossing-sweeper stations himself upon the dirtiest
portion of the route, and clearing a broad and convenient path ere the
sun is out of bed, awaits the inevitable tide, which must flow, and
which can hardly fail of bringing him some remuneration for his
labour. If we are to judge from the fact, that along one line of route
which we have been in the habit of traversing for several years, we
have counted as many as fourteen of these morning sweepers in a march
of little more than two miles, the speculation cannot be altogether
unprofitable. In traversing the same route in the middle of the day,
not three of the sweepers would be found at their post; and the reason
would be obvious enough, since the streets are then comparatively
deserted, being populous in the morning only, because they are so many
short-cuts or direct thoroughfares from the suburbs to the city. The
morning sweeper is generally a lively and active young fellow; often a
mere child, who is versed in the ways of London life, and who, knowing
well the value of money from the frequent want of it, is anxious to
earn a penny by any honest means. Ten to one, he has been brought up
in the country, and has been tutored by hard necessity, in this great
wilderness of brick, to make the most of every hour, and of every
chance it may afford him. He will be found in the middle of the day
touting for a job at the railway stations, to carry a portmanteau or
to wheel a truck; or he will be at Smithfield, helping a butcher to
drive to the slaughterhouse his bargain of sheep or cattle; or in some
livery-yards, currying a horse or cleaning out a stable. If he can
find nothing better to employ him, he will return to his sweeping in
the evening, especially if it be summer-time, and should set in wet at
five or six o'clock. When it is dark early, he knows that it won't pay
to resume the broom; commercial gentlemen are not particular about the
condition of their Wellingtons, when nobody can see to criticise their
polish, and all they want is to exchange them for slippers as soon as
possible. If we were to follow the career of this industrious fellow
up to manhood, we should in all probability find him occupying
worthily a hard-working but decent and comfortable position in
society.

No. 3 is the _Occasional Sweeper_.--Now and then, in walking the
interminable streets, one comes suddenly upon very questionable
shapes, which, however, we don't question, but walk on and account for
them mythically if we can. Among these singular apparitions which at
times have startled us, not a few have borne a broom in their hands,
and appealed to us for a reward for services which, to say the best of
them, were extremely doubtful. Now an elderly gentleman in silver
spectacles, with pumps on his feet, and a roquelaure with a fur-collar
over his shoulders, and an expression of unutterable anguish in his
countenance, holds out his hand and bows his head as we pass, and
groans audibly the very instant we are within earshot of a groan;
which is a distance of about ten inches in a London atmosphere. Now an
old, old man, tall, meagre, and decrepit, with haggard eye and
moonstruck visage, bares his aged head to the pattering rain--

    'Loose his beard and hoary hair
    Stream like a meteor to the troubled air.'

He makes feeble and fitful efforts to sweep a pathway across the road,
and the dashing cab pulls up suddenly just in time to save him from
being hurled to the ground by the horse. Then he gives it up as a vain
attempt, and leans, the model of despair, against the wall, and wrings
his skeleton fingers in agony--when just as a compassionate matron is
drawing the strings of her purse, stopping for her charitable purpose
in a storm of wind and rain, the voice of the policeman is heard over
her shoulder: 'What! you are here at it again, old chap? Well, I'm
blowed if I think anything 'll cure you. You'd better put up your pus,
marm: if he takes your money, I shall take him to the station-us,
that's all. Now, old chap--trot, trot, trot!' And away walks the old
impostor, with a show of activity perfectly marvellous for his years,
the policeman following close at his heels till he vanishes in the
arched entry of a court.

The next specimen is perhaps a 'swell' out at elbows, a seedy and
somewhat ragged remnant of a very questionable kind of gentility--a
gentility engendered in 'coal-holes' and 'cider-cellars,' in 'shades,'
and such-like midnight 'kens'--suckled with brandy and water and
port-wine negus, and fed with deviled kidneys and toasted cheese. He
has run to the end of his tether, is cleaned out even to the last
disposable shred of his once well-stocked wardrobe; and after fifty
high-flying and desperate resolves, and twice fifty mean and sneaking
devices to victimise those who have the misfortune to be assailable by
him, 'to this complexion he has come at last.' He has made a track
across the road, rather a slovenly disturbance of the mud than a
clearance of it; and having finished his performance in a style to
indicate that he is a stranger to the business, being born to better
things, he rears himself with front erect and arms a-kimbo, with one
foot advanced after the approved statuesque model, and exhibits a face
of scornful brass to an unsympathising world, before whom he stands a
monument of neglected merit, and whom he doubtless expects to
overwhelm with unutterable shame for their abominable treatment of a
man and a brother--and a gentleman to boot. This sort of exhibition
never lasts long, it being a kind of standing-dish for which the
public have very little relish in this practical age. The 'swell'
sweeper generally subsides in a week or two, and vanishes from the
stage, on which, however ornamental, he is of very little use.

The occasional sweeper is much oftener a poor countryman, who has
wandered to London in search of employment, and, finding nothing else,
has spent his last fourpence in the purchase of a besom, with which he
hopes to earn a crust. Here his want of experience in town is very
much against him. You may know him instantly from the old _habitué_ of
the streets: he plants himself in the very thick and throng of the
most crowded thoroughfare--the rapids, so to speak, of the human
current--where he is of no earthly use, but, on the contrary, very
much in the way, and where, while everybody wishes him at Jericho, he
wonders that nobody gives him a copper; or he undertakes impossible
things, such as the sweeping of the whole width of Charing Cross from
east to west, between the equestrian statue and Nelson's Pillar,
where, if he sweep the whole, he can't collect, and if he collect, he
can't sweep, and he breaks his heart and his back too in a fruitless
vocation. He picks up experience in time; but he is pretty sure to
find a better trade before he has learned to cultivate that of a
crossing-sweeper to perfection.--Many of these occasional hands are
Hindoos, Lascars, or Orientals of some sort, whose dark skins,
contrasted with their white and scarlet drapery, render them
conspicuous objects in a crowd; and from this cause they probably
derive an extra profit, as they can scarcely be passed by without
notice. The sudden promotion of one of this class, who was hailed by
the Nepaulese ambassador as he stood, broom in hand, in St Paul's
Churchyard, and engaged as dragoman to the embassy, will be in the
recollection of the reader. It would be impossible to embrace in our
category even a tithe of the various characters who figure in London
as occasional sweepers. A broom is the last resort of neglected and
unemployed industry, as well as of sudden and unfriended
ill-fortune--the sanctuary to which a thousand victims fly from the
fiends of want and starvation. The broken-down tradesman, the artisan
out of work, the decayed gentleman, the ruined gambler, the starving
scholar--each and all we have indubitably seen brooming the muddy ways
for the chance of a half-penny or a penny. It is not very long since
we were addressed in Water Street, Blackfriars, by a middle-aged man
in a garb of seedy black, who handled his broom like one who played
upon a strange instrument, and who, wearing the words _pauper et
pedester_ written on a card stuck in his hat-band, told us, in good
colloquial Latin, a tale of such horrifying misery and destitution,
that we shrink from recording it here. We must pass on to the next on
our list, who is--

No. 4, the _Lucus-a-non_, or a sweeper who never sweeps.--This fellow
is a vagabond of the first-water, or of the first-mud rather. His
stock in trade is an old worn-out broom-stump, which he has shouldered
for these seven years past, and with which he has never displaced a
pound of soil in the whole period. He abominates work with such a
crowning intensity, that the very pretence of it is a torture to him.
He is a beggar without a beggar's humbleness; and a thief, moreover,
without a thief's hardihood. He crawls lazily about the public ways,
and begs under the banner of his broom, which constitutes his
protection against the police. He will collect alms at a crossing
which he would not cleanse to save himself from starvation; or he will
take up a position at one which a morning sweeper has deserted for the
day, and glean the sorry remnants of another man's harvest. He is as
insensible to shame as to the assaults of the weather; he will watch
you picking your way through the mire over which he stands sentinel,
and then impudently demand payment for the performance of a function
which he never dreams of exercising; or he will stand in your path in
the middle of the splashy channel, and pester you with whining
supplications, while he kicks the mire over your garments, and bars
your passage to the pavement. He is worth nothing, not even the short
notice we have taken of him, or the trouble of a whipping, which he
ought to get, instead of the coins that he contrives to extract from
the heedless generosity of the public.

No. 5 is the _Sunday Sweeper_.--This neat, dapper, and cleanly variety
of the genus besom, is usually a young fellow, who, pursuing some
humble and ill-paid occupation during the week, ekes out his modest
salary by labouring with the broom on the Sunday. He has his regular
'place of worship,' one entrance of which he monopolises every Sabbath
morning. Long before the church-going bell rings out the general
invitation, he is on the spot, sweeping a series of paths all
radiating from the church or chapel door to the different points of
the compass. The business he has cut out for himself is no sinecure;
he does his work so effectually, that you marvel at the achievement,
and doubt if the floor of your dwelling be cleaner. Then he is
himself as clean as a new pin, and wears a flower in his button-hole,
and a smile on his face, and thanks you so becomingly, and bows so
gracefully, that you cannot help wishing him a better office; and of
course, to prove the sincerity of your wish, you pay him at a better
rate. When the congregation are all met, and the service is commenced,
he is religious enough, or knowing enough, to walk stealthily in, and
set himself upon the poor bench, where he sits quietly, well behaved
and attentive to the end; for which very proper conduct he is pretty
sure to meet an additional reward during the exit of the assembly, as
they defile past him at the gate when all is over. In the afternoon,
he is off to the immediate precinct of some park or public promenade;
and selecting a well-frequented approach to the general rendezvous,
will cleanse and purify the crossing or pathway in his own peculiar
and elaborate style, vastly to the admiration of the gaily-dressed
pedestrians, and it is to be supposed, to his own profit. Besides this
really clever and enterprising genius, there is a numerous tribe of a
very different description, who must sally forth literally by the
thousand every Sunday morning when the weather is fine, and who take
possession of every gate, stile, and wicket, throughout the widespread
suburban districts of the metropolis in all directions. They are of
both sexes and all ages; and go where you will, it is impossible to go
through a gate, or get over a stile, without the proffer of their
assistance, for which, of course, you are expected to pay, whether you
use it or not. Some of these fellows have a truly ruffianly aspect,
and waylay you in secluded lanes and narrow pathways; and carrying a
broom-stump, which looks marvellously like a bludgeon, no doubt often
levy upon the apprehensions of a timorous pedestrian a contribution
which his charity would not be so blind as to bestow. The whole of
this tribe constitute a monster-nuisance, which ought to be abated by
the exertions of the police.

No. 6 are the _deformed_, _maimed_, _and crippled sweepers_, of whom
there is a considerable number constantly at work, and, to do them
justice, they appear by no means the least energetic of the
brotherhood. Nature frequently compensates bodily defects by the
bestowal of a vigorous temperament. The sweeper of one leg or one arm,
or the poor cripple who, but for the support of his broom, would be
crawling on all-fours, is as active, industrious, and efficient as the
best man on the road; and he takes a pride in the proof of his
prowess, surveying his work when it is finished with a complacency too
evident to escape notice. He considers, perhaps, that he has an extra
claim upon the public on account of the afflictions he has undergone,
and we imagine that such claim must be pretty extensively allowed: we
know no other mode of accounting for the fact, that now and then one
of these supposed maimed or halt performers turns out to be an
impostor, who, considering a broken limb, or something tantamount to
that, essential to the success of his broom, concocts an impromptu
fracture or amputation to serve his purpose. Some few years ago, a
lively, sailor-looking fellow appeared as a one-handed sweeper in a
genteel square on the Surrey side of the water. The right sleeve of
his jacket waved emptily in the wind, but he flourished his left arm
so vigorously in the air, and completed the gyration of his weapon,
when it stuck fast in the mud, so manfully by the impulse of his right
leg, that he became quite a popular favourite, and won '_copper_
opinions from all sorts of men,' to say nothing of a shower of
sixpences from the ladies in the square. Unfortunately for the
continuance of his prosperity, a gentleman intimate with one of his
numerous patronesses, while musing in the twilight at an upstairs
window, saw the fellow enter his cottage after his day's work, release
his right arm from the durance in which it had lain beneath his jacket
for ten or twelve hours, and immediately put the power of the
long-imprisoned limb to the test by belabouring his wife with it. That
same night every tenant in the square was made acquainted with the
disguised arm, and the use for which it was reserved, and the
ingenious performer was the next morning delivered over to the police.
The law, however, allows a man to dispose of his limbs as he chooses;
and as the delinquent was never proved to have _said_ that he had lost
an arm; and as he urged that one arm being enough for the profession
he had embraced, he considered he had a right to reserve the other
until he had occasion for it--he was allowed to go about his business.

No. 7, and the last in our classification, are the _Female
Sweepers_.--It is singular, that among these we rarely if ever
meet with young women, properly so called. The calling of a
crossing-sweeper, so far as it is carried on by females, is almost
entirely divided between children or young girls, and women above the
age of forty. The children are a very wandering and fickle race,
rarely staying for many weeks together in a single spot. This love of
change must militate much against their success, as they lose the
advantage of the charitable interest they would excite in persons
accustomed to meet them regularly in their walks. They are not,
however, generally dependent upon the produce of their own labours for
a living, being for the most part the children of parents in extremely
low circumstances, who send them forth with a broom to pick up a few
halfpence to assist in the daily provision for the family. The older
women, on the other hand, of whom there is a pretty stout staff
scattered throughout the metropolis, are too much impressed with the
importance of adhering constantly to one spot, capriciously to change
their position. They would dread to lose a connection they have been
many years in forming, and they will even cling to it after it has
ceased to be a thoroughfare through the opening of a new route, unless
they can discover the direction their patrons have taken. When a poor
old creature, who has braved the rheumatism for thirty years or so,
finds she can stand it no longer, we have known her induct a successor
into her office by attending her for a fortnight or more, and
introducing the new-comer to the friendly regard of her old patrons.
The exceptions to these two classes of the old and the very juvenile,
will be found to consist mostly of young widows left with the charge
of an infant family more or less numerous. Some few of these there
are, and they meet with that considerate reception from the public
which their distressing cases demand. The spectacle of a young mother,
with an infant on one arm muffled up from the driving rain, while she
plies a broom single-handed, is one which never appeals in vain to a
London public. With a keen eye for imposture, and a general
inclination to suspect it, the Londoner has yet compassion, and coin,
too, to bestow upon a deserving object. It is these poor widows who,
by rearing their orphaned offspring to wield the broom, supplement the
ranks of the professional sweepers. They become the heads of sweeping
families, who in time leave the maternal wing, and shift for
themselves. We might point to one whom we have encountered almost
daily for the last ten years. In 1841, she was left a widow with three
small children, the eldest under four, and the youngest in arms. Clad
in deep mourning, she took up a position at an angular crossing of a
square, and was allowed to accommodate the two elder children upon
some matting spread upon the steps of a door. With the infant in one
arm, she plied her broom with the other, and held out a small white
hand for the reception of such charity as the passers-by might choose
to bestow. The children grew up strong and hearty, in spite of their
exposure to the weather at all seasons. All three of them are at the
present moment sweepers in the same line of route, at no great
distance from the mother, who, during the whole period, has scarcely
abandoned her post for a single day. Ten years' companionship with sun
and wind, and frost and rain, have doubled her apparent age, but her
figure still shews the outline of gentility, and her face yet wears
the aspect and expression of better days. We have frequently met the
four returning home together in the deepening twilight, the elder boy
carrying the four brooms strapped together on his shoulder.

The sweeper does better at holiday seasons than at any other time. If
he is blessed with a post for a companion, he decks it with a flower
or sprig of green, and sweeps a clear stage round it, which is said to
be a difficult exploit, though we have never tried it. At Christmas,
he expects a double fee from his old patrons, and gets it too, and a
substantial slice of plum-pudding from the old lady in the first floor
opposite. He decks the entrance to his walk with laurel and holly, in
honour of the day, and of his company, who walk under a triumphal arch
of green, got up for that occasion only. He is sure of a good
collection on that day, and he goes home with his pocket heavy and his
heart light, and treats himself to a pot of old ale, warmed over a
fire kindled with his old broom, and sipped sparingly to the melody of
a good old song about the good old times, when crossing-sweepers grew
rich, and bequeathed fortunes to their patrons.



INSECT WINGS.


Animals possess the power of feeling, and of effecting certain
movements, by the exercise of a muscular apparatus with which their
bodies are furnished. They are distinguished from the organisations of
the vegetable kingdom by the presence of these attributes. Every one
is aware, that when the child sees some strange and unknown object he
is observing start suddenly into motion, he will exclaim: 'It is
alive!' By this exclamation, he means to express his conviction that
the object is endowed with _animal_ life. Power of voluntary and
independent motion and animal organisation are associated together, as
inseparable and essentially connected ideas, by even the earliest
experience in the economy and ways of nature.

The animal faculty of voluntary motion, in almost every case, confers
upon the creature the ability to transfer its body from place to
place. In some animals, the weight of the body is sustained by
immersion in a fluid as dense as itself. It is then carried about with
very little expenditure of effort, either by the waving action of
vibratile cilia scattered over its external surface, or by the
oar-like movement of certain portions of its frame especially adapted
to the purpose. In other animals, the weight of the body rests
directly upon the ground, and has, therefore, to be lifted from place
to place by more powerful mechanical contrivances.

In the lowest forms of air-living animals, the body rests upon the
ground by numerous points of support; and when it moves, is wriggled
along piecemeal, one portion being pushed forward while the rest
remains stationary. The mode of progression which the little earthworm
adopts, is a familiar illustration of this style of proceeding. In the
higher forms of air-living animals, a freer and more commodious kind
of movement is provided for. The body itself is raised up from the
ground upon pointed columns, which are made to act as levers as well
as props. Observe, for instance, the tiger-beetle, as it runs swiftly
over the uneven surface of the path in search of its dinner, with its
eager antennæ thrust out in advance. Those six long and slender legs
that bear up the body of the insect, and still keep advancing in
regular alternate order, are steadied and worked by cords laid along
on the hollows and grooves of their own substance. While some of them
uphold the weight of the superincumbent body, the rest are thrown
forwards, as fresh and more advanced points of support on to which it
may be pulled. The running of the insect is a very ingenious and
beautiful adaptation of the principles of mechanism to the purposes of
life.

But in the insect organisation, a still more surprising display of
mechanical skill is made. A comparatively heavy body is not only
carried rapidly and conveniently along the surface of the ground, it
is also raised entirely up from it at pleasure, and transported
through lengthened distances, while resting upon nothing but the thin
transparent air. From the top of the central piece--technically termed
thoracic--of the insect's body, from which the legs descend, two or
more membraneous sails arise, which are able to beat the air by
repeated strokes, and to make it, consequently, uphold their own
weight, as well as that of the burden connected with them. These
lifting and sustaining sails are the insect's wings.

The wings of the insect are, however, of a nature altogether different
from the apparently analogous organs which the bird uses in flight.
The wings of the bird are merely altered fore-legs. Lift up the front
extremities of a quadruped, keep them asunder at their origins by bony
props, fit them with freer motions and stronger muscles, and cover
them with feathers, and they become wings in every essential
particular. In the insect, however, the case is altogether different.
The wings are not altered legs; they are superadded to the legs. The
insect has its fore-legs as well as its wings. The legs all descend
from the under surface of the thoracic piece, while the wings arise
from its upper surface. As the wings are flapping above during flight,
the unchanged legs are dangling below, in full complement. The wings
are, therefore, independent and additional organs. They have no
relation whatever to limbs, properly so called. But there are some
other portions of the animal economy with which they do connect
themselves, both by structure and function. The reader will hardly
guess what those wing-allied organs are.

There is a little fly, called the May-fly, which usually makes its
appearance in the month of August, and which visits the districts
watered by the Seine and the Marne in such abundance, that the
fishermen of these rivers believe it is showered down from heaven, and
accordingly call its living clouds, manna. Reaumur once saw the
May-flies descend in this region like thick snow-flakes, and so fast,
that the step on which he stood by the river's bank was covered by a
layer four inches thick in a few minutes. The insect itself is very
beautiful: it has four delicate, yellowish, lace-like wings, freckled
with brown spots, and three singular hair-like projections hanging out
beyond its tail. It never touches food during its mature life, but
leads a short and joyous existence. It dances over the surface of the
water for three or four hours, dropping its eggs as it flits, and then
disappears for ever. Myriads come forth about the hour of eight in the
evening; but by ten or eleven o'clock not a single straggler can be
found alive.

From the egg which the parent May-fly drops into the water, a
six-legged grub is very soon hatched. This grub proceeds forthwith to
excavate for himself a home in the soft bank of the river, below the
surface of the water, and there remains for two long years, feeding
upon the decaying matters of the mould. During this aquatic residence,
the little creature finds it necessary to breathe; and that he may do
so comfortably, notwithstanding his habits of seclusion, and his
constant immersion in fluid, he pushes out from his shoulders and back
a series of delicate little leaf-like plates. A branch of one of the
air-tubes of his body enters into each of these plates, and spreads
out into its substance. The plates are, in fact, gills--that is,
respiratory organs, fitted for breathing beneath the water. The
little fellow may be seen to wave them backwards and forwards with
incessant motion, as he churns up the fluid, to get out of it the
vital air which it contains.

When the grub of the May-fly has completed his two years of probation,
he comes out from his subterranean and subaqueous den, and rises to
the surface of the stream. By means of his flapping and then somewhat
enlarged gills, he half leaps and half flies to the nearest rush or
sedge he can perceive, and clings fast to it by means of his legs. He
then, by a clever twist of his little body, splits open his old fishy
skin, and slowly draws himself out, head, and body, and legs; and,
last of all, from some of those leafy gills he pulls a delicate
crumpled-up membrane, which soon dries and expands, and becomes
lace-netted and brown-fretted. The membrane which was shut up in the
gills of the aquatic creature, was really the rudiment of its now
perfected wings.

The wings of the insect are then a sort of external lungs, articulated
with the body by means of a movable joint, and made to subserve the
purposes of flight. Each wing is formed of a flattened bladder,
extended from the general skin of the body. The sides of this bladder
are pressed closely together, and would be in absolute contact but for
a series of branching rigid tubes that are spread out in the
intervening cavity. These tubes are air-vessels; their interiors are
lined with elastic, spirally-rolled threads, that serve to keep the
channels constantly open; and through these open channels the vital
atmosphere rushes with every movement of the membraneous organ. The
wing of the May-fly flapping in the air is a respiratory organ, of as
much importance to the wellbeing of the creature in its way, as the
gill-plate of its grub prototype is when vibrating under the water.
But the wing of the insect is not the only respiratory organ: its
entire body is one vast respiratory system, of which the wings are
offsets. The spirally-lined air-vessels run everywhere, and branch out
everywhere. The insect, in fact, circulates air instead of blood. As
the prick of the finest needle draws blood from the flesh of the
backboned creature, it draws air from the flesh of the insect. Who
will longer wonder, then, that the insect is so light? It is aerial in
its inner nature. Its arterial system is filled with the ethereal
atmosphere, as the more stolid creature's is with heavy blood.

If the reader has ever closely watched a large fly or bee, he will
have noticed that it has none of the respiratory movements that are so
familiar to him in the bodies of quadrupeds and birds. There is none
of that heaving of the chest, and out-and-in movement of the sides,
which constitute the visible phenomena of breathing. In the insect's
economy, no air enters by the usual inlet of the mouth. It all goes in
by means of small air-mouths placed along the sides of the body, and
exclusively appropriated to its reception. Squeezing the throat will
not choke an insect. In order to do this effectually, the sides of the
body, where the air-mouths are, must be smeared with oil.

In the vertebrated animals, the blood is driven through branching
tubes to receptacles of air placed within the chest; the air-channels
terminate in blood extremities, and the blood-vessels cover these as a
net-work. The mechanical act of respiration merely serves to change
the air contained within the air-receptacles. In the insects, this
entire process is reversed; the air is carried by branching tubes to
receptacles of blood scattered throughout the body; the blood-channels
terminate in blood-extremities, and a capillary net-work of
air-vessels is spread over these. Now, in the vertebrated creature,
the chest is merely the grand air-receptacle into which the blood is
sent to be aërated; while in the insect, the chest contains but its
own proportional share of the great air-system. In the latter case,
therefore, there is a great deal of available space, which would have
been, under other circumstances, filled with the respiratory
apparatus, but is now left free to be otherwise employed. The thoracic
cavity of the insect serves as a stowage for the bulky and powerful
muscles that are required to give energy to the legs and wings. The
portion of the body that is almost exclusively respiratory in other
animals, becomes almost as exclusively motor in insects. It holds in
its interior the chief portions of the cords by which the moving
levers and membranes are worked, and its outer surface is adorned by
those levers and membranes themselves. Both the legs and wings of the
insect are attached to the thoracic segment of its body.

The extraordinary powers of flight which insects possess are due to
the conjoined influences of the two conditions that have been
named--the lightness of their air-filled bodies, and the strength of
their chest-packed muscles. Where light air is circulated instead of
heavy blood, great vascularity serves only to make existence more
ethereal. Plethora probably takes the insect nearer to the skies,
instead of dragging it towards the dust. The hawk-moth, with its burly
body, may often be seen hovering gracefully, on quivering wings, over
some favourite flower, as if it were hung there on cords, while it
rifles it of its store of accumulated sweets by means of its long
unfolded tongue. The common house-fly makes 600 strokes every second
in its ordinary flight, and gets through five feet of space by means
of them; but when alarmed, it can increase the velocity of its
wing-strokes some five or six fold, and move through thirty-five feet
in the second. Kirby believed, that if the house-fly were made equal
to the horse in size, and had its muscular power increased in the same
proportion, it would be able to traverse the globe with the rapidity
of lightning. The dragon-fly often remains on the wing in pursuit of
its prey for hours at a stretch, and yet will sometimes baffle the
swallow by its speed, although that bird is calculated to be able to
move at the rate of a mile in a minute. But the dexterity of this
insect is even more surprising than its swiftness, for it is able to
do what no bird can: it is able to stop instantaneously in the midst
of its most rapid course, and change the direction of its flight,
going sideways or backwards, without altering the position of its
body.

As a general rule, insect wings that are intended for employment in
flight are transparent membranes, with the course of the air-tubes
marked out upon them as opaque nervures. These air-tubes, it will be
remembered, are lined by spires of dense cartilage; and hence it is
that they become nervures so well adapted to act like tent-lines in
keeping the expanded membranes stretched. In the dragon-flies, the
nervures are minutely netted for the sake of increased strength; in
the bees, the nervures are simply parallel. Most insects have two
pairs of these transparent membraneous wings; but in such as burrow,
one pair is converted into a dense leather-like case, under which the
other pair are folded away. In the flies, only one pair of wings can
be found at all, the other pair being changed into two little
club-shaped bodies, called balancers.

Butterflies and moths are the only insects that fly by means of opaque
wings; but in their case the opacity is apparent rather than real, for
it is caused by the presence of a very beautiful layer of coloured
scales spread evenly over the outer surface of the membranes. When
these scales are brushed off, membraneous wings of the ordinary
transparent character are disclosed. The scales are attached to the
membrane by little stems, like the quill-ends of feathers, and they
are arranged in overlapping rows. The variegated colours and patterns
of the insects are entirely due to them. If the wings of a butterfly
be pressed upon a surface of card-board covered with gum-water to the
extent of their own outlines, and be left there until the gum-water is
dry, the outer layer of scales may be rubbed off with a handkerchief,
and the double membranes and intervening nervures may be picked away
piecemeal with a needle's point, and there will remain upon the card a
most beautiful representation of the other surface of the wings, its
scales being all preserved by the gum in their natural positions. If
the outlines of the wings be carefully pencilled first, and the
gum-water be then delicately and evenly brushed on, just as far as the
outlines, a perfect and durable fac-simile, in all the original
variety of colour and marking, is procured, which needs only to have
the form of the body sketched in, to make it a very pretty and
accurate delineation of the insect.



RUSTICATION IN A FRENCH VILLAGE.


Poverty is difficult to bear under any circumstances, but when
compelled entirely to alter our habits of life in the same place where
we have lived differently, we certainly feel it more acutely than when
we at once change the scene, and see around us nothing we can well
compare with what is past. It is unnecessary to say by what means
_our_ easy fortune was reduced to a mere pittance; but, alas! it _was_
so, and we found ourselves forced to seek another dwelling-place.
Following the example of most of our country-people in a similar
situation, therefore, we resolved to go abroad; not, indeed, to enjoy
society on an income which would in England totally shut us out from
it, but to live in absolute retirement upon next to nothing. A cousin
of mine--whose friend, Mlle de Flotte, long resident in England, had
married a countryman of her own, and settled in Normandy--wrote to Mme
de Terelcourt accordingly, to ask if there was a habitable hut in her
neighbourhood where we might find shelter for three years, before
which time we were told the settlement of our affairs could scarcely
be completed. The answer was favourable: there was, she said, near the
village of Flotte, a cottage which contained a kitchen, three rooms,
and a garret where a _bonne_ might sleep. A large garden was attached
to it full of fruit-trees, though in a most neglected condition, and
even the house requiring to be made weather-tight; but as the landlord
undertook this latter business, and the rent for the whole was only
L.12 a year, we gladly closed with the offer, and at the end of the
month of April proceeded to take possession of our new home.

The situation was most lovely. The garden surrounded three sides of
the cottage, and a large green field, or rather thinly-planted
apple-orchard, the other, where grazed four fine cows belonging to a
farm on the opposite side of the lane, which supplied us with butter,
eggs, and milk, and was near enough not to annoy but to gratify our
ears with the country sounds so pleasant to those fond of rural
things, and to give us the feeling of help at hand in case of any
emergency. We were on the slope of a tolerably lofty hill; the
high-road was below, where we could see and hear the diligence pass;
but saving this, the farm-yard noises, and the birds and bees in the
garden, were the only disturbers of our perfect quiet, except, indeed,
the soothing sound of a small brook tinkling over a tiny waterfall,
quite audible, although a good way on the other side of the _grande
route_. The town of C---- was seen to our right, the sea glittering
beyond; and a rocky, shrubby dell, through which the little stream
above mentioned murmured merrily on its way, turning a rustic mill,
was the prospect from the windows. Two lime-trees stood at the gate,
inside of which we joyfully discovered an unexpected lodge or cottage,
containing two little rooms and a large shed, which had not been
mentioned in the description, and which we found most useful for
stowing away packing-cases, hampers, and boxes, keeping potatoes and
apples, and a hundred things besides. The short road--avenue, our
landlord termed it--which led from this to the house, had a
strawberry-bank on one side, a row of cherry-trees on the other; and
the garden, although overgrown with weeds and sprawling shrubs, looked
quite capable of being easily made very pretty indeed. The entrance to
this our magnificent château was through the kitchen only; for the
room next it, although it could boast of an outside-door likewise, had
none which opened into the interior of the house, was neither lathed
nor plastered, and the bare earth was all there was to tread upon.
Upstairs the flooring consisted merely of planks laid down; and you
could hear when below the pins dropped from above, unless, indeed,
they fell, as they generally did, into the large crevices. The bonne's
_mansarde_ was but a garret, where, till you got into the very middle,
you could not stand upright; and although the tiled roof had been just
painted and repaired, the breath of heaven came wooingly in every
direction, even through the thick-leaved vines which covered it,
closely trained up there, to make room for the apricots that grew
against the wall below. Close by, a little stair led you out upon a
terrace, where a road, bordered by peach-trees and backed by plums,
gave a dry walk in all weathers; but you could go higher, higher, and
higher still, terrace after terrace, till it terminated in a rock
covered with briers and brambles--the fruit of which latter were as
large and as good as mulberries. This we called our garden-wall, and
it had a sunny seat commanding an extensive view, and from which all
we saw was beautiful. How often have I sat there dreaming, lulled by
the murmur of the insect world around, till the merry fife of a band
of conscripts on their march, or the distant boom of a cannon from the
forts, restored me to a consciousness that I was still at least _in_
the world, although not _of_ it.

But now I am going to descend to figures, and can assure my
incredulous English readers, that what I relate is strictly
true--_vraie_, although not _vraisemblable_. We hired a stout girl to
weed and wash, without food, at 2-1/2 d. a day; and another for L.5
per annum undertook to be our sole servant--to clean, and cook, and
dress madame, only stipulating that she was to have _soupe à la
graisse_ and brown bread _à discrétion_ three times a day, two sous
for cider, her aprons, and washing; but hoped if she gave
satisfaction, that sometimes upon Sunday she might be allowed a bit of
meat: on Fridays an egg and an apple contented her, and an occasional
fish made her shout with joy. An old soldier, who had returned to his
primitive employment of gardener, and lived near, undertook to dig,
prune, and plant in the garden for a franc a day, during the time we
ourselves were engaged with the inside of our mansion, and to come
afterwards at 2d. an hour when we wanted him, either to go to C---- for
marketing, or to do anything else we required, for the hamlet of
Flotte did not possess many shops. At this hamlet, however, we
obtained bread and a variety of small articles on very moderate terms.

Having hired the requisite furniture, and papered the walls of our
apartments, the humble tenement looked clean and comfortable. To get
all into order, we both worked hard, and very soon could sit down by
'our own fireside' in a quiet, cheerful house, almost the work of our
own hands, and therefore every creek and cranny in it full of
interest. Mme de Terelcourt, with refined politeness, did not attempt
to visit us herself until she understood we could receive her _sans
géne_; but she sent fruit and vegetables, and kind messages
constantly, and at last a note intimating that she would, if
convenient, call upon us after church next day. Strawberries and
cream, butter, eggs, fresh bread, and the commonest _vin ordinaire_,
were easily procured, of which our guest ate heartily, saying she
would bring the rest of the family next day to partake of a similar
feast. They came accordingly, and with them a cart loaded with shrubs,
plants, flowers, and a whole hive of honeycomb, and various little
comforts besides, pretending that they were thankful to us for
receiving their superabundance, instead of obliging them to throw it
away. This hospitable, unaffected kindness continued unabated the
whole time of our stay, and the kind beings always contrived to make
out that they were the obliged persons, and we so polite and
condescending for deigning to receive such trifles. M. and Mme de
Terelcourt lived with M. le Marquis de Flotte and his wife; and her
brother, the Count de Belgravin, occupied a house a quarter of a mile
distant, which, although by no means a comfortable residence, he
rented purposely to be near his sister. These amiable people spent a
part of every day together, for they did not associate much with the
inhabitants of C----; and I look back with much pleasure to our social
evenings, when light-hearted merriment constantly prevailed; and I
often thought how few of the many who talk so gravely of patience and
resignation to the will of God, could or would understand that
cheerfulness is, in fact, but a different way of shewing that
resignation.

Our maid, Batilde, knew nothing about the _cuisine_ beyond a good
_roux_ and a bad omelet; and except making a bed, appeared ignorant of
all housework--even washing, dusting, or sweeping thoroughly. She,
however, did everything we did not do for ourselves, and ironed the
linen after a fashion. Tonette washed for us in the little river
aforesaid, where she used an incredible quantity of soap, thumping our
things with a piece of flat wood upon a great stone, most
conveniently, as she observed, placed there for the purpose 'by the
saints in heaven;' which method, if it hastened its wearing out, made
our linen at least sweet and clean while it lasted. My husband shot
and cultivated the garden in the respective seasons appropriate to
these occupations, whilst I bought a cookery-book called 'Les
Expériences de Mademoiselle Marguerite;' and pretending to be learning
myself, taught Batilde to prepare our food a little better, without
hurting her self-conceit, of which she possessed more than the average
of her countrywomen. Our time, therefore, was fully occupied. Our
health improved and our spirits rose with the excitement; we had
agreeable society in the excellent people named above, meeting _sans
façon_, taking breakfast or luncheon with each other, instead of
dinners, in winter, and in summer often spending the evening at one
another's houses.

At a distance not insurmountable there was an English chapel; but the
character of the clergyman was not of a kind to recommend itself to
persons who had some regard for the decencies of life; and so we
contented ourselves with saying our prayers at home. The old curé of
the place, with whom we became slightly acquainted, seemed to be a
worthy sort of man, liberal in his ideas, and possessed of a
considerable taste for music. He made rather an agreeable and obliging
neighbour.

Talking of curés, I may mention that one came from a distance of
several miles to pay his respects to us, and offer welcome to France.
He said, he desired to make our acquaintance because we came from
England, where he had found 'rest for twenty years, and received much
kindness.' He was a rich man, had a pretty little church, a
picturesque house in a sort of park, which he had stocked with pigs
instead of sheep; and every day that was not one of fasting or
abstinence, he had pork for dinner. He took a great fancy to us, and
wanted us to give up our cottage, and come and live with him, as he
had plenty of room and desired society; but we declined. Had we done
so, I doubt not that he would have left us his money, for he had no
relations, and bequeathed the whole, for want of an heir, to his
grocer. He grew cooler after our refusal, but still sometimes came to
see us on a pot-bellied cart-horse--a most stolid-looking beast, but
one which often took most laughably strange fits of friskiness. Once I
saw the good curé's watch jump out of his pocket, fly over his head,
and disappear amid a heap of nettles, where little Victor found it,
and hoped for a rich reward; but he only received an old book of
devotion, and a lecture on the duty of reading it.

I must relate a little adventure which might have been written fifty
years ago, when it would have obtained more credence than it will in
the present day, from those travellers at least who have kept to the
highways, and those residents who have lived only in the towns of
France. One morning Batilde asked permission to visit a friend who had
come to spend a day with her sister at C----. 'They breed poultry; and
as madame likes a goose as soon as the fête of St Michel comes, it
would be worth her while to desire Mère Talbot to feed one up against
that time. They live a good way off,' pursued she, 'in a poor hamlet
called Les Briares. It would be almost worth madame's while to go
there some day, for it is such a primitive place, and they are such
primitive people.' I liked the idea, and begged Mère Talbot might be
told that I would come and look out my goose for myself the following
week.

A fine Thursday morning dawned; and as early as we could get coffee
made and taken, Batilde and I set out on our expedition, each, after
the fashion of the canton, seated on a donkey, our feet in one pannier
and a large stone to balance in the other. I took as an offering to
the hope and heir of the Talbots a toy much like what we in England
call Jack-in-a-box, but in France is termed a _Diable_, as it is
intended to represent his Satanic majesty, and alarm the lifter of the
lid by popping up a black visage. The rough roads shaded by high
hedges, white and pink with hawthorn, and the wild apple-tree blossom,
and redolent of early honeysuckle, reminded me of the secluded parts
of England; while Scotland presented itself to my mind when we left
these lanes and crossed still, rushy brooks, or dashing tiny torrents,
climbed heather braes, pursuing the yellow-hammer and large
mountain-bees as they flew on to the furze and broom-bushes, filling
the air with their cheerful music; or when, again, we descended to
birch-shaded hollows, refreshing ourselves from clear little
spring-wells, that sparkled over white pebbles at the foot of a gray
rock tufted over with blaeberry and foxglove leaves. The poor thing
chatted away like a child, inspired by the pure air, bracing, yet
mild, and lost herself amongst recollections of her country home,
talking of buttercups, hedge-sparrows' eggs, and _demoiselles_ or
dragon-flies.

Several happy hours we spent _en route_; and at last, on turning down
from a hilly road, we saw on a flat brown plain a collection of low
cottages. The nearer we approached, the more Scotch everything
appeared; in some cases I even saw my dear native 'middens afore the
door:' the aspect of the houses and looks of the old women especially,
with their stoups and country caps--so very like mutches--striped
petticoats and short-gowns, brought northern climes before me vividly;
and the children stared and shouted like true Scots callants. The very
accent was so Scotch that I felt as though I was doing something
altogether ridiculous in talking French.

Upon entering Mère Talbot's house, the resemblance became more real.
The flags stuck here and there in the earthen floor, the form of the
chairs and tables, the press-beds, large red-checked linen curtains,
the 'rock and its wee pickle tow,' the reel, the bowls on the
shelves--each and all recalled my native country; and I positively
should have ended by believing myself there in a dream, if not in
reality, had not a glance at the fireplace undeceived me: there was no
fire--all was dim, dusky, and dark; no glowing embers and cheerful
pipe-clayed hearth, but iron dogs and wood-ashes where blazing coals
should be. Even here, however, I could not but think of 'Caledonia
stern and wild,' for there stood a real Carron 'three-leggit pat,' to
which my very heart warmed. I was asked to sit down; and soon the news
spread that _une Anglaise_ was to be seen at Mère Talbot's, and people
glanced by the window, peeped in at the door, and came to speak upon
one pretence or other, as if it was not an everyday sight. By and by a
girl and man--whose names from their appearance might have been Jenny
and Sawnie--arrived for their dinner--consisting of brown bread, an
apple, and cider, which they discussed on their knees--not sitting
down at the table--and when finished, returned to their field-labour
without speaking. The little boy, meanwhile, had disappeared with his
toy-box, which greatly delighted him, and elevated him for the nonce
above his fellows; for he was the undisputed possessor of a curiosity
imported from England itself, over the sea, by the very lady who was
to be seen at his grandmother's house eating pancakes.

The fire was lighted; it crackled and blazed in two minutes; a stand
was placed over it, upon which they put what they called a _tuile_;
eggs, flour, and milk were mixed, and a bit of butter, the size of a
bean in the first instance, of a pea afterwards--_c'est de rigueur_,
to hinder every fresh _crêpe_ thrown in from burning. Most capital
pancakes they were; thin, crisp, hot, and sweet; and the kind people
pressed them upon me so hospitably, that I ate till I felt I really
could eat no longer, and was glad to finish with a draught of sour
cider. I bought seven geese, to be brought to me one at a time, as
_fat as caterpillars_, for two francs ten sous each. Mère Talbot was
content with her bargain, and so was I with mine. When I rose to take
leave, I was reminded again of Scotland, for a large parcel of cakes
was put into the off-pannier; and as I should have mortally offended
the kind creatures by refusing their gift, I carried them home,
toasted them on a fork, and found it made them eat quite as crisp and
good as at first. This sketch may appear perhaps very odd to be taken
from nature so late as the year 1840, but I can assure my readers it
is 'no less strange than true.'

All the summer we wandered about the woods and fields of Flotte,
making little excursions in the neighbourhood, and sedulously avoiding
the town; but after we had made ourselves acquainted with every
beech-shaded hollow, every little fig-forest, every apple-orchard,
climbed every broomy knowe, gathered heather from the highest rock and
mushrooms from the oldest pasture, we turned our steps sometimes
towards C---- in search of variety. There, every Thursday, the military
band of the 44th Regiment played in the alley of the mountain-ash, and
there all the dames and demoiselles assembled, dressed in a
wonderfully neat way. We asked how these women, who were mostly in
humble circumstances, were enabled to dress so finely. Batilde
explained the phenomenon.

'Ah! they have infinite merit,' responded the Frenchwoman; 'two of
them, whom I chance to know, in order to be enabled to do so, live on
eggs and bread, in one room, where they sit, eat, and sleep, nay,
sometimes cook; and they have their just reward, for they are
universally admired and respected.'

This is a pretty fair specimen of the effort made by Frenchwomen of
the humbler orders to maintain a tasteful exterior. To make themselves
neat is a principle; and they seem to have an inherent perception of
what constitutes taste. They may sometimes go too far in this
direction, and think more of dress and ornaments than they should do.
One can at least say, that they are on the safe side. Better to love
outward show, than, as is often visible in Scotland, have no regard
for appearances. Better cleanliness on any terms than utter
slovenliness. I really must say, we saw some most creditable efforts
in France to maintain self-respect, among the female population.

About this time, an old gentleman, who was distantly related to
us, died--without having, however, an idea of the extent of
our poverty--leaving my husband L.50 for a ring. Here was
riches--unexpected riches! and I verily believe few who succeed to
L.50,000 ever felt more or as much rapture as we did; and we spent an
evening very happily settling how we should employ the money. In the
first place, we hired a good servant for L.8! and dismissed Batilde;
we then, by paying half, induced the landlord to lath, plaster, paper,
and paint the large lumber-room, and open a door of communication into
the passage, by which we avoided entering through the kitchen. Our
late sitting-room we dined in, and made the dining-room a
dressing-room; got several small comforts besides; and though last not
least, hired an old piano; and every evening enjoyed music in a degree
none but real lovers of that delightful art, long deprived of it, can
have the slightest conception of--and all this happiness and comfort
for L.50! Think of that, ye ladies who give as much for a gown!

Our new servant, Olive, was as clean, orderly, and active as our late
one had been the reverse. The difference it made in our comfort was as
great as if we had had our former establishment restored, and really
our _bonne_ was a host within herself. The house was always clean, but
we never saw her cleaning: she went to market, baked all our bread,
yet never seemed oppressed with work: her cookery was capital; she
made excellent dishes out of what Batilde would have wasted: went to
mass every morning, and was back in time to prepare everything for our
breakfast. After staying a month, she begged permission to leave the
cockloft and bring her 'effects' to the gate-house, which we willingly
permitted; and her wardrobe was worth a journey to see, when we
remembered that her wages had never been quite L.8 until she came to
us, and her age only thirty. I shall give the list I copied, hoping
some of our English Betties may read and profit by her example:
twenty-four good strong linen shifts, made and marked neatly by
herself; two dozen worsted and thread stockings, knit by herself;
twelve pocket-handkerchiefs; six stout petticoats; four flannel do.;
six pair of shoes; eight caps; eight neck-frills; umbrella;
prayer-book; gold earrings and cross--which two last, with a beautiful
lace-cap, she inherited, but everything else was of her _own earning_.
She bought a wardrobe and bedstead, and was by degrees getting
furniture; and as I exacted no sewing, every leisure moment she was
spinning her future sheets. With all this she was also very kind to a
married sister, who had a large family; but she wore no flowers,
flounces, nor finery; her six gowns were of a stuff the Scotch call
linsey-woolsey; and so in sixteen years' services she had amassed what
I have just described. Why can't our girls do as much where wages are
higher and clothes cheaper?

We spent three years in this happy solitude, and felt almost sorry
when an unexpected legacy, and the settlement of our affairs together,
enabled us to return to all the comforts and many of the luxuries of
life. It gives me much pleasure to record the many kindnesses we
received from all ranks of people. Upon one occasion we were forced to
ask the butcher to wait three months longer for his bill: he not only
consented, but his wife insisted upon lending us money, and was quite
cross when we gratefully declined her kindness. Near the time of our
departure, as we were paying a large account, the shopkeeper said: 'At
this time you must have many calls upon you; transmit me the amount
from England, for I can afford to wait.' Another of our tradesmen, a
shoemaker, was a most singular character--a great physiognomist, and
would not serve those he did not like. A dashing English family wished
to employ him, but he fought shy, and made himself so disagreeable
that they went to another: he told me this before his wife, who seemed
annoyed at his conduct. He explained that he did not like their
appearance, and was sure they would not pay for what they had. He was
right; they left the place in debt to his _confrère_ and everybody
else. I rejoice in this opportunity of assuring my countrymen that
there is as much true kindness to be met with in France as in England,
and the selfishness we complain of in our neighbours on the other side
of the Channel, is often but a preconceived fancy, or induced by our
own cold behaviour. The above true sketch shews at least that _we_ met
with substantial kindness, and I hope it also proves that we are
sensible of it.



PHANTOMS OF THE FAR EAST.


The form assumed by superstition in India is not very different from
the European type, otherwise than in a certain exaggeration, impressed
on it, no doubt, by the grotesque grandeur of the mythology.
Witchcraft is pretty nearly the same in both regions--the old women
being the chief professors of the art; but in many districts of the
former country, the evil power is bestowed upon _every_ old woman
without exception. Girls will not marry into a family without a witch,
for how could their infants be protected from the spells of the other
old women? It is dangerous to jostle an old woman on the street,
however accidentally, lest she take vengeance on the spot. A man came
into this unpleasant contact while he was walking along, carelessly
chewing a piece of sugar-cane; and hearing the muttered objurgations
of the hag, as he turned round to apologise, he was not surprised to
find the juice of the cane turned into blood. The spectators,
likewise, recognised the metamorphosis as soon as it was pointed out
to them; and when the terrified victim instantly leaped on his horse,
and put ten or twelve miles between him and the sorceress before
drawing bridle, he was believed to have saved his life by this
dispatch.

The operations of the men-sorcerers are less spontaneous and more
scientific. They set about their work in a business-like way; and
within sight of the house of their intended victim the mystic caldron
begins to boil and bubble. The victim, however, is not to be terrified
out of his senses. What are his enemy's fires and incantations to him?
He will only just take no notice, and continue to live on as if there
was not a sorcerer in the world. But that smoke: it meets his eye the
first object every morning. That ruddy glare: it is the last thing he
sees at night. That measured but inarticulate sound: it is never out
of his ear. His thoughts dwell on the mystical business. He is
preoccupied even in company. He wonders what they are now putting into
the pot; and whether it has any connection with the spasm that has
just shot through him. He becomes nervous; he feels unwell; he cannot
sleep for thinking; he cannot eat for that horrid broth that bubbles
for ever in his mind. He gets worse, and worse, and worse. He dies!

But this empire of the imagination is beaten hollow in Java, where it
is supposed that a housebreaker, by throwing a handful of earth upon
the beds of the inmates, completely incapacitates them from moving to
save their property. And this is no mere speculative belief, but an
actual _fact_. The man who is to be robbed, on feeling the earth fall
upon him, lies as motionless as if he was bound hand and foot. He is
under a spell; a spell which, in our own country, even knowledge and
refinement have power only to modify.

In England, there is a large class of persons who believe that a
certain pill is able to cure all diseases, however opposite their
natures, and however different the constitutions of the patients. It
is in vain the analytical chemist describes publicly the component
parts and real qualities of the quack medicine--their faith is
unshaken. In India, this low and paltry credulity acquires a character
of the poetical; for there the popular confidence reposes--not more
irrationally--on the prayers and incantations of the practitioner. But
this sort of practice, in the wilder parts of the country, renders the
medical profession somewhat unsafe to its professors; for the doctor
is looked upon as a wizard, with _power_ to cure or kill as he
chooses. In such places--the jungly districts--there are diseases of
the liver and spleen, to which the children, more especially, are
subject; and when so affected, the patient pines away and dies without
any external token of disease. This result is, of course, attributed
to preternatural means; and if there is not an old woman at hand
obnoxious to suspicion, the doctor is set down as the murderer. 'I
have in these territories,' says Colonel Sleeman, 'known a great many
instances of medical practitioners being put to death for not curing
young people for whom they were required to prescribe. Several cases
have come before me as a magistrate, in which the father has stood
over the doctor with a drawn sword, by the side of the bed of his
child, and cut him down, and killed him the moment the child died, as
he had sworn to do when he found the patient sinking under his
prescriptions.'

Another superstition of the country, originating no doubt in local
circumstances, found its way into Europe, where no such circumstances
existed. In India, a man suddenly vanishes. His family, perhaps, are
expecting him at home, but from that moment he is never more heard of.
He has been destroyed in the jungle by a tiger, and his remains so
completely devoured by other animals, that there is scarcely a relic
of his body left to give assurance of a man, far less as a proof of
his identity. These mysterious disappearances, however, are connected
with their real cause; and men are believed to be frequently
metamorphosed--sometimes voluntarily, sometimes involuntarily--into
tigers. The voluntary transformation is effected merely by eating a
certain root, whereupon the man is instantly changed into a tiger; and
when tired of his new character, he has only to eat another, when,
_presto!_ he subsides from a tiger into a man. But occasionally
mistakes happen. An individual of an inquiring disposition once felt a
strong curiosity to know what were the sensations attendant on such a
transformation; but being a prudent person, he set about the
experiment with all necessary precaution. Having provided himself with

              ----the insane root
    That takes the reason prisoner,

he gave one likewise to his wife, desiring her to stand by and watch
the event, and as soon as she saw him fairly turned into a tiger, to
thrust it into his mouth. The wife promised, but her nerves were not
equal to the performance. As soon as she saw her husband fixed in his
new form, she took to flight--carrying in her hand, in the confusion
of her mind, the root that would have restored him to her faithful
arms! And so it befell that the poor man-tiger was obliged to take to
the woods, where for many a day he dined on his old neighbours of the
village, till he was at length shot, and _recognised_! In this
superstition will be seen the prototype of the wolf-mania of mediæval
Europe. In Brittany, men betook themselves to the forests in the shape
of wolves, out of a morbid passion for the amusement of howling and
ravening; but if they left in some secure place the clothes they had
thrown off to prepare for the metamorphosis, they had only to reassume
them in order to regain their natural forms. But sometimes a
catastrophe like the above occurred: the wife discovered the hidden
clothes, and carrying them home in the innocent carefulness of her
heart, the poor husband lived and died a wolf.

The Hindoos, like other ancient peoples, predict good or evil fortune
from certain phenomena of nature; but one instance of this has been
described to us in a communication from our Old Indian, which far
excels in the poetical the finest fancies of the Greeks. We cannot
undertake to say that the thing is new, although we ourselves never
heard of it before; but as the knowledge of it was imparted to her by
her moonshee as a profound secret, we present it as such to our
readers, recommending them to make the experiment for themselves. At
the initiation of our informant, she was about to undertake a distant
journey, and the old moonshee was anxious to consult the fates as to
the fortunes that might be in store for his beloved mistress. He,
accordingly, prevailed upon her to walk forth one night from the
veranda, and with many quaint expressions of respect and anxiety,
besought her to follow his directions with an attentive mind,
abstracted as much as possible from the common thoughts of life.

It was a clear, calm night; the moon was full, and not the faintest
speck in the sky disturbed her reign. The Ganges was like a flood of
silver light, hastening on in charmed silence; while on the green
smooth sward on which they walked, a tall shrub, here and there, stood
erect and motionless. The young lady, whose impressions were probably
deepened by the mystical words of the moonshee, felt a kind of awe
stealing over her: she looked round upon the accustomed scene, as if
in some new and strange world; and when the old man motioned her to
stop, as they reached an open space on the sward, she obeyed with an
indescribable thrill.

'Look there,' said he, pointing to her shadow, which fell tall and
dark upon the grass. 'Do you see it?'

'Yes,' said she faintly, yet beginning to be ashamed. 'How sharply
defined are its edges! It looks like something you could touch.'

'But look longer--look better--look steadfastly. Is it still so
definite?'

'A kind of halo begins to gather round it: my eyes dazzle'----

'Then raise them to the heavens; fix them on yonder blue sky. What do
you see?'

'I see it still! But it is as white as mist, and of a gigantic size.'

'Has it a head?' asked the moonshee in an anxious whisper.

'Yes; it is complete in all its parts: but now it
melts--floats--disappears.'

'Thank God!' said the old man: 'your journey shall be prosperous--such
is the will of Heaven!' The experiment was tried on many other
occasions by the young lady, and always with similar success, although
never without a certain degree of trepidation, even after she had
learned that the spectral appearance in the heavens was nothing more
than the picture retained on the retina of the eye. She never saw the
phantom without a head, which accounts for her being alive to this
day; or even wanting a limb, although she has not been without her
share of the trials of the world. It can easily be conceived, however,
that certain conditions of the atmosphere may produce these phenomena,
which are regarded by the Hindoo seer as sure tokens of death or
disaster.

This superstition is not more unreasonable than the mistakes of our
early travellers, who were accustomed to attribute a meaning to the
phenomena of nature, of which more accurate knowledge has entirely
stripped them. But the notions of the Hindoo are always peculiar--his
fancy, even in its wildest excursions, is bounded by the circle of his
mythology. When our Old Indian's wanderings led her to Pinang, in the
Straits of Malacca, she found a Hindoo convict there, trembling even
in his chains as his fancy connected the wonders of the place with the
dogmas in which he had been reared. This most beautiful island, as our
readers may remember, came into the possession of an Englishman in the
latter part of last century in rather a romantic way--forming the
dowry of a native princess, the daughter of the king of Quedah, whom
he married. Captain Light transferred it to the East India Company,
who were not slow in discovering the advantages of its fine harbour,
rich soil, and salubrious climate. Its inhabitants at that time were a
few fishermen on the coast; and the interior was covered with an
almost impervious forest; but now there is a population of Europeans
and Americans, and Asiatics of almost all countries; and plantations
of sugar, coffee, pepper, and other intertropical produce. Among the
inhabitants are invalids, who proceed thither from continental India
for the restoration of their health; and convicts, who are compelled
to compensate by their labour the injuries they have inflicted on
society.

The man alluded to belonged to the latter class, having probably
travelled for his country's good from the tamer lowlands of Bengal;
and when the traveller asked him how he liked the region, he expressed
the utmost awe, united with the bitterest condemnation of the
Europeans, for desecrating by their roads and other works a place so
obviously the abode of deutas and spirits. He said, that when they had
begun to carry the up-hill road through these primeval forests, they
were warned of their impiety by the voices of the gods themselves, in
bursts of unearthly music, blasts of the trumpet, and the clash of
cymbals and gongs.

'The first tree we struck with the axe,' added he with a shudder, 'ran
milk; and the second, blood!' Of these two substances, the former is
still more ominous in the Brahminical faith than the latter, for
everything connected with the cow is sacred and mysterious.

'Well,' said the inquirer, 'what happened--since in spite of these
omens you persisted in your task? Did the gods take vengeance?'

'Yes,' said he solemnly; 'but _we_ were only instruments, like the
axes in our hands; and the vengeance, therefore, fell upon the prime
mover. The governor'--coming close up to the lady, and putting his
mouth to her ear--'the governor died!' Now, all this was true--music,
milk, blood, and death; and yet none of these was more the work of
supernatural agency than any of the common circumstances of life.

The supposed unearthly sounds proceed neither from birds nor men, and
the effect is either pleasing or awful, according to the mood of the
listener. Some, in such circumstances, instead of receiving
impressions of awe, like the Hindoo convict, would exclaim:

    Where should this music be--i' the air, or the earth?
    It sounds no more: and sure it waits upon
    Some god of the island.

And again:

                        ----The isle is full of noises,
    Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
    Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
    Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices,
    That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
    Will make me sleep again.

One would think Shakspeare had actually been in some tropical forest
when the daylight began to fade, and the myriads of insects to take up
their evening-song! One of these extraordinary musicians is
distinguished as the trumpeter; another produces a tinkle like a bell;
and a third gives forth a sound which the imagination may ascribe to
any instrument, or band of instruments, it pleases. This species of
cricket buries himself in a centre, to which converge seven holes,
which he has drilled in a circle; and from these seven tubes a sound
rushes forth, which almost stuns the passer-by. It may be conceived,
therefore, that a forest peopled with myriads upon myriads of such
'executants,' must have a strain for every ear, every mood, and every
conscience.

The tree which welled forth milk when struck by the axe was the _Ficus
elastica_--a sort of gigantic vine, as thick as a man's arm, which
creeps along the ground, sending forth new roots from the joint, and,
climbing at length some lofty tree, expands in branches. This is the
chief caoutchouc-plant, and its sap has not only the colour, but many
of the chemical properties of animal milk, and is frequently drunk as
food. The blood came from one of the _eucalypta_, popularly called the
blue gum-tree. The governor did die soon after his arrival on the
island, and no doubt _immediately_ after he had disturbed, in the
manner related, the _genius loci_.

Pinang contains about 160 square miles of surface, nearly the whole of
which is laid out in hills and dales, the loftiest of the former
reaching a height of 2500 feet above the sea-level. On the slopes of
this hill are built the governor's rural residence, and a bungalow,
where invalids resort for country air. It is possible that great
changes may have taken place here of late years, when efforts have
been made to dot the island with sugar-plantations; but at the time we
speak of, this was a solitary spot, behind which dark forests
stretched upwards to the summit. Among these forests, on the shoulder
of the hill, there occurs an optical phenomenon, not unknown in
Europe, which is here an object of superstitious terror to the
natives.

The first European who observed it was a gentleman who, taking
advantage of the coolness of the hour, had strolled away in the early
morning from the inhabited district, and was skirting round a deep
valley, dotted at the bottom, and overhung at the sides with lofty
trees. The beams of the sun had already begun to acquire some power,
although his disk was scarcely yet above the horizon; and the
traveller watched with interest the effect of the dawning light upon a
sea of vapour which nearly filled the valley. This slowly-moving
cloud, as it was acted upon by the sun, swelled higher and higher, and
became whiter and whiter, till it finally settled, filling the whole
valley with a substance that looked like alabaster, in the midst of
which the topmost branches of the tall trees hung motionless. The
scene was strangely beautiful; and the spectator, who was screened
from the now risen sun by a belt of forest, lingered for awhile to
contemplate it. When at length he resumed his walk, and, emerging from
the trees, found himself in the full blaze of the rising sun, he
turned once more to observe the effect on the vapour; and a cry of
wonder which arose to his lips was only repressed by a feeling of awe,
as he saw upon that alabaster surface a dark human figure of gigantic
dimensions, surrounded by a halo that seemed formed of the rainbow. A
confused rush of associations half acquainted him at the moment with
the nature of the phenomenon; but giving way to the feeling of
poetical delight, he clasped his hands above his head in admiration--a
movement which the Phantom of the Alabaster Valley instantaneously
imitated! It was indeed his own shadow--and a shadow he was not to
recall, even when he turned away to journey homewards. There, in that
lonely place, it seemed to him to remain for ever--a link connecting
him with the spirit of nature, and ever and anon drawing him back into
her domain from the meanness, and folly, and wickedness of the world.



DECIMAL SYSTEM OF WEIGHTS AND MEASURES.


The state of our national weights and measures has been a fertile
subject of legislative enactment ever since the signing of the Magna
Charta, which proclaims that 'there shall be one weight and one
measure.' 'We will and establish,' said an act of Edward III. nearly
500 years ago, 'that one weight, one measure, and one yard, be used
throughout the land.' Act has followed act from that time to this, and
still we have not only different weights and measures for different
commodities, but for the same in different parts of the realm. An
ounce means one thing to the grocer, another to the apothecary. A
stone is 8 pounds to the London butcher or fishmonger, 14 to the
provincial; 5 pounds to the dealer in glass, 16 to the cheesemonger,
and 32 to the dealer in hemp. The corn-trade exhibits still greater
varieties. Prices are quoted in official circulars in every fashion,
from the Mark-Lane quarter to the Scotch boll, the firlot, the load
(which may be of various dimensions), the coomb, the last, the barrel
(which also may be various), the ton, the hundredweight, and the
pound. We have seen an extract from an actual account-sales, by which
it appeared, that at the same port the merchant had sold a cargo of
foreign wheat by five different bushels according to the customs of
the buyers. In paying the duty, these various bushels had to be
converted into imperial quarters, and in calculating tonnage and other
dues, it was necessary to reduce all to tons! Here is surely a source
of endless confusion, if not an opening for fraud. Our legislature has
gone on from century to century, mending or mutilating the statutes as
the case might be, but laying down no principles scientific enough to
command the approval of the educated, or simple enough to prevail over
the established usages of the commonalty.

Our neighbours in France, who are particularly fond of framing
theories and experimenting on them for the edification of other
nations, availed themselves of the general upturning of affairs in
1789, to introduce a universal decimal system, to be applied to
everything whatever that could be counted, weighed, or measured. They
started from the measurement of the globe itself, and took as the
basis of their whole system the ten-millionth part of a quadrant of a
meridian, equal to 39-371/1000 inches English. This they called a
mètre (measure), and to it, as a unit, they prefixed the Greek
numerals to express increase in the decimal ratio; thus decamètres,
tens of meters; hectamètres, hundreds of meters; and so on. To express
diminution in the decimal ratio, they used the Latin numerals; thus,
decimètres, tenths of meters; centimètres, hundredths of meters;
milliamètres, thousandths of meters. The unit adopted for square
measure was the _are_, equal to 100 square meters; for solid measure,
the _stère_, equal to one cubic meter; and for measure of capacity,
the _litre_, a cubic decimeter. The weights were derived from these
measures; the _gramme_ being the weight of one cubic centimeter of
distilled water. The system of decimal gradation was applied to all of
these; that is, each denomination represented a tenth part of the one
above it, and ten times as much as the one next below it, the Latin
and Greek numerals being prefixed as we have already described with
reference to the meter. In conformity with this decimal law, the
quadrant was divided, for astronomical purposes, into 100 degrees
instead of 90; and the thermometer likewise into 100 degrees from the
boiling to the freezing point. At the same time, a system of reckoning
money by tens was introduced; and it must be owned, that the whole
system of computation in weights, measures, and money established in
France at this period, is one of the greatest triumphs of
civilisation. In ordinary transactions, old denominations of money are
still used by the French; the _sous_, in particular, being apparently
ineradicable. But in book-keeping, the furnishing of accounts, and in
literature, the modern and legal standards are invariably adhered to.

About thirty years ago, the Americans took it into serious
consideration whether they should adopt the ready-made scale of France
entire. On that occasion (1821), Mr John Quincy Adams produced a most
elaborate report to Congress, containing an immense amount of
information on the subject of metrology. He found great fault with the
French nomenclature, so puzzling to the unlearned. 'Give the people,'
said he, 'but their accustomed _words_, and they will call 16 a dozen;
120, 112, or any other number, a hundred.' He disapproved, likewise,
of thrusting the decimal principle upon things incompatible with it.
'Decimal arithmetic,' said he, 'is a contrivance of man for computing
numbers, and not a property of time, space, or matter. It belongs
essentially to the keeping of accounts, but is merely an incident to
the transactions of trade. Nature has no partiality for the number 10;
and the attempt to shackle her freedom with them [decimal gradations],
will for ever prove abortive.' And again: 'To the mensuration of the
surface and the solid, the number 10 is of little more use than any
other. If decimal arithmetic is incompetent to give the dimensions of
most artificial forms, the square and the cube, still more incompetent
is it to give the circumference, the area, and the contents of the
circle and the sphere.' And once more: 'The new metrology of France,
after trying the principle of decimal division in its almost universal
application, has been compelled to renounce it for all the measures of
astronomy, geography, navigation, time, the circle, and the sphere; to
modify it even for superficial and cubical linear measure.' The
conclusion of the Americans was, that it was better to continue the
use of the system of weights and measures inherited from the
father-land. Partly on account of our intimate commercial relations
with them, they are content to wait, and allow us to take the lead in
the work of reform.

Taking our stand on the ground of mere practical utility, according to
the views suggested, we do not advocate any interference with the
foot, the rood, the acre, the mile, which would lead to the removal of
old landmarks, and would render almost every chart and map and book in
the country obsolete. But we suggest that the time has arrived when
our national weights and measures may be finally adjusted on simple
and scientific principles. Within the last thirty years, a principle
that goes far towards clearing our way has been laid down, and in part
carried into practice. By an act of the British legislature, which
came into operation on the 1st January 1826, our standards were
accurately adjusted, and certain rules were laid down, by which they
could be restored if lost; while the uniform use of these in the
business of the country was strictly enjoined. The imperial yard,
which is the basis of the whole, is to be found in the following
manner:--'Take a pendulum, vibrating seconds of time, in the latitude
of London, in vacuum and at the level of the sea; divide all that part
thereof which lies between the axis of suspension and the centre of
oscillation into 391,393 equal parts; then will 10,000 of these parts
be an imperial inch, 12 whereof make a foot, and 36 whereof make a
yard.' All other measures of linear extension are to be computed from
this. Thus, 'the foot, the inch, the pole, the furlong, and the mile,
shall bear the same proportion to the imperial standard yard as they
have hitherto borne to the yard measure in general use.' For the
determination of weights, take a cube of an imperial inch of distilled
water at 62 degrees Fahrenheit; let this be weighed with any weight,
and let such weight be divided into 252,458 equal parts; then will a
thousand of such parts be a _troy_ grain, of which 5760 make a pound
troy, and 7000 a pound avoirdupois.

'This troy-weight,' said the commissioners, 'appeared to us to be the
ancient weight of this kingdom, having existed in the same state from
the time of Edward the Confessor.' 'We were induced, moreover,' said
they, 'to preserve the troy-weight, because all the coinage has been
uniformly regulated by it, and all medical prescriptions and formulæ
have always been estimated by troy-weight, under a peculiar
subdivision which the college of physicians have expressed themselves
most anxious to preserve.' It was resolved, therefore, to continue the
use of troy-weight for drugs, bullion, &c. and to raise the
avoirdupois on its basis. The commissioners went on to say: 'The
avoirdupois pound, by which all heavy goods have been for a long time
weighed, seems not to have been preserved with such scrupulous
accuracy as the troy, by which more precious articles have been
weighed;' but it was so nearly equivalent to 7000 grains troy, that
they determined this should be its standard for the future. Measures
of capacity were to be based upon this weight, and not, as heretofore,
on cubic inches. Ten lbs. avoirdupois of distilled water weighed in
air at the temperature of 62 degrees Fahrenheit, and the barometer at
30 inches, were henceforth to determine the imperial gallon, to the
utter abolition of three distinct gallons for wine, ale, and corn,
based respectively on the specific bulk and gravity of Bordeaux wine,
English ale, and grains of wheat. All other measures were to be taken
in parts or multiples of the said imperial standard gallon, according
to the proportions hitherto in use. A great reform in this connection,
was the obligation of dealers to sell most solid commodities--as coal,
bread, potatoes, &c.--by weight and not by measure, which had been
liable to great abuses. Corn, however, was not included in this
provision; nor has even the use of the imperial bushel been
universally enforced where it interfered with the long-established
usages of corporate bodies.

To carry thus far into effect these newly-established measures,
required no common exercise of authority. Every dealer, wholesale or
retail, was obliged to have his weights verified and stamped. The
brewer was compelled to get new casks; the retailer new pots and
pints; the farmer new bushels, and, consequently, new corn-sacks. The
expense thus incurred was enormous, and the grumbling was of course in
due proportion.

It is believed that the units above mentioned--the yard, the pound
avoirdupois, and the imperial gallon--cannot now be superseded by any
other. It remains to shew, as Mr Taylor has very satisfactorily
done,[1] how that which has been well begun may be followed out and
completed by the establishment of more complete uniformity, and the
legalisation of decimal gradations for facilitating calculation.

The two co-existing pounds originally adjusted in relation to the
specific gravities of wheat and spring-water, are now the sole remains
and representatives of a fanciful theory spun in the middle ages; and
the first question that occurs is, whether the pound troy, having
served its purpose, might not be done away with, and the pound
avoirdupois ascertained by reference to a cubic inch of distilled
water. We were told forty years ago, that for the introduction of a
uniform and scientific system, we must wait for the spread of
education in the community; and we feel somewhat ashamed now to find
that the members of the medical profession, which is understood to be
one of the most highly-educated bodies, offer the most formidable
opposition to reformation in this respect. 'The testimony, however,'
says Mr Taylor, 'of many individuals of the medical profession,
especially the younger portion, and certainly that of the retailers
and dispensers of drugs, tends entirely to shew the practicability of
a beneficial and convenient change. With all these, there appears no
more serious difficulty to encounter than that involved in altered
editions of their usual dispensatories, or books of reference'--an
amount of trouble and expense, we should say, not greater, certainly,
in proportion to the position of the parties concerned, than that
which was forced on the poor chandlers and milkwomen by the act of
1826.

Then, to adapt the avoirdupois pound to the further objects in view,
it must be reconstructed as to its divisional parts. In order to this,
it is not necessary that the nomenclature should be changed, or that
our poor people should be puzzled with the _decas_, and _hexas_, and
_millias_ which has formed the greatest practical difficulty in the
decimal system of France. It is proposed simply to divide the pound
avoirdupois into 10,000 parts instead of 7000, and to employ names at
present in use for the minor denominations; but if it be thought
incongruous to retain the term _grain_, which had reference to the
weight of wheat or barley, _minim_ might be substituted. Then the
multiples of the pound, which have hitherto been so various, are to be
decimally graduated--as, stones of 10 lbs., cwts. of 10 stone (or,
literally, 100 lbs.), and tons of 10 cwt. The decimal measures below
the gallon would correspond of course with the weights, as it is
decided by the act, that a gallon is to contain ten pounds of water.
The measures above gallons, it is proposed to call firkins and butts.

It is taken for granted that quarts and pints, as well as half-pounds
and quarter-pounds, would still be continued in use. In France, the
government was obliged to relax its decimal principles in favour of
permitting a partial return to the binary mode of subdivision. Mr
Adams, who is high authority on such a point, avers that such
divisions are 'as necessary to the practical use of weights and
measures, as the decimal divisions are convenient for calculations
resulting from them.' If this be admitted, almost the only change to
retailers of ordinary commodities would be the introduction of the new
ounce weight, altered to the tenth of a pound, with price in
correspondence; and perhaps the fluid pound, or tenth of a gallon. If,
however, the latter were likely to be generally used by the masses, it
would be desirable that it should bear a more familiar name. But
probably it would be little known, except as the highest denomination
generally used by the apothecary; in which case the nomenclature would
be all the better for expressing the value of the measure
scientifically in relation to distilled water, as is now usually done
by this class.

It is easy to shew the practical advantages that would result in
mercantile calculations if such a scale were adopted, and especially
in connection with the decimal system of money advocated in a former
number of this Journal.[2] If a parcel of goods weighs 13 cwt., 7
stone, 8 lbs., and it be desired to know how many pounds it contains,
it is unnecessary to change a single figure to shew that there are
1378; an additional cipher gives the number of ounces (137,80);
another the number of drachms (137,800), instead of requiring the
present tedious process of reduction. Again: if any commodity costs,
for instance, 2 fl. 3 cents per lb., we know without taking up a pen
that it is 2 cents 3 mil. per ounce; that it is L.2, 3 fl. per stone;
L.23 per cwt.; L.230 per ton; and so on. Here is a cargo--no matter of
what--weighing 374 tons, 7 cwt. 4 st. If the value is, for instance,
L.2, 3s. per ton, we have but to multiply the figures 37474 by 23, and
_point_ the amount thus--L.861.9.0.2. If, however, the price be L.2,
3s. per cwt., the point after the pounds, which is the only essential
one, must be removed a step further to the right--thus, L.8619.0.2;
and if L.2, 3s. per stone, it will be L.86190.2. Let any one try the
difference between these operations and similar calculations according
to our present system, and he will confess it is no mean advantage
that the advocates of decimal gradations are seeking to obtain for the
community.

We are happy to add, that since our article on Decimal Coinage
appeared, we have received numerous communications on the subject; and
while there are minor differences of opinion as to the details, there
appears to be perfect unanimity as to the desirableness of the system,
and the possibility of bringing it into general use.


FOOTNOTES:

[1] _The Decimal System_. By Henry Taylor. London: Groombridge & Sons.

[2] See No. 428.



THE LITTLE GRAY GOSSIP.


Soon after Cousin Con's marriage, we were invited to stay for a few
weeks with the newly-married couple, during the festive winter season;
so away we went with merry hearts, the clear frosty air and pleasant
prospect before us invigorating our spirits, as we took our places
inside the good old mail-coach, which passed through the town of
P----, where Cousin Con resided, for there were no railways then.
Never was there a kinder or more genial soul than Cousin Con; and
David Danvers, the goodman, as she laughingly called him, was, if
possible, kinder and more genial still. They were surrounded by
substantial comforts, and delighted to see their friends in a
sociable, easy way, and to make them snug and cosy, our arrival being
the signal for a succession of such convivialities. Very mirthful and
enjoyable were these evenings, for Con's presence always shed radiant
sunshine, and David's honest broad face beamed upon her with
affectionate pride. During the days of their courtship at our house,
they had perhaps indulged in billing and cooing a little too freely
when in company with others, for sober middle-aged lovers like
themselves; thereby lying open to animadversions from prim spinsters,
who wondered that Miss Constance and Mr Danvers made themselves so
ridiculous. But now all this nonsense had sobered down, and nothing
could be detected beyond a sly glance, or a squeeze of the hand now
and then; yet we often quizzed them about by-gones, and declared that
engaged pairs were insufferable--we could always find them out among a
hundred!

'I'll bet you anything you like,' cried Cousin Con, with a
good-humoured laugh, 'that among our guests coming this evening'
(there was to be a tea-junketing), 'you'll not be able to point out
the engaged couple--for there will be only _one_ such present--though
plenty of lads and lasses that would like to be so happily situated!
But the couple I allude to are real turtledoves, and yet I defy you to
find them out!'

'Done, Cousin Con!' we exclaimed; 'and what shall we wager?'

'Gloves! gloves to be sure!' cried David. 'Ladies always wager gloves;
though I can tell you, my Con is on the safe side now;' and David
rubbed his hands, delighted with the joke; and _we_ already, in
perspective, beheld our glove-box enriched with half-a-dozen pair of
snowy French sevens!

Never had we felt more interested in watching the arrivals and
movements of strangers, than on this evening, for our honour was
concerned, to detect the lovers, and raise the veil. Papas and mammas,
and masters and misses, came trooping in; old ladies, and middle-aged;
old gentlemen, and middle-aged--until the number amounted to about
thirty, and Cousin Con's drawing-rooms were comfortably filled. We
closely scrutinised all the young folks, and so intently but covertly
watched their proceedings, that we could have revealed several
innocent flirtations, but nothing appeared that could lead us to the
turtledoves and their engagement. At length, we really had hopes, and
ensconced ourselves in a corner, to observe the more cautiously a
tall, beautiful girl, whose eyes incessantly turned towards the door
of the apartment; while each time it opened to admit any one, she
sighed and looked disappointed, as if that one was not the one she
yearned to see. We were deep in a reverie, conjuring up a romance of
which she was the heroine, when a little lady, habited in gray, whose
age might average threescore, unceremoniously seated herself beside
us, and immediately commenced a conversation, by asking if we were
admiring pretty Annie Mortimer--following the direction of our looks.
On receiving a reply in the affirmative, she continued: 'Ah, she's a
good, affectionate girl; a great favourite of mine is sweet Annie
Mortimer.'

'Watching for her lover, no doubt?' we ventured to say, hoping to gain
the desired information, and thinking of our white kid-gloves. 'She is
an engaged young lady?'

'Engaged! engaged!' cried the little animated lady: 'no indeed. The
fates forbid! Annie Mortimer is not engaged.' The expression of the
little lady's countenance at our bare supposition of so natural a
fact, amounted almost to the ludicrous; and we with some difficulty
articulated a serious rejoinder, disavowing all previous knowledge,
and therefore erring through ignorance. We had now time to examine our
new acquaintance more critically. As we have already stated, she was
habited in gray; but not only was her attire gray, but she was
literally gray all over: gray hairs, braided in a peculiar obsolete
fashion, and quite uncovered; gray gloves; gray shoes; and, above all,
gray eyes, soft, large, and peculiarly sad in expression, yet
beautiful eyes, redeeming the gray, monotonous countenance from
absolute plainness. Mary Queen of Scots, we are told, had gray eyes;
and even she, poor lady, owned not more speaking or history-telling
orbs than did this little unknown gossip in gray. But our attention
was diverted from the contemplation, by the entrance of another actor
on the stage, to whom Annie Mortimer darted forward with an
exclamation of delight and welcome. The new-comer was a slender,
elderly gentleman, whose white hairs, pale face, and benignant
expression presented nothing remarkable in their aspect, beyond a
certain air of elegance and refinement, which characterised the whole
outward man.

'That is a charming-looking old gentleman,' said we to the gray lady;
'is he Annie's father?'

'Her father! O dear, no! That gentleman is a bachelor; but he is
Annie's guardian, and has supplied the place of a father to her, for
poor Annie is an orphan.'

'Oh!' we exclaimed, and there was a great deal of meaning in our oh!
for had we not read and heard of youthful wards falling in love with
their guardians? and might not the fair Annie's taste incline this
way? The little gray lady understood our thoughts, for she smiled, but
said nothing; and while we were absorbed with Annie and her supposed
antiquated lover, she glided into the circle, and presently we beheld
Annie's guardian, with Annie leaning on his arm, exchange a few words
with her in an undertone, as she passed them to an inner room.

'Who is that pleasing-looking old gentleman?' said we to our hostess;
'and what is the name of the lady in gray, who went away just as you
came up? That is Annie Mortimer we know, and we know also that she
isn't engaged!'

Cousin Con laughed heartily as she replied: 'That nice old gentleman
is Mr Worthington, our poor curate; and a poor curate he is likely
ever to continue, so far as we can see. The lady in gray we call our
"little gray gossip," and a darling she is! As to Annie, you seem to
know all about her. I suppose little Bessie has been lauding her up to
the skies.'

'Who is little Bessie?' we inquired.

'Little Bessie is your little gray gossip: we never call her anything
but Bessie to her face; she is a harmless little old maid. But come
this way: Bessie is going to sing, for they won't let her rest till
she complies; and Bessie singing, and Bessie talking, are widely
different creatures.'

Widely different indeed! Could this be the little gray lady seated at
the piano, and making it speak? while her thrilling tones, as she sang
of 'days gone by,' went straight to each listener's heart, she herself
looking ten years younger! When the song was over, I observed Mr
Worthington, with Annie still resting on his arm, in a corner of the
apartment, shaded by a projecting piece of furniture; and I also noted
the tear on his furrowed cheek, which he hastily brushed away, and
stooped to answer some remark of Annie's, who, with fond affection,
had evidently observed it too, endeavouring to dispel the painful
illusion which remembrances of days gone by occasioned.

We at length found the company separating, and our wager still
unredeemed. The last to depart was Mr Worthington, escorting Annie
Mortimer and little Bessie, whom he shawled most tenderly, no doubt
because she was a poor forlorn little old maid, and sang so sweetly.

The next morning at breakfast, Cousin Con attacked us, supported by Mr
Danvers, both demanding a solution of the mystery, or the scented
sevens! After a vast deal of laughing, talking, and discussion, we
were obliged to confess ourselves beaten, for there had been an
engaged couple present on the previous evening, and we had failed to
discover them. No; it was not Annie Mortimer: she had no lover. No; it
was not the Misses Halliday, or the Masters Burton: they had flirted
and danced, and danced and flirted indiscriminately; but as to serious
engagements--pooh! pooh!

Who would have conjectured the romance of reality that was now
divulged? and how could we have been so stupid as not to have read it
at a glance? These contradictory exclamations, as is usual in such
cases, ensued when the riddle was unfolded. It is so easy to be wise
when we have learned the wisdom. Yet we cheerfully lost our wager, and
would have lost a hundred such, for the sake of hearing a tale so far
removed from matter-of-fact; proving also that enduring faith and
affection are not so fabulous as philosophers often pronounce them to
be.

Bessie Prudholm was nearly related to David Danvers, and she had been
the only child of a talented but improvident father, who, after a
short, brilliant career as a public singer, suddenly sank into
obscurity and neglect, from the total loss of his vocal powers,
brought on by a violent rheumatic cold and lasting prostration of
strength. At this juncture, Bessie had nearly attained her twentieth
year, and was still in mourning for an excellent mother, by whom she
had been tenderly and carefully brought up. From luxury and indulgence
the descent to poverty and privation was swift. Bessie, indeed,
inherited a very small income in right of her deceased parent,
sufficient for her own wants, and even comforts, but totally
inadequate to meet the thousand demands, caprices, and fancies of her
ailing and exigeant father. However, for five years she battled
bravely with adversity, eking out their scanty means by her
exertions--though, from her father's helpless condition, and the
constant and unremitting attention he required, she was in a great
measure debarred from applying her efforts advantageously. The poor,
dying man, in his days of health, had contributed to the enjoyment of
the affluent, and in turn been courted by them; but now, forgotten and
despised, he bitterly reviled the heartless world, whose hollow meed
of applause it had formerly been the sole aim of his existence to
secure. Wealth became to his disordered imagination the desideratum of
existence, and he attached inordinate value to it, in proportion as
he felt the bitter stings of comparative penury. To guard his only
child--whom he certainly loved better than anything else in the world,
save himself--from this dreaded evil, the misguided man, during his
latter days, extracted from her an inviolable assurance, never to
become the wife of any individual who could not settle upon her,
subject to no contingencies or chances, the sum of at least one
thousand pounds.

Bessie, who was fancy-free, and a lively-spirited girl, by no means
relished the slights and privations which poverty entails. She
therefore willingly became bound by this solemn promise; and when her
father breathed his last, declaring that she had made his mind
comparatively easy, little Bessie half smiled, even in the midst of
her deep and natural sorrow, to think how small and easy a concession
her poor father had exacted, when her own opinions and views so
perfectly coincided with his. The orphan girl took up her abode with
the mother of David Danvers, and continued to reside with that worthy
lady until the latter's decease. It was beneath the roof of Mrs
Danvers that Bessie first became acquainted with Mr Worthington--that
acquaintance speedily ripening into a mutual and sincere attachment.
He was poor and patronless then, as he had continued ever since, with
slender likelihood of ever possessing L.100 of his own, much less
L.1000 to settle on a wife. It is true, that in the chances and
changes of this mortal life, Paul Worthington might succeed to a fine
inheritance; but there were many lives betwixt him and it, and Paul
was not the one to desire happiness at another's expense, nor was
sweet little Bessie either.

Yet was Paul Worthington rich in one inestimable possession, such as
money cannot purchase--even in the love of a pure devoted heart, which
for him, and for his dear sake, bravely endured the life-long
loneliness and isolation which their peculiar circumstances induced.
Paul did not see Bessie grow old and gray: in his eyes, she never
changed; she was to him still beautiful, graceful, and enchanting; she
was his betrothed, and he came forth into the world, from his books,
and his arduous clerical and parochial duties, to gaze at intervals
into her soft eyes, to press her tiny hand, to whisper a fond word,
and then to return to his lonely home, like a second Josiah Cargill,
to try and find in severe study oblivion of sorrow.

Annie Mortimer had been sent to him as a ministering angel: she was
the orphan and penniless daughter of Mr Worthington's dearest friend
and former college-chum, and she had come to find a shelter beneath
the humble roof of the pious guardian, to whose earthly care she had
been solemnly bequeathed. Paul's curacy was not many miles distant
from the town where Bessie had fixed her resting-place; and it was
generally surmised by the select few who were in the secret of little
Bessie's singular history, that she regarded Annie Mortimer with
especial favour and affection, from the fact, that Annie enjoyed the
privilege of solacing and cheering Paul Worthington's declining years.
Each spoke of her as a dear adopted daughter, and Annie equally
returned the affection of both.

Poor solitaries! what long anxious years they had known, separated by
circumstance, yet knit together in the bonds of enduring love!

I pictured them at festive winter seasons, at their humble solitary
boards; and in summer prime, when song-birds and bright perfumed
flowers call lovers forth into the sunshine rejoicingly. They had not
dared to rejoice during their long engagement; yet Bessie was a
sociable creature, and did not mope or shut herself up, but led a life
of active usefulness, and was a general favourite amongst all classes.
They had never contemplated the possibility of evading Bessie's solemn
promise to her dying father; to their tender consciences, that fatal
promise was as binding and stringent, as if the gulf of marriage or
conventual vows yawned betwixt them. We had been inclined to indulge
some mirth at the expense of the little gray gossip, when she first
presented herself to our notice; but now we regarded her as an object
of interest, surrounded by a halo of romance, fully shared in by her
charming, venerable lover. And this was good Cousin Con's elucidation
of the riddle, which she narrated with many digressions, and with
animated smiles, to conceal tears of sympathy. Paul Worthington and
little Bessie did not like their history to be discussed by the rising
frivolous generation; it was so unworldly, so sacred, and they looked
forward with humble hope so soon to be united for ever in the better
land, that it pained and distressed them to be made a topic of
conversation.

Were we relating fiction, it would be easy to bring this antiquated
pair together, even at the eleventh hour; love and constancy making up
for the absence of one sweet ingredient, evanescent, yet
beautiful--the ingredient we mean of youth. But as this is a romance
of reality, we are fain to divulge facts as they actually occurred,
and as we heard them from authentic sources. Paul and Bessie, divided
in their lives, repose side by side in the old church-yard. He dropped
off first, and Bessie doffed her gray for sombre habiliments of darker
hue. Nor did she long remain behind, loving little soul! leaving her
property to Annie Mortimer, and warning her against long engagements.

The last time we heard of Annie, she was the happy wife of an
excellent man, who, fully coinciding in the opinion of the little gray
gossip, protested strenuously against more than six weeks' courtship,
and carried his point triumphantly.



THE WET SHROUD.

    'Ach, Sohn! was hält dich zurück?'
    'Siehe, Mutter, das sind die Thränen.'

                          MUTTERTHRÄNEN.


      They gave her back again:
    They never asked to see her face;
    But gazed upon her vacant place,
      Moaning, like those in pain.

      There was a brief hot thirst;
    A thirsting of the heart for streams
    Which never more save in sweet dreams
      From that lost fount should burst.

      There was a frightful cry,
    As if the whole great earth were dead;
    Yet was one arrow only sped,
      One, only, called to die.

      Then all grew calm as sleep;
    And they in household ways once more
    Did go: the anguish half was o'er,
      For they had learned to weep.

      They stood about her bed,
    And whispered low beneath their cloud;
    For she might hear them speaking loud--
      She was so near, they said.

      Softly her pillow pressing,
    With reverent brows they mutely lay;
    They scarcely missed the risen clay
      In her pure soul's caressing.

      Last, from their eyes were driven
    Those heart-drops, lest--so spoke their fears--
    Her robes all heavy with their tears
      Might clog her flight to Heaven!

                                    E.L.H.

       *       *       *       *       *

Printed and Published by W. and R. CHAMBERS, High Street, Edinburgh.
Also sold by W. S. ORR, Amen Corner, London; D. N. CHAMBERS, 55 West
Nile Street, Glasgow; and J. M'GLASHAN, 50 Upper Sackville Street,
Dublin.--Advertisements for Monthly Parts are requested to be sent to
MAXWELL & Co., 31 Nicholas Lane, Lombard Street, London, to whom all
applications respecting their insertion must be made.





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