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Title: Pagan Papers
Author: Grahame, Kenneth, 1859-1932
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Pagan Papers" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Pagan Papers was first published in 1893 and the text is in the public
domain. This is a reprint of the first American edition of 1898. The
transcription was done by William McClain ,
2002.

A printed version of this book is available from Sattre Press,
http://pagan_papers.sattre-press.com/.  It includes a glossary of
French and Latin phrases.



PAGAN PAPERS

by Kenneth Grahame



The Romance of the Road

Among the many places of magic visited by Pantagruel and his company
during the progress of their famous voyage, few surpass that island
whose roads did literally "go" to places -- "ou les chemins
cheminent, comme animaulx": and would-be travellers, having inquired
of the road as to its destination, and received satisfactory reply,
"se guindans" (as the old book hath it -- hoisting themselves up on)
"au chemin opportun, sans aultrement se poiner ou fatiguer, se
trouvoyent au lieu destiné."

The best example I know of an approach to this excellent sort of
vitality in roads is the Ridgeway of the North Berkshire Downs. Join
it at Streatley, the point where it crosses the Thames; at once it
strikes you out and away from the habitable world in a splendid,
purposeful manner, running along the highest ridge of the Downs a
broad green ribbon of turf, with but a shade of difference from the
neighbouring grass, yet distinct for all that. No villages nor
homesteads tempt it aside or modify its course for a yard; should you
lose the track where it is blent with the bordering turf or merged in
and obliterated by criss-cross paths, you have only to walk straight
on, taking heed of no alternative to right or left; and in a minute
'tis with you again -- arisen out of the earth as it were. Or, if
still not quite assured, lift you your eyes, and there it runs over
the brow of the fronting hill. Where a railway crosses it, it
disappears indeed -- hiding Alpheus-like, from the ignominy of rubble
and brick-work; but a little way on it takes up the running again with
the same quiet persistence. Out on that almost trackless expanse of
billowy Downs such a track is in some sort humanly companionable: it
really seems to lead you by the hand.

The "Rudge" is of course an exceptional instance; but indeed this
pleasant personality in roads is not entirely fanciful. It exists as a
characteristic of the old country road, evolved out of the primitive
prehistoric track, developing according to the needs of the land it
passes through and serves: with a language, accordingly, and a meaning
of its own. Its special services are often told clearly enough; but
much else too of the quiet story of the country-side: something of the
old tale whereof you learn so little from the printed page. Each is
instinct, perhaps, with a separate suggestion. Some are martial and
historic, and by your side the hurrying feet of the dead raise a
ghostly dust. The name of yon town -- with its Roman or Saxon suffix
to British root -- hints at much. Many a strong man, wanting his vates
sacer, passed silently to Hades for that suffix to obtain. The little
rise up yonder on the Downs that breaks their straight green line
against the sky showed another sight when the sea of battle surged and
beat on its trampled sides; and the Roman, sore beset, may have gazed
down this very road for relief, praying for night or the succouring
legion. This child that swings on a gate and peeps at you from under
her sun-bonnet -- so may some girl-ancestress of hers have watched
with beating heart the Wessex levies hurry along to clash with the
heathen and break them on the down where the ash trees grew. And
yonder, where the road swings round under gloomy overgrowth of
drooping boughs -- is that gleam of water or glitter of lurking
spears?

Some sing you pastorals, fluting low in the hot sun between dusty
hedges overlooked by contented cows; past farmsteads where man and
beast, living in frank fellowship, learn pleasant and serviceable
lessons each of the other; over the full-fed river, lipping the
meadow-sweet, and thence on either side through leagues of hay. Or
through bending corn they chant the mystical wonderful song of the
reaper when the harvest is white to the sickle. But most of them,
avoiding classification, keep each his several tender significance; as
with one I know, not so far from town, which woos you from the valley
by gentle ascent between nut-laden hedges, and ever by some touch of
keen fragrance in the air, by some mystery of added softness under
foot -- ever a promise of something to come, unguessed, delighting.
Till suddenly you are among the pines, their keen scent strikes you
through and through, their needles carpet the ground, and in their
swaying tops moans the unappeasable wind -- sad, ceaseless, as the cry
of a warped humanity. Some paces more, and the promise is fulfilled,
the hints and whisperings become fruition: the ground breaks steeply
away, and you look over a great inland sea of fields, homesteads,
rolling woodland, and -- bounding all, blent with the horizon, a
greyness, a gleam -- the English Channel. A road of promises, of
hinted surprises, following each other with the inevitable sequence in
a melody.

But we are now in another and stricter sense an island of chemins qui
cheminent: dominated, indeed, by them. By these the traveller,
veritably se guindans, may reach his destination "sans se poiner ou
se fatiguer" (with large qualifications); but sans very much else
whereof he were none the worse. The gain seems so obvious that you
forget to miss all that lay between the springing stride of the early
start and the pleasant weariness of the end approached, when the limbs
lag a little as the lights of your destination begin to glimmer
through the dusk. All that lay between! "A Day's Ride a Life's
Romance" was the excellent title of an unsuccessful book; and indeed
the journey should march with the day, beginning and ending with its
sun, to be the complete thing, the golden round, required of it. This
makes that mind and body fare together, hand in hand, sharing the
hope, the action, the fruition; finding equal sweetness in the languor
of aching limbs at eve and in the first god-like intoxication of
motion with braced muscle in the sun. For walk or ride take the mind
over greater distances than a throbbing whirl with stiffening joints
and cramped limbs through a dozen counties. Surely you seem to cover
vaster spaces with Lavengro, footing it with gipsies or driving his
tinker's cart across lonely commons, than with many a globe-trotter or
steam-yachtsman with diary or log? And even that dividing line --
strictly marked and rarely overstepped -- between the man who bicycles
and the man who walks, is less due to a prudent regard for personal
safety of the one part than to an essential difference in minds.

There is a certain supernal, a deific, state of mind which may indeed
be experienced in a minor degree, by any one, in the siesta part of a
Turkish bath. But this particular golden glow of the faculties is only
felt at its fulness after severe and prolonged exertion in the open
air. "A man ought to be seen by the gods," says Marcus Aurelius,
"neither dissatisfied with anything, nor complaining." Though this
does not sound at first hearing an excessive demand to make of
humanity, yet the gods, I fancy, look long and often for such a sight
in these unblest days of hurry. If ever seen at all, 'tis when after
many a mile in sun and wind -- maybe rain -- you reach at last, with
the folding star, your destined rustic inn. There, in its homely,
comfortable strangeness, after unnumbered chops with country ale, the
hard facts of life begin to swim in a golden mist. You are isled from
accustomed cares and worries -- you are set in a peculiar nook of
rest. Then old failures seem partial successes, then old loves come
back in their fairest form, but this time with never a shadow of
regret, then old jokes renew their youth and flavour. You ask nothing
of the gods above, nothing of men below -- not even their company.
To-morrow you shall begin life again: shall write your book, make your
fortune, do anything; meanwhile you sit, and the jolly world swings
round, and you seem to hear it circle to the music of the spheres.
What pipe was ever thus beatifying in effect? You are aching all over,
and enjoying it; and the scent of the limes drifts in through the
window. This is undoubtedly the best and greatest country in the
world; and none but good fellows abide in it.

      Laud we the Gods,
  And let our crooked smokes climb to their nostrils
  From our blest altars.

The Romance of the Rail

In these iron days of the dominance of steam, the crowning wrong that
is wrought us of furnace and piston-rod lies in their annihilation of
the steadfast mystery of the horizon, so that the imagination no
longer begins to work at the point where vision ceases. In happier
times, three hundred years ago, the seafarers from Bristol City looked
out from the prows of their vessels in the grey of the morning, and
wot not rightly whether the land they saw might be Jerusalem or
Madagascar, or if it were not North and South America. "And there be
certaine flitting islands," says one, "which have been oftentimes
seene, and when men approached near them they vanished." "It may be
that the gulfs will wash us down," said Ulysses (thinking of what
Americans call the "getting-off place"); "it may be we shall touch
the Happy Isles." And so on, and so on; each with his special hope or
"wild surmise." There was always a chance of touching the Happy
Isles. And in that first fair world whose men and manners we knew
through story-books, before experience taught us far other, the Prince
mounts his horse one fine morning, and rides all day, and sleeps in a
forest; and next morning, lo! a new country: and he rides by fields
and granges never visited before, through faces strange to him, to
where an unknown King steps down to welcome the mysterious stranger.
And he marries the Princess, and dwells content for many a year; till
one day he thinks "I will look upon my father's face again, though
the leagues be long to my own land." And he rides all day, and sleeps
in a forest; and next morning he is made welcome at home, where his
name has become a dim memory. Which is all as it should be; for,
annihilate time and space as you may, a man's stride remains the true
standard of distance; an eternal and unalterable scale. The severe
horizon, too, repels the thoughts as you gaze to the infinite
considerations that lie about, within touch and hail; and the night
cometh, when no man can work.

To all these natural bounds and limitations it is good to get back now
and again, from a life assisted and smooth by artificialities. Where
iron has superseded muscle, the kindly life-blood is apt to throb dull
as the measured beat of the steam-engine. But the getting back to them
is now a matter of effort, of set purpose, a stepping aside out of our
ordinary course; they are no longer unsought influences towards the
making of character. So perhaps the time of them has gone by, here in
this second generation of steam. Pereunt et imputantur; they pass
away, and are scored against not us but our guilty fathers. For
ourselves, our peculiar slate is probably filling fast. The romance of
the steam-engine is yet to be captured and expressed -- not fully nor
worthily, perhaps, until it too is a vanished regret; though Emerson
for one will not have it so, and maintains and justifies its right to
immediate recognition as poetic material. "For as it is dislocation
and detachment from the life of God that makes things ugly, the poet,
who re-attaches things to Nature and the whole -- re-attaching even
artificial things and violations of Nature to Nature by a deeper
insight -- disposes very easily of the most disagreeable facts"; so
that he looks upon "the factory village and the railway" and "sees
them fall within the great Order not less than the bee-hive or the
spider's geometrical web." The poet, however, seems hard to convince
hereof. Emerson will have it that "Nature loves the gliding train of
cars"; "instead of which" the poet still goes about the country
singing purling brooks. Painters have been more flexible and liberal.
Turner saw and did his best to seize the spirit of the thing, its
kinship with the elements, and to blend furnace-glare and rush of iron
with the storm-shower, the wind and the thwart-flashing sun-rays, and
to make the whole a single expression of irresoluble force. And even
in a certain work by another and a very different painter -- though I
willingly acquit Mr Frith of any deliberate romantic intention -- you
shall find the element of romance in the vestiges of the old order
still lingering in the first transition period: the coach-shaped
railway carriages with luggage piled and corded on top, the red-coated
guard, the little engine tethered well ahead as if between traces. To
those bred within sight of the sea, steamers will always partake in
somewhat of the "beauty and mystery of the ships"; above all, if
their happy childhood have lain among the gleaming lochs and sinuous
firths of the Western Highlands, where, twice a week maybe, the
strange visitant crept by headland and bay, a piece of the busy,
mysterious outer world. For myself, I probably stand alone in owning
to a sentimental weakness for the night-piercing whistle --
judiciously remote, as some men love the skirl of the pipes. In the
days when streets were less wearily familiar than now, or ever the
golden cord was quite loosed that led back to relinquished fields and
wider skies, I have lain awake on stifling summer nights, thinking of
luckier friends by moor and stream, and listening for the whistles
from certain railway stations, veritable "horns of Elf-land, faintly
blowing." Then, a ghostly passenger, I have taken my seat in a
phantom train, and sped up, up, through the map, rehearsing the
journey bit by bit: through the furnace-lit Midlands, and on till the
grey glimmer of dawn showed stone walls in place of hedges, and masses
looming up on either side; till the bright sun shone upon brown
leaping streams and purple heather, and the clear, sharp northern air
streamed in through the windows. Return, indeed, was bitter;
Endymion-like, "my first touch of the earth went nigh to kill": but
it was only to hurry northwards again on the wings of imagination,
from dust and heat to the dear mountain air. "We are only the
children who might have been," murmured Lamb's dream babes to him;
and for the sake of those dream-journeys, the journeys that might have
been, I still hail with a certain affection the call of the engine in
the night: even as I love sometimes to turn the enchanted pages of the
railway a b c, and pass from one to the other name reminiscent or
suggestive of joy and freedom, Devonian maybe, or savouring of Wessex,
or bearing me away to some sequestered reach of the quiet Thames.

Non Libri Sed Liberi

It will never be clear to the lay mind why the book-buyer buys books.
That it is not to read them is certain: the closest inspection always
fails to find him thus engaged. He will talk about them -- all night
if you let him -- wave his hand to them, shake his fist at them, shed
tears over them (in the small hours of the morning); but he will not
read them. Yet it would be rash to infer that he buys his books
without a remote intention of ever reading them. Most book lovers
start with the honest resolution that some day they will "shut down
on" this fatal practice. Then they purpose to themselves to enter
into their charmed circle, and close the gates of Paradise behind
them. Then will they read out of nothing but first editions; every day
shall be a debauch in large paper and tall copies; and crushed morocco
shall be familiar to their touch as buckram. Meanwhile, though, books
continue to flaunt their venal charms; it would be cowardice to shun
the fray. In fine, one buys and continues to buy; and the promised
Sabbath never comes.

The process of the purchase is always much the same, therein
resembling the familiar but inferior passion of love. There is the
first sight of the Object, accompanied of a catching of the breath, a
trembling in the limbs, loss of appetite, ungovernable desire, and a
habit of melancholy in secret places. But once possessed, once toyed
with amorously for an hour or two, the Object (as in the inferior
passion aforesaid) takes its destined place on the shelf -- where it
stays. And this saith the scoffer, is all; but even he does not fail
to remark with a certain awe that the owner goeth thereafter as one
possessing a happy secret and radiating an inner glow. Moreover, he is
insufferably conceited, and his conceit waxeth as his coat, now
condemned to a fresh term of servitude, groweth shabbier. And shabby
though his coat may be, yet will he never stoop to renew its pristine
youth and gloss by the price of any book. No man -- no human,
masculine, natural man -- ever sells a book. Men have been known in
moments of thoughtlessness, or compelled by temporary necessity, to
rob, to equivocate, to do murder, to commit what they should not, to
"wince and relent and refrain" from what they should: these things,
howbeit regrettable, are common to humanity, and may happen to any of
us. But amateur bookselling is foul and unnatural; and it is
noteworthy that our language, so capable of particularity, contains no
distinctive name for the crime. Fortunately it is hardly known to
exist: the face of the public being set against it as a flint -- and
the trade giving such wretched prices.

In book-buying you not infrequently condone an extravagance by the
reflection that this particular purchase will be a good investment,
sordidly considered: that you are not squandering income but sinking
capital. But you know all the time that you are lying. Once possessed,
books develop a personality: they take on a touch of warm human life
that links them in a manner with our kith and kin. Non angli sed
Angeli was the comment of a missionary (old style) on the small human
duodecimos exposed for sale in the Roman market-place; and many a
buyer, when some fair-haired little chattel passed into his
possession, must have felt that here was something vendible no more.
So of these you may well affirm Non libri sed liberi; children now,
adopted into the circle, they shall be trafficked in never again.

There is one exception which has sadly to be made -- one class of men,
of whom I would fain, if possible, have avoided mention, who are
strangers to any such scruples. These be Executors -- a word to be
strongly accented on the penultimate; for, indeed, they are the common
headsmen of collections, and most of all do whet their bloody edge for
harmless books. Hoary, famous old collections, budding young
collections, fair virgin collections of a single author -- all go down
before the executor's remorseless axe. He careth not and he spareth
not. "The iniquity of oblivion blindly scattereth her poppy," and it
is chiefly by the hand of the executor that she doth love to scatter
it. May oblivion be his portion for ever!

Of a truth, the foes of the book-lover are not few. One of the most
insidious, because he cometh at first in friendly, helpful guise, is
the bookbinder. Not in that he bindeth books -- for the fair binding
is the final crown and flower of painful achievement -- but because he
bindeth not: because the weary weeks lapse by and turn to months, and
the months to years, and still the binder bindeth not: and the heart
grows sick with hope deferred. Each morn the maiden binds her hair,
each spring the honeysuckle binds the cottage-porch, each autumn the
harvester binds his sheaves, each winter the iron frost binds lake and
stream, and still the bookbinder he bindeth not. Then a secret voice
whispereth: "Arise, be a man, and slay him! Take him grossly, full of
bread, with all his crimes broad-blown, as flush as May; At gaming,
swearing, or about some act That hath no relish of salvation in it!"
But when the deed is done, and the floor strewn with fragments of
binder -- still the books remain unbound. You have made all that
horrid mess for nothing, and the weary path has to be trodden over
again. As a general rule, the man in the habit of murdering
bookbinders, though he performs a distinct service to society, only
wastes his own time and takes no personal advantage.

And even supposing that after many days your books return to you in
leathern surcoats bravely tricked with gold, you have scarce yet
weathered the Cape and sailed into halcyon seas. For these books --
well, you kept them many weeks before binding them, that the
oleaginous printer's-ink might fully dry before the necessary
hammering; you forbore to open the pages, that the autocratic binder
might refold the sheets if he pleased; and now that all is over --
consummatum est -- still you cannot properly enjoy the harvest of a
quiet mind. For these purple emperors are not to be read in bed, nor
during meals, nor on the grass with a pipe on Sundays; and these brief
periods are all the whirling times allow you for solid serious
reading. Still, after all, you have them; you can at least pulverise
your friends with the sight; and what have they to show against them?
Probably some miserable score or so of half-bindings, such as lead you
scornfully to quote the hackneyed couplet concerning the poor Indian
whose untutored mind clothes him before but leaves him bare behind.
Let us thank the gods that such things are: that to some of us they
give not poverty nor riches but a few good books in whole bindings.
Dowered with these and (if it be vouchsafed) a cup of Burgundy that is
sound even if it be not old, we can leave to others the foaming grape
of Eastern France that was vintaged in '74, and with it the whole
range of shilling shockers, -- the Barmecidal feast of the purposeful
novelist -- yea, even the countless series that tell of Eminent Women
and Successful Men.

Loafing

When the golden Summer has rounded languidly to his close, when Autumn
has been carried forth in russet winding-sheet, then all good fellows
who look upon holidays as a chief end of life return from moor and
stream and begin to take stock of gains and losses. And the wisest,
realising that the time of action is over while that of reminiscence
has begun, realise too that the one is pregnant with greater pleasures
than the other -- that action, indeed, is only the means to an end of
reflection and appreciation. Wisest of all, the Loafer stands apart
supreme. For he, of one mind with the philosopher as to the end, goes
straight to it at once; and his happy summer has accordingly been
spent in those subjective pleasures of the mind whereof the others,
the men of muscle and peeled faces, are only just beginning to taste.

And yet though he may a little despise (or rather pity) them, the
Loafer does not dislike nor altogether shun them. Far from it: they
are very necessary to him. For "Suave mari magno" is the motto of
your true Loafer; and it is chiefly by keeping ever in view the
struggles and the clamorous jostlings of the unenlightened making
holiday that he is able to realise the bliss of his own condition and
maintain his self-satisfaction at boiling-point. And so is he never
very far away from the track beaten by the hurrying Philistine hoof,
but hovers more or less on the edge of it, where, the sole fixed star
amidst whirling constellations, he may watch the mad world "glance,
and nod, and hurry by."

There are many such centres of contemplation along the West Coast of
Scotland. Few places are better loafing-ground than a pier, with its
tranquil "lucid interval" between steamers, the ever recurrent throb
of paddle-wheel, the rush and foam of beaten water among the piles,
splash of ropes and rumble of gangways, and all the attendant hurry
and scurry of the human morrice. Here, tanquam in speculo, the Loafer
as he lounges may, by attorney as it were, touch gently every stop in
the great organ of the emotions of mortality. Rapture of meeting,
departing woe, love at first sight, disdain, laughter, indifference --
he may experience them all, but attenuated and as if he saw them in a
dream; as if, indeed, he were Heine's god in dream on a mountain-side.
Let the drowsy deity awake and all these puppets, emanations of his
dream, will vanish into the nothing whence they came. And these
emotions may be renewed each morning; if a fair one sail to-day, be
sure that one as fair will land to-morrow. The supply is
inexhaustible.

But in the South perhaps the happiest loafing-ground is the gift of
Father Thames; for there again the contrast of violent action, with
its blisters, perspiration, and the like, throws into fine relief the
bliss of "quietism." I know one little village in the upper reaches
where loafing may be pushed to high perfection. Here the early hours
of the morning are vexed by the voices of boaters making their way
down the little street to the river. The most of them go staggering
under hampers, bundles of waterproofs, and so forth. Their voices are
clamant of feats to be accomplished: they will row, they will punt,
they will paddle, till they weary out the sun. All this the Loafer
hears through the open door of his cottage, where in his shirt-sleeves
he is dallying with his bacon, as a gentleman should. He is the only
one who has had a comfortable breakfast -- and he knows it. Later he
will issue forth and stroll down in their track to the bridge. The
last of these Argonauts is pulling lustily forth; the river is dotted
with evanishing blazers. Upon all these lunatics a pitiless Phoebus
shines triumphant. The Loafer sees the last of them off the stage,
turns his back on it, and seeks the shady side of the street.

A holy calm possesses the village now; the foreign element has passed
away with shouting and waving of banners, and its natural life of
somnolency is in evidence at last. And first, as a true Loafer should,
let him respectfully greet each several village dog. Arcades ambo --
loafers likewise -- they lie there in the warm dust, each outside his
own door, ready to return the smallest courtesy. Their own lords and
masters are not given to the exchange of compliments nor to greetings
in the market-place. The dog is generally the better gentleman, and he
is aware of it; and he duly appreciates the loafer, who is not too
proud to pause a moment, change the news, and pass the time of day. He
will mark his sense of this attention by rising from his dust-divan
and accompanying his caller some steps on his way. But he will stop
short of his neighbour's dust-patch; for the morning is really too hot
for a shindy. So, by easy stages (the street is not a long one: six
dogs will see it out), the Loafer quits the village; and now the world
is before him. Shall he sit on a gate and smoke? or lie on the grass
and smoke? or smoke aimlessly and at large along the road? Such a
choice of happiness is distracting; but perhaps the last course is the
best -- as needing the least mental effort of selection. Hardly,
however, has he fairly started his first daydream when the snappish
"ting" of a bellkin recalls him to realities. By comes the
bicyclist: dusty, sweating, a piteous thing to look upon. But the
irritation of the strepitant metal has jarred the Loafer's always
exquisite nerves: he is fain to climb a gate and make his way towards
solitude and the breezy downs.

Up here all vestiges of a sordid humanity disappear. The Loafer is
alone with the south-west wind and the blue sky. Only a carolling of
larks and a tinkling from distant flocks break the brooding noonday
stillness; above, the wind-hover hangs motionless, a black dot on the
blue. Prone on his back on the springy turf, gazing up into the sky,
his fleshy integument seems to drop away, and the spirit ranges at
will among the tranquil clouds. This way Nirvana nearest lies. Earth
no longer obtrudes herself; possibly somewhere a thousand miles or so
below him the thing still "spins like a fretful midge." The Loafer
knows not nor cares. His is now an astral body, and through golden
spaces of imagination his soul is winging her untrammelled flight. And
there he really might remain for ever, but that his vagrom spirit is
called back to earth by a gentle but resistless, very human summons,
-- a gradual, consuming, Pantagruelian, god-like, thirst: a thirst to
thank Heaven on. So, with a sigh half of regret, half of anticipation,
he bends his solitary steps towards the nearest inn. Tobacco for one
is good; to commune with oneself and be still is truest wisdom; but
beer is a thing of deity -- beer is divine.

Later the Loafer may decently make some concession to popular taste by
strolling down to the river and getting out his boat. With one paddle
out he will drift down the stream: just brushing the flowering rush
and the meadow-sweet and taking in as peculiar gifts the varied sweets
of even. The loosestrife is his, and the arrow-head: his the distant
moan of the weir; his are the glories, amber and scarlet and silver,
of the sunset-haunted surface. By-and-by the boaters will pass him
homeward-bound. All are blistered and sore: his withers are unwrung.
Most are too tired and hungry to see the sunset glories; no corporeal
pangs clog his æsthesis -- his perceptive faculty. Some have
quarrelled in the day and are no longer on speaking terms; he is at
peace with himself and with the whole world. Of all that lay them down
in the little village that night, his sleep will be the surest and the
sweetest. For not even the blacksmith himself will have better claim
to have earned a night's repose.

Cheap Knowledge

When at times it happens to me that I 'gin to be aweary of the sun,
and to find the fair apple of life dust and ashes at the core -- just
because, perhaps, I can't afford Melampus Brown's last volume of poems
in large paper, but must perforce condescend upon the two-and-sixpenny
edition for the million -- then I bring myself to a right temper by
recalling to memory a sight which now and again in old days would
touch the heart of me to a happier pulsation. In the long, dark winter
evenings, outside some shop window whose gaslight flared brightest
into the chilly street, I would see some lad -- sometimes even a girl
-- book in hand, heedless of cold and wet, of aching limbs and
straining eyes, careless of jostling passers-by, of rattle and turmoil
behind them and about, their happy spirits far in an enchanted world:
till the ruthless shopman turned out the gas and brought them rudely
back to the bitter reality of cramped legs and numbed fingers. "My
brother!" or "My sister!" I would cry inwardly, feeling the link
that bound us together. They possessed, for the hour, the two gifts
most precious to the student -- light and solitude: the true solitude
of the roaring street.

Somehow this vision rarely greets me now. Probably the Free Libraries
have supplanted the flickering shop lights; and every lad and lass can
enter and call for Miss Braddon and batten thereon "in luxury's
sofa-lap of leather"; and of course this boon is appreciated and
profited by, and we shall see the divine results in a year or two. And
yet sometimes, like the dear old Baron in the "Red Lamp," "I
wonder?"

For myself, public libraries possess a special horror, as of lonely
wastes and dragon-haunted fens. The stillness and the heavy air, the
feeling of restriction and surveillance, the mute presence of these
other readers, "all silent and all damned," combine to set up a
nervous irritation fatal to quiet study. Had I to choose, I would
prefer the windy street. And possibly others have found that the
removal of checks and obstacles makes the path which leads to the
divine mountain-tops less tempting, now that it is less rugged. So
full of human nature are we all -- still -- despite the Radical
missionaries that labour in the vineyard. Before the National Gallery
was extended and rearranged, there was a little "St Catherine" by
Pinturicchio that possessed my undivided affections. In those days she
hung near the floor, so that those who would worship must grovel; and
little I grudged it. Whenever I found myself near Trafalgar Square
with five minutes to spare I used to turn in and sit on the floor
before the object of my love, till gently but firmly replaced on my
legs by the attendant. She hangs on the line now, in the grand new
room; but I never go to see her. Somehow she is not my "St
Catherine" of old. Doubtless Free Libraries affect many students in
the same way: on the same principle as that now generally accepted --
that it is the restrictions placed on vice by our social code which
make its pursuit so peculiarly agreeable.

But even when the element of human nature has been fully allowed for,
it remains a question whether the type of mind that a generation or
two of Free Libraries will evolve is or is not the one that the world
most desiderates; and whether the spare reading and consequent fertile
thinking necessitated by the old, or gas-lamp, style is not productive
of sounder results. The cloyed and congested mind resulting from the
free run of these grocers' shops to omnivorous appetites (and all
young readers are omnivorous) bids fair to produce a race of literary
resurrection-men: a result from which we may well pray to be spared.
Of all forms of lettered effusiveness that which exploits the original
work of others and professes to supply us with right opinions
thereanent is the least wanted. And whether he take to literary
expression by pen or only wag the tongue of him, the grocer's boy of
letters is sure to prove a prodigious bore. The Free Library, if it be
fulfilling the programme of its advocates, is breeding such as he by
scores.

But after all there is balm in Gilead; and much joy and consolation
may be drawn from the sorrowful official reports, by which it would
appear that the patrons of these libraries are confining their
reading, with a charming unanimity, exclusively to novels. And indeed
they cannot do better; there is no more blessed thing on earth than a
good novel, not the least merit of which is that it induces a state of
passive, unconscious enjoyment, and never frenzies the reader to go
out and put the world right. Next to fairy tales -- the original
world-fiction -- our modern novels may be ranked as our most precious
possessions; and so it has come to pass that I shall now cheerfully
pay my five shillings, or ten shillings, or whatever it may shortly
be, in the pound towards the Free Library: convinced at last that the
money is not wasted in training exponents of the subjectivity of this
writer and the objectivity of that, nor in developing fresh imitators
of dead discredited styles, but is righteously devoted to the support
of wholesome, honest, unpretending novel-reading.

The Rural Pan

An April Essay

Through shady Throgmorton Street and about the vale of Cheapside the
restless Mercury is flitting, with furtive eye and voice a little
hoarse from bidding in the market. Further west, down classic
Piccadilly, moves the young Apollo, the lord of the unerring (satin)
bow; and nothing meaner than a frock-coat shall in these latter years
float round his perfect limbs. But remote in other haunts than these
the rural Pan is hiding, and piping the low, sweet strain that reaches
only the ears of a chosen few. And now that the year wearily turns and
stretches herself before the perfect waking, the god emboldened begins
to blow a clearer note.

When the waking comes at last, and Summer is abroad, these deities
will abroad too, each as his several attributes move him. Who is this
that flieth up the reaches of the Thames in steam-launch hired for the
day? Mercury is out -- some dozen or fifteen strong. The flower-gemmed
banks crumble and slide down under the wash of his rampant screw; his
wake is marked by a line of lobster-claws, gold-necked bottles, and
fragments of veal-pie. Resplendent in blazer, he may even be seen to
embrace the slim-waisted nymph, haunter of green (room) shades, in the
full gaze of the shocked and scandalised sun. Apollo meantime
reposeth, passively beautiful, on the lawn of the Guards' Club at
Maidenhead. Here, O Apollo, are haunts meet for thee. A deity
subjectively inclined, he is neither objective nor, it must be said
for him, at all objectionable, like them of Mercury.

Meanwhile, nor launches nor lawns tempt him that pursueth the rural
Pan. In the hushed recesses of Hurley backwater where the canoe may be
paddled almost under the tumbling comb of the weir, he is to be looked
for; there the god pipes with freest abandonment. Or under the great
shadow of Streatley Hill, "annihilating all that's made to a green
thought in a green shade"; or better yet, pushing an explorer's prow
up the remote untravelled Thame, till Dorchester's stately roof broods
over the quiet fields. In solitudes such as these Pan sits and
dabbles, and all the air is full of the music of his piping.
Southwards, again, on the pleasant Surrey downs there is shouting and
jostling; dust that is drouthy and language that is sultry. Thither
comes the young Apollo, calmly confident as ever; and he meeteth
certain Mercuries of the baser sort, who do him obeisance, call him
captain and lord, and then proceed to skin him from head to foot as
thoroughly as the god himself flayed Marsyas in days of yore, at a
certain Spring Meeting in Phrygia: a good instance of Time's revenges.
And yet Apollo returns to town and swears he has had a grand day. He
does so every year. Out of hearing of all the clamour, the rural Pan
may be found stretched on Ranmore Common, loitering under Abinger
pines, or prone by the secluded stream of the sinuous Mole, abounding
in friendly greetings for his foster-brothers the dab-chick and
water-rat.

For a holiday, Mercury loveth the Pullman Express, and a short hour
with a society paper; anon, brown boots on the pier, and the pleasant
combination of Métropole and Monopole. Apollo for his part will urge
the horses of the Sun: and, if he leaveth the society weekly to
Mercury, yet he loveth well the Magazine. From which omphalos or hub
of the universe he will direct his shining team even to the far
Hesperides of Richmond or of Windsor. Both iron road and level highway
are shunned by the rural Pan, who chooses rather to foot it along the
sheep track on the limitless downs or the thwart-leading footpath
through copse and spinney, not without pleasant fellowship with
feather and fir. Nor does it follow from all this that the god is
unsocial. Albeit shy of the company of his more showy brother-deities,
he loveth the more unpretentious humankind, especially them that are
adscripti glebæ, addicted to the kindly soil and to the working
thereof: perfect in no way, only simple, cheery sinners. For he is
only half a god after all, and the red earth in him is strong. When
the pelting storm drives the wayfarers to the sheltering inn, among
the little group on bench and settle Pan has been known to appear at
times, in homely guise of hedger-and-ditcher or weather-beaten
shepherd from the downs. Strange lore and quaint fancy he will then
impart, in the musical Wessex or Mercian he has learned to speak so
naturally; though it may not be till many a mile away that you begin
to suspect that you have unwittingly talked with him who chased the
flying Syrinx in Arcady and turned the tide of fight at Marathon.

Yes: to-day the iron horse has searched the country through -- east
and west, north and south -- bringing with it Commercialism, whose god
is Jerry, and who studs the hills with stucco and garrotes the streams
with the girder. Bringing, too, into every nook and corner fashion and
chatter, the tailor-made gown and the eyeglass. Happily a great part
is still spared -- how great these others fortunately do not know --
in which the rural Pan and his following may hide their heads for yet
a little longer, until the growing tyranny has invaded the last
common, spinney, and sheep-down, and driven the kindly god, the
well-wisher to man -- whither?

Marginalia

American Hunt, in his suggestive "Talks about Art," demands that the
child shall be encouraged -- or rather permitted, for the natural
child needs little encouragement -- to draw when- and whereon-soever
he can; for, says he, the child's scribbling on the margin of his
school-books is really worth more to him than all he gets out of them,
and indeed, "to him the margin is the best part of all books, and he
finds in it the soothing influence of a clear sky in a landscape."
Doubtless Sir Benjamin Backbite, though his was not an artist soul,
had some dim feeling of this mighty truth when he spoke of that new
quarto of his, in which "a neat rivulet of text shall meander through
a meadow of margin": boldly granting the margin to be of superior
importance to the print. This metaphor is pleasantly expanded in
Burton's "Bookhunter": wherein you read of certain folios with
"their majestic stream of central print overflowing into rivulets of
marginal notes, sedgy with citations." But the good Doctor leaves the
main stream for a backwater of error in inferring that the chief use
of margins is to be a parading-ground for notes and citations. As if
they had not absolute value in themselves, nor served a finer end! In
truth, Hunt's child was vastly the wiser man.

For myself, my own early margins chiefly served to note, cite, and
illustrate the habits of crocodiles. Along the lower or "tail" edge,
the saurian, splendidly serrated as to his back, arose out of old
Nile; up one side negroes, swart as sucked lead-pencil could limn
them, let fall their nerveless spears; up the other, monkeys,
gibbering with terror, swarmed hastily up palm-trees -- a plant to the
untutored hand of easier outline than (say) your British oak.
Meanwhile, all over the unregarded text Balbus slew Caius on the most
inadequate provocation, or Hannibal pursued his victorious career,
while Roman generals delivered ornate set speeches prior to receiving
the usual satisfactory licking. Fabius, Hasdrubal -- all alike were
pallid shades with faint, thin voices powerless to pierce the
distance. The margins of Cocytus doubtless knew them: mine were
dedicated to the more attractive flesh and blood of animal life, the
varied phases of the tropic forest. Or, in more practical mood, I
would stoop to render certain facts recorded in the text. To these
digressions I probably owe what little education I possess. For
example, there was one sentence in our Roman history: "By this single
battle of Magnesia, Antiochus the Great lost all his conquests in Asia
Minor." Serious historians really should not thus forget themselves.
'Twas so easy, by a touch of the pen, to transform "battle" into
"bottle"; for "conquests" one could substitute a word for which
not even Macaulay's school-boy were at a loss; and the result,
depicted with rude vigour in his margin, fixed the name of at least
one ancient fight on the illustrator's memory. But this plodding and
material art had small charm for me: to whom the happy margin was a
"clear sky" ever through which I could sail away at will to more
gracious worlds. I was duly qualified by a painfully acquired
ignorance of dead languages cautiously to approach my own; and 'twas
no better. Along Milton's margins the Gryphon must needs pursue the
Arimaspian -- what a chance, that Arimaspian, for the imaginative
pencil! And so it has come about that, while Milton periods are mostly
effaced from memory by the sponge of Time, I can still see that
vengeful Gryphon, cousin-german to the gentle beast that danced the
Lobster Quadrille by a certain shore.

It is by no means insisted upon that the chief end and use of margins
is for pictorial illustration, nor yet for furtive games of oughts and
crosses, nor (in the case of hymn-books) for amorous missives scrawled
against the canticle for the day, to be passed over into an adjacent
pew: as used, alas! to happen in days when one was young and godless,
and went to church. Nor, again, are the margins of certain poets
entrusted to man for the composing thereon of infinitely superior
rhymes on the subjects themselves have maltreated: a depraved habit,
akin to scalping. What has never been properly recognised is the
absolute value of the margin itself -- a value frequently superior to
its enclosure. In poetry the popular taste demands its margin, and
takes care to get it in "the little verses wot they puts inside the
crackers." The special popularity, indeed, of lyric as opposed to
epic verse is due to this habit of feeling. A good example maybe found
in the work of Mr Swinburne: the latter is the better poetry, the
earlier remains the more popular -- because of its eloquence of
margin. Mr Tupper might long ago have sat with laureate brow but for
his neglect of this first principle. The song of Sigurd, our one epic
of the century, is pitiably unmargined, and so has never won the full
meed of glory it deserves; while the ingenious gentleman who wrote
"Beowulf," our other English epic, grasped the great fact from the
first, so that his work is much the more popular of the two. The moral
is evident. An authority on practical book-making has stated that
"margin is a matter to be studied"; also that "to place the print
in the centre of the paper is wrong in principle, and to be
deprecated." Now, if it be "wrong in principle," let us push that
principle to its legitimate conclusion, and "deprecate" the placing
of print on any part of the paper at all. Without actually suggesting
this course to any of our living bards, when, I may ask -- when shall
that true poet arise who, disdaining the trivialities of text, shall
give the world a book of verse consisting entirely of margin? How we
shall shove and jostle for large paper copies!

The Eternal Whither

There was once an old cashier in some ancient City establishment,
whose practice was to spend his yearly holiday in relieving some
turnpike-man at his post, and performing all the duties appertaining
thereunto. This was vulgarly taken to be an instance of mere
mill-horse enslavement to his groove -- the reception of payments; and
it was spoken of both in mockery of all mill-horses and for the due
admonishment of others. And yet that clerk had discovered for himself
an unique method of seeing Life at its best, the flowing, hurrying,
travelling, marketing Life of the Highway; the life of bagman and
cart, of tinker, and pig-dealer, and all cheery creatures that drink
and chaffer together in the sun. He belonged, above all, to the scanty
class of clear-seeing persons who know both what they are good for and
what they really want. To know what you would like to do is one thing;
to go out boldly and do it is another -- and a rarer; and the sterile
fields about Hell-Gate are strewn with the corpses of those who would
an if they could.

To be sure, being bent on the relaxation most congenial to one's soul,
it is possible to push one's disregard for convention too far: as is
seen in the case of another, though of an earlier generation, in the
same establishment. In his office there was the customary
"attendance-book," wherein the clerks were expected to sign each
day. Here his name one morning ceases abruptly from appearing; he
signs, indeed, no more. Instead of signature you find, a little later,
writ in careful commercial hand, this entry: "Mr --- did not attend
at his office to-day, having been hanged at eight o'clock in the
morning for horse-stealing." Through the faded ink of this record do
you not seem to catch, across the gulf of years, some waft of the
jolly humanity which breathed in this prince among clerks? A formal
precisian, doubtless, during business hours; but with just this honest
love of horseflesh lurking deep down there in him -- unsuspected,
sweetening the whole lump. Can you not behold him, freed from his
desk, turning to pursue his natural bent, as a city-bred dog still
striveth to bury his bone deep in the hearth-rug? For no filthy lucre,
you may be sure, but from sheer love of the pursuit itself! All the
same, he erred; erred, if not in taste, at least in judgment: for we
cannot entirely acquit him of blame for letting himself be caught.

In these tame and tedious days of the policeman rampant, our
melancholy selves are debarred from many a sport, joyous and debonair,
whereof our happier fathers were free. Book-stealing, to be sure,
remains to us; but every one is not a collector; and, besides, 'tis a
diversion you can follow with equal success all the year round. Still,
the instance may haply be pregnant with suggestion to many who wearily
ask each year, what new place or pursuit exhausted earth still keeps
for the holiday-maker. 'Tis a sad but sober fact, that the most of men
lead flat and virtuous lives, departing annually with their family to
some flat and virtuous place, there to disport themselves in a manner
that is decent, orderly, wholly uninteresting, vacant of every buxom
stimulus. To such as these a suggestion, in all friendliness: why not
try crime? We shall not attempt to specify the particular branch --
for every one must himself seek out and find the path his nature best
fits him to follow; but the general charm of the prospect must be
evident to all. The freshness and novelty of secrecy, the artistic
satisfaction in doing the act of self-expression as well as it can
possibly be done; the experience of being not the hunter, but the
hunted, not the sportsman, but the game; the delight of comparing and
discussing crimes with your mates over a quiet pipe on your return to
town; these new pleasures -- these and their like -- would furnish
just that gentle stimulant, that peaceful sense of change so necessary
to the tired worker. And then the fact, that you would naturally have
to select and plan out your particular line of diversion without
advice or assistance, has its own advantage. For the moment a man
takes to dinning in your ears that you ought, you really ought, to go
to Norway, you at once begin to hate Norway with a hate that ever will
be; and to have Newlyn, Cromer, or Dawlish, Carinthia or the Austrian
Tyrol jammed down your throat, is enough to initiate the discovery
that your own individual weakness is a joyous and persistent liking
for manslaughter.

Some few seem to be born without much innate tendency to crime. After
all, it is mostly a matter of heredity; these unfortunates are less
culpable than their neglectful ancestors; and it is a fault that none
need really blush for in the present. For such as they there still
remains the example of the turnpike-loving clerk, with all its golden
possibilities. Denied the great delight of driving a locomotive, or a
fire-engine -- whirled along in a glorious nimbus of smoke-pant,
spark-shower, and hoarse warning roar -- what bliss to the palefaced
quilldriver to command a penny steamboat between London Bridge and
Chelsea! to drive a four-horsed Jersey-car to Kew at sixpence a head!
Though turnpikes be things of the past, there are still tolls to be
taken on many a pleasant reach of Thames. What happiness in quiet
moments to tend the lock-keeper's flower-beds -- perhaps make love to
his daughter; anon in busier times to let the old gates swing, work
the groaning winches, and hear the water lap and suck and gurgle as it
slowly sinks or rises with its swaying freight; to dangle legs over
the side and greet old acquaintances here and there among the
parti-coloured wayfarers passing up or down; while tobacco palleth not
on the longest day, and beer is ever within easy reach. The iron
tetter that scurfs the face of our island has killed out the pleasant
life of the road; but many of its best conditions still linger round
these old toll gates, free from dust and clatter, on the silent liquid
Highway to the West.

These for the weaker brethren: but for him who is conscious of the
Gift, the path is plain.

Deus Terminus

The practical Roman, stern constructor of roads and codes, when he
needs must worship, loved a deity practical as himself; and in his
parcelling of the known world into plots, saying unto this man, Bide
here, and to that, Sit you down there, he could scarce fail to evolve
the god Terminus: visible witness of possession and dominion, type of
solid facts not to be quibbled away. We Romans of this latter day --
so hailed by others, or complacently christened by ourselves -- are
Roman in nothing more than in this; and, as much in the less tangible
realms of thought as in our solid acres, we are fain to set up the
statue which shall proclaim that so much country is explored, marked
out, allotted, and done with; that such and such ramblings and
excursions are practicable and permissible, and all else is exploded,
illegal, or absurd. And in this way we are left with naught but a
vague lingering tradition of the happier days before the advent of the
ruthless deity.

The sylvan glories of yonder stretch of woodland renew themselves each
autumn, regal as ever. It is only the old enchantment that is gone;
banished by the matter-of-fact deity, who has stolidly settled exactly
where Lord A.'s shooting ends and Squire B.'s begins. Once, no such
petty limitations fettered the mind. A step into the woodland was a
step over the border -- the margin of the material; and then, good-bye
to the modern world of the land-agent and the "Field" advertisement!
A chiming of little bells over your head, and lo! the peregrine, with
eyes like jewels, fluttered through the trees, her jesses catching in
the boughs. 'Twas the favourite of the Princess, the windows of whose
father's castle already gleamed through the trees, where honours and
favours awaited the adventurous. The white doe sprang away through the
thicket, her snowy flank stained with blood; she made for the
enchanted cot, and for entrance you too had the pass-word. Did you
fail on her traces, nor fox nor mole was too busy to spare a moment
for friendly advice or information. Little hands were stretched to
trip you, fairy gibe and mockery pelted you from every rabbit-hole;
and O what Dryads you have kissed among the leaves, in that brief
blissful moment ere they hardened into tree! 'Tis pity, indeed, that
this sort of thing should have been made to share the suspicion
attaching to the poacher; that the stony stare of the boundary god
should confront you at the end of every green ride and rabbit-run;
while the very rabbits themselves are too disgusted with the altered
circumstances to tarry a moment for so much as to exchange the time of
day.

Truly this age is born, like Falstaff, with a white head and something
a round belly: and will none of your jigs and fantasies. The golden
era of princesses is past. For your really virtuous 'prentices there
still remain a merchant's daughter or two, and a bottle of port o'
Sundays on the Clapham mahogany. For the rest of us, one or two decent
clubs, and plenty of nice roomy lunatic asylums. "Go spin, you jade,
go spin!" is the one greeting for Imagination. And yet -- what a lip
the slut has! What an ankle! Go to: there's nobody looking; let us
lock the door, pull down the blinds, and write us a merry ballad.

'Tis ungracious, perhaps, to regret what is gone for ever, when so
much is given in return. A humour we have, that is entirely new; and
allotments that shall win back Astræa. Our Labor Program stands for
evidence that the Board School, at least, has done enduring work; and
the useless race of poets is fast dying out. Though we no longer
conjecture what song the Sirens sang, or what name Achilles assumed
when he hid himself among women, yet many a prize (of guineas galore)
awaits the competitor who will stoop, week by week, to more practical
research. "Le monde marche," as Renan hath it, "vers une sorte
d'americanisme.... Peut-être la vulgarité générale sera-t-elle un jour
la condition du bonheur des élus. Nous n'avons pas le droit d'etre
fort difficiles." We will be very facile, then, since needs must;
remembering the good old proverb that "scornful dogs eat dirty
puddings." But, ere we show Terminus the door, at least let us fling
one stone at the shrieking sulphureous houses of damnation erected as
temples in his honour, and dignified with his name! There, 'mid
clangour, dirt, and pestilence of crowding humanity, the very spirit
of worry and unrest sits embodied. The old Roman was not such a bad
fellow. His deity of demarcation at least breathed open air, and knew
the kindly touch of sun and wind. His simple rites were performed amid
flowers and under blue sky, by sunny roads or tranquil waters; and on
this particular altar the sacrifice was ordained to be free from any
stain of gore. Our hour of sacrifice, alas, has not yet come. When it
does -- ( et haud procul absit!) -- let the offering be no bloodless
one, but let (for choice) a fat and succulent stationmaster smoke and
crackle on the altar of expiation!

Of Smoking

Concerning Cigarette Smoking: It hath been well observed by a certain
philosopher that this is a practice commendable enough, and pleasant
to indulge in, "when you're not smoking"; wherein the whole
criticism of the cigarette is found, in a little room. Of the same
manner of thinking was one that I knew, who kept by him an ample case
bulging with cigarettes, to smoke while he was filling his pipe. Toys
they be verily, nugæ, and shadows of the substance. Serviceable,
nevertheless, as shadows sometimes be when the substance is
temporarily unattainable; as between the acts of a play, in the park,
or while dressing for dinner: that such moments may not be entirely
wasted. That cigarette, however, which is so prompt to appear after
dinner I would reprehend and ban and totally abolish: as enemy to that
diviner thing before which it should pale its ineffectual fires in
shame -- to wit, good drink, "la dive bouteille"; except indeed when
the liquor be bad, as is sometimes known to happen. Then it may serve
in some sort as a sorry consolation. But to leave these airy
substitutes, and come to smoking.

It hath been ofttimes debated whether the morning pipe be the sweeter,
or that first pipe of the evening which "Hesperus, who bringeth all
good things," brings to the weary with home and rest. The first is
smoked on a clearer palate, and comes to unjaded senses like the kiss
of one's first love; but lacks that feeling of perfect fruition, of
merit recompensed and the goal and the garland won, which clings to
the vesper bowl. Whence it comes that the majority give the palm to
the latter. To which I intend no slight when I find the incense that
arises at matins sweeter even than that of evensong. For, although
with most of us who are labourers in the vineyard, toilers and
swinkers, the morning pipe is smoked in hurry and fear and a sense of
alarums and excursions and fleeting trains, yet with all this there
are certain halcyon periods sure to arrive -- Sundays, holidays, and
the like -- the whole joy and peace of which are summed up in that one
beatific pipe after breakfast, smoked in a careless majesty like that
of the gods "when they lie beside their nectar, and the clouds are
lightly curled." Then only can we be said really to smoke. And so
this particular pipe of the day always carries with it festal
reminiscences: memories of holidays past, hopes for holidays to come;
a suggestion of sunny lawns and flannels and the ungirt loin; a sense
withal of something free and stately, as of "faint march-music in the
air," or the old Roman cry of "Liberty, freedom, and
enfranchisement."

If there be any fly in the pipe-smoker's ointment, it may be said to
lurk in the matter of "rings." Only the exceptionally gifted smoker
can recline in his chair and emit at will the perfect smoke-ring, in
consummate eddying succession. He of the meaner sort must be content
if, at rare heaven-sent intervals -- while thinking, perhaps, of
nothing less -- there escape from his lips the unpremeditated flawless
circle. Then "deus fio" he is moved to cry, at that breathless
moment when his creation hangs solid and complete, ere the particles
break away and blend with the baser atmosphere. Nay, some will deny to
any of us terrene smokers the gift of fullest achievement: for what
saith the poet of the century? "On the earth the broken arcs: in the
heaven the perfect round!"

It was well observed by a certain character in one of Wilkie Collins's
novels (if an imperfect memory serveth me rightly) that women will
take pleasure in scents derived from animal emanations, clarified
fats, and the like; yet do illogically abhor the "clean, dry,
vegetable smell" of tobacco. Herein the true base of the feminine
objection is reached; being, as usual, inherent want of logic rather
than any distaste, in the absolute, for the thing in question.
Thinking that they ought to dislike, they do painfully cast about for
reasons to justify their dislike, when none really exist. As a
specimen of their so-called arguments, I remember how a certain fair
one triumphantly pointed out to me that my dog, though loving me well,
could yet never be brought to like the smell of tobacco. To whom I,
who respected my dog (as Ben saith of Master Shakespeare) on this side
idolatry as much as anything, was yet fain to point out -- more in
sorrow than in anger -- that a dog, being an animal who delights to
pass his whole day, from early morn to dewy eve, in shoving his nose
into every carrion beastliness that he can come across, could hardly
be considered arbiter elegantiarum in the matter of smells. But indeed
I did wrong to take such foolish quibbling seriously; nor would I have
done so, if she hadn't dragged my poor innocent dog into the
discussion.

Of Smoking in Bed: There be who consider this a depravity -- an
instance of that excess in the practice of a virtue which passes into
vice -- and couple it with dram-drinking: who yet fail to justify
themselves by argument. For if bed be by common consent the greatest
bliss, the divinest spot, on earth, "ille terrarum qui præter omnes
angulus ridet"; and if tobacco be the true Herb of Grace, and a joy
and healing balm, and respite and nepenthe, -- if all this be
admitted, why are two things, super-excellent separately, noxious in
conjunction? And is not the Bed Smoker rather an epicure in pleasure
-- self indulgent perhaps, but still the triumphant creator of a new
"blend," reminding one of a certain traveller's account of an
intoxicant patronised in the South Sea Islands, which combines the
blissful effect of getting drunk and remaining sober to enjoy it? Yet
I shall not insist too much on this point, but would only ask -- so
long as the smoker be unwedded -- for some tolerance in the matter and
a little logic in the discussion thereof.

Concerning Cigars: That there be large sums given for these is within
common knowledge. 1 d., 2 d., nay even 4 d., is not too great a price,
if a man will have of the finest leaf, reckless of expense. In this
sort of smoking, however, I find more of vainglory and ostentation
than solid satisfaction; and its votaries would seem to display less a
calm, healthy affection for tobacco than (as Sir T. Browne hath it) a
"passionate prodigality." And, besides grievous wasting of the
pocket, atmospheric changes, varyings in the crops, and the like,
cause uncertainty to cling about each individual weed, so that man is
always more or less at the mercy of Nature and the elements -- an
unsatisfactory and undignified position in these latter days of the
Triumphant Democracy. But worst and fatallest of all, to every
cigar-smoker it is certain to happen that once in his life, by some
happy combination of time, place, temperament, and Nature -- by some
starry influence, maybe, or freak of the gods in mocking sport --
once, and once only, he will taste the aroma of the perfect leaf at
just the perfect point -- the ideal cigar. Henceforth his life is
saddened; as one kissed by a goddess in a dream, he goes thereafter,
as one might say, in a sort of love-sickness. Seeking he scarce knows
what, his existence becomes a dissatisfied yearning; the world is
spoiled for him, its joys are tasteless: so he wanders,
vision-haunted, down dreary days to some miserable end.

Yet, if one will walk this path and take the risks, the thing may be
done at comparatively small expense. To such I would commend the Roman
motto, slightly altered -- Alieni appetens, sui avarus. There be
always good fellows, with good cigars for their friends. Nay, too, the
boxes of these lie open; an the good cigar belongs rather to him that
can appreciate it aright than to the capitalist who, owing to a false
social system, happens to be its temporary guardian and trustee. Again
there is a saying -- bred first, I think, among the schoolmen at
Oxford -- that it is the duty of a son to live up to his father's
income. Should any young man have found this task too hard for him,
after the most strenuous and single-minded efforts, at least he can
resolutely smoke his father's cigars. In the path of duty complete
success is not always to be looked for; but an approving conscience,
the sure reward of honest endeavour, is within reach of all.

An Autumn Encounter

For yet another mile or two the hot dusty road runs through level
fields, till it reaches yonder shoulder of the downs, already golden
three-parts up with ripening corn. Thitherwards lies my inevitable
way; and now that home is almost in sight it seems hard that the last
part of the long day's sweltering and delightful tramp must needs be
haunted by that hateful speck, black on the effulgence of the slope.
Did I not know he was only a scarecrow, the thing might be in a way
companionable: a pleasant suggestive surmise, piquing curiosity,
gilding this last weary stage with some magic of expectancy. But I
passed close by him on my way out. Early as I was, he was already up
and doing, eager to introduce himself. He leered after me as I swung
down the road, -- mimicked my gait, as it seemed, in a most
uncalled-for way; and when I looked back, he was blowing derisive
kisses of farewell with his empty sleeve.

I had succeeded, however, in shaking off the recollection between the
morning's start and now; so it was annoying that he should force
himself on me, just when there was no getting rid of him. At this
distance, however, he might be anything. An indeterminate blot, it
seems to waver, to falter, to come and vanish again in the quivering,
heated air. Even so, in the old time, leaning on that familiar gate --
are the tell-tale inwoven initials still decipherable? -- I used to
watch Her pacing demurely towards me through the corn. It was
ridiculous, it was fatuous, under all the circumstances it was
monstrous, and yet{...}! We were both under twenty, so She was She,
and I was I, and there were only we three the wide world over, she and
I and the unbetraying gate. Porta eburnea! False visions alone sped
through you, though Cupid was wont to light on your topmost bar, and
preen his glowing plumes. And to think that I should see her once
more, coming down the path as if not a day had passed, hesitating as
of old, and then -- but surely her ankles seem -- Confound that
scarecrow!...

His sex is by this time painfully evident; also his condition in life,
which is as of one looking back on better days. And now he is upon a
new tack. Though here on the level it is still sultry and airless, an
evening breeze is playing briskly along the slope where he stands, and
one sleeve saws the air violently; the other is pointed stiffly
heavenwards. It is all plain enough, my poor friend! The sins of the
world are a heavy burden and a grievous unto you. You have a mission,
you must testify; it will forth, in season and out of season. For man,
he wakes and sleeps and sins betimes: but crows sin steadily, without
any cessation. And this unhappy state of things is your own particular
business. Even at this distance I seem to hear you rasping it:
"Salvation, damnation, damnation, salvation!" And the jolly earth
smiles in the perfect evenglow, and the corn ripples and laughs all
round you, and one young rook (only fledged this year, too!), after an
excellent simulation of prostrate, heart-broken penitence, soars
joyously away, to make love to his neighbour's wife. "Salvation,
damnation, damn -- " A shifty wriggle of the road, and he is
transformed once more. Flung back in an ecstasy of laughter, holding
his lean sides, his whole form writhes with the chuckle and gurgle of
merriment. Ho, ho! what a joke it was! How I took you all in! Even the
rooks! What a joke is everything, to be sure!

Truly, I shall be glad to get quit of this heartless mummer.
Fortunately I shall soon be past him. And now, behold! the old dog
waxes amorous. Mincing, mowing, empty sleeve on hollow breast, he
would fain pose as the most irresistible old hypocrite that ever paced
a metropolitan kerb. "Love, you young dogs," he seems to croak,
"Love is the one thing worth living for! Enjoy your present, rooks
and all, as I do!" Why, indeed, should he alone be insensible to the
golden influence of the hour? More than one supple waist (alas! for
universal masculine frailty!) has been circled by that tattered sleeve
in days gone by; a throbbing heart once beat where sodden straw now
fails to give a manly curve to the chest. Why should the coat survive,
and not a particle of the passion that inspired it long ago?

At last I confront him, face to face: and the villain grins
recognition, completely unabashed. Nay, he cocks his eye with a
significant glance under the slouch of his shapeless hat, and his arm
points persistently and with intelligence up the road. My good fellow,
I know the way to the Dog and Duck as well as you do: I was going
there anyhow, without your officious interference -- and the beer, as
you justly remark, is unimpeachable. But was this really all you've
been trying to say to me, this last half-hour? Well, well!

The White Poppy

A riot of scarlet on gold, the red poppy of our native fields tosses
heavy tresses with gipsy abandon; her sister of the sea-shore is
golden, a yellow blossom that loves the keen salt savour of the spray.
Of another hue is the poppy of history, of romance, of the muse. White
as the stark death-shroud, pallid as the cheeks of that queen of a
silent land whose temples she languorously crowns, ghost-like beside
her fuller-blooded kin, she droops dream-laden, Papaver somniferum,
the poppy of the magic juice of oblivion. In the royal plenitude of
summer, the scarlet blooms will sometimes seem but a red cry from
earth in memory of the many dews of battle that have drenched these
acres in years gone by, for little end but that these same "bubbles
of blood" might glow to-day; the yellow flower does but hint of the
gold that has dashed a thousand wrecks at her feet around these
shores: for happier suggestion we must turn to her of the pallid
petals, our white Lady of Consolation. Fitting hue to typify the
crowning blessing of forgetfulness! Too often the sable robes of night
dissemble sleeplessness, remorse, regret, self-questioning. Let black,
then, rather stand for hideous memory: white for blessed blank
oblivion, happiest gift of the gods! For who, indeed, can say that the
record of his life is not crowded with failure and mistake, stained
with its petty cruelties of youth, its meannesses and follies of later
years, all which storm and clamour incessantly at the gates of memory,
refusing to be shut out? Leave us alone, O gods, to remember our
felicities, our successes: only aid us, ye who recall no gifts, aptly
and discreetly to forget.

Discreetly, we say; for it is a tactful forgetfulness that makes for
happiness. In the minor matter, for instance, of small money
obligations, that shortness of memory which the school of Professors
Panurge and Falstaff rashly praises, may often betray into some
unfortunate allusion or reference to the subject which shall pain the
delicate feelings of the obliger; or, if he be of coarser clay, shall
lead him in his anger to express himself with unseemliness, and
thereby to do violence to his mental tranquillity, in which alone, as
Marcus Aurelius teacheth, lieth the perfection of moral character.
This is to be a stumbling-block and an offence against the brethren.
It is better to keep just memory enough to avoid such hidden rocks and
shoals; in which thing Mr Swiveller is our great exemplar, whose
mental map of London was a chart wherein every creditor was carefully
"buoyed."

The wise man prays, we are told, for a good digestion: let us add to
the prayer -- and a bad memory. Truly we are sometimes tempted to
think that we are the only ones cursed with this corroding canker. Our
friends, we can swear, have all, without exception, atrocious
memories; why is ours alone so hideously vital? Yet this isolation
must be imaginary; for even as we engage in this selfish moan for help
in our own petty case, we are moved to add a word for certain others
who, meaning no ill, unthinkingly go about to add to humanity's
already heavy load of suffering. How much needless misery is caused in
this world by the reckless "recollections" of dramatic and other
celebrities? You gods, in lending ear to our prayer, remember too,
above all other sorts and conditions of men, these our poor erring
brothers and sisters, the sometime sommités of Mummerdom!

Moments there are, it is true, when this traitor spirit tricks you:
when some subtle scent, some broken notes of an old song, nay, even
some touch of a fresher air on your cheeks at night -- a breath of
"le vent qui vient à travers la montagne" -- have power to ravish,
to catch you back to the blissful days when you trod the one authentic
Paradise. Moments only, alas! Then the evil crowd rushes in again,
howls in the sacred grove, tramples down and defiles the happy garden;
and once more you cry to Our Lady of Sleep, crowned of the white
poppy. And you envy your dog who, for full discharge of a present
benefaction having wagged you a hearty, expressive tail, will then
pursue it gently round the hearth-rug till, in restful coil, he
reaches it at last, and oblivion with it; every one of his half-dozen
diurnal sleeps being in truth a royal amnesty.

But whose the hand that shall reach us the herb of healing? Perdita
blesses every guest at the shearing with a handful of blossom; but
this gift is not to be asked of her whose best wish to her friends is
"grace and remembrance." The fair Ophelia, rather: nay, for as a
nursling she hugs her grief, and for her the memory of the past is a
"sorrow's crown of sorrow." What flowers are these her pale hand
offers? "There's pansies, that's for thoughts!" For me rather, O
dear Ophelia, the white poppy of forgetfulness.

A Bohemian in Exile

A Reminiscence

When, many years ago now, the once potent and extensive kingdom of
Bohemia gradually dissolved and passed away, not a few historians were
found to chronicle its past glories; and some have gone on to tell the
fate of this or that once powerful chieftain who either donned the
swallow-tail and conformed or, proudly self-exiled, sought some quiet
retreat and died as he had lived, a Bohemian. But these were of the
princes of the land. To the people, the villeins, the common rank and
file, does no interest attach? Did they waste and pine, anæmic, in
thin, strange, unwonted air? Or sit at the table of the scornful and
learn, with Dante, how salt was alien bread? It is of one of those
faithful commons I would speak, narrating only "the short and simple
annals of the poor."

It is to be noted that the kingdom aforesaid was not so much a kingdom
as a United States -- a collection of self-ruling guilds,
municipalities, or republics, bound together by a common method of
viewing life. "There once was a king of Bohemia" -- but that was a
long time ago, and even Corporal Trim was not certain in whose reign
it was. These small free States, then, broke up gradually, from
various causes and with varying speed; and I think ours was one of the
last to go.

With us, as with many others, it was a case of lost leaders. "Just
for a handful of silver he left us"; though it was not exactly that,
but rather that, having got the handful of silver, they wanted a wider
horizon to fling it about under than Bloomsbury afforded.

  So they left us for their pleasure; and in due time, one by one --

But I will not be morose about them; they had honestly earned their
success, and we all honestly rejoiced at it, and do so still.

When old Pan was dead and Apollo's bow broken, there were many
faithful pagans who would worship at no new shrines, but went out to
the hills and caves, truer to the old gods in their discrowned
desolation than in their pomp and power. Even so were we left behind,
a remnant of the faithful. We had never expected to become great in
art or song; it was the life itself that we loved; that was our end --
not, as with them, the means to an end.

  We aimed at no glory, no lovers of glory we;
  Give us the glory of going on and still to be.

Unfortunately, going on was no longer possible; the old order had
changed, and we could only patch up our broken lives as best might be.

Fothergill said that he, for one, would have no more of it. The past
was dead, and he wasn't going to try to revive it. Henceforth he, too,
would be dead to Bloomsbury. Our forefathers, speaking of a man's
death, said "he changed his life." This is how Fothergill changed
his life and died to Bloomsbury. One morning he made his way to the
Whitechapel Road, and there he bought a barrow. The Whitechapel
barrows are of all sizes, from the barrow wheeled about by a boy with
half a dozen heads of cabbages to barrows drawn by a tall pony, such
as on Sundays take the members of a club to Epping Forest. They are
all precisely the same in plan and construction, only in the larger
sizes the handles develop or evolve into shafts; and they are equally
suitable, according to size, for the vending of whelks, for a
hot-potato can, a piano organ, or for the conveyance of a cheery and
numerous party to the Derby. Fothergill bought a medium sized
"developed" one, and also a donkey to fit; he had it painted white,
picked out with green -- the barrow, not the donkey -- and when his
arrangements were complete, stabled the whole for the night in
Bloomsbury. The following morning, before the early red had quite
faded from the sky, the exodus took place, those of us who were left
being assembled to drink a parting whisky-and-milk in sad and solemn
silence. Fothergill turned down Oxford Street, sitting on the shaft
with a short clay in his mouth, and disappeared from our sight,
heading west at a leisurely pace. So he passed out of our lives by way
of the Bayswater Road.

They must have wandered far and seen many things, he and his donkey,
from the fitful fragments of news that now and again reached us. It
seems that eventually, his style of living being economical, he was
enabled to put down his donkey and barrow, and set up a cart and a
mare -- no fashionable gipsy-cart, a sort of houseboat on wheels, but
a light and serviceable cart, with a moveable tilt, constructed on his
own designs. This allowed him to take along with him a few canvases
and other artists' materials; soda-water, whisky, and such like
necessaries; and even to ask a friend from town for a day or two, if
he wanted to.

He was in this state of comparative luxury when at last, by the merest
accident, I foregathered with him once more. I had pulled up to
Streatley one afternoon, and, leaving my boat, had gone for a long
ramble on the glorious North Berkshire Downs to stretch my legs before
dinner. Somewhere over on Cuckhamsley Hill, by the side of the
Ridgeway, remote from the habitable world, I found him, smoking his
vesper pipe on the shaft of his cart, the mare cropping the short
grass beside him. He greeted me without surprise or effusion, as if we
had only parted yesterday, and without a hint of an allusion to past
times, but drifted quietly into rambling talk of his last three years,
and, without ever telling his story right out, left a strange
picturesque impression of a nomadic life which struck one as separated
by fifty years from modern conventional existence. The old road-life
still lingered on in places, it seemed, once one got well away from
the railway: there were two Englands existing together, the one
fringing the great iron highways wherever they might go -- the England
under the eyes of most of us. The other, unguessed at by many, in
whatever places were still vacant of shriek and rattle, drowsed on as
of old: the England of heath and common and windy sheep down, of
by-lanes and village-greens -- the England of Parson Adams and
Lavengro. The spell of the free untrammelled life came over me as I
listened, till I was fain to accept of his hospitality and a
horse-blanket for the night, oblivious of civilised comforts down at
the Bull. On the downs where Alfred fought we lay and smoked, gazing
up at the quiet stars that had shone on many a Dane lying stark and
still a thousand years ago; and in the silence of the lone tract that
enfolded us we seemed nearer to those old times than to these I had
left that afternoon, in the now hushed and sleeping valley of the
Thames.

When the news reached me, some time later, that Fothergill's aunt had
died and left him her house near town and the little all she had
possessed, I heard it with misgivings, not to say forebodings. For the
house had been his grandfather's, and he had spent much of his boyhood
there; it had been a dream of his early days to possess it in some
happy future, and I knew he could never bear to sell or let it. On the
other hand, can you stall the wild ass of the desert? And will not the
caged eagle mope and pine?

However, possession was entered into, and all seemed to go well for
the time. The cart was honourably installed in the coach-house, the
mare turned out to grass. Fothergill lived idly and happily, to all
seeming, with "a book of verses underneath the bough," and a bottle
of old claret for the friend who might chance to drop in. But as the
year wore on small signs began to appear that he who had always
"rather hear the lark sing than the mouse squeak" was beginning to
feel himself caged, though his bars were gilded.

I was talking one day to his coachman (he now kept three
men-servants), and he told me that of a Sunday morning when the
household had gone to church and everything was quiet, Mr Fothergill
would go into the coach-house and light his pipe, and sit on the step
of the brougham (he had a brougham now), and gaze at the old cart, and
smoke and say nothing; and smoke and say nothing again. He didn't like
it, the coachman confessed; and to me it seemed ominous.

One morning late in March, at the end of a long hard winter, I was
wakened by a flood of sunshine. The early air came warm and soft
through the open window; the first magic suggestion of spring was
abroad, with its whispered hints of daffodils and budding hawthorns;
and one's blood danced to imagined pipings of Pan from happy fields
far distant. At once I thought of Fothergill, and, with a certain
foreboding of ill, made my way down to Holly Lodge as soon as
possible. It was with no surprise at all that I heard that the master
was missing. In the very first of the morning, it seemed, or ever the
earliest under-housemaid had begun to set man-traps on the stairs and
along the passages, he must have quietly left the house. The servants
were cheerful enough, nevertheless, and thought the master must only
have "gone for a nice long walk," and so on, after the manner of
their kind. Without a word I turned my steps to the coach-house. Sure
enough, the old cart was missing; the mare was gone from the paddock.
It was no good my saying anything; pursuit of this wild haunter of
tracks and by-paths would have been futile indeed. So I kept my own
counsel. Fothergill never returned to Holly Lodge, and has been more
secret and evasive since his last flight, rarely venturing on old
camping grounds near home, like to a bird scared by the fowler's gun.

Once indeed, since then, while engaged in pursuit of the shy quarry
known as the Early Perp., late Dec., E. Eng., and the like, specimens
of which I was tracking down in the west, I hit upon him by accident;
hearing in an old village rumours concerning a strange man in a cart
who neither carried samples nor pushed the brewing interest by other
means than average personal consumption -- tales already beginning to
be distorted into material for the myth of the future. I found him
friendly as ever, equally ready to spin his yarns. As the evening wore
on, I ventured upon an allusion to past times and Holly Lodge; but his
air of puzzled politeness convinced me that the whole thing had passed
out of his mind, as a slight but disagreeable incident in the even
tenor of his nomadic existence.

After all, his gains may have outbalanced his losses. Had he cared, he
might, with his conversational gifts, have been a social success;
certainly, I think, an artistic one. He had great powers, had any
impulse been present to urge him to execution and achievement. But he
was for none of these things. Contemplative, receptive, with a keen
sense of certain sub-tones and side aspects of life unseen by most, he
doubtless chose wisely to enjoy life his own way, and to gather from
the fleeting days what bliss they had to give, nor spend them in
toiling for a harvest to be reaped when he was dust.

  Some for the glories of this life, and some
  Sigh for the Prophet's Paradise to come:
  Ah, take the cash and let the credit go,
  Nor heed the rumble of a distant drum.

Justifiable Homicide

This is a remedial age, an age of keys for all manner of locks; so he
cannot be said to ask too much who seeks for exact information as to
how a young man ought, in justice to himself and to society, to deal
with his relations. During his minority he has lain entirely at their
mercy: has been their butt, their martyr, their drudge, their corpus
vile. Possessing all the sinews of war, this stiff-necked tribe has
consistently refused to "part": even for the provision of those
luxuries so much more necessary than necessities. Its members have
crammed their victim full of precepts, rules of conduct, moral maxims,
and most miscellaneous counsel: all which he intuitively suspected at
the time, and has ascertained by subsequent experience, to be utterly
worthless. Now, when their hour has come, when the tocsin has sounded
at last, and the Gaul is at the gate, they still appear to think that
the old condition of things is to go on; unconscious, apparently, of
atonement due, of retribution to be exacted, of wrongs to be avenged
and of insults to be wiped away!

Over the north-west frontier, where the writ of the English Raj runs
not, the artless Afghan is happy in a code that fully provides for
relatives who neglect or misunderstand their obligations. An Afghan it
was who found himself compelled to reprove an uncle with an
unfortunate habit of squandering the family estate. An excellent
relative, this uncle, in all other respects. As a liar, he had few
equals; he robbed with taste and discretion; and his murders were all
imbued with true artistic feeling. He might have lived to a green old
age of spotless respectability but for his one little failing. As it
was, justice had to be done, ruat cælum: and so it came about that one
day the nephew issued forth to correct him with a matchlock. The
innocent old man was cultivating his paternal acres; so the nephew was
able, unperceived, to get a steady sight on him. His finger was on the
trigger, when suddenly there slipped into his mind the divine precept:
"Allah is merciful!" He lowered his piece, and remained for a little
plunged in thought; meanwhile the unconscious uncle hoed his paddy.
Then with a happy smile he took aim once more, for there also occurred
to him the precept equally divine: "But Allah is also just." With an
easy conscience he let fly, and behold! there was an uncle the more in
Paradise.

It was probably some little affair of a similar quality that
constrained a recruit in a regiment stationed at Peshawur to apply for
leave of absence: in order to attend to family matters of importance.
The Colonel knew it was small use refusing the leave, as in that case
his recruit would promptly desert; so he could only ask, how long was
the transaction like to take? It was told him, after consideration,
that, allowing for all possible difficulties and delays, a month would
meet the necessities of the case; and on that understanding he allowed
his man to depart. At the end of the month he reappeared on duty, a
subdued but mellow cheer shining through his wonted impassiveness. His
Colonel ventured to inquire of him, in a general way, if the business
in question were satisfactorily concluded. And he replied: "I got him
from behind a rock."

There are practical difficulties in the way of the adoption of such
methods at home. We must be content to envy, without imitating, these
free and happy sons of the hills. And yet a few of the old school are
left us still: averse from change, mistrustful of progress, sticking
steadily to the good old-fashioned dagger and bowl. I had a friend who
disposed of a relative every spring. Uncles were his special line --
(he had suffered much from their tribe, having been early left an
orphan) -- though he had dabbled in aunts, and in his hot youth, when
he was getting his hand in, he had even dallied with a grand-parent or
two. But it was in uncles he excelled. He possessed (at the beginning
of his career) a large number of these connections, and pursuit of
them, from the mere sordid point of view of £ s. d., proved lucrative.
But he always protested (and I believed him) that gain with him was a
secondary consideration. It would hardly be in the public interest to
disclose his modus operandi. I shall only remark that he was one of
the first to realise the security and immunity afforded the artist by
the conditions of modern London. Hence it happened that he usually
practised in town, but spent his vacations at the country houses of
such relations as were still spared him, where he was always the life
and soul of the place. Unfortunately he is no longer with us, to
assist in the revision of this article: nor was it permitted me to
soothe his last moments. The presiding Sheriff was one of those
new-fangled officials who insist on the exclusion of the public, and
he declined to admit me either in the capacity of a personal
connection or, though I tried my hardest, as the representative of
"The National Observer." It only remains to be said of my much-tried
and still lamented friend, that he left few relatives to mourn his
untimely end.

But our reluctant feet must needs keep step with the imperious march
of Time, and my poor friend's Art (as himself in later years would
sorrowfully admit) is now almost as extinct as the glass-staining of
old, or "Robbia's craft so apt and strange"; while our thin-blooded
youth, too nice for the joyous old methods, are content to find
sweetest revenge in severely dropping their relations. This is indeed
a most effective position: it exasperates, while it is unassailable.
And yet there remains a higher course, a nobler task. Not mere
forgiveness: it is simple duty to forgive -- even one's guardians. No
young man of earnest aspirations will be content to stop there. Nay:
lead them on, these lost ones, by the hand; conduct them "generously
and gently, and with linking of the arm"; educate them, eradicate
their false ideals, dispel their foolish prejudices; be to their
faults a little blind and to their virtues very kind: in fine, realise
that you have a mission -- that these wretches are not here for
nothing. The task will seem hard at first; but only those who have
tried can know how much may be done by assiduous and kindly effort
towards the chastening -- ay! the final redemption even! -- of the
most hopeless and pig-headed of uncles.

The Fairy Wicket

From digging in the sandy, over-triturated soil of times historical,
all dotted with date and number and sign, how exquisite the relief in
turning to the dear days outside history -- yet not so very far off
neither for us nurslings of the northern sun -- when kindly beasts
would loiter to give counsel by the wayside, and a fortunate encounter
with one of the Good People was a surer path to Fortune and the Bride
than the best-worn stool that ever proved step-ladder to aspiring
youth. For then the Fairy Wicket stood everywhere ajar -- everywhere
and to each and all. "Open, open, green hill!" -- you needed no more
recondite sesame than that: and, whoever you were, you might have a
glimpse of the elfin dancers in the hall that is litten within by
neither sun nor moon; or catch at the white horse's bridle as the
Fairy Prince rode through. It has been closed now this many a year
(the fairies, always strong in the field, are excellent
wicket-keepers); and if it open at all, 'tis but for a moment's
mockery of the material generation that so deliberately turned its
back on the gap into Elf-Land -- that first stage to the Beyond.

It was a wanton trick, though, that these folk of malice used to play
on a small school-boy, new kicked out of his nest into the draughty,
uncomfortable outer world, his unfledged skin still craving the
feathers whereinto he was wont to nestle. The barrack-like school, the
arid, cheerless class-rooms, drove him to Nature for redress; and,
under an alien sky, he would go forth and wander along the iron road
by impassive fields, so like yet so unlike those hitherto a part of
him and responding to his every mood. And to him, thus loitering with
overladen heart, there would come suddenly a touch of warmth, of
strange surprise. The turn of the road just ahead -- that, sure, is
not all unfamiliar? That row of elms -- it cannot entirely be accident
that they range just so? And, if not accident, then round the bend
will come the old duck-pond, the shoulder of the barn will top it, a
few yards on will be the gate -- it swings-to with its familiar click
-- the dogs race down the avenue -- and then -- and then! It is all
wildly fanciful; and yet, though knowing not Tertullian, a "credo
quia impossibile" is on his tongue as he quickens his pace -- for
what else can he do? A step, and the spell is shattered -- all is
cruel and alien once more; while every copse and hedge-row seems
a-tinkle with faint elfish laughter. The Fairies have had their joke:
they have opened the wicket one of their own hand's-breadths, and shut
it in their victim's face. When next that victim catches a fairy, he
purposes to tie up the brat in sight of his own green hill, and set
him to draw up a practical scheme for Village Councils.

One of the many women I ever really loved, fair in the fearless old
fashion, was used to sing, in the blithe, unfettered accent of the
people: "I'd like to be a fairy, And dance upon my toes, I'd like to
be a fairy, And wear short close!" And in later life it is to her sex
that the wee (but very wise) folk sometimes delegate their power of
torment. Such understudies are found to play the part exceeding well;
and many a time the infatuated youth believes he sees in the depth of
one sole pair of eyes -- blue, brown, or green (the fairy colour) --
the authentic fairy wicket standing ajar: many a time must he hear the
quaint old formula, "I'm sure, if I've ever done anything to lead you
to think," etc (runs it not so?), ere he shall realise that here is
the gate upon no magic pleasance but on a cheap suburban villa,
banging behind the wrathful rate-collector or hurled open to speed the
pallid householder to the Registrar's Office. In still grosser
habitations, too, they lurk, do the People of Mischief, ready to
frolic out on the unsuspecting one: as in the case, which still haunts
my memory, of a certain bottle of an historic Château-Yquem, hued like
Venetian glass, odorous as a garden in June. Forth from out the faint
perfume of this haunted drink there danced a bevy from Old France,
clad in the fashion of Louis-Quinze, peach-coloured knots of ribbon
bedizening apple-green velvets, as they moved in stately wise among
the roses of the old garden, to the quaint music -- Rameau, was it? --
of a fairy cornemuse, while fairy Watteaus, Fragonards, Lancrets, sat
and painted them. Alas! too shallow the bottle, too brief the brawls:
not to be recalled by any quantity of Green Chartreuse.

Aboard the Galley

He was cruising in the Southern Seas (was the Ulysses who told me this
tale), when there bore down upon him a marvellous strange fleet, whose
like he had not before seen. For each little craft was a corpse,
stiffly "marlined," or bound about with tarred rope, as mariners do
use to treat plug tobacco: also ballasted, and with a fair mast and
sail stepped through his midriff. These self-sufficing ships knew no
divided authority: no pilot ever took the helm from the captain's
hands; no mutines lay in bilboes, no passengers complained of the
provisions. In a certain island to windward (the native pilot
explained) it was the practice, when a man died, to bury him for the
time being in dry, desiccating sand, till a chief should pass from his
people, when the waiting bodies were brought out and, caulked and
rigged secumdum artem, were launched with the first fair breeze, the
admiral at their head, on their voyage to the Blessed Islands. And if
a chief should die, and the sand should hold no store of corpses for
his escort, this simple practical folk would solve the little
difficulty by knocking some dozen or twenty stout fellows on the head,
that the notable might voyage like a gentleman. Whence this gallant
little company, running before the breeze, stark, happy, and extinct,
all bound for the Isles of Light! 'Twas a sight to shame us sitters at
home, who believe in those Islands, most of us, even as they, yet are
content to trundle City-wards or to Margate, so long as the sorry
breath is in us; and, breathless at last, to Bow or Kensal Green;
without one effort, dead or alive, to reach the far-shining
Hesperides.

"Dans la galère, capitane, nous étions quatre-vingt rameurs!" sang
the oarsmen in the ballad; and they, though indeed they toiled on the
galley-bench, were free and happy pirates, members of an honoured and
liberal profession. But all we -- pirates, parsons, stockbrokers,
whatever our calling -- are but galley-slaves of the basest sort,
fettered to the oar each for his little spell. A common misery links
us all, like the chain that runs the length of the thwarts. Can
nothing make it worth our while not to quarrel with our fellows? The
menace of the storms is for each one and for all: the master's whip
has a fine impartiality. Crack! the lash that scored my comrade's back
has flicked my withers too; yet neither of us was shirking -- it was
that grinning ruffian in front. Well: to-morrow, God willing, the
evasion shall be ours, while he writhes howling. But why do we never
once combine -- seize on the ship, fling our masters into the sea, and
steer for some pleasant isle far down under the Line, beyond the
still-vexed Bermoothes? When ho for feasting! Hey for tobacco and
free-quarters! But no: the days pass, and are reckoned up, and done
with; and ever more pressing cares engage. Those fellows on the
leeward benches are having an easier time than we poor dogs on the
weather side? Then, let us abuse, pelt, vilify then: let us steal
their grub, and have at them generally for a set of shirking,
malingering brutes! What matter that to-morrow they may be to
windward, we to lee? We never can look ahead. And they know this well,
the gods our masters, pliers of the whip. And mayhap we like them none
the worse for it.

Indeed, there is a traitor sort among ourselves, that spins facile
phrases in the honour of these whipmasters of ours -- as "omnes eodem
cogimur," and the rest; which is all very pretty and mighty
consoling. The fact is, the poets are the only people who score by the
present arrangement; which it is therefore their interest to maintain.
While we are doing all the work, these incorrigible skulkers lounge
about and make ribald remarks; they write Greek tragedies on Fate, on
the sublimity of Suffering, on the Petty Span, and so on; and act in a
generally offensive way. And we are even weak enough to buy their
books; offer them drinks, peerages, and things; and say what
superlative fellows they are! But when the long-looked-for combination
comes, and we poor devils have risen and abolished fate, destiny, the
Olympian Council, early baldness, and the like, these poets will
really have to go.

And when every rhymester has walked the plank, shall we still put up
with our relations? True members of the "stupid party," who never
believe in us, who know (and never forget) the follies of our
adolescence; who are always wanting us not to do things; who are
lavish of advice, yet angered by the faintest suggestion of a small
advance in cash: shall the idle singers perish and these endure? No:
as soon as the last poet has splashed over the side, to the sharks
with our relations!

The old barkey is lightening famously: who shall be next to go? The
Sportsman of intolerable yarns: who slays twice over -- first, his
game, and then the miserable being he button-holes for the tedious
recital. Shall we suffer him longer? Who else? Who is that cowering
under the bulwarks yonder? The man who thinks he can imitate the
Scottish accent! Splash! And the next one? What a crowd is here! How
they block the hatchways, lumber the deck, and get between you and the
purser's room -- these fadmongers, teetotallers, missionaries of
divers isms! Overboard with them, and hey for the Fortunate Isles!
Then for tobacco in a hammock 'twixt the palms! Then for wine cooled
in a brooklet losing itself in silver sands! Then for -- but O these
bilboes on our ankles, how mercilessly they grip! The vertical sun
blisters the bare back: faint echoes of Olympian laughter seem to
flicker like Northern Lights across the stark and pitiless sky. One
earnest effort would do it, my brothers! A little modesty, a short
sinking of private differences; and then we should all be free and
equal gentlemen of fortune, and I would be your Captain! "Who? you?
you would make a pretty Captain!" Better than you, you scurvy,
skulking, little galley-slave! "Galley-slave yourself, and be ---
Pull together, boys, and lie low! Here's the Master coming with his
whip!"

The Lost Centaur

It is somewhere set down (or does the legend only exist in the great
volume of ought-to-be-writ?) that the young Achilles, nurtured from
babyhood by the wise and kindly Cheiron, accustomed to reverence an
ideal of human skill and wisdom blent with all that was best and
noblest of animal instinct, strength and swiftness, found poor
humanity sadly to miss, when at last the was sent forth among his
pottering little two-legged peers. Himself alone he had hitherto
fancied to be the maimed one, the incomplete; he looked to find the
lords of earth even such as these Centaurs; wise and magnanimous atop:
below, shod with the lightning, winged with the wind, terrible in the
potentiality of the armed heel. Instead of which -- ! How fallen was
his first fair hope of the world! And even when reconciled at last to
the dynasty of the forked radish, after he had seen its quality tested
round the clangorous walls of Troy -- some touch of an imperial
disdain ever lingered in his mind for these feeble folk who could
contentedly hail him -- him, who had known Cheiron! -- as hero and
lord!

Achilles has passed, with the Centaurs and Troy; but the feeling
lingers.

Of strange and divers strands is twisted the mysterious cord that,
reaching back "through spaces out of space and timeless time,"
somewhere joins us to the Brute; a twine of mingled yarn, not utterly
base. As we grow from our animal infancy, and the threads snap one by
one at each gallant wing-stroke of a soul poising for flight into
Empyrean, we are yet conscious of a loss for every gain, we have some
forlorn sense of a vanished heritage. Willing enough are we to "let
the ape and tiger die"; but the pleasant cousins dissembled in hide
and fur and feather are not all tigers and apes: which last vile folk,
indeed, exist for us only in picture-books, and chiefly offend by
always carrying the Sunday School ensign of a Moral at their tails.
Others -- happily of less didactic dispositions -- there be; and it is
to these unaffected, careless companions that the sensible child is
wont to devote himself; leaving severely alone the stiff, tame
creatures claiming to be of closer kin. And yet these playmates, while
cheerfully admitting him of their fellowship, make him feel his
inferiority at every point. Vainly, his snub nose projected
earthwards, he essays to sniff it with the terrier who (as becomes the
nobler animal) is leading in the chase; and he is ready to weep as he
realises his loss. And the rest of the Free Company, -- the pony, the
cows, the great cart-horses, -- are ever shaming him by their
unboastful exercise of some enviable and unattainable attribute. Even
the friendly pig, who (did but parents permit) should eat of his bread
and drink of his cup, and be unto him as a brother, -- which among all
these unhappy bifurcations, so cheery, so unambitious, so purely
contented, so apt to be the guide, philosopher, and friend of boyhood
as he? What wonder that at times, when the neophyte in life begins to
realise that all these desirable accomplishments have had to be
surrendered one by one in the process of developing a Mind, the course
of fitting out a Lord of Creation, he is wont -- not knowing the
extent of the kingdom to which he is heir -- to feel a little
discontented?

Ere now this ill-humour, taking root in a nature wherein the animal is
already ascendant, has led by downward paths to the Goat-Foot, in whom
the submerged human system peeps out but fitfully, at exalted moments.
He, the peevish and irascible, shy of trodden ways and pretty
domesticities, is linked to us by little but his love of melody; but
for which saving grace, the hair would soon creep up from thigh to
horn of him. At times he will still do us a friendly turn: will lend a
helping hand to poor little Psyche, wilfully seeking her own
salvation; will stand shoulder to shoulder with us on Marathon plain.
But in the main his sympathies are first for the beast: to which his
horns are never horrific, but, with his hairy pelt, ever natural and
familiar, and his voice (with its talk of help and healing) not harsh
nor dissonant, but voice of very brother as well as very god.

And this declension -- for declension it is, though we achieve all the
confidences of Melampus, and even master with him the pleasant argot
of the woods -- may still be ours if we suffer what lives in us of our
primal cousins to draw us down. On the other hand, let soul inform and
irradiate body as it may, the threads are utterly shorn asunder never:
nor is man, the complete, the self-contained, permitted to cut himself
wholly adrift from these his poor relations. The mute and stunted
human embryo that gazes appealingly from out the depths of their eyes
must ever remind him of a kinship once (possibly) closer. Nay, at
times, it must even seem to whelm him in reproach. As thus: "Was it
really necessary, after all, that we two should part company so early?
May you not have taken a wrong turning somewhere, in your long race
after your so-called progress, after the perfection of this be-lauded
species of yours? A turning whose due avoidance might perhaps have
resulted in no such lamentable cleavage as is here, but in some
perfect embodiment of the dual nature: as who should say a being with
the nobilities of both of us, the basenesses of neither? So might you,
more fortunately guided, have been led at last up the green sides of
Pelion, to the ancestral, the primeval, Centaur still waiting majestic
on the summit!" It is even so. Perhaps this thing might once have
been, O cousin outcast and estranged! But the opportunity was long
since lost. Henceforth, two ways for us for ever!

Orion

The moonless night has a touch of frost, and is steely-clear. High and
dominant amidst the Populations of the Sky, the restless and the
steadfast alike, hangs the great Plough, lit with a hard radiance as
of the polished and shining share. And yonder, low on the horizon, but
half resurgent as yet, crouches the magnificent hunter: watchful,
seemingly, and expectant: with some hint of menace in his port.

Yet should his game be up, you would think by now. Many a century has
passed since the plough first sped a conqueror east and west, clearing
forest and draining fen; policing the valleys with barbed-wires and
Sunday schools, with the chains that are forged of peace, the irking
fetters of plenty: driving also the whole lot of us, these to sweat at
its tail, those to plod with the patient team, but all to march in a
great chain-gang, the convicts of peace and order and law: while the
happy nomad, with his woodlands, his wild cattle, his pleasing
nuptialities, has long since disappeared, dropping only in his flight
some store of flint-heads, a legacy of confusion. Truly, we Children
of the Plough, but for yon tremendous Monitor in the sky, were in
right case to forget that the Hunter is still a quantity to reckon
withal. Where, then, does he hide, the Shaker of the Spear? Why, here,
my brother, and here; deep in the breasts of each and all of us! And
for this drop of primal quicksilver in the blood what poppy or
mandragora shall purge it hence away?

Of pulpiteers and parents it is called Original Sin: a term wherewith
they brand whatever frisks and butts with rude goatish horns against
accepted maxims and trim theories of education. In the abstract, of
course, this fitful stirring of the old yeast is no more sin than a
natural craving for a seat on a high stool, for the inscription -- now
horizontal, and now vertical -- of figures, is sin. But the deskmen
command a temporary majority: for the short while they shall hold the
cards they have the right to call the game. And so -- since we must
bow to the storm -- let the one thing be labelled Sin, and the other
Salvation -- for a season: ourselves forgetting never that it is all a
matter of nomenclature. What we have now first to note is that this
original Waft from the Garden asserts itself most vigorously in the
Child. This it is that thrusts the small boy out under the naked
heavens, to enact a sorry and shivering Crusoe on an islet in the
duck-pond. This it is that sends the little girl footing it after the
gipsy's van, oblivious of lessons, puddings, the embrace maternal, the
paternal smack; hearing naught save the faint, far bugle-summons to
the pre-historic little savage that thrills and answers in the
tingling blood of her; seeing only a troop of dusky, dull-eyed guides
along that shining highway to the dim land east o' the sun and west o'
the moon: where freedom is, and you can wander and breathe, and at
night tame street lamps there are none -- only the hunter's fires, and
the eyes of lions, and the mysterious stars. In later years it is
stifled and gagged -- buried deep, a green turf at the head of it, and
on its heart a stone; but it lives, it breathes, it lurks, it will up
and out when 'tis looked for least. That stockbroker, some brief
summers gone, who was missed from his wonted place one settling-day! a
goodly portly man, i' faith: and had a villa and a steam launch at
Surbiton: and was versed in the esoteric humours of the House. Who
could have thought that the Hunter lay hid in him? Yet, after many
weeks, they found him in a wild nook of Hampshire. Ragged, sun-burnt,
the nocturnal haystack calling aloud from his frayed and
weather-stained duds, his trousers tucked, he was tickling trout with
godless native urchins; and when they would have won him to himself
with honied whispers of American Rails, he answered but with babble of
green fields. He is back in his wonted corner now: quite cured,
apparently, and tractable. And yet -- let the sun shine too wantonly
in Throgmorton Street, let an errant zephyr, quick with the warm
South, fan but his cheek too wooingly on his way to the station; and
will he not once more snap his chain and away? Ay, truly: and next
time he will not be caught.

Deans have danced to the same wild piping, though their chapters have
hushed the matter up. Even Duchesses (they say) have "come tripping
doon the stair," rapt by the climbing passion from their
strawberry-leaved surroundings into starlit spaces. Nay, ourselves,
too -- the douce, respectable mediocrities that we are -- which of us
but might recall some fearful outbreak whose details are mercifully
unknown to the household that calls us breadwinner and chief? What
marvel that up yonder the Hunter smiles? When he knows that every one
in his ken, the tinker with the statesman, has caught his bugle blast
and gone forth on its irresistible appeal!

Not that they are so easily followed as of yore, those flying echoes
of the horn! Joints are stiffer, maybe; certainly the desolate suburbs
creep ever farther into the retreating fields; and when you reach the
windy moorland, lo! it is all staked out into building-lots. Mud is
muddier now than heretofore; and ruts are ruttier. And what friendless
old beast comes limping down the dreary lane? He seems sorely shrunk
and shoulder-shotten; but by the something of divinity in his look,
still more than by the wings despondent along his mighty sides, 'tis
ever the old Pegasus -- not yet the knacker's own. "Hard times I've
been having," he murmurs, as you rub his nose. "These fellows have
really no seat except for a park hack. As for this laurel, we were
wont to await it trembling: and in taking it we were afraid. Your
English way of hunting it down with yelpings and hallooings -- well, I
may be out of date, but we wouldn't have stood that sort of thing on
Helicon." So he hobbles down the road. Good night, old fellow! Out of
date? Well, it may be so. And alas! the blame is ours.

But for the Hunter -- there he rises -- couchant no more. Nay, flung
full stretch on the blue, he blazes, he dominates, he appals! Will his
turn, then, really come at last? After some Armageddon of cataclysmal
ruin, all levelling, whelming the County Councillor with the
Music-hall artiste, obliterating the very furrows of the Plough, shall
the skin-clad nomad string his bow once more, and once more loose the
whistling shaft? Wildly incredible it seems. And yet -- look up! Look
up and behold him confident, erect, majestic -- there on the threshold
of the sky!





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