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Title: Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art - No. 680. January 6, 1877.
Author: Various
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 "Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art - No. 680. January 6, 1877." ***

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[Illustration: CHAMBERS'S JOURNAL

OF

POPULAR

LITERATURE, SCIENCE, AND ART.

Fourth Series

CONDUCTED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS.

NO. 680.      SATURDAY, JANUARY 6, 1877.      PRICE 1½_d._]



THE LAST OF THE HADDONS.

BY MRS NEWMAN, AUTHOR OF 'TOO LATE,' &C.


CHAPTER I.--'INCONGRUOUS MATERIALS.'

'No. 81. Yes; this must certainly be the house,' I murmured, turning
my eyes somewhat disappointedly towards it again, after consulting an
address in my hand. A large, gloomy, dilapidated-looking house, in a
respectably dull street in Westminster, its lower windows facing a
dead-wall, and its upper ones overlooking venerable ecclesiastical
grounds. The lower rooms appeared to be the only portion of the house
which was occupied; and, to judge by the shabbiness of the blinds, they
were kept but in a mean condition. None the less dreary was the present
aspect of the house for the suggestions of by-gone prosperity in the
noble proportions of the entrance, with its link-extinguishers on
either side, and great massive doors opening from the centre. It would
require a vivid imagination to picture those doors flung hospitably
open, and light and warmth from within streaming down upon a gay party
of the present generation, alighting before the broad steps.

'Not very promising,' was my mental comment, as I gathered courage to
ascend the steps and lift the heavy iron wreath of flowers, which used
to be considered high-art in the way of knockers. Nor was I certain
that the house was inhabited at all, until I heard footsteps within,
and presently one of the doors was opened a few inches and a bony hand
thrust out.

'A pretty time this to be bringing coffee that was wanted for
breakfast!'

'Does Mr Wentworth live here?'

A tall, thin, grim-visaged woman looked out, and shortly replied: 'Yes;
he does.'

'Is he at home? Can I see him?'

'He's at home,' she slowly and reluctantly admitted: adding, as she
determinedly blocked up the doorway: 'But he can't see anybody; he's
engaged.'

'Please give this card to Mr Wentworth, and say'----

'If it's the advertisement, you should have come before. Ten to twelve
was the time.'

'Please give this card to Mr Wentworth, and'----

'It won't be any use.'

'And say I shall be greatly obliged if he will see me for five minutes.'

Evidently this was a woman accustomed to have her way, at anyrate with
such callers as came there. The very novelty of my persistence seemed
for the moment to disconcert her, as she eyed me from beneath her bent
brows before replying: 'Haven't I just told you?'

'Please give this card to Mr Wentworth, and say I shall be greatly
obliged if he will see me for five minutes.'

She appeared for a moment undecided as to whether she should shut the
door in my face or do my bidding; then ungraciously moved aside for me
to pass into the hall, which I unhesitatingly did. Mumbling something
to herself, which, to judge by her countenance, was the reverse of
complimentary to me, she left me standing on the mat, and went into
a room on the right of the square hall, the stone floor of which was
sparsely covered here and there with old scraps of carpet. I had just
time to note that, poor and forlorn as everything looked, it was kept
scrupulously clean, when I heard a man's voice, and the words: 'Did I
not tell you?' uttered in a stern low voice.

'I know you did; and I told her, but she wouldn't take "No" for an
answer.'

'Nonsense! Say I'm engaged; it's past the time. I have all but
arranged with some one already. Get rid of her somehow, and do not
disturb me again. I thought you prided yourself upon your ability to
keep off intruders.'

'This one isn't like the others,' grumbled the old woman. 'She goes on
hammering and hammering. However, I'll soon send her off now.'

A nice introduction this! I had not really believed that she was acting
under orders, and I had too grave a reason for desiring an interview,
to allow a disagreeable old woman to prevent my obtaining it. I felt
that an apology ought to be made before I was 'sent off.' Advancing to
the door of the room from which the voices came, and standing on the
threshold, I said: 'Allow me to exonerate your housekeeper, sir' (it
was really a pretty compliment to give that gaunt personification of
shabbiness so sounding a title, and she ought to have been touched by
it). 'I am afraid I was more pertinacious than are the generality of
intruders, in my anxiety to obtain an interview.'

A gentleman sat facing me, frowning down at my card. A pen still in
his hand, and the quantity of papers and pamphlets covering the large
library-table at which he sat, seemed to shew that it had been no
mere excuse about his being engaged. A tall, broad-chested man, with
a fine massive head, and good if somewhat rugged features, looking at
first sight, I fancied, about forty years of age. I saw that there
were a great many books in the room, and two or three fine specimens
of old carved furniture, in curious contrast with the small square of
well-worn and well-mended carpet at the end of the room where he sat.

At sight of me he laid down his pen, and pushed his chair back from
the table, ruffling up his already sufficiently ruffled-up hair with
a look of dismay which was almost comical. As he appeared somewhat
at a loss how to answer me, I added: 'I set out immediately I read
the advertisement; and I hope you will excuse my being an hour and
thirty-seven minutes late;' looking at my watch in order to be quite
correct as to time.

A smile, which had a wonderfully improving effect upon him, dwelt for a
moment on his lips, and remained in his eyes.

'Will you take a seat, Miss--Haddon?' consulting my card for the name.
Then to the old woman: 'You need not wait, Hannah.'

Throwing a look over her shoulder at him, as though to say, 'I told
you,' she went out and shut the door.

He placed a chair for me, then returned to the old-fashioned
library-chair he had risen from, and courteously waited for me to
begin. So far good--he was a gentleman.

'I will be as concise as possible, Mr Wentworth. I am seeking a
situation of some kind, and can, I think, offer as good testimonials as
any one who has not had an engagement before could have. If you have
not yet decided upon engaging any particular lady, I shall be much
obliged by your kindly looking through these;' taking a little packet
of letters from my pocket, and placing it upon the table before him.

He was eyeing me rather curiously, and I earnestly went on: 'I have
been accustomed to use both my brains and hands, and I would do my very
best with either to earn a respectable living.'

'I fear that I am committed in another direction,' he said courteously.

'In that case, I can only hope that the lady upon whom your choice
has fallen needs an engagement as much as I do,' I replied, trying to
stifle a sigh.

'I am extremely sorry that you should be disappointed.'

'You are very kind' (for I felt that he really was sorry); 'but I am
accustomed to disappointments; and there is a sort of poetical justice
in this, after intruding upon you as I have done,' I said, trying to
speak lightly.

'I am very sorry indeed,' he repeated.

'Pray do not think of it, Mr Wentworth,' rising from my seat; 'allow me
to'----

'A moment, Miss Haddon. It is of the first importance to find a lady
thoroughly competent to undertake the office, and to be candid, I do
not feel quite sure that I have succeeded.'

'But if you are committed?'

'I have been considering that, and I do not think that I am wholly
committed--only so far as having promised to communicate with one lady
goes. For the moment, I could not arrange matters with my conscience.
Out of those who were good enough to notice the advertisement only
one appeared to me at all suitable. But,' he added apologetically, 'I
ought to explain that the requirements are of a somewhat exceptional
character.'

'May I ask what they are, Mr Wentworth?'

'Principally tact in dealing with incongruous materials, and the
exercise of a healthy influence over a sensitive girl.'

'Tact in dealing with incongruous materials,' I repeated musingly.
'Yes; certainly I ought to know something about that.'

Our eyes met, and we both broke into a little laugh, as he said: 'Most
of us have opportunities for acquiring a little experience of the kind.'

'And I think I may claim to have made use of my opportunities,' I
rejoined, after a moment or two's deliberation. 'But the healthy
influence over a sensitive girl,' I went on more doubtfully; 'people
hold such very opposite opinions as to what _is_ a healthy influence. I
certainly should not like to have my own weaknesses petted.'

'You have been accustomed to training?'

'I have been accustomed to _be_ trained, so far as circumstances
could do it, Mr Wentworth,' I returned with a half-smile at the
thought of all that was implied by my words. I could not enter into
my history to him; I could not tell him what I had resigned in order
to remain in attendance upon my dear mother. Indeed, she had been a
confirmed invalid so long a time, that the giving up had ceased to
cost anything; the dread of losing her having become my only trouble,
though year by year the difficulty of getting the little luxuries
she needed and keeping out of debt, had terribly increased. When the
parting came, it took something from the bitterness of regret to
think that she knew nothing of the difficulties which had beset us.
'Still,' I added, desirous of making the best of myself, and led on by
his evident anxiety to select the right kind of association for his
child, or whoever she was, to be as frank as himself, 'mine has been
an experience which ought to be worth something. One's experiences
are hardly to be talked of; but I honestly think you might do worse
than engage me, if it is any recommendation to have been accustomed
to struggle against adverse circumstances, as I think it ought to be.
My testimonials are from the clergyman of the parish, the medical man
who attended my mother during a long illness, and an old friend of my
father's. The last is more complimentary than could be wished; but the
first two gentlemen knew me during a long heavy trial, and, as I begged
them to do, they have, I think, stated only what is fair to me.'

He was smiling, his eyes fixed upon me; and I went on interrogatively:
'It is a chaperon and companion for a young girl required--your
daughter or ward, I presume?'

He laughed outright; and then I saw he was younger than I had at first
supposed him to be. At most, he could not be over thirty-five, I
thought, a little confused at my mistake.

'No relation, and I am glad to say, no ward, Miss Haddon. I am simply
obliging a friend who resides out of town, in order to spare both him
and the ladies replying to the advertisement unnecessary trouble, by
seeing them here. To say that I have regretted my good-nature more than
once this morning, would of course be impolite.'

'It must have been very unpleasant for you sitting in judgment over a
number of women,' I said; 'almost as unpleasant as for them.'

'Pray do not think that I have ventured so far as that, Miss Haddon,'
he returned with an amused look.

But I had not gone there to amuse him, so I simply replied: 'I think
you were bound to do so, having undertaken the responsibility, Mr
Wentworth;' and returned straight to business, asking: 'Do you think
there is any chance for me?'

'Your manners convince me that you would be suited to the office,
Miss Haddon. Mr Farrar is an invalid; and his daughter, for whom he
is seeking a chaperon, is his only child, and motherless. That may
excuse a little extra care in selecting a fitting companion for her,
which every good woman might not be. There is only one thing'---- He
trifled with the papers before him a few moments, and then went on
hesitatingly: 'The lady was not to be very young.'

Greatly relieved, I smiled, and put up my veil. 'I am not very young,
Mr Wentworth. I was nine-and-twenty the day before yesterday.' It would
be really too ridiculous to be rejected on account of being too young,
when that very morning I had been trying to lecture myself into a more
philosophic frame of mind about the loss of my youth, and had failed
ignominiously. The loss of youth meant more to me than it does to most
people.

'Ah! Then I think we may consider that the only objection is disposed
of,' he gravely replied.

Relieved and glad as I was at this decision, I could not but think it
curious that he had not first examined my testimonials. For one so
cautious in some respects, this omission appeared rather lax. But I
still allowed them to lie on the table, as his friend might desire to
see them, though he did not.

'Am I to write to your friend, Mr Wentworth?'

'I was to ask the lady selected, to go to Fairview as soon as she
conveniently could, Miss Haddon,' presenting me with a card upon which
was the address--Mr Farrar, Fairview, Highbrook, Kent.

'To make arrangements with Mr Farrar?' I inquired, not a little
surprised at the suddenness with which matters seemed to be settling
themselves.

'To remain, if you are willing so to do, Miss Haddon. But I ought to
state that the engagement may possibly be for only a limited period;
not longer than a year, perhaps. Miss Farrar is engaged to be married.'
('Ah, now I understand your anxiety about her finding a suitable
companion,' was my mental comment.) 'She will not leave her father in
his present state of health; but in the event of his recovery, there is
some talk of her marriage in a year or so.'

'I do not myself desire a long engagement, Mr Wentworth,' I replied,
with a slight pressure of a certain locket on my watch-chain. If the
illusions of youth were gone, certain things remained to me yet.

He looked a little curious, I fancied, but simply bowed; too much a
gentleman to question about anything not connected with the business in
hand.

'Was there any mention made of salary, Mr Wentworth?'

'Salary? O yes. I really beg your pardon. Something was said about
eighty or a hundred a year. But there were no restrictions about it.
You will find that Mr Farrar is'---- Whatever he was about to say, he
hesitated to say; and after a moment's pause, substituted the word
'liberal. He is a man of large means, Miss Haddon.'

I was rather surprised at the amount; and in my inexperience of such
matters, I failed to take into account the appearance a chaperon would
be expected to make. The little I had hitherto been able to do in the
way of money-getting had brought but very small returns. But then it
had been done surreptitiously, whilst my dear mother was sleeping. She
had been too anxious about me to be allowed to know that her small
pension did not suffice for our expenses; and mine had been such work
and for such pay as I could obtain from shops in the neighbourhood.
'Eighty pounds a year certainly is liberal; I did not hope for anything
so good as that,' I replied. Then I once more rose, and bade him
good-morning, begging him to excuse my having taken up so much of his
time. 'In truth, Mr Wentworth, I was getting almost desperate in my
sore need.'

'I can only regret that a gentlewoman should be put to so much
inconvenience, Miss Haddon; although it bears out my creed, that
gentlewomen are more capable of endurance than are their inferiors.'

All very nice and pleasant of him; but even while he spoke, I was
painfully conscious that I should have the greatest difficulty
in getting out of the room as a gentlewoman should. The sudden
revulsion--the great good fortune--coming so swiftly after bitter
disappointments, told, I suppose, upon my physical strength, lowered
by a longer fast than usual. In fact, a course of discipline in the
way of bearing inconvenience, was telling upon me just at the wrong
moment; and it seemed that his pretty compliment about a gentlewoman's
capability of endurance was about to be proved inapplicable to me. The
furniture appeared to be taking all sorts of fantastic shapes, and he
himself to be expanding and collapsing in the most alarming manner.
But angry and ashamed as I felt--could anything be more humiliating
than an exhibition of weakness at this moment--I strove to smile and
say something about the heat, as with some difficulty I made my way
towards the door.

'But I fear---- Pray allow me,' he ejaculated, springing towards the
door, where I was groping for the handle, telling myself that if I
could only get into the hall and sit there in the fresh air a few
moments, all would be well again.



ITALIAN BRIGANDAGE.


When we were at Naples a few years ago, and wished to make an excursion
to Paestum--which would have occupied only two days altogether in
going and returning--the landlord of our hotel strongly discommended
the attempt. The roads, he said, were unsafe. Brigands might lay
hold of the party, and great trouble would ensue. As this advice was
corroborated by what we heard otherwise, the proposed excursion was
given up. Perhaps, since that time things may have improved on the
route to Paestum; but from all accounts, brigandage is as rife as ever
in the south of Italy and Sicily, or has rather become much worse.

The Italians have generally been congratulated on their establishment
of national independence. The many petty states into which the country
had been divided for centuries, are now united into a single kingdom,
with Rome as the capital. All that sounds well, and looks well. But
here is the pinch. The south of Italy is now much more disturbed and
kept in poverty by brigands than it was when under the Bourbons. A
nominally strong and united government is apparently less able or
willing to keep robbers in subjection than a government of inferior
pretensions, which used to be pretty roundly abused and laughed at.
Possibly, the political convulsion that led to the consolidation of
power may have bequeathed broken and dissolute bands, which took to
robbery as a profession. Possibly, also, the dissolution of monastic
orders may have had something to do with the present scandalous state
of affairs. A still more expressive reason for the corrupt state of
society has been assigned. This consists in the feebleness of the laws
and administrative policy of the country. Capital punishments have
been all but abolished. The most atrocious crimes are visited by a
condemnation to imprisonment for years or for life; but the punishment
is little better than a sham, for prisoners contrive in many instances
to escape, through the connivance of their jailers, or get loose in
some other way. In a word, the law has no terrors for the criminal,
who is either pardoned or gets off somehow. He is coddled and petted
as an unfortunate being--looked upon rather as a hero in distress than
anything else. In this view of the matter, the blame for the wretched
condition of Southern Italy rests mainly on those higher and middle
classes who are presumably the leaders of public opinion.

There is a moral blight even beyond what may be suggested by these
allegations. It is absolutely asserted that there are vast numbers
of persons, high and low, from the courtier to the peasant, who, for
selfish purposes, wink at brigandage and theft. Strange tales have
been told of a confederation in Naples, known as the _Camarista_,
the members of which live by extorting under threats a species of
black-mail on every commercial transaction. Shopkeepers are laid under
contribution for a share in the profits of every sale they happen to
make. And it has been said, that a cabman is expected to deliver up a
percentage of every fare he pockets. As little has been lately heard of
the Camarista, we entertain a hope that, taking shame to itself, the
municipality has successfully stamped out this illegal and intolerable
tyranny.

If we take for granted that the Camarista has disappeared or been
abated, it is certain that in Sicily a much more cruel species of
oppression, called the _Mafia_, is still in a flourishing condition.
The Mafia might almost be called a universal conspiracy against law
and order. Its basis is terror. All who belong to the confederacy are
protected, on the understanding that they aid in sheltering evil-doers
and facilitating their escape from justice. On certain terms, they
participate in the plunder of a successful act of brigandage. Men in
a high position, for instance, who are seen driving about in elegant
style, derive a part of their income from the contributions of robbers,
whom by trickery they help to evade the law. Just think of nearly a
whole community being concerned in this species of underhand rascality!
Neither law nor police has any chance of preserving public order.
Society is rotten to the backbone. Who knows but the higher government
officials, while ostentatiously hounding on Prefects to do their
duty, are all the time pocketing money from the audacious wretches
whom they affect to denounce? If the persons in question are not open
to this suspicion, they at least, by their perfunctory proceedings,
are chargeable with scandalously tolerating a condition of things
disgraceful to their country.

No doubt, the government officials ostentatiously offer large rewards
for the capture of certain notorious brigands; but they must well know
that the public are in such a terror-stricken state that no one dares
to bring malefactors to justice. The greatest ruffians swagger about
unchallenged. Local magistrates are so intimidated and brow-beaten by
them, that they are fain to let them go about their business. It is
perfectly obvious that the civil authorities are powerless. Nothing but
martial law, firmly administered, is fit to check the disorder. The
Carabinieri, a species of armed police, seem to be a poor-spirited set.
A few companies of French gendarmerie, with authority to capture, try,
and shoot every brigand, would very speedily render Southern Italy as
quiet and orderly as any part of France or England.

Within the last two or three years several cases of brigandage in
Sicily have been made known through the newspapers. One of the
latest, which occurred early in November 1876, was that of Mr Rose, an
Englishman connected with a mercantile firm in Sicily. 'Mr Rose and
his brother with two servants (so runs the account) alighted at the
railway station of Lercara. There Mr Rose mounted a horse, accompanied
by one of the servants. His brother followed in a carriage with
the other servant. Other carriages appeared immediately behind the
brothers filled with apparently friendly people. At a turn of the road
suddenly the celebrated brigand Leone, on whose head a reward of one
thousand pounds has been set for three years, presented himself, with
three other men, all well mounted. Leone caused Mr Rose to dismount
and take another horse, and made for the village of Montemaggiore.
Mr Rose, looking back, saw his brother in the carriage and other
carriages following. He dismounted, ran towards his brother, thinking
the party would outmatch the brigands, and called to them for help.
But Leone riding up dared the whole party to raise a finger. All
seemed paralysed. Mr Rose offered fifty thousand lire as ransom.
Leone contemptuously shrugged his shoulders, made Mr Rose remount,
and carried him off. Four hours after, the Carabinieri were informed
of the matter, and the chase of Leone began, but came to nothing. It
appears that Mr Rose had to ride for sixteen hours on horseback. His
horse being at last exhausted, had to be abandoned. They arrived at a
cave on the morning of the 5th inst., and remained there seven days,
being abundantly supplied with provisions. On the eighth night the
brigands, knowing that they were pursued by an armed force, abandoned
the cave and remained on the march all night, the same thing occurring
every subsequent night until the captive was released. From morning
until mid-day they remained stationary in a wood, supporting themselves
on poor fare, consisting of bread, cheese, and wine. In the afternoon
the brigands, knowing that the troops were reposing, made prudent
exploring excursions. Mr Rose never undressed from the time of his
capture until he returned home. He was set at liberty near the Sciarra
Railway Station, and the brigands gave him a mantle and a cap, with a
third-class passenger ticket.' Mr Rose was liberated only on giving a
ransom of four thousand pounds.

A Sicilian newspaper courageously commenting on this case of abduction,
makes the following candid remarks: 'The putting of Mr Rose to ransom
has proved incontestably two things--that ransoms in Sicily are not
arranged by the brigands, but are the result of a vile and dastardly
speculation of wealthy persons, and that round a band of brigands a
vast association of evil-doers belonging to the upper class forms
itself and enriches itself in different ways by means of brigandage.
We ask, who furnished the brigand Leone with all the necessary
indications to make the seizure? Who informed him in advance of the
coming of Mr Rose? Who gave to the bandit the exaggerated audacity of
going and seeking again his prey among thirteen persons in the midst
of three carriages, at a short distance from three "Carabinieri?" Who
communicated to the brigand the password that the mounted soldiers use
with the "Carabinieri?" And again, who posted to Palermo the letters
which Leone made Mr John Rose write to the members of his family? And
who gave him the account, with such marvellous exactness, of the
conversations which occurred in the house of Rose and with the friends
of the family? Who gave complete information of the movements of the
public force? Who furnished them in the plain country (for during
twenty days the band did not come near a single house) with victuals,
with warnings, and who had care of the bandits' horses? This is what we
wish to know, what we ought to know. The civic power has the supreme
right, the supreme duty, of bringing these things to light. The state
of alarm is intolerable; the state of fear is unworthy of us. Citizens,
arouse yourselves! you are sons of a free country--and there is no
liberty where order is not--and let it be a blow of the executioner;
put a price on the head and kill without pity. But the government does
not believe that if it ought to arouse for itself the vigour of the
citizens it would not have the duty of completing it. The security
of the infected Sicilian provinces can only be regained by Herculean
efforts and exceptional intelligence.' Very true; but where is that
intelligence to be found?

A correspondent of _The Times_ (December 11), dating from Naples,
throws some light on the audacious proceedings of Leone, and the
weakness of magisterial authority in dealing with Sicilian brigandage.
'To shew you (says this writer) what is the state of Sicily, I cite
briefly the report of a recent trial at Assisi. The band of Leone,
which lately carried off Mr Rose, some time ago carried off a gentleman
of Termini called Paoli. As he was rich, money was supposed to be the
motive of the capture, and a large ransom was offered, but vengeance
was the object, and Signor Paoli was murdered. His friends, who were
ignorant of the fact, sent a ransom amounting to between seventy and
eighty thousand lire, not to be delivered until Paoli was in their
hands. The brigands, however, insisted on the money being given up
immediately, promising to send their prisoner to his friends. This
the two messengers refused to do, and were returning, when they were
riddled with shot, and the ransom money was seized. A companion of
Leone, called De Pasquale, who had some regard for the murdered man
and some sense of honour, resolved to take vengeance on Leone, but
he was anticipated, for Leone murdered him treacherously, and placed
his head on a cross in the commune of Alia, which, by-the-bye, has a
population of from four to five thousand inhabitants. The trial which
has been alluded to above concerned three of the band who had been
arrested after these atrocious crimes. Each had his advocates, but
on the day of trial they were not forthcoming. The president of the
court assigned them three other advocates, but these were refused by
the brigands, who demanded an adjournment. To this the court would not
consent, and the accused then began to insult the president, jury,
advocates, and witnesses, till it was found necessary to remove them
and continue the trial in their absence. The result was, that two were
condemned to capital punishment, and the third to the Ergastolo, in
consideration of his youth, he having been under twenty-one years when
the crimes were committed. As to the two condemned to death, no doubt a
pardon or commutation will be granted, the more so that the abolition
of capital punishment is resolved on; but whether pardoned or not, it
will make little difference under the present weak system of judicial
administration.'

Nothing, we repeat, but a stern course of martial law will remedy the
disorder. But of that or any intelligent system of repression there is
little prospect. The ministers of the crown, and likely enough other
members of the legislature, will talk plentifully on the subject,
and there will be an end of the affair. Mawkish philanthropy, to say
nothing of black-mail, is keeping a large portion of Sicily in a
state of chronic disorder. Capital has deserted that beautiful and
productive island. Tourists are afraid to visit it. Roads are in a
bad condition. Lands are uncultivated. Unless from some mercantile
compulsion, well-disposed persons flee from a country so delivered
up by misgovernment to a parcel of unscrupulous ruffians. A sad blot
this on modern Italy, which it does not seem in a hurry to remove.
Nor, we fear, will it be removed until a higher moral tone pervades
the classes connected with the public administration. As regards the
personal security of travellers, the southern parts of Italy at present
rank below Turkey; and we advise all who have the power to do so, to
refrain from visiting a country so unhappily delivered up to the demon
of brigandage!

    W. C.



WITS AND WITTICISMS.


Shakspeare's statement, that 'a jest's prosperity lies not in the
tongue of him who makes it,' is unhappily not quite correct. It often
lies not only in his tongue but in his manner of speaking it, and in
the occasion which brings it forth; and all these advantages are lost
when it is re-told. In works, therefore, such as Timbs' _Anecdote Lives
of the later Wits and Humorists_ (Bentley) before us, the editor has a
much more difficult task, and one less likely to be appreciated than
may be supposed. With the exception too of Douglas Jerrold and one or
two others, whose sayings have not only been 'extremely quoted,' as
Praed expresses it, but published, it is very hard to discover what
they said. A wit is in this view almost as unfortunate as an actor,
since if we have neither seen nor heard him, we are not likely to be in
a position to judge how great a wit he was. On the other hand, a work
of this kind is very useful in putting the saddle on the right horse,
and also in tracing the accepted witticism to its true source.

For example, no _bon mot_ has been in more general use of late than
that attributed to Sir George Cornewall Lewis. 'How pleasant would life
be but for its amusements; and especially if there was no such thing
as "a little music" in the world.' Now, the germ of this, as Mr Timbs
shews us, is to be found in Talleyrand's _Memoirs_. 'Is not Geneva
dull?' asked a friend of his. 'Yes,' he replied, 'especially when they
amuse themselves.'

There has been no one like Talleyrand for cynicism; for though
Jerrold has a reputation for bitter aloes, there was generally some
fun about his satire, which prevented irritation on the part of its
object. Imagine a lady hearing that this had been said of her: 'She
is insupportable;' with the addition (as if the prudent statesman had
gone too far, and wished to make amends): 'that is her only defect.'
Thulieres, who wrote on the Polish Revolution, once observed: 'I
never did but one mischievous work in my life.' 'And when will it be
ended?' inquired Talleyrand. It was he who remarked upon the murder
of the Duke d'Enghien, that 'it was worse than a crime; it was a
blunder.' Curiously enough, Charles Buller said of this 'that such
an expression could never be uttered by an Englishman, and could be
heard by no Englishman without disgust;' and yet this saying has been
more quoted of late--and seriously too--than almost any other, both
by our statesmen and our newspaper writers. Madame de Staël drew a
portrait of him, as an elderly lady, in her novel of _Delphine_, and
also of herself as the heroine. 'They tell me,' said he, 'that we are
both of us in your novel in the _disguise_ of women.' Perhaps his very
best witticism was upon an old lady of rank, who married a _valet de
chambre_, and it was made at the whist-table. 'Ah,' said he, 'it was
late in the game: at nine[1] we don't reckon honours.'

A very different sort of Wit was Archbishop Whately; for though he was
caustic enough, he could be comical, and even did not shrink from a
pun. This is generally a low species of wit, but it must be remembered
that perhaps the very best 'good thing' that was ever uttered,
Jerrold's definition of dogmatism (grown-up puppyism), included it.
Pinel was speaking to the archbishop about the (then) new and improved
treatment of lunatics, and mentioned that gardening was found to
be a good occupation for them. 'I should doubt that,' replied His
Grace; 'they might _grow madder_.' He once confounded a horse-dealer
who was endeavouring to sell him a very powerful animal. 'There is
nothing, your Grace,' said he, 'which he can't draw.' 'Can he draw
an inference?' inquired Whately. It is curious how many now popular
jokes and even riddles emanated from the brain of the Archbishop of
Dublin: What Joan of Arc was made of; the difference between forms and
ceremonies; why a man never starves in the Great Desert, &c. The answer
to the following he withheld; it has puzzled many persons who make
nothing of a double acrostic, and will probably continue to do so:

    When from the Ark's capacious round
      The beasts came forth in pairs,
    Who was the first to hear the sound
      Of boots upon the stairs?

One of his great pleasures was to poke fun at people who will think
philosophically upon questions that only require the commonest of
common-sense. He propounded to a whole roomful of divines the problem:
'Why do white sheep eat so very much more than black sheep?' There were
all sorts of reasons suggested. One profound person thought since black
attracted the sun, that black sheep could get on with less nutriment
than the others. Dr Whately shook his head: 'White sheep eat more
because there are more of them.'

The archbishop was the very personification of shrewdness, and he was
not afraid to say what he thought.

'Concealment,' he observed, 'is a good spur to curiosity, which gives
an interest to investigation, and the _Letters of Junius_ would have
been long forgotten if the author could have been clearly pointed out
at the time.' This is very true, though few would have had the courage
to say it. The _Letters of Junius_ are inferior to those of _The
Englishman_ (also, by-the-bye, anonymous), published in the _Times_
newspaper some years ago, and even inferior to many of the biting
personal articles (beneath contempt, viewed in that light) printed
later still in the _Queen's Messenger_.

Lord John Russell, like 'Single-speech Hamilton,' said one good thing,
on which we believe his reputation in that line rests; he defined a
proverb as 'The wisdom of many and the wit of one.' Rogers observed it
was the only saying for which he envied any man, and Rogers was a good
judge. Sydney Smith said of the latter's slow habit of composition,
that 'when he produced a couplet he went to bed, the knocker was tied
up, straw laid down, the caudle made, and that the answer to inquirers
was, that Mr Rogers was as well as could be expected.' And he was
almost as elaborate with his sayings as with his verses. When they were
said, however, they were very good. 'When Croker wrote his review in
the _Quarterly_ upon Macaulay's _History_, Rogers remarked that he had
"intended murder, but committed suicide."'

A great advantage bestowed on us by the publication of these volumes
is that they contain several famous things which are not to be found
elsewhere, or only with much difficulty. One of these is Lord Byron's
_Question and Answer_ upon Rogers, which (if we remember right) is
suppressed, and at all events is not to be found in many editions
of his works; another, of a very different kind, is Albert Smith's
'Engineer's Story,' which used to convulse the audience in the Egyptian
Hall. Of course one misses the hubble-bubble of the pipe, and the
inimitable manner with which the narrator informed us: 'He told me the
stupidest story I ever heard in my life, and now I am going to tell it
to you.'

There are some very disappointing things in this work, which, however,
are not to be laid at the door of Mr Timbs; a good many wits appear in
it, who--for all that is related of them--never made a witticism. Dr
Maginn, for example, had a great reputation, but it has not outlived
him, and nothing we read here of him impresses us favourably, or
indeed at all. 'Father Prout' also, as the Rev. Francis Mahoney called
himself, may have been a most charming companion, but he is very dull
reading. We are afraid that whisky had a good deal to do with the
exhilaration experienced in their society by these gentlemen's friends.
Even John Hookham Frere--when he comes to be 'fried,' as the Americans
call it--was not so much of a joker, and made a little wit go a very
long way. It is true that the farther we go back the less likely it is
that good _sayings_ should be preserved; but those that _are_ preserved
should be worth hearing. On the other hand, all that is written stands
on the same ground, and it is certain that the examples given of the
more modern writers are much superior to those of their elder brothers.

Of the seniors, Canning is one of the most remarkable, though the
impression that he was greatly overrated by his contemporaries is not
to be eluded. In many respects he reminds us of the living Disraeli.
Moore says of him, in his _Life of Sheridan_, that he joined the
Tories 'because of the difficulties which even genius like his would
experience in rising to its full growth under the shadowy branches of
the Whig aristocracy;' and generally the interest attaching to him, as
in the case of the present Premier, is of a personal character. His
mode of life was, for statesmen of that day, domestic, and he is said
to have invented the now popular game of 'Twenty Questions.' In the
example here given of it, however, the answers are not simply 'Yes'
and 'No,' so that the thing which is to be guessed must have been
very much more easily arrived at, and his 'power of logical division'
need not have been overwhelming. As a drawing-room wit he had a great
reputation; but as a statesman, Sydney Smith gives this characteristic
account of him: 'His being "in office" is like a fly in amber. Nobody
cares about the fly; the only question is, How the mischief did it get
there? When he is jocular, he is strong; when he is serious, he is like
Samson in a wig. Call him a legislator, a reasoner, and the conductor
of the affairs of a great nation, and it seems to me as absurd as if a
butterfly were to teach bees to make honey. That he is an extraordinary
writer of small poetry, and a diner-out of the highest metre, I
do most readily admit.' He certainly said some very injudicious
things in parliament; for example, his description of the American
navy--'Half-a-dozen fir frigates with bits of bunting flying at their
heads'--excited Cousin Jonathan, as it well might, beyond all bounds.
He compared Lord Sidmouth (Mr Addington), because he was included in
every ministry, to the small-pox, 'since everybody must have it once in
their lives.' His wittiest verses perhaps occur in the poem composed on
the tomb of Lord Anglesey's leg, lost at Waterloo:

    And here five little ones repose,
      Twin-born with other five;
    Unheeded of their brother toes,
      Who all are now alive.

    A leg and foot, to speak more plain,
      Lie here of one commanding;
    Who though he might his wits retain,
      Lost half his understanding....

    And now in England, just as gay,
      As in the battle brave,
    Goes to the rout, the ball, the play,
      With one leg in the grave....

    Fate but indulged a harmless whim;
      Since he could _walk_ with one,
    She saw two legs were lost on him
      Who never meant to _run_.

A very lively poem, no doubt; but how inferior, when compared with one
on a somewhat similar subject by Thomas Hood, namely, _Ben Battle_:

      Said he: 'Let others shoot,
    For here I leave my _second_ leg,
      And the _forty-second foot_.'

Comparisons, however, are odious; and it would be especially odious to
Mr Canning to pursue this one.

Of the once famous Captain Morris, we read that his poems reached
a twenty-fourth edition. But where are they now? His verses were
principally Anacreontic; his _To my Cup_ received the gold cup from
the Harmonic Society; but they are greatly inferior to Tom Moore's.
In Hood's line, however, he was more successful, and his _Town and
Country_ might well have been written by that great humorist himself:

    Oh, but to hear a milkmaid blithe,
    Or early mower whet his scythe
      The dewy meads among!
    My grass is of that sort, alas!
    That makes no hay--called sparrow-grass
      By folks of vulgar tongue....

    Where are ye, birds that blithely wing
    From tree to tree, and gaily sing,
      Or mourn in thicket deep?
    My cuckoo has some ware to sell,
    The watchman is my Philomel,
      My blackbird is a sheep!

The above is excellent; nor is the Captain less felicitous in
describing the other view of the subject--which was no doubt his
own--namely, the disadvantages of a rustic life:

    In London I never know what to be at,
    Enraptured with this, and transported with that;
           .       .       .       .       .
    Your jays and your magpies may chatter on trees,
    And whisper soft nonsense in groves, if you please;
    But a house is much more to my mind than a tree;
    And for groves--oh, a fine grove of chimneys for me....

    Then in town let me live and in town let me die,
    For in truth I can't relish the country, not I.
    If I must have a villa, in London to dwell,
    Oh, give me the sweet shady side of Pall-Mall.

It is sad to think that the last line will be almost the only one
familiar to our readers, and that the memory of the gallant captain has
died away, not indeed 'from all the circle of the hills,' but from the
London squares he loved, and which knew him so well.

It is not as a wit that Samuel Taylor Coleridge is chiefly famous,
but his _Table-talk_ contains many things that would have made the
reputation of a diner-out; sometimes they are metaphorical, as when,
upon a friend of Fox's, who would take the very words out of his mouth,
and always put himself forward to interpret him, he observed that the
man always put him in mind of the steeple of St Martin's on Ludgate
Hill, which is constantly getting in the way when you wish to see the
dome of St Paul's. Sometimes they are philosophic, as when he remarked
that all women past seventy, whom ever he knew, were divided into three
classes--1. That dear old soul; 2. That old woman; 3. That old witch.
And again, they are sometimes purely witty, as, 'Some men are like
musical glasses--to produce their finest tones, you must keep them wet.'

Coleridge has also left some fine definitions, which are only not witty
because of their wisdom. He compares a single Thought to a wave of the
sea, which takes its form from the waves which precede and follow it;
and Experience to the stern-lights of a ship, which illumine only the
track it has passed.

His epigram on a bad singer is excellent:

    Swans sing before they die; 'twere no bad thing
    Should certain persons die before they sing.

With respect to the Irish wits who are introduced in these volumes, the
reader is in many cases disposed to imagine that some of the joke must
lie in the brogue, which print is unable to render; but Curran is a
brilliant exception. There is nothing more humorous in the whole work
than the account of his duel with Judge Egan. The latter was a big man,
and directed the attention of the second to the advantage which in this
respect his adversary had over him.

'He may hit me as easily as he would a haystack, and I might as well be
aiming at the edge of a knife as at his lean carcass.'

'Well,' said Curran, 'let the gentleman chalk the size of my body on
your side, and let every ball hitting outside of that go for nothing.'

Even Sydney Smith never beat this; but he said many things as humorous
as this one of Curran's, and indeed was always saying them. Here is
one, also, as it happens, respecting fat and leanness. Speaking of
having been shampooed at Mahommed's Baths at Brighton, he said: 'They
squeezed enough out of me to make a lean curate.' Every one knows the
advice he gave to the Bishop of New Zealand, just before his departure
for that cannibal diocese: 'A bishop should be given to hospitality,
and never be without a smoked little boy in the bacon-rack and a cold
missionary on the sideboard.' The above is perhaps the best example
of the lengths to which Sydney Smith's imagination would run in the
way of humour; as the following is the most characteristic stroke of
Jerrold's caustic tongue. At a certain supper of sheep's heads a guest
was so charmed with his fare that he threw down his knife and fork,
exclaiming: 'Well, say I, sheep's heads for ever!' 'There's egotism,'
said Jerrold.

There is nothing, it has been written, so dreary as a jest-book;
and for fear our article on this subject should come under the same
condemnation, we here bring it to a conclusion, with a cordial
expression of approval of the cake from which we have extracted so many
plums.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] They played long-whist in those times; we should say of course 'at
four' nowadays.



RURAL LIFE IN FRANCE.


The ordinary tourist has in general no time to get acquainted with the
inner life of the people to whom his flying visits are paid. He has the
largest possible space to get over in the shortest possible time, and
thanks to railways and steamboats, he accomplishes his object. He goes
to see Paris, and finds it not altogether unlike London; the people are
not very dissimilar; the habits of life have a general resemblance;
he need not even talk French unless he chooses; and except that he is
generally pretty well got up in his Continental Bradshaw, he returns
little wiser than he went away.

This ignorance about continental nations in general, and about our
nearest neighbours in particular, Mr Hamerton does his best to remedy
in his very interesting and instructive account of rural life in
France.[2]

His first difficulty was to find a house there which should be
tolerably convenient, and within easy reach of the picturesque scenery
in which a landscape painter finds his treasure-trove. In company
with his wife he visited a variety of places, such as Vienne, Macon,
Collonges, and the wine districts of Burgundy; but with none was he
satisfied. He next tried Nuits, Besançon, the valley of the Doubs and
other spots, without being able to find the particular one which could
alone suit his wandering foot; and when about to give up the search in
despair, a friend came to the rescue. 'Make a note of what you want,'
said this sensible man, 'and I will find it for you.' He was as good
as his word; the house was found (precisely where, we are not told);
and a very charming little house it was, out of the world, but still
sufficiently in it to be accessible, with fine natural scenery near,
and an abundance of hills, valleys, and streams sufficiently large to
be navigable by a canoe.

The roads around were good, having been made by the government of
Louis-Philippe just before the introduction of railways; and good
roads, as Mr Hamerton justly observes, are 'one of the very greatest
blessings of a civilised country.' In looking out for and choosing
his house he had thought very little of the society in which his lot
might be cast, and yet he did not intend to live like a hermit; he
was ready to make friends, but it must be in his own way. In England,
when a stranger settles in a neighbourhood, the families around call
upon him; but in France it is quite the reverse. There a new-comer
must push his own way, and card in hand, call upon every one with whom
he would like to become acquainted; and blowing his own trumpet as
judiciously as he can, endeavour to impress them with the desirability
of his acquaintance. This Mr Hamerton refused to do; and finally his
neighbours, becoming convinced of his respectability, called upon him
in the English fashion, and he had as much society as he desired. He
found, however, that he had in a sense fallen upon evil times; the
easy old-fashioned hospitality of the good country folks around him
was beginning to decline, stifled by the demon of the state dinner,
which some ambitious wretch had had the inhumanity to introduce from
Paris; and which, with its many courses, expensive wines, and grandes
toilettes, threatened to annihilate the enjoyable family meal, at
which the only difference made for a guest was the addition of a few
flowers, sweets, and candles. The society 'round my house' was not
distinguished for intellectual culture, although there were a few
brilliant exceptions to the general dullness of the small squires of
the neighbourhood. One or two, he found, had studied painting in Paris
under Delacroix; another was an enthusiastic ornithologist; another
was an excellent botanist and entomologist; and there were one or two
antiquaries; and a really first-rate musician, who was so modest, that
when he wished to practise, he always locked himself and his violin
into a cellar.

The ladies he found decidedly behind the gentlemen in point of culture
and attainments. They invariably belonged to one of two classes--the
women of the world, and the women who preferred domesticity and
home. The latter were most respectable individuals, deeply read in
cookery-books, and _au fait_ in every housekeeping detail, but not
interesting as companions. Nor were their more ambitious rivals greatly
preferable to them in this respect; they were dressy, and had plenty
of small-talk, but their conversation was confined to the gossip of
the neighbourhood, or the latest things in the ever-changing Paris
fashions. It is to this cause that Mr Hamerton assigns that separation
of the sexes which most travellers have remarked as characteristic of
French society. There is nothing else to account for it; the English
custom of leaving the gentlemen alone over their wine after dinner is
unknown; but still in most provincial salons it will be found that the
men collect into one corner, and the women into another, and there
discuss undisturbed the separate questions which interest them.

We are accustomed to consider the aristocratic feeling as much stronger
with us than in France; but this Mr Hamerton found was a great mistake.
Around his house, the caste feeling in all its genuine feudal intensity
was peculiarly strong. Without the all-important _de_ prefixed to
a man's surname he was a _roturier_, an ignoble wretch, a creature
sent into the world only to be snubbed. The social value of these two
letters is incalculable, and as a matter of course, they are often
fraudulently assumed by the vulgar rich; nor does it, curiously enough,
when the transition is once accomplished, seem to make much difference
whether the coveted prefix is real or borrowed. A false title steadily
kept up for a series of years is found to answer quite as well as a
true one; and while a constant manufacture of this _pseudo_-nobility
is going on, there is side by side with it a continual process of
degradation, by which the true nobles lose their nobility. They
become poor; the necessity of earning their bread by manual labour
is forced upon them; they drop the _de_, or if they try to cling to
it, their neighbours drop it for them, and in the crucible of poverty
the transmutation soon becomes complete: the gold is changed by the
roughness of daily toil into simple clay. The _de_, which is not to be
sneezed at, at any time of life, becomes supremely important to the
Frenchman when he is about to marry; then, without any trouble on his
part, merely by getting a friend to act as his ambassador, it may, and
often does procure for him the hand of a rich heiress.

Sometimes people are ennobled in spite of themselves, as when Mr
Hamerton, much to his own annoyance, had the title of 'My Lord'
bestowed upon him by his French neighbours. It was in vain that he
protested against it; he was shewn the title duly registered in an
official book at the prefecture; and half-angry, half-amused, he at
last accepted his fate, and settled tranquilly down into the dignity of
the peerage.

From the noble of the earth, who may be, and sometimes are very poor
indeed, one glides by a natural transition into a consideration of the
very wealthy. These do not abound in France. As a rule, it is difficult
to find a Crœsus; but gentlemen with comfortable incomes, which,
with careful management, may be made to procure all the luxuries of
life, are very common. The law of the division of property militates
against either very large estates or very large incomes, and has
made great nobles, such as were common in the days of Louis XIV., an
impossibility. The great castles built by these men still exist, and
are out of all keeping with the establishments maintained in them. It
is not unusual to find a stable with stalls for forty horses, and in
a corner the family stud of four unobtrusively munching their oats;
while in the great house beyond, the proprietor lives quietly with two
or three servants in a tower or wing of his ancestral palace, often
thinking very little of himself at all, and a great deal of those who
are to come after him, and pinching and saving, that the old place may
not require to be sold.

No one is ashamed of saving; thrift is the rule in France; and Mr
Samuel Smiles himself cannot have a more genuine admiration of it
than the French middle classes have. They are economical to a fault,
and their thrifty habits form the great financial strength of their
country. A middle-class Frenchman almost invariably lives so as to
have something to his credit at the end of the year; if he is rich the
balance is large; if he is poor it is small; but, unless in exceptional
circumstances, it is always there. In the country the French rise
early; five in summer and seven in winter is the usual hour. Ladies in
the morning have generally a cup of coffee when they rise and a piece
of bread; but the majority of men eat nothing until breakfast, which
is the great meal of the day. There is always at breakfast one or two
dishes of meat, vegetables, and dessert, and the beverage used is wine,
_vin ordinaire_. A Frenchman never tastes tea except when ill, and then
he regards it as a kind of medicine. In summer, white wine mixed with
seltzer-water is often used at breakfast; and after the meal, coffee
is drunk. Breakfast is usually served between ten and eleven in the
forenoon, and dinner at six in the evening. Unless when guests are
present, it is a much lighter meal than breakfast, and often consists
of an omelette and salad, or _soupe maigre_ and cold chicken.

In rural districts the usual hour for retiring at night is nine
o'clock; and after dinner it is not unusual to find some of the elderly
gentlemen so sleepy that they are almost incapable of conversation.
This drowsiness is caused by their open-air habits and the great amount
of exercise they take.

In the country, all the gentlemen shoot; the game consists of
partridges, rabbits, hares, snipe, woodcock, wolves, and wild
boars; the hunting of which last is by no means child's play. Few
country-gentlemen ride; they all of them drive a little, and are most
of them great walkers, thinking nothing of what we would count very
long distances, such as fifteen miles and back in a day.

Formerly, country-life in France had a certain charming rural rusticity
about it, which admitted of the utmost freedom in matters of dress and
housekeeping; but now, Mr Hamerton tells us, the old liberty to do
exactly as one pleased is disappearing, and fashion and a superficial
veneer of external polish are greatly increasing the cost of living,
without improving in any way the minds, manners, or constitutions of
the people.

On one most important point, however, the old freedom is still
maintained--no Frenchman burdens himself with more servants than are
absolutely necessary for the requirements of his household. Mr Hamerton
relates a case in point: he had an intimate friend in Paris, who went
out into the best society and received at his house the greatest people
in Europe, yet this man kept only three servants and had no carriage.

It is in this liberty to spend or not as you choose, in this freedom
from the tyranny of custom in the matter of expenditure, that the
cheapness of continental life lies. Added to this is the pre-eminently
practical tone of the French mind, which is always striving with
incessant activity to solve the problem, how to make the best of life.
As a means to this end, the French almost invariably get on comfortably
with their servants; and French servants, when frankly and familiarly
treated, and considered as human beings and not as mere machines,
generally make very good servants indeed; and the tenure of service,
which with us is not unfrequently a matter of months, often continues
unbroken in France until the servant is married or dies.

Such is life in the country. Life in a small French city is very
different in many respects. It is full of a lazy, purposeless
enjoyment, which is always ready with some trifling amusement to
fill up every vacant moment in the too abundant leisure of men, who
are either independent in fortune, or have professions yielding them
an easy maintenance without engrossing much of their time. To such
individuals the cafés and clubs of a small town, with their good eating
and drinking and sociable small-talk, form a realisation of contented
felicity beyond which they do not care to aspire, although it stifles
all that is noblest in their nature, and too often lays the foundation
of what we would call drinking habits.

The peasantry in France form a class, a world by themselves, full of
prejudices, devoid of culture, and very independent in their tone of
feeling. The French peasant is inconceivably ignorant, and yet very
intelligent; his manners are good, and he can talk well; but he can
neither read nor write, and his knowledge of geography is so small,
that he cannot comprehend what France is, much less any foreign
state. Freed from the grinding oppressions of the past, he is still
under bondage to the iron slavery of custom. Every other Frenchman
may dress as he chooses, but the peasant must always wear a blue
blouse, a brownish-gray cloak, and a hat of a peculiar shape. Custom
also prescribes to him the furniture of his house; he must have a
linen press, a clock and a bed, and these must be all of walnut wood.
Cookery, which is the national talent _par excellence_, does not exist
for him. In the morning he has soup, cheaply compounded of hot water,
in which float a few scraps of rusty bacon, a handful or two of peas,
and a few potatoes; and if there is not enough of soup to satisfy
his hunger, he finishes his meal with dry bread and cold water _ad
libitum_. At noon he dines on potatoes, followed (as an occasional
variety in his perennial diet) either with a pancake, a salad, or
clotted milk. He never tastes wine or meat except during hay-making and
harvest, when he has a little bit of salt pork, and a modest allowance
of wine with a liberal admixture of water. Among the peasantry, many of
the old superstitions are still prevalent.

Between husband and wife there is little love, but there is also little
wrangling or disputing, and they are mutually true and helpful each to
each. The children grow up in this cold home, under a rigid patriarchal
discipline, in which personal chastisement plays an important part,
and is continued even to mature age. In peasant as in town life,
however, the tendency is towards change; the children now are in course
of being educated; and the young men, although frugal still, are not
so parsimonious as their fathers were. They smoke, heedless of the
expense, a piece of extravagance which their stoic ancestors would have
most sternly denounced; and in the train of tobacco the common comforts
of life are slowly finding their way into the houses of the more
wealthy peasants.

No subject is more interesting to the English observer in France
than marriage, a subject, however, which has already been adverted
to in these columns.[3] We conclude this notice of Mr Hamerton's
interesting work by relating how he remained in the country during
the Franco-Prussian war, and how he shared to the full the anxiety
of his French neighbours, for he was constantly expecting that the
district around his house would be included in the circle of the
invasion, as eventually it was. First came Garibaldi and his army, a
very unwelcome sight to the bishop and clergy, to whom the Italian hero
seemed the very impersonation of evil. Then came the Prussians quite
suddenly and unexpectedly; and naturally Mr Hamerton has very lively
recollections of that day, which he spent in a garret of his house,
surrounded by a bevy of ladies, reconnoitring the enemy through a very
excellent telescope. Throughout the day he remained on the outlook,
and when evening fell he went out into the birchwood above his house
to bury a certain precious strong-box. When he had concealed his
treasure, he returned home in the twilight, watching in the distance,
as he descended from the wood, the red flashes of flame leaping from
the cannon's mouths, and illuminating with their dusky glow all the
surrounding scenery, and then--what does the reader think he did? Take
refuge in immediate flight? He did no such thing; he went to bed,
and had a comfortable night's sleep. The Prussians were still at the
distance of a few miles, and there the armistice stopped them; peace
soon followed; and the pleasant little house, which the Englishman had
beautified and made comfortable and home-like, escaped the devastation
which its occupation by a detachment of Uhlans would in all probability
have entailed.

FOOTNOTES:

[2] _Round my House; Notes on Rural Life in France._ By Philip Gilbert
Hamerton. London, Seeley.

[3] _Journal_, No. 578, January 23, 1875.



A CURATE'S HOLIDAY.

IN FOUR CHAPTERS.--CHAPTER I.


Fifteen years ago I was a slim, tolerably good-looking young curate,
addicted to long coats and Roman collars, condemned by poverty
to celibacy, and supporting myself upon the liberal salary of
seventy pounds a year. I am now a Liverpool merchant in flourishing
circumstances, 'fat and forty,' with a wife, lots of children, and
religious views somewhat latitudinarian. 'What a change was there!' it
may well be exclaimed. And indeed, when I look back upon what I once
was, and compare my present with my past self, I can scarcely believe
I am the same man. I shall, therefore, conceal my name, in relating,
as I am about to do, certain occurrences accidentally connected with
my change of state, and substitute for that of each person and place
concerned in the little narrative, some fictitious appellation.

To commence then. I had been for three years curate of St Jude's
Church, Ollyhill, a populous agricultural district in Lancashire,
when one morning in Easter-week, as I was disrobing after an early
celebration, I fell upon the vestry floor in a dead-faint. The
sacristan, who fortunately was at hand to render assistance, after
accompanying me home, and observing that I was still weak and
indisposed, thought proper to convey intelligence of what had happened
to the vicar. The result was that in the course of the morning I
received a visit from that gentleman, the Rev. Fitz-Herbert Hastings.
He found me stretched upon the typical horse-hair-covered sofa of a
poor curate's lodgings, suffering from a severe nervous headache,
and to judge from his exclamation of concern, looking, as I felt,
really ill. Taking a seat by my side, he condoled with me very kindly,
expressed his opinion that I had been overworking myself; and went on
to prove the sincerity of his sympathy by offering me a fortnight's
holiday, with the very requisite addition of a cheque for expenses.
Most gladly did I hail his proposition, affording me as it did an
opportunity for which I had just been longing, of getting away for a
time from Ollyhill. But neither my desire for change of scene, nor my
illness, arose from the cause to which the vicar attributed them. It
was true that I had of late, during Lent, been working very hard, as
also had Mr Hastings himself.

But in producing the state of utter physical and mental prostration
in which I now found myself, these duties of my sacred calling had
had little share. My malady, unhappily, was not the effect of any
mere temporary reaction of overstrained faculties--its seat was the
heart. In that tender, though not hitherto susceptible region, I had
been sorely wounded--loath as I am to admit it--by the mischievous
little god of Love. Six months ago, Lily, only daughter of Squire
Thornton, our principal churchwarden and most wealthy parishioner,
had returned home from her Parisian boarding-school a lovely girl of
eighteen, with rippling auburn hair and distracting violet eyes, but
with tastes and manners which I considered a little frivolous. Fenced
about by celibacy, and little dreaming of any dangerous result, I had,
from our first introduction, set myself to effect an improvement in
her taste, and to take a general interest in her spiritual welfare.
Only too abundant had been the success which rewarded my efforts. Lily
had proved an excellent pupil, looking up to her self-elected monitor
(at the superior but not altogether fatherly age of twenty-five) with
the utmost reverence, and obeying with an unquestioning childlikeness
eminently charming, my slightest wish or suggestion. Under my
directions she had given up novel-reading, and had become an active
member of the Dorcas Society, a teacher in the Sunday school, and a
visitor of the sick. As a matter of course, her attention to these
good works had involved frequent meetings and consultations; and the
constant intercourse had by degrees proved destructive of my peace of
mind. In vain had I, tardily awakening to a knowledge of the truth,
made every endeavour to exercise self-discipline. The mischief, almost
before I was aware of its existence, had gone too far for remedy. There
had been nothing for it, as I had eventually seen, but to avoid as far
as possible all further intercourse with my charmer; and upon that
principle I had accordingly shaped my action. Then had followed a time
of very severe trial. Unable to understand my coldness, Lily at first
had treated me to reproachful glances whenever we chanced to meet;
subsequently, growing indignant at the continuance of what seemed to
her my unaccountable change of demeanour, she had scornfully seconded
the avoidance. And finally, my breast had been wrung in perceiving that
she too suffered, as was evidenced by her sorrowful air, and by the
fact that she was becoming pale and thin.

For several days before that upon which my fainting-fit had occurred,
I had missed her from her accustomed place in the church; forbearing,
however, to make inquiries concerning her, I had failed to learn, as I
might have done, that she had been sent for the benefit of her health
to visit a relative residing at a sea-bathing place in North Wales. In
ignorance of this, I set off on the morning following my vicar's visit,
for the same country, bent upon a pedestrian excursion, and determined,
during my absence from Ollyhill, to make vigorous efforts towards
conquering my unfortunate passion.

About a week afterwards I found myself, at the close of a day's hard
walking, at a small fishing village on the south-west coast, frequented
during the summer season as I learned, from the cards in two or three
lodging-house windows, by a few visitors. But as yet Lleyrudrigg was,
I surmised, empty of all save its ordinary inhabitants. At anyrate,
there appeared to be no other stranger than myself in the rather large
hotel in which I had taken up my quarters for the night. It was a
dismal dispiriting evening. The rain, which had been threatening all
day, was now descending in torrents, beating against the windows of the
coffee-room and swelling the gutters of the narrow street.

Not a living thing was to be seen; and the long, scantily furnished
apartment of which I was sole tenant, looked very dreary as I turned
away from the cheerless prospect. Its gloom was increased rather than
otherwise, however, when presently that prospect was shut out and
two uncompromising tallow-candles were set upon the table. On their
appearance I drew a volume from my knapsack, and eliciting a feeble
blaze from the smouldering fire, seated myself in front of it and
commenced to read. But all endeavours to concentrate my attention
upon the book failed; and at length, depressed by the solitude and my
melancholy thoughts, I determined upon ringing the bell and begging
the landlord to give me his company. I had just risen for the purpose
of putting this resolve into execution, when my attention was arrested
by the sound of approaching footsteps, and in another instant the
door was unclosed and a gentleman entered the room. I say gentleman
advisedly, although at a cursory glance there was little about the
appearance of the new-comer to indicate his right to the title. He was
a small spare man, with large features, and a head almost ludicrously
out of proportion with his body. His dress, which was black, was of
an unfashionable cut and very shabby, and he wore a voluminous white
neckcloth. Pausing at a few paces from the door, he gave orders to
the waiter for chops and tea. Then advancing towards the fireplace,
energetically rubbing his hands together, he addressed me in perfectly
good English, but with a strong Welsh accent, telling me that he had
arrived at the inn some quarter of an hour ago, drenched through with
the rain--having carried his own carpet-bag from a station distant
about a mile--and that in consequence, he had been obliged to change
all his clothes. 'And by the way,' he continued somewhat abruptly,
'I had the misfortune whilst doing so to drop my purse, and several
pieces of money rolled out amongst the furniture of the room. I feel
almost sure that I managed to collect all again; but if you would
excuse me doing so in your presence, I should like to satisfy myself
completely upon that point. The fact is,' he added with a frank smile,
'that the money in question does not belong to me, and I am the more
anxious about it on that account.'

Whilst thus speaking, the little man had drawn from his pocket a huge
wash-leather purse, and after waiting until I had bowed permission, he
proceeded to empty its contents upon the table. They consisted of a
large roll of bank-notes and a considerable sum in gold and silver--and
as I watched him furtively over the edges of my book, which I had
again taken up--I saw him carefully count and arrange the latter into
heaps. A sigh of relief accompanied the announcement which he shortly
made to me, that he had found the money correct; and he was in the
act of opening his purse to replace it, when the landlord--a meagre,
sharp-nosed individual--entered the room with a tray. Happening to
glance at this man as he stood by cloth in hand, I detected a gleam
of intense avarice crossing his face; and although the expression was
but momentary--vanishing as the glittering piles were swept into their
receptacle--it left me with the impression that the small Welshman's
exhibition of his riches in the presence of strangers had not been
an altogether judicious proceeding. No suspicion of its imprudence,
however, appeared to disturb that gentleman's mind, and I soon forgot
all about the little incident in the interest of the conversation which
ensued between us.

From his dress and general appearance I had already conjectured my
chance companion to be a Dissenting parson, and his first words as,
having finished his tea, he drew a chair to the opposite side of the
fireplace, confirmed my surmise. Throwing his eye over my attire,
he remarked that he thought we were 'both in the same profession,'
and inquired if I were not a 'minister of the gospel.' And upon my
informing him that I was a clergyman of the Church of England, we were
soon in the midst of a polemical discussion, which lasted a couple
of hours and covered a large amount of ground; and which ended (at
least as far as I was concerned) in producing feelings akin to sincere
friendship.

The insignificant-looking, ill-formed, shabbily dressed Welsh minister
had interested and attracted me more than any man I had ever met in
my life. Endowed with a rich melodious voice, and with wonderful
conversational powers, he was possessed also of an excellent memory
and a keen intelligence. His reading, moreover, had been various and
deep, as I found when, later on in the evening, the conversation turned
upon other than ecclesiastical matters. But it was perhaps even more
to his imperturbable good-humour, and to the singular innocence and
candour which shone in his clear gray eyes and exhibited themselves in
every word he uttered, than to his rare natural gifts, that he owed
his ability to please. However that might be, I had certainly found
the Rev. Peter Morgan a most charming companion, and when, just as
we were about to separate for the night, I learned that he was going
upon the following day to Twellryst, a town I was myself intending to
visit, I eagerly proposed that we should make the journey together.
The suggestion met with a ready and pleased acquiescence from my new
acquaintance, and we then exchanged information as to the different
objects which were taking us both to this rather out-of-the-way place.

Mine was a very simple one, that of examining the ruins of an ancient
monastery in its vicinity. My friend's was a more business-like and,
as he laughingly said, a more agreeable errand. It was to receive
certain subscriptions which a friend of his, resident in the town, had
collected on his behalf. These subscriptions were to be applied to the
purpose of enlarging the chapel of which he was pastor at Pwlwyln, a
rapidly growing village on the northern sea-board. The money which I
had seen him count, the little man went on to state, was the fruit of
his own labours for the same cause. He had obtained it by travelling
about the country begging from town to town amongst the members of the
denomination to which he belonged, and had been engaged in this manner
nearly two months. The mission, he concluded, had been crowned with
much greater success than he had anticipated. With the subscriptions
he was to receive on the morrow, and those already in his custody, he
expected to be able to return home (as he was intending to do on the
day afterwards) with upwards of three hundred pounds in his pocket,
which, together with another hundred raised by his own very poor
congregation, would, he anticipated, be amply sufficient to cover all
expenses of the alterations.

'And how, sir, do you propose to get to Twellryst?' I inquired. 'As you
are no doubt aware, there is no railway line in that direction. I was
intending to _walk_ myself; but _you_ surely were not thinking of doing
so?'

'Indeed no, my friend,' he replied with the sunny smile which upon the
slightest provocation would break over his large plain features. 'At
upwards of sixty, one doesn't undertake a walk of thirty miles unless
it be under the pressure of stern necessity. No, no; I could walk well
enough at your age; but now, alas! the infirmities of age, &c. &c. So
if you please, we will go by coach. I have ascertained that one runs
twice a week from Abermeulth to Twellryst, passing through Lleyrudrigg.
To-morrow will be one of its days, though I do not yet know at what
hour of the morning it will arrive here. The landlord, however, will be
able to tell us that; and if you will kindly ring the bell, which I see
is on your side of the fireplace, we can make inquiries forthwith.'

In bending forward to obey this request, I noticed that a door
immediately behind my chair stood a little ajar, and it at once flashed
upon me that for some time I had been vaguely conscious of a slight
draught. The bell still in my hand, I remained for a moment after
ringing, with my eyes fixed upon the door. When last I had looked
in that direction it had, I felt quite sure, been closed; and as an
instant's reflection convinced me, no person had entered the room by it
throughout the entire evening.

Prompted by an unpleasant suspicion which had suggested itself against
my will, I advanced quietly, and throwing it more widely apart, peered
through. It opened into a small china-closet, connected by another
door with a long passage. Both passage and closet were flagged. I had
heard no sound of footsteps, yet there, within the latter, stood
the landlord. Upon seeing me, he looked, I thought, confused, but
immediately recovering himself, stepped into the room, as though he had
been coming that way in answer to the bell. I had certainly no proof
that he had been listening, but I felt, nevertheless, a moral assurance
of the fact, and wondering what could have been his motive in the act,
I eyed him sharply whilst he gave a not very satisfactory reply to Mr
Morgan's interrogations respecting the stage-coach. According to his
account, the vehicle in question was a most irregular and unpunctual
one, starting at hours varying from ten to twelve in the morning, and
being even less reliable as to the time of its return. This report
naturally was not agreeable to the minister; but expressing a hope
that the coach would be upon its best behaviour next day, he requested
that bedroom candles might be sent in; and the landlord departed to
order them. In a few moments, however, he returned, and made us a
proposition which had apparently just occurred to him. It was to the
effect that we should hire a horse and dog-cart belonging to the hotel.
The horse, its owner affirmed, was a splendid animal, and would carry
us to Twellryst in half the time it would take the coach to get there.
We should, moreover, he promised, have the conveyance for little more
than the amount of our coach-fares, since not only did the horse need
exercise greatly, but he had besides some business of his own in that
town, which could be transacted for him by a cousin who would drive us.
By adopting this plan, too, he concluded, we could see the Spike Rocks.
Everybody who came to these parts in the summer-time went to see the
Spike Rocks, and Jonathan should drive us round that way.

A question or two convincing us that the rocks referred to would be
well worth a visit, we gladly accepted the landlord's offer; and
waiting only to make arrangements as to the time of starting, bade each
other good-night and separated for our respective chambers.



CHILDREN'S TROUBLES.


If children occasionally turn out to be 'Torturations,' their parents
are not uniformly guiltless of bringing such a result on themselves.
What with over-indulgence or neglect, or it may be harshness of
discipline, there is little wonder that children fall short of
expectations. We have known a father who paid no end of attentions to
his girls, and let his boys grow up any way. We have also known the
greatest mischief arise from unnecessary severity and snubbing. Some
parents seem to imagine that they sufficiently perform their duty when
they give their children a good education. They forget that there is
the education of the fireside as well as of the school. At schools and
academies there is no cultivation of the affections, but often very
much of the reverse. Hence the value of kindly home influences that
touch the heart and understanding. Children need to be spoken to and
treated as if they were rational beings, and who are for the most part
keenly observant of what goes on before their eyes. Good example along
with gentle hints as to manners and conduct are consequently of first
importance. As children learn much from being allowed to listen to
conversations on subjects of interest, it is an unwise policy to turn
them out of the room when any useful information may be picked up. Of
course they must be taught to be discreetly silent, and not lend in
their word on subjects they know nothing about.

It is useless to speak of the terribly real suffering which selfish,
careless parents cause their children; but we shall advert to a few
of the common mistakes of well-meaning persons who, from want of
thought, prevent their children being as happy as they ought to be. How
much happiness and improvement do those children miss who are never
encouraged to observe the beauties and marvels of nature! Instead of
this, they are put to books, containing dull abstractions, far too
soon, and as a consequence they remain all their lives bad observers,
seeing everything through books--that is, through other men's eyes, and
ignorant of almost everything except mere words.

When a child begins to cross-examine its parents as to why the fire
burns, how his carte-de-visite was taken, how many stars there are,
and such like--grown-up ignorance or want of sympathy too often laughs
at him; says that children should not ask tiresome questions, and,
as far as it can, checks the inquiring spirit within him. 'Little
people should be seen and not heard,' is a stupid saying, which makes
many young observers shy of imparting to their elders the things that
arrest their attention, until they stop learning and overcome their
sense of wonder--the spur of all philosophy--from want of sympathy
and encouragement. And yet grown-up people should surely be aware
that Nature has implanted in us a desire to know and to communicate
knowledge, considering how very much most of us love to hear and to
spread gossip. Children 'would gladly learn and gladly teach;' but
if they are early snubbed, they will not be glad to do either in
after-life.

If we only reflected how 'queer' everything must appear to a mind newly
arrived on such an earth as ours, children's questions would not appear
at all foolish. During the first four or five years, which is occupied
in distinguishing and naming the commonest objects, perhaps children
solve more difficult intellectual problems than at any future period
of their lives. How keenly, then, must young children feel want of
sympathy and encouragement!

As an example of the physical misery which 'is wrought by want of
thought as well as want of heart,' we may allude to the 'Can't you be
quiet?' which puts young children to the unnecessary torture of sitting
still like 'big people.' Why do not parents reflect that it is almost
a physical impossibility for any young animal to remain quiet for more
than a few moments?

Then, as regards food; some are too prone to put in practice ascetic
theories in the rearing of their offspring, which they shrink from as
far as their own personal conduct is concerned. And yet, why should not
appetite be a good guide for childhood as it is for animals; as it is
for infancy; as it is for every adult who obeys Nature's laws?

We must, however, thankfully acknowledge that people are beginning
more and more to conform their education to children's opinion; that
is, generally speaking, to the promptings of Nature. It is found that
those turn out worst who during youth have been subjected to most
restrictions. 'Do children take to this or that?' is therefore a
common question. Good teachers now endeavour to make the acquirement
of knowledge pleasurable rather than painful. They study children's
intellectual appetites, in order to discover what knowledge they
are fit to assimilate. Disgust felt towards any information is now
considered a sign either that it is prematurely presented, or that it
is presented in an indigestible form.

We shall say nothing about the sufferings endured by boys at public
schools, because so many are the counteracting pleasures such places
afford, that most boys would prefer school-life to remaining at
home for a continuance. We are not sure, however, that the pains
of school-girls are counterbalanced by their pleasures. They have
not cricket, rowing, paper-chases, and the unequalled excitement of
bolster-fights to compensate for indifferent food, home-sickness, the
torture of 'deportment,' and the dreadful tread-mill exercise of the
hour's promenade. We do not advocate girls adopting boys' sports;
but surely they should have out-of-door games of some kind. Why will
schoolmistresses care so little for health and happiness as never to
allow the gardens of 'Establishments for Young Ladies' to ring with the
laughter and shouts of romping children? Do they fancy that a miserable
walk of one hour, during which the attention of the young ladies is on
the rack about the proper holding of themselves, is as health-giving as
out-of-door games in which the players can forget themselves?

In his book on _Responsibility in Mental Disease_, Dr Maudsley well
says: 'There is hardly any one who sets self-development before him as
an aim in life. The aims which chiefly predominate--riches, position,
power, applause of men--are such as inevitably breed and foster many
bad passions in the eager competition to attain them. Hence, in fact,
come disappointed ambition, jealousy, grief from loss of fortune,
all the torments of wounded self-love, and a thousand other mental
sufferings--the commonly enumerated moral causes of insanity. They are
griefs of a kind to which a rightly developed nature should not fall
a prey. There need be no disappointed ambition if a man were to set
before himself a true aim in life, and to work definitely for it; no
envy nor jealousy, if he considered that it mattered not whether he did
a great thing or some one else did it, Nature's only concern being that
it should be done; no grief from loss of fortune, if he estimated at
its true value that which fortune can bring him, and that which fortune
can never bring him; no wounded self-love, if he had learned well the
eternal lesson of life--self-renunciation.'

This may be called 'unpractical;' but we cannot help thinking that if
parents would sometimes reflect on such ideals, they would have less
of false and more of true ambition than they now have. They would wish
their children to turn out useful rather than brilliant, good rather
than clever. As it is, a dull child is too often snubbed and rendered
miserable because he does not give promise of shining in the world;
while his precocious brother, who will probably do far less (precocious
brains being often the worst), is lionised to strangers, and regarded
as a sort of Liebig's Essence for the support of the family. Perhaps it
is owing to this association of early ideas that at school the clever
boy who spends the shortest time possible at his books is considered by
his companions a far greater man than his less clever class-fellow who
wins in the long-run by working more conscientiously.

How much unhappiness then might children be spared if their parents
would goad them less and sometimes cheer up that dullness which has
fallen to the lot of most of us, by saying:

    Be good, dear child, and let who will be clever;
      Do noble things--nor dream them all day long;
    And so make life, death, and that vast for-ever,
      One grand sweet song.

If now we allow our thoughts to pass on from childhood to youth,
we shall find that in the case of many young men the choice of a
profession is attended with much anxiety and no little misery. Some
there are who take kindly to the profession which their friends advise
or which is cut out for them by circumstances. There is, however,
a class of young men for whom we have much sympathy, who find it
very difficult to get started in life, because they have no strong
inclination or pre-arranged reason which would induce them to choose
one profession rather than another. These are speculative rather than
practical men, who are better adapted for taking college honours than
for the struggle for existence. They do not wish to enter the clerical
profession; they may not have sufficient money to enable them to live
through the winter of discontented brieflessness at the bar; their
tastes and nerves are not such as would qualify them for the medical
profession; they may have no business connection. At last they begin
to fancy that they are _de trop_ in the world, and come to the very
erroneous conclusion that mankind has no need for their service.

To such we would say: Go into the profession you dislike least, and
habit will make it bearable. Remember that patience and conscientious
plodding, though sneered at by shallow young men, are the highest
virtues and synonymous with true genius. Life is too short to make
ourselves miserable over the choice of a profession, or to spend years
speculating about what is best to do, which would be better employed in
doing it. We must not seek for mathematical demonstration that the road
we propose to travel on is the right one, when we come to cross-roads
in life. A certain amount of probability is sufficient to make us take
either, especially if the wolf of Hunger be at our heels, or the nobler
incentive of a desire to be useful to our fellow-creatures is urging us.

In the choice of a profession, as of a wife, there must be a certain
venture of faith, and in this unintelligible world there is a rashness
which is not always folly. Young men cannot always adapt circumstances
to themselves, let them therefore endeavour to mould themselves to
circumstances.

Medical men tell us that at every great physiological change in our
systems the mind is apt to be for some time greatly out of tune. Now
this is especially the case when boys and girls are becoming youths
and maidens, and should not be overlooked when considering the sorrows
of youth. At this period they see everything as it were upside down,
and are sometimes tormented by strange fancies, which will vanish when
the tissues of their flesh and of their characters become firmer. Mr
Carlyle says that young men should be shut up in barrels and kept
somewhere out of sight until they have passed their twenty-fifth year,
because it is about this time that they 'attain to their maximum of
detestability.' Now we are quite sure that this was not said in a
cynical tone, for Mr Carlyle values the freshness and enthusiasm of
youth, as every great man must. And indeed it must be acknowledged
that some young men do make themselves very objectionable when they
speak and act, as though they fancied that nothing half so valuable as
themselves had ever been produced on this earth before.

Is it not probable, however, that young people would better attend
to the lessons which their elders can teach them if these elders
had more sympathy for their peculiar trials and sorrows, and were
willing to consider the originality and fire of youth as little
less indispensable to the movement of society, than is steam to the
locomotion of a railway engine? Youth may make itself absurd, but it
does not always become every old man to rebuke it. The old should
not speak disparagingly of 'inexperienced young men,' unless they
themselves make use of the experience they possess. One of the Earls of
Chatham was once taunted on account of his youth, and his reply was:
'Sir--The atrocious crime of being a young man, which the honourable
gentleman has with such spirit and decency charged upon me, I shall
neither attempt to palliate nor deny, but content myself with wishing
that I may be one of those whose follies may cease with their youth,
and not of that number who are ignorant in spite of experience. Whether
youth can be imputed to any man as a reproach, I will not, sir,
assume the province of determining; but surely age may become justly
contemptible, if the opportunities which it brings have passed away
without improvement, and vice appears to prevail when the passions have
subsided.'

We conclude these few random notes by saying that people should try
to be the friends and companions as well as the parents of their
children; for if true friends do not win their confidence, false ones
will. Nothing is more difficult than to understand a thoughtful child;
but if once you do so, you can bring him up in the way he should go.
Do not solve your child's nature or anything else too quickly, for
'there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your
philosophy,' or in mine, or in any man's. Certainly childhood ought to
be the happiest period of life; but it greatly depends on the sympathy
of parents whether it is so or not.



THE BECHE-DE-MER.


On the reefs of the Southern Ocean is found a kind of sea-slug termed
the Beche-de-mer. There are as many as sixteen different species
found in Fiji alone, and known all over the group by the generic name
of Dri (pronounced Endree); and this word we will continue to use
throughout this article, as being shorter and more definite than the
French term. It was the French who first came across the mollusc in
China; and in that country it is held in great esteem, and commands
a very high price, two hundred pounds a ton being paid for the best
sorts. The mandarins and the porcelain-makers cannot do without their
favourite dish of dri soup; and even in Paris it is coming into use;
and in Melbourne beche-de-mer is by no means an uncommon dish. When
cotton came down in Fiji from four shillings to one shilling a pound,
many a planter not knowing what else to do, turned to dri-fishing; but
several years ago, the price fell from one hundred and seventy pounds
to seventy pounds a ton, and the inferior sorts became unsaleable. Some
Chinamen say the fall was in consequence of the death of their emperor,
and while in mourning for him (a year), they were obliged to give up
their favourite soup; hence the fall. But some whites say that the
Europeans in Sydney bought inferior dri, and shipped it to China direct
on their own account in a leaky ship: the dri was all spoiled; the
merchants lost heavily, and refused to have anything more to do with
the article; and the Chinamen have the trade in their hands, and give
what they like, and that the price in China still remains the same.
However, it yet pays to fish for the two best sorts, the tit-fish[4]
and black-fish, which are now (1876) worth from sixty to seventy pounds
a ton in Levuka--ten or fourteen corn-bagsful making a ton.

The first thing required in dri-fishing is a good boat from twenty-five
to thirty feet long with plenty of beam; then a dri station is settled
on--an island, or on the coast close to the big reefs, as may be. The
next thing is to get thirty or forty girls and boys, and curiously
enough the girls are the best fishers and divers by far. At half-tide,
all hands sail off to the reefs. Sometimes you fish the day, sometimes
the night tides, according to the sort of fish you are getting and
the stage of the moon; the tit-fish being a day-fish, and the black
only coming out at night. When the tide is nearly low, you put your
labourers on to the reef, and anchor yourself in a deep spot. The water
on the reef is from six inches to three or four feet deep, according
to the moon and state of the tide; and your labourers walk about and
pick up the fish here and there, each having a basket and stick.
Sometimes a shark comes up, looking for a tit-bit, when he is pelted
off. If a black one (the most dangerous), it is hard to make him go;
and if the water is deep (three or four feet), they generally sing out
for the boat. You generally remain with the boat. Sometimes you go
overboard and fish for yourself; but three hours in three-feet water is
cold work, and if not accustomed to it one is apt to catch cold. The
labourers pick up shell-fish, crabs, &c. for themselves. At the end of
two or three hours, the tide begins to make fast; the boat is poled on
to the reef, and you pick up your fishers and start for home.

After measuring the 'take' in order to pay your fishers, the fish are
placed in large boilers. After being on the boil for half an hour they
are done, taken up, a stick driven through them to clean and knock the
water out; and are then taken to the smoking-house, where they are
put on large frames of reeds over a slow smoky fire. These frames are
technically called _vatas_; and they are left on the lower vata about
three days, and then removed to the upper, where they are left eight or
ten days longer. They are by that time smoked hard and dry; then sorted
carefully (one improperly dried fish will injure the rest), and put in
bags for sale.

Besides paying you also feed your labourers, giving them yams
or Indian corn or sweet potatoes, with what shell-fish they get
themselves. They work for two, three, or six months, or even a year;
and on a good calm night an expert fishing-girl will fill what is
termed a _qui_ case and earn a shilling, occasionally two. Not bad
for a little thing twelve or thirteen years old. In some parts of
Fiji--Maenata, for instance--the natives get and smoke the dri
themselves, and sell it to you cured; you giving about twenty shillings
a bag for good cured fish. On dark nights, when there is no moon,
torches are used; but the tit-fish is got during the day-tides. Five
or six big tit-fish will fill a good-sized hand-basket. The labourers,
after fishing, can hardly keep awake, and sleep all over the boat in
every position.

Dri is an extraordinary sort of sea-slug; it moves very slowly, and
has hundreds of little suckers or legs. It seems to feed on the small
insects that live in the reef-sand, and very small fish. It has no
bone. It has the power of covering itself with sand, to hide its
whereabouts, and gives out a sort of gummy fluid, which makes the sand
stick to it. This is only correct with regard to the tit-fish. The
black-fish is not half the size of the other. The latter comes out only
in calm sunshiny weather. Let a shower come, or even dark clouds, and
hardly a slug will be got; it slips into holes in the rocks in no time.
It has one or two young ones at a time, and is very domestic; where you
find one, its mate is generally close by. Like many other favourite
delicacies, such as the oyster of Great Britain, the beche-de-mer has
been over-fished; and unless the government establish a close time the
employment of gathering it must cease to exist.

FOOTNOTES:

[4] Though in commerce the Beche-de-mer is called 'fish,' it belongs
to a family of invertebrate animals, and in consequence occupies a
comparatively low rank in the scale of life. This delicacy is also
termed trepang.



EDITORIAL NOTE.


Beginning another year, and again taking a short retrospect, we are
glad to announce to our readers that CHAMBERS'S JOURNAL continues to
increase in circulation, and is to all appearance more acceptable as
a Family Magazine than ever. This is encouraging. We feel satisfied
that the resolution to exclude wild sensational fiction from our
pages, however much that kind of literature may be in demand, has
met with very general approval. We shall accordingly, as in the past
twelve months, endeavour to sustain the reputation of the work on
the basis which secured for it a high meed of popular favour pretty
nearly half-a-century ago. We might be excused for indulging in
some exultation, that our small periodical, without adventitious
aid--without professing to lean upon great names, either as writers or
patrons--has so successfully kept its ground for so long a period of
time. But, while offering all proper acknowledgments for the esteem
in which the work is apparently held, content ourselves with saying
that now, as heretofore, no effort will be spared by the Editors of
CHAMBERS'S JOURNAL to maintain it as a weekly and monthly miscellany
of recreative and instructive literature--a literature as free from
political or sectarian bias as from aught that is morally objectionable.

       *       *       *       *       *

Printed and Published by W. & R. CHAMBERS, 47 Paternoster Row, LONDON,
and 339 High Street, EDINBURGH.





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