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Title: Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art - No. 686. February 17, 1877.
Author: Various
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art - No. 686. February 17, 1877." ***

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Fourth Series


NO. 686.      SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 1877.      PRICE 1½_d._]


Has the idea ever occurred to any one that at all times there are ships
of one kind or other floating about at sea without a living creature
on board? They have been abandoned by their officers and crew in what
seemed a hopeless condition. Some are dismantled and mere hulks. Some
are swimming keel upwards. Some are water-logged, but being laden with
timber will not sink. There they are driving hither and thither on
the ocean, as wind and waves direct, a dread to the mariner, who may
unawares come against them in the dark. We remember seeing an account
of one of these derelicts, as they are called, being fallen in with
after having been abandoned for weeks. It was water-logged up to the
very deck, and sitting on a scrap of the exposed bulwarks was a poor
cat, still alive, in the last degree of attenuation. We have often with
commiseration thought of that accidentally deserted cat, its hunger,
its misery, its hopelessness night and day in the midst of the dreary
and spacious ocean. How the creature must have been delighted when
rescued from its floating prison! Occasionally derelicts are taken
in tow and brought into port, where they are broken up, or if of any
value, are reclaimed by owners, to whom they are delivered on a payment
of 'salvage.'

We are going to speak of a kind of derelicts out of ordinary experience.

On the 17th of September 1855, while sailing in the American whaler
_George Henry_, in Davis's Strait, and when about forty miles from Cape
Mercy, Captain Buddington descried a vessel having something peculiar
in her appearance. No signals were hoisted, none answered, and no
crew visible when he approached. Going on board, he found no living
being in the ship; but in the best cabin were documents declaring the
abandonment of the ship, and explaining the circumstances under which
it had taken place. The wastrel, the treasure-trove, the lost-found,
was the famous _Resolute_, whose story we shall tell presently.

Jurists and legislators have had to determine the ownership of
property that seems for the time to belong to no one. _Derelict_ is the
lawyers' name for such property, so far at anyrate as regards abandoned
ships. Where a crew merely quit their ship to obtain assistance, or for
any other temporary purpose, it is not derelict: they intend to return;
but when the master and crew abandon her without hope of recovery, she
becomes ownerless for a time, and then falls to the lot of the finder.
Not necessarily to keep, however, but, as has been said, to hold as a
claim for salvage from the crown, the owners, or the under-writers.
If the solitary ship is found near any coast, there is generally some
claim put forth by the owner of the sea-shore, whether the owner be
government or a private individual; but when out in the open sea,
far distant from land, international maritime law may have to settle
the matter. In practice, however, very little of this takes place; a
ship really abandoned out in mid-ocean is seldom worth the expense
of repair; the finders and salvors regard it chiefly in the light of
saleable old materials; and the derelict, if it be taken in tow or
otherwise navigated to port by its discoverers, usually finds its way
into the hands of the ship-breaker.

A curious inquiry it would be, How many abandoned ships are at this
moment locked up in densely packed ice? No great difficulty will be
felt in understanding that derelicts have a peculiar history in the
Arctic regions. When a ship is left forlorn in any sea or ocean, the
probability is that fire or leakage has rendered the abandonment
necessary as the only chance of escape for passengers and crew. Or it
may be that the ship has been cast upon some coast or outlying rock,
and so become tenantless. In the intricate channels of the frozen
regions, on the contrary, a ship may be in a sound condition, but so
hopelessly hemmed in on all sides with huge floes and fields of ice,
that the crew would have exhausted all their food and necessaries of
life before liberation comes; they quit the luckless vessel, and wend
their way by sledge or by boat to regions of civilisation.

Many of the illustrative instances of this kind of derelict are
exceedingly interesting. In 1821 Lieutenants Parry and Lyon, in the
_Fury_ and _Hecla_, encountered such terrible difficulties that the
first-named ship was nipped and then wrecked; the crew fortunately
were able to reach the _Hecla_, which after a time returned home with
a double company of officers and men. The _Fury_ was derelict, but not
the stores, as we shall presently see. In 1829 Captains John and James
Ross started on the expedition which was destined to last till 1833.
What they suffered during four successive winters, their narrative told
in moving terms. They lost their ship, and would in all probability
have perished from starvation, had it not been that they were able to
reach Fury Beach, and there avail themselves of the provisions which
the wrecked _Fury_ had on board. This ship, as well as that which had
been under the Rosses, probably fell to pieces by degrees, in a grave
of ice or water or both.

Poor Sir John Franklin's fate will always be bound up in our
recollection with that of the _Erebus_ and _Terror_. It is pretty
generally known to our readers that those two ships left England in
1845, under Captains Crozier and Fitzjames, with Franklin in supreme
command over both; that they wintered near the south-east entrance
of Wellington Channel; and that when the summer heat of 1846 had
sufficiently melted the ice, they proceeded south through Regent
Inlet to the west side of King William Land. They were hopelessly
and helplessly iced in for the remainder of that year, all through
1847, and on into 1848. Poor Franklin succumbed to illness, anxiety,
cold, and disease, and died on the 11th of June 1847. Seeing no hope
of extricating the ships, and worn down by every kind of privation,
Crozier and Fitzjames abandoned the _Erebus_ and _Terror_ on the 26th
of April 1848, accompanied by the remainder of both crews--numbering
in all somewhat over one hundred souls. How many of them reached King
William Land and Montreal Island, in sledges or on foot, we shall
probably never know; but certain it is that not one of the hapless men
was ever again seen by Europeans; whether any of the Eskimo met them or
saw them, is doubtful. There were the two deserted ships, left to fate
to decide whether they would ever again be liberated from their icy
home, and enabled to render useful service. Rumours were communicated
in later years by the Eskimo to some whaling crews that two ships had
been iced up for several winters: supposed to have been the _Erebus_
and _Terror_.

In 1850 Captain M'Clure commenced the famous voyage which, though it
led to the abandonment of the good ship _Investigator_, enabled him
to be the first commander who really effected the North-west Passage.
(Whether he was the first to _discover_ it, is a question on which much
controversy has arisen.) Sailing down the Atlantic to Cape Horn, up the
Pacific to Behring's Strait, and through the Frozen Sea to Banks Land,
he there passed three frightfully severe winters, from the autumn of
1850 to the spring of 1853. There he quitted his trusty but ice-bound
ship; and there, so far as human testimony goes, the _Investigator_
still is, in Mercy Bay. In imminent peril of starvation, M'Clure and
his gallant crew were compelled to this abandonment; they sledged over
the ice to Melville Island, where fortunately they met with another
expedition, and safety was insured. This other expedition, the most
remarkable of all for derelict, comes next for notice.

Sir Edward Belcher, at a time when the public anxiety about the unknown
fate of Franklin was most intense, was in 1852 placed in command of an
expedition more complete than any that had been previously despatched
to those regions. It comprised the _Resolute_ under Captain Kellett,
the _Intrepid_ under Captain M'Clintock, the _Pioneer_ under Captain
Sherard Osborn, the _Assistance_ under Belcher himself, and two or
three auxiliary vessels. We have not here to tell how it arose that the
ships made few or no discoveries, and disappointed the government in
more ways than one. The sledgings, however, were splendid; and it was a
joy to all that the expedition brought M'Clure and his crew safely back
to their native land. Never were officers more deeply disappointed than
when Belcher commanded them, one after another, to abandon their ships
in 1854. He had been out two winters; some of the ships had been long
ice-bound; and the sense he entertained of his responsibility impelled
him to adopt a step which certainly could not have been adopted
willingly. He ordered Kellett to abandon the immovable _Resolute_,
M'Clintock the _Intrepid_, and Sherard Osborn the _Pioneer_; he
himself abandoned the _Assistance_; and the officers and crews of all
four ships obtained a passage to England in such other vessels as
happened to be available in the autumn of 1854. Not only so, but they
also brought with them M'Clure and the crew of the _Investigator_ (as
denoted in the last paragraph). Out of these five abandoned ships four
have never, so far as we are aware, been since seen by Europeans. They
may perchance be iced up still, or have fallen to pieces by repeated
shocks from masses of ice loosened during the brief summers. One at
Mercy Bay in Banks Land, two on the shores of Melville Island, two in
Wellington Channel--such were the localities of the derelicts. Perhaps
some future explorers will tell us something of four of these brave old
weather-beaten craft, of which, for more than twenty years, we have
known nothing.

Not so concerning the fifth. And here we are brought to the deeply
interesting episode of derelict briefly indicated at the beginning of
this paper. Judging from such facts as appear reliable, it is probable
that the ice around the _Resolute_ loosened somewhat during the autumn
of 1854; that she was drifted slowly by the current until another
winter nipped her, and held her ice-bound at some point nearer the
entrance to Baffin's Bay; that she was again loosened in the summer
of 1855, and drifted leisurely down Davis's Strait to the point where
Captain Buddington espied the wanderer. Two facts are certainly known:
that the distance drifted could not have been less than a thousand
miles, from Melville Island through Barrow Strait, Lancaster Sound, and
Baffin's Bay to Davis's Strait; and that four hundred and seventy-four
days elapsed between the abandonment and the recovery. The tough old
ship was still sound; a little water had entered the hold, and a few
perishable articles had decayed, but in other respects the _Resolute_
appeared not much the worse for her strange voyage.

When the English government heard of this remarkable recovery of the
old weather-beaten craft, they at once waived any right or claim they
may have had to it, and surrendered it to Captain Buddington and
his crew as the salvors. After nearly a year had elapsed since the
recovery, an Act of Congress was passed, empowering the United States
government to expend forty thousand dollars (about eight thousand
pounds) in the purchase of the ship and its trappings from the
fortunate finders, and the presentation of it to England as a graceful
act on the part of the Great Republic. The plan was excellently carried
into effect. In one of the American navy yards the _Resolute_ was
thoroughly overhauled, the defects repaired, all the equipments and
stores replaced--even the officers' books, pictures, and miscellaneous
articles returned exactly to the places they had occupied in the
cabins. Captain Hartstein, of the United States navy, was commissioned
to bring the ship to England. He arrived near Cowes shortly before
the close of the year 1856; the Queen, the Prince Consort, and other
members of the royal family went on board and inspected the old
_Resolute_. The royal visitors having taken their departure, the vessel
was towed into Portsmouth harbour amid much gay ceremonial, and was
handed over to the authorities of the dockyard. Early in 1857 Captain
Hartstein and his companions returned to America. It is mortifying to
have to read that, owing to some niggardliness at the Admiralty, or
perhaps more correctly that want of sentiment in English officials, we
gave a shabby return for a graceful act. The _Resolute_ should have
been maintained as a memento of a most remarkable episode, even if not
actually employed in further service; instead of this, the ship was
dismantled and converted into a mere hulk!

Another derelict was the _Advance_. This vessel, provided by the
munificence of an American merchant, Mr Grinnell, was placed under the
command of Dr Kane, and sent northward in 1853 to search for Franklin.
Kane made an historically famous progress up Smith Sound to such a
latitude as to bring that route into favour among Arctic explorers.
The return journey was, however, a terrible one. After two winterings
in the ice he abandoned his poor ship in April 1855, and made a three
months' sledge-journey to the Danish settlements in Greenland. Has the
_Advance_ ever been seen by later explorers; has it been iced up for
twenty-two years; or have shocks and nippings shattered it to fragments?

The _Polaris_, connected with an American expedition, was abandoned in
October 1872, and the officers and crew returned to the United States
by boats. Storms, driftings, and other calamities led to a division of
the crew into two parties. One worked their way down Davis's Strait,
or were drifted thither, and were picked up in April 1873 by the
_Tigress_, off the coast of Labrador; the others, making boats out of
some of the timbers of the _Polaris_, managed to reach the eastern side
of Baffin's Bay, where they were picked up by the _Ravenscraig_ whaler
in the autumn of the same year. The poor _Polaris_ scarcely deserved
the name of a derelict; for only portions of a hull were left stranded
on a coast of the icy sea.

One more example, and this also from the Arctic regions. In 1872 the
Austrians did excellent work in furtherance of maritime research by
fitting out a private expedition in the small ship _Tegetthoff_, under
the management of Lieutenants Weyprecht and Payer. Instead of taking
the Baffin's Bay and Smith Sound route, the _Tegetthoff_ coasted round
Norway to Nova Zembla, and wintered off that island. Instead of being
free to sail in the following summer, the ship was fast locked in an
ice-floe from which she could not be extricated, and drifted when the
floe drifted. Luckily the drift was just in the direction which the
explorers wished to go, almost due north. They came most unexpectedly
to a group of islands until then totally unknown, the largest of which
they named Franz Josef Land, in honour of the Emperor of Austria.
They wintered in the high latitude of eighty-one degrees north, and
made excellent sledge-expeditions in the spring of 1874, an account
of which, together with other interesting details, was given last
month in this _Journal_. Returning to the _Tegetthoff_, they found
her still immovably fixed in the ice. A prospect of exhausted stores
and provisions led to a resolution to abandon the ship; this was done
in the summer; and a boat-voyage of three months brought the hardy
adventurers to the mainland in the autumn of the same year. We cannot
help fancying that the abandoned ship will one day fall into friendly
hands; and if it does, the salvors will find many interesting things on
board; for the crew brought away as little as possible with them, in
order not to overload the boats. Meanwhile the _Tegetthoff_ is 'waiting
till called for.'



When the first hurry and excitement was over, I found that the duties I
had to perform were anything but arduous in a house like Mr Farrar's.
I had only to see the genteel solemn undertaker, and give him a _carte
blanche_ to furnish the best--out of respect for what I knew would
be Mr Farrar's wishes, I did not add, 'and the plainest'--as it is
becoming good taste to do. It was equally easy to arrange with the
milliners and dressmakers, &c. They all seemed to know precisely what
the size of the house required, and assured me in a few hushed words
that everything should be in the best taste, and the servants' mourning
all that was proper for such an occasion; every shade of difference
in position being duly considered. Moreover, the question of my own
mourning, which had somewhat puzzled me, was settled upon at once,
in a way which would have not a little amused me had the occasion
been a different one. 'Friend staying in the house--chaperon of Miss
Farrar's--everything would be found quite correct.'

During the next few days, Lilian did not allude to the revelation made
by her dying father. I believe she was at the time too much absorbed in
grief to be able to realise anything beyond the one fact that she had
lost him. Mr Farrar had been a loving indulgent father; and though for
the first fifteen years of her life she had seen very little of him,
that little had shewn her all that was best in his nature, and given
her faith in him.

On coming to live at the great palace he had built, she found herself
treated like a princess in a fairy tale, surrounded with luxury, the
richest gifts showered upon her, a host of attendants ready to obey
her slightest whim, and above all, the orthodox Prince Charming to lay
his heart at her feet. It was natural enough that her grief should be
strong for the loss of the father, to whom she owed all this; as well
as a love which was itself stronger and deeper than is lavished upon
all daughters.

I did not attempt any commonplaces in the way of condolence; just in a
quiet, undemonstrative way made her feel that a friend was near, and
trusted to the first terrible anguish wearing itself out. With poor Mrs
Tipper it was different, though I knew her grief was in its way just as
genuine as Lilian's. I saw that it did her real good to moan and cry,
and talk over her brother's goodness, generosity, wonderful cleverness,
and so forth; and fully indulged her when she and I were alone. I am
glad to believe that I was of some service to both in the time of need.

Mr Farrar had no immediate relations to be bidden to the funeral.
Mrs Tipper hesitatingly mentioned something about a cousin in the
'green-grocery line;' but presently opined that perhaps 'dear Jacob'
might object; and he was dropped out of notice. Major Maitland,
Lilian's uncle on her mother's side, who promised to attend 'if
possible;' Arthur Trafford; Robert Wentworth; and the doctor and
lawyer, were to be the followers at the funeral.

I saw more of Arthur Trafford during that week of seclusion than
I had previously done; and I was more than ever dissatisfied with
him. For the first few days, Lilian kept her room, almost prostrate
from the shock which had come upon her at a time when she was so
entirely unprepared. I think too that it would have appeared to her
almost like irreverence for the dead to listen to love-speeches just
then. Nevertheless, she might have been expected to turn to him for
comfort, and I thought it significant that she did not do so. I acted
as messenger between them; and if I had had a very high opinion of
Arthur Trafford before, I should have lost it now. The one only thing
I could see in him to respect was his love for Lilian. It was not his
lack of love for her, but his too evident love for something else,
which offended me. It might be that I was not marked 'dangerous' in his
estimation, now that circumstances were altered, and that therefore he
was more unguarded with me. I can only say he appeared to very great
disadvantage under the new aspect of affairs. In our first interview
after Mr Farrar's death, I saw that he was thinking a great deal more
of the large fortune which would revert to Lilian than anything besides.

'So I hear there is no will, Miss Haddon?'

'You have made inquiries already then!' was my mental comment. I knew
that the fact was not public property yet, and that he must have taken
some pains to find it out.

'I believe not, Mr Trafford,' I coldly returned.

But my coldness was not of the slightest importance. He was too much
absorbed in the one thought to notice my manner of speaking.

'And Lilian inherits without restrictions of any kind. Just the kind of
man to have made all sorts of unpleasant complications--meant to do it
too--and now my darling is unfettered!'

And in his gratification, he so far forgot the _convenances_ as to
whistle softly to himself, whilst he carefully readjusted one of
Nasmyth's little gems, which hung slightly aslant upon the wall.

'She says she knows how much you are sympathising with her just now, Mr

He coloured to his temples as he replied: 'Of course I am, Miss Haddon.
It's--it's a great loss, make the best of it, to an only child; and it
came upon her so suddenly, poor girl.' Adding, a little consciously
(I daresay it was not pleasant to have me silently eyeing him as I
was doing), 'Tell her, please, that I am longing to do what I may to
comfort her--beg her, for my sake to keep up. It will never do to let
her get low and desponding, you know. Hers is a nature of the tendril
kind--so entirely dependent upon those she loves.'

'I do not think so, Mr Trafford; and I do not think that those she
loves will find it so. At anyrate, she does not give _me_ the idea of
being weak.'

'I meant only the kind of delicacy which accompanies refinement, and
which is so charming in a woman, Miss Haddon;' adding a little more
pointedly than was necessary, I thought: 'such fragility as arouses the
chivalry of men.'

'As the chivalry is dying out, I must hope that the exciting cause is
getting scarcer, Mr Trafford.'

We eyed each other a moment, and then tacitly agreed for an armed
truce. I left him, and went to Lilian's room with lagging steps and a
heavy heart.

       *       *       *       *       *

'Arthur feels it terribly,' she said, lifting her eyes to mine as I
entered the room; fortunately for me, taking it as a matter of course
that he did. 'Dear papa was so good to him.'

'He hopes you will bear up for his sake, dear Lilian.'

'I will, indeed I will. Tell him he shall not find me selfish

Still no allusion to the one subject which was engrossing all my
thoughts. It was not until the evening after the funeral that she
approached it, and then she waited until she and I were alone, before
doing so. Flushing painfully, and with downcast eyes, she hesitatingly
begun: 'Have you been thinking of--of what dear papa told us--that
night, Mary?'

'Yes, dear, I have; a great deal.'

'I am so thankful that you and you only were present.' She paused a few
moments, and I tried to help her.

'I think that there is no doubt--you have a sister, and that the
packet, which I have taken care of, is intended for her, Lilian.'
Taking it from my desk, I shewed her the words on it in her father's
handwriting: 'Quarter's allowance due 24th for Marian;' with an
address, 'Mrs Pratt, Green Street, Islington.'

'Marian! Yes; that was the name,' she murmured.

'I have since found out that she was born three or four years before Mr
Farrar was married to your mother, Lilian.'

A bright hope sprang to her eyes. 'Perhaps he was married before, Mary?'

'I do not think that is likely, or it would be known. But I know you
will none the less do what is just and right.'

'I shall _all the more_ do what is right--I owe her so much more.
If wrong has been done, it is for me to make what reparation I can.
And--Mary, try to always remember how anxious he was to'---- She broke
down; an expression in her face which shewed how deep was the wound
which her loving, sensitive nature had received. Her grief was so much
the harder to bear, for the knowledge that her dead was less perfect
than she had believed him to be. She was already obliged to plead for

I knew that fragile as she looked, and tender and yielding as she had
hitherto seemed, it arose more from humility at finding herself blessed
as ordinary mortals rarely are, than from any lack of strength. We had
not seen the best of Lilian Farrar yet. Least of all, did her lover
know her. Already I could have given a better reason for loving her
than he could have done.

She was musing over the address: 'Mrs Pratt, Green Street, Islington.'
'Is that where--my sister is staying, do you think, Mary? Would it not
be better to go there?'

'Would you like me to go for you, Lilian?'

For a moment she looked not a little relieved by the suggestion; but
after a little reflection, appeared to put the temptation to avail
herself of it, aside.

'Not if I ought to go myself. Do you think that I ought to do so, Mary?'

I replied with a question: 'What do you intend to do when you have
found Marian' (sister did not come readily to my lips, and I used the
name instead), 'my darling?'

'Ask her to come to live here, and do all I can to make up for the
wrong done to her mother'--in a low, but clear and decided tone.

Even at that moment, with her grief so fresh upon her, though it
cost her a sharp agony to use the word, she called it a 'wrong.' But
although my sympathies were entirely with her, I thought it right to
remind her of one thing.

'There is the possibility that she may not be the kind of companion you
would desire to have always with you, Lilian.'

'I want to do right, Mary,' she replied, putting my little attempt at
sophistry aside.

I nevertheless made one more little feeble protest on the side of
expediency. 'There are your aunt and Mr Trafford also to be considered,
you know.'

'I want to do what is right,' she repeated. In her faith and
inexperience, she had no misgivings as to their concurrence in all that
was right; or if she had doubts with regard to one, she would not allow
so much to herself.

'Therefore I think you ought not to make up your mind too decidedly as
to what it will be right to do, until you have seen her--then perhaps
you might trust to your instincts.'

'And, Mary,' she said, a little consciously, 'I think I would rather
not name it to any one but you, until everything is settled. We can
explain to auntie and Arthur afterwards, you know.'

I believed that auntie was included to make it appear less personal.
She would not have hesitated a moment about taking the dear little lady
into her confidence; but she _did_ hesitate about telling her lover,
until it would be too late to undo what was done, though she would not
acknowledge so much.

'Very well, dear; we will go together as soon as you feel quite equal
to it. We might go up to town by the twelve o'clock train some morning,
and take a cab from the terminus to Islington.'

'I am equal to it now, Mary; and I shall not rest until we have been.'

I saw that nothing would be gained by delay--her anxiety would only
increase, and therefore promptly acceded.

'Shall we say to-morrow, Lilian?'

'Yes, please.'

I quietly made the necessary arrangements; and just before we were
setting forth, told Mrs Tipper that Lilian and I were going to town
upon business, and that we would tell her all about it on our return.
She was very easily satisfied; falling in with my opinion that it could
do Lilian no harm, and might do her good, to be obliged to take some
interest in the outside world; too single-minded to suspect more than
the words told her. Single-minded! The rarest and best quality I have
known during my checkered life--the one quality above all others which
I have learned to respect, is single-mindedness. It may not always
accompany large intellect, though I believe the very largest is never
without it, and it is rather looked down upon by the world in general.
Single-minded people are proverbially the butts of the Talleyrands of
society; though the latter are more frequently baffled by them than
they are willing to allow.

I saw what the effort cost Lilian--how painfully she shrank from doing
what she nevertheless would not allow herself to depute another to
do--as she sat with me white and still in the railway carriage. It did
me real good to see her rise to the occasion in this way; and it bore
out my previously formed opinion of her capability. I was also glad to
feel that I was of some little use to her. Respecting the result of
our errand I was not so much at ease. What was this sister? Would she
be found worthy the devotion and self-sacrifice of such as Lilian? and
if not, would it be given the latter to see that it would be unwise to
bring her to Fairview? Until I saw the sister, I would make no attempt
to bias Lilian's judgment, trusting more to her instinct than my own
wisdom, in the matter. Moreover, although I knew that Mrs Tipper would
easily enough be brought to see that right was right, I was by no
means so sure that Arthur Trafford would be found equally amenable.
Even should he approve of Lilian's recognition of a strange sister,
he was not at all likely to approve of her being brought to reside
at Fairview. I knew that he meant to press for an early marriage;
and I knew that he was not the man to take kindly to the idea of a
stranger living with them, whatever her claims might be. But I kept
my doubts and fears to myself; preserving a calm face for Lilian's
eyes. More than once the thought crossed my mind that the daughter
he had only designated as 'Marian' might be married, and was in fact
the Mrs Pratt to whom the address on the packet referred. In such
case, it would be easy enough to do right without bringing about any
unpleasant complications. The address seemed, I fancied, to indicate
a poor neighbourhood; and if 'Marian' should prove to be the wife of
a struggling man, a portion of Mr Farrar's wealth could not be better
employed than in giving him some assistance.


The sayings of men of thought may be termed the work of their lives,
and form an imperishable monument of their wisdom. It would be imagined
that nothing then would be easier than to string them together like
beads upon a string to produce a book of great value and beauty.
Without some wisdom, however, on the part of the collector, or at all
events, an intelligent sympathy, this cannot be done, though it has
been often tried, with much effect. Indeed, some of the stupidest
works that have ever been published have appeared under the title of
'Beauties,' 'Selections,' 'Sayings,' &c., and have injured as far as
possible the memories of those great men whom it was their object to
embalm. To 'form a collection' from natural history, it is requisite
that a man should not only possess the articles in question, but know
how to arrange them both in order and by contrast; and knowledge of
this kind is almost as necessary to one who would collect the wisest
thoughts of the wisest thinkers. In _Human Nature_,[1] by Mr Mitchell,
we have a little volume, which if not perfect, is at least the best
book of the kind which has come under our notice. It deals, as the
title would imply, with only one subject, but that one of great extent,
and of the most paramount importance to us--namely, Ourselves. It
makes no pretence of stating any dogmatic truth, but simply gives the
utterances of those who have devoted their lives to finding the truth.
Often at variance and sometimes in direct opposition to one another,
they are nevertheless almost all worthy of regard; and since they
concern themselves with our own 'virtues, vices, manners, follies,
sufferings, interests, and duties,' can scarcely fail to command our

In the definitions of Mankind, in general, the variety strikes one at
least as much as the ingenuity. 'Man is a microcosm;' 'the cooking
animal;' 'the animal that makes exchanges;' 'the animal that makes
tools, &c.' They all appear, notwithstanding their general acceptance,
as more or less affected, strained, and incomprehensive. What, asks
Pascal, 'is the utility of even Plato's definition of man: "An animal
with two legs without feathers?" Does a man lose his humanity by
losing his legs? or does a capon acquire it by being stripped of its
feathers?' Thus does one philosopher fall foul of another. But when we
pass from the definition to the moral description of the human race,
the agreement is remarkable, and that among wholly different types of

    How poor! how rich! how abject! how august!
    How complicate! how wonderful! is man,

says Young. And commenting on the same inconsistency, Pope sings:

    Created half to rise and half to fall,
    Great lord of all things; yet a prey to all;
    Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled,
    The glory, jest, and riddle of the world.

A modern poet, Swinburne, follows still on the same side, in prose:
'After all, man is man; he is not wicked, and he is not good; by no
means white as snow; but by means black as a coal; black _and_ white,
piebald, striped, dubious.' These ideas, so curiously similar in three
such different minds, may seem to set at nought the dreams of the
perfectibility of our species; but at the same time there is nothing
in them to corroborate the gloomy verdict of Buckle, that 'we cannot
assume in the present state of our knowledge that there has been any
permanent improvement in the moral or intellectual faculties of man.'

The above is one of the most depressing statements a philosopher has
ever made; but it seems to us to be directly contradicted by an even
still greater name. 'I have long felt,' says Mill, 'that the prevailing
tendency to regard all the marked distinctions of human character as
innate and in the main indelible, is one of the chief hindrances to
the rational treatment of great social questions, and one of the great
stumbling-blocks to human improvement.' On the other hand, a thinker of
quite another sort, Francis Galton, exclaims: 'I have no patience with
the hypothesis, occasionally expressed and often implied, especially in
tales written to teach children to be good, that babies are born pretty
much alike, and that the sole agencies in creating differences between
boy and boy, and man and man, are steady application and moral effort.'
Where philosophers thus differ, we do not pretend to say which is true;
but there is no doubt as to which opinion would suggest industry and
which sloth. Indeed, Mr Galton's views if carried to their full length
would approach to fatalism, and might almost be placed beside the
famous song of Messrs Moody and Sankey:

    Doing is a deadly thing; doing ends in death.

Oliver Wendell Holmes has described the various intellects of man (but
without going into the hereditary question) with as much wit as truth:
'One-story intellects, two-story intellects, three-story intellects
with skylights. All fact collectors who have no aim beyond their facts
are one-story men. Two-story men compare, reason, generalise, using the
labours of the fact collectors as well as their own. Three-story men
idealise, imagine, predict; their best illumination comes from above
through the skylight.... Poets are often narrow below, incapable of
clear statement, and with small power of consecutive reasoning, but
full of light, if sometimes rather bare of furniture, in the attics.'

The desire to lay field to field and house to house has been the ruin
of some great minds; but it is generally an attribute of the small.
A few have almost no other vice save that of acquisitiveness. A whole
nation indeed is said to be characterised by it. 'The Dutch,' writes
John Foster, 'seem very happy and comfortable, certainly; but it is
the happiness of animals. In vain do you look among them for the sweet
breath of hope and advancement.... There is gravity enough, but it is
the gravity of a man who despises gaiety, without being able to rise by
contemplation. The love of money always creates a certain coarseness
in the moral texture, either of a nation or an individual.' This last
remark has certainly an application on the other side of the Atlantic.
It is true that Goethe says that 'English pride is invulnerable,
because it is based on the majesty of money;' but he does not refer
to the mean desire of gain. He has elsewhere indeed expressed himself
with some favour on the national character: 'Is it then derivation, or
their soil, or their free constitution, or national education--who can
tell?--but it is a fact that the English appear to have the advantage
of many other nations. There is in them nothing turned and twisted, and
no half-measures and after-thoughts. Whatever they are, they are always
_complete_ men. Sometimes they are complete fools, I grant you; but
even their folly is a folly of some substance and weight.'

The opinions of man on women are, as might be expected, even more
various than those pronounced upon their own sex. But even these
are not without a certain congruity. It is rare to find a complete
'irreconcilable,' such as John Knox, who thus delivers himself: 'To
promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion, or empire, above
any realm, nation, or city, is repugnant to nature, contumely to God,
a thing most contrary to His revealed will and approved ordinance;
and finally, it is the subversion of good order, of all equity and
justice.' This would be now thought little short of treason; but there
is no doubt that Knox had a certain particular queen in his mind when
he made those very strong observations. Among the French philosophers,
there is a wonderful unanimity concerning the fair sex, and not
altogether in accordance with the proverbial gallantry of their nation.

La Bruyère says: 'Women for the most part have no principles, as men
understand the word. They are guided by their feelings, and have full
faith in their guide. Their notions of propriety and impropriety,
right and wrong, they get from the little world embraced by their
affections.' Alphonse Karr says: 'Never attempt to prove anything
to a woman: she believes only according to her feelings. Endeavour,
then, to please and persuade: she may yield to the person who reasons
with her, not to his arguments. She will listen to the strongest, the
most unanswerable proofs, enough to silence an assembly of learned
theologians; and when you have done she will reply, with the utmost
unconcern, and in perfect good faith: "Well, and what has all that to
do with the matter?"'

It is probable that both these last philosophers were 'very much
married.' No one, however, that is capable of anything beyond a
superficial judgment has ever imagined that the French have a genuine
respect for women. Their sayings about them are very severe. 'Whenever
two women form a friendship, it is merely a coalition against a third,'
writes Karr; and even Rochefoucauld confesses, 'Most women care little
about friendship; they find it insipid as soon as they have known what
it is to love.' 'No woman is pleased,' asserts Octave Feuillet, 'at
being told by a man that he loves her like a sister.' At the same time,
our Parisian philosophers give every credit to female attractions.
'Do not flatter yourself,' says one, 'because you have studied, and
possibly understand all that is to be understood of womankind, you are
safe against their wiles. A word, a look, from one of them may make you
forget in a twinkling of an eye all your boasted knowledge.' It is like
escaping into the fresh air from some brilliant but unhealthy scene to
read, after these cynical assertions, what an American essayist (who
ought to have been an Englishman) has to say upon this same subject: 'A
woman who does not carry about with her a halo of good feeling wherever
she goes, an atmosphere of grace, mercy, and peace, of at least six
feet radius, which wraps every human being upon whom she is pleased
to bestow her presence, and gives him the comfortable belief that she
is rather glad than otherwise that he is alive, may do well enough to
hold discussions with, but is not worth talking to--as a woman.' This
is almost as great a general compliment as Steele's well-known eulogy
on Lady Elizabeth Hastings was a particular one: 'To behold her is
an immediate check on loose behaviour, and to love her is a liberal

It is curious that no sages in the least agree in their definitions of
genius, nor can even express what they mean by it with distinctness,
which is perhaps a proof of its transcendent and mysterious power. Of
originality, however, it is well remarked by Opie that 'it is most
seen in the young. It is a mistake to suppose that artists [and he
might have added authors] go on improving to the last, or nearly so; on
the contrary, they put their best ideas into their first works, which
all their lives they have been qualifying themselves to undertake,
and which are the natural fruit of their combined genius, training,
circumstances, and opportunities. What they gain afterwards in
correctness and refinement, they lose in originality and vigour.'

A very fine addendum or paraphrase of the line, 'The proper study of
mankind is man,' has been given by Professor Huxley: 'Whence our race
has come; what are the limits of our power over Nature, and of Nature's
powers over us; to what goal we are tending--are the problems which
present themselves anew, and with undiminished interest, to every man
born into the world.' It seems to us a somewhat too lenient conclusion
that Hazlitt has come to when he says, 'A single bad action does not
condemn a man, nor a single bad habit.' For a single action, not to
mention a habit, may be easily so bad--such as torturing a living
creature for the pleasure of it--as to condemn him altogether. Our
philosophers, however, do not generally err on the side of charity,
except, perhaps, when admitting the force of circumstances. 'Tell me
your age and your income,' says Balzac, 'and I will tell you your
opinions;' and is it not our own Becky Sharp who has observed, 'Anybody
could be good with three thousand a year.'

Hobbes (of all people!) makes this significant remark concerning our
Saviour: 'The evangelists tell us that Christ knew anger, joy, sorrow,
pity, hunger, thirst, fear, and weariness; but neither prophet,
historian, apostle, nor evangelist speaks of his laughing.'

We find under the head of 'the Senses' a curious modern fallacy of the
Faculty in the mouth of Charles Lamb. 'Take away the candle,' he says,
'from the smoking man; by the glimmering light of the ashes he knows
that he is still smoking, but he knows it only by an inference, till
the restored light, coming in aid of the olfactories, reveals to both
senses the full aroma.' This idea of smoking not being enjoyable in the
dark is shared by even men of science; whereas it is certain that blind
men (for example, Professor Fawcett) are not only fond of smoking,
but delicate in their perceptions as to the quality of the tobacco.
Another fallacy of a different kind--namely, that it is well to tell
your friends of their faults--is thus extinguished by Sydney Smith:
'Very few friends will bear this; if done at all, it must be done with
infinite management and delicacy. If the evil is not very alarming, it
is better to let it alone.'

A general favourite in society is usually thought to be an
exceptionally clever and cultivated person; but this is not in fact
the case. 'A delicacy of taste,' says David Hume, 'is favourable to
love and friendship, by confining our choice to few people, and making
us indifferent to the company and conversation of the greater part
of men.... One that has well digested his knowledge, both of books
and men, has little enjoyment but in the company of a few select

Of the superiority of Nature over Art, Byron has a fine saying: 'I
never yet saw the picture or the statue which came within a league of
my conception or expectation; but I have seen many mountains, and seas,
and rivers, and views, and one or two women, who went as far beyond
it.' Burns has stated that we have not the gift of seeing ourselves
as others see us; but Canning tells us that we at least desire it:
'Prevalent as every species of curiosity is, there is none which has so
powerful an influence over every man as the desire of knowing what the
world thinks of him; and there is none of which the gratification is
in general so heartily repented of.' This is severe; but not so harsh
as Mirabeau, who said of Lafayette, who loved popular applause, 'He
deserves a certain renown; he has done a great deal with the humble
means with which Nature furnished him.'

One statement in Mr Mitchell's book will be hailed with universal
satisfaction, if, as Thackeray tells us, nine-tenths of our population
are 'snobs;' it is a sort of apology for toadyism, and rests upon no
less an authority than that of Adam Smith: 'Our obsequiousness to our
superiors more frequently arises from our admiration of the advantages
of their situation than from any private expectations of benefit from
their good-will.' It is certainly some kind of comfort to consider that
this general suppleness of the back, however mean may be its motive,
does not arise from mere sordid self-interest.

Just as it is understood that all self-made men begin the world with
half-a-crown in their pocket, so it is reported that all great men
leave the world with some admirable sentiment in their mouths. 'William
Pitt said something in his last moments. His physician (a gentleman,
we suppose, of Tory proclivities) made it out to be, "Save my country,
Heaven." His nurse said that he asked for barley-water.'

Curiously enough, the famous saying of the Swedish chancellor
concerning the ease with which the world is governed, is not in the
present collection; but there is a comparatively unknown remark by
Vauvenargues that merits quotation: 'It is the easiest thing in the
world for men in good positions to appropriate to their own use and
credit the knowledge and ability of inferiors.' Of the truth of this
there are very many modern instances. Whenever a person of rank without
abilities is placed in power, and to the surprise of everybody, does
not make a complete failure, his friends say: 'Ah, but he has good
_administrative capacity_;' and Vauvenargues has told us what it means.

To shew the comprehensiveness of the plan which our author has adopted
in this excellent selection, we may mention that between a reflection
of Carlyle's and a quotation from the Persian poet Sadi, appears this
maxim: 'Some people have money and no brains; others have brains and no
money;' which is widely known as the motto of a certain 'unfortunate
British nobleman now languishing in Dartmoor prison.'

There is a good deal of the truest wisdom, as well as amusement and
instruction, to be gleaned from this little volume; and we will
conclude our remarks upon it with one of its best pieces of advice:
'Take short views, hope for the best, and trust in God.'


[1] _Human Nature: a Mosaic of Sayings, Maxims, Opinions, and
Reflections on Life and Character._ By David Mitchell. Smith, Elder, &



'Is that the house?' asked a young woman of a decent-looking old man
who was standing, rake in hand, by the entrance-gates leading to a
small villa-like residence, with nothing out of the common in itself to
attract special attention.

'Yes, that's the very house,' he replied, taking off his hat, and
wiping away with a red cotton pocket-handkerchief the dew from his
forehead--'that's it.'

I happened to be passing by just when the question was asked and
answered, and involuntarily turned to glance at the edifice, which was
evidently connected with some story or other; but being a stranger in
that part of England, and only on a short visit to some old friends of
mine--Mr and Mrs Langley by name--I had no idea what could have made so
modest a mansion famous. My sex being some excuse for my curiosity, I
asked Mr Langley that evening if by the place in question there hung a
tale; and the result of my inquiry was the following strange story.

       *       *       *       *       *

'It had been vacant for some years,' began Mr Langley, 'when one day
a very sallow-complexioned woman of over sixty years of age called at
the office of Mr Daly the house-agent in Lynton--the nearest town--and
asked him if he had any detached houses of moderate rent and dimensions
that could be immediately obtained. The only stipulations she made
were, that it was to be taken by the year only, and must be furnished.
The rent, if necessary, would be paid in advance, and a banker's
reference given. Hilton Lodge, which had hitherto hung somewhat heavily
on Mr Daly's hands, was immediately mentioned. The woman, who gave
her name as Mrs Danton, accompanied the agent to view it, and being
satisfied, at once agreed to take it.

"It is not for myself exactly," she explained, "though I shall live
here. It is for an invalid cousin of mine--an old lady--Mrs Petre. I
reside with her--manage her affairs in fact--and--take care of her."

"There is no mental derangement?" queried Mr Daly, alarmed by the
measured way in which Mrs Danton enunciated her sentence.

"O dear, no," she replied; "but she is depressed--very much
depressed--in spirits. She has met with some severe money losses
lately, owing to a scoundrel of a nephew of hers who had behaved badly.
Happily, however, she has an annuity of a thousand a year, of which he
could not deprive her; but it has been a severe shock to her, and at
times she almost needs supervision."

'Mr Daly expressed due sympathy and commiseration, hoping, however,
that the change to Hilton Lodge might be of great benefit to the poor
old lady, whose age, Mrs Danton stated, was considerably over seventy.

'Soon afterwards, the new tenants, whose references had proved
unexceptionable, arrived, and in a short time they were fairly settled
in their new abode. The establishment consisted of a cook, a very old
woman; a housemaid, equally elderly, who was supposed, as it afterwards
turned out, to wait at table, and also to attend personally on Mrs
Petre; and a rather more juvenile coachman, whose duty it was to drive
out Mrs Petre daily in a small brougham with one horse, the lady being
invariably accompanied by the other member of her household--last,
but certainly not least in her own opinion, Mrs Danton, her cousin,
confidante, companion, or custodian--whatever she was, no one seemed
quite to know which. Some clever person at last discovered _who_ Mrs
Petre was. She was the widow of a General Petre of the Indian army;
and after this had been found out, a few of her nearer neighbours left
cards upon her. But for a long time nothing was seen of her beyond
occasional glimpses of a pale aged face in a close black bonnet, seated
side by side in the brougham with the yellow cadaverous countenance of
Mrs Danton.

'She certainly had a terrible countenance,' observed Mr Langley; 'it
was what you could have imagined belonging to the evil-eye. Yet it
seemed she was very attentive to the old lady; they were sometimes seen
walking about arm in arm, and Mrs Danton gave up her whole time--so it
seemed--to the care and amusement of her melancholy charge. Yet the
strange part of it was, that although the relationship between them was
said to be that of cousins, Mrs Petre, old, invalid, shabbily dressed,
and wretched-looking as she was, looked a thorough lady; whilst Mrs
Danton bore upon her the unmistakable stamp of vulgarity and want of
breeding. She tried hard to be a lady, and no doubt was fully persuaded
that she succeeded in her attempts. By degrees, however, she made her
way into the good graces of one or two of the families round about; and
into their ears--often in Mrs Petre's presence, who would sit silently
drinking in the oft repeated story of her wrongs--she would pour out
the history of the nephew's delinquencies. Such a villain as Aubrey
Stanmore, Mrs Danton alleged, did not exist; nothing was too bad to be
said of him; he had endeavoured to ruin his aunt, had deprived her of
every shilling that he could lay hold of, and instead of deploring his
conduct, rather gloried in it.

'This Aubrey Stanmore, to make my story clear,' said Mr Langley, 'was a
nephew of Mrs Petre's, for whom she had always had a great affection;
and by the joint advice of his father and his aunt, he had been induced
to exchange his military for a mercantile career, for which he had
neither the necessary capacity nor capital. This latter disadvantage
was in the first instance smoothed over by an arrangement between Mrs
Petre and the elder Mr Stanmore to become security for a certain sum,
which, thanks to Aubrey's ignorance of business matters, was quickly
swallowed up, necessitating either further securitiships or immediate
failure--a crisis not to be contemplated when a little prompt aid
might insure future wealth to the family through Aubrey's successes.
So again, and yet again, did Mrs Petre extend a helping hand, until
the crash could no longer be averted, and the failure was announced.
Dearly as she loved her money, and violent as her wrath in the first
instance was, she was too fond of her favourite Aubrey to withhold a
free forgiveness, which would never have been cancelled but for the
appearance on the scene of this Mrs Danton, a needy widow, who fanned
the flame against Mr Stanmore so successfully that not only was he
sternly forbidden his aunt's house, but volumes of abuse, in her once
kindly, familiar handwriting, were circulated against him, damaging to
both his character and future prospects.

'He was a young man, barely thirty; and surely he might hope to
retrieve the past. One would have imagined so; but when he set about
trying to interest some of his aunt's old friends on his behalf, they
turned very coldly away. Mrs Petre's letters and denunciations bore
terrible weight against Aubrey; and when he appealed again and again
to her, the rebuffs he met with were studied in their insolence and

'Of course, Mr Stanmore attributed her violent behaviour to its real
cause--Mrs Danton, who had succeeded in persuading Mrs Petre to
discharge all her old servants, upon the plea that her poverty was so
great she could not afford to keep them. One in particular Mrs Danton
knew it would be necessary to dismiss, and that was Janet Heath, a very
superior sort of maid-housekeeper, who had been in her service for over
ten years. Janet was filled with indignation when Mrs Danton first took
up her residence with Mrs Petre, as she well knew the inferiority of
her position, which had hitherto only been acknowledged by the latter
so far as the gift of an occasional sovereign or a bundle of cast-off
garments went; and to have her suddenly set at the head of affairs, and
to have to listen silently to her scurrilous abuse of Mr Aubrey, was
more than Janet could calmly submit to. However, when Mrs Petre herself
told her that she did not wish her to remain, she had no choice but to
depart; and shortly afterwards she married a man to whom she had been
engaged for some years.

'But though she had left her service, Janet was too fond and faithful
quite to desert Mrs Petre. She resolved to go to see her as often as
she possibly could, and above everything to put in a good word as
frequently as occasion permitted for Mr Stanmore, whom Janet knew to
be, with all his other faults, a good-hearted and well-meaning young

'This plan of visiting Mrs Petre in no way suited Mrs Danton's views.
She endeavoured, by covert insinuations against Janet, to poison Mrs
Petre's mind; but failing in that, she resolved to remove her from
Janet's vicinity, and to take a house of her own choosing, with an
establishment also selected by herself. She had been in power for about
two years when they came to Hilton Lodge, and in that time Mrs Danton
had wormed her way pretty successfully into the confidence of Mrs
Petre's old friends, and poisoned their minds most thoroughly against
her nephew, who after, to his great joy, having been sent for and fully
forgiven by Mrs Petre, had suddenly been told his visits to her house
were not desired, and that, although she had forgiven, she had no
intention of holding any further intercourse with him!

'This was a sad blow to Mr Stanmore; but from what he had seen of Mrs
Danton, he conceived it to be his duty to write out to his cousin
in India, Major Arthur Dumaresque, and tell him, as the only other
relative of Mrs Petre, that he did not consider she was in safe or
proper hands; and urged upon him the necessity for some action in the

'But in this too he had been forestalled, for Major Dumaresque had
already been communicated with by Mrs Danton, who, under cover of Mrs
Petre's name, wrote out such slanderous accounts of Mr Stanmore that
he was quite under the impression that Mrs Danton was only acting as
Mrs Petre's guardian angel, and was benevolently protecting her from
the spider, namely, Aubrey Stanmore. Mrs Danton represented in glowing,
though somewhat illiterate and misspelt, terms her entire devotion
to her dear cousin, her desire to act altogether so as to insure the
interests of Major Dumaresque, to whom Mrs Petre had resolved to leave
whatever fortune she might die possessed of. As for herself, she
wanted--nothing--but the heart and confidence of her charge.

'As may be imagined, Aubrey's representations, and those of his wife
as well, were utterly thrown away upon Major Dumaresque. Being already
prejudiced, he refused to believe in them; joined in the abuse of Mr
Stanmore, and was well pleased to countenance and correspond with the
person who apparently had his interests so thoroughly at heart.

'Her triumph knew no bounds when she saw how her plans had succeeded,
for now the Stanmores stood alone as it were in the world. They had no
friends. This was Mrs Danton's perpetual solace and comfort, as well as
the knowledge that Aubrey's affairs could never be wound up and settled
without his aunt's co-operation, she being the largest creditor he had.
All seemed very hopeless to the Stanmores, still more so when they
heard that Mrs Danton had elected to carry poor old Mrs Petre off to
the country.

'However, Janet Heath was equal to the emergency. She went to Mr
Stanmore and told him that she was certain Mrs Petre was not only
perfectly sick of her companion, but that she had actually one day,
during a visit, asked her if she could possibly return to her service.
Just at this juncture Mrs Danton was called away to visit a daughter
it seemed she possessed; and Janet came to Mr Stanmore and urged him
to lose no time in going to see his aunt, and taking advantage of the
companion's absence to beg of her to make up her mind to prevent her
return. "For," said Janet, "my poor old mistress is in fear of her, Mr
Aubrey; she hasn't a shilling she can call her own; her very cheques
are now made out in Mrs Danton's name; and she told me she was sick
of her--but that till Major Dumaresque came home, she could make no

'Mr Stanmore's blood boiled at Janet's revelations, which were far
more numerous than I can relate; but his position was a difficult one.
He had no one to turn to; no one to advise him properly. Mrs Petre's
injurious statements as regarded him had placed him in the most painful
predicament; but he was resolved on one thing--to lose no time in
attempting, at all events, to rescue his aunt from her present thraldom.

'But to whom could they turn? Something must be done. Mrs Stanmore
would not hear of her husband subjecting himself to fresh insults from
Mrs Petre's friends. She would write _once_ more to Major Dumaresque,
and see if she could not rouse him to a sense of the real character of
Mrs Danton. This she resolved in the presence of Janet Heath and Aubrey.

"Very well, Helen; write by all means," said Aubrey solemnly; "but I
have a strong conviction that that woman will never let my aunt live
until Arthur Dumaresque comes home."

'Long and anxiously did the Stanmores consult with the faithful Janet
as to the best means of watching over the old lady, who seemed bent
on allowing herself to be ruled by Mrs Danton, who had her now as
completely under her thumb as if she had been an infant. At last it was
settled, when they heard Hilton Lodge had been really engaged, that
Janet should take a little house as near it as possible, partly on the
plea of her child--she had one little girl, Emily by name--requiring
change, partly because of her anxiety to be near her old mistress. So
when the Dantonian establishment was fairly settled, Janet made her
appearance, greatly to the rage and disgust of the major-domo there,
but to the evident joy and relief of Mrs Petre, who took to writing
perpetual little plaintive notes to Janet, desiring her to come up to
see her.

'Janet had to encounter more than one covert insult at Mrs Danton's
hands, but she simply ignored them, and persevered most courageously in
presenting herself at Hilton Lodge whenever she was sent for. During
those visits she noticed the penniless condition of Mrs Petre, who
bitterly complained that "she had not a shilling in the world;" and at
last, thanks probably to Janet's vigorous promptings, the poor old lady
at length whispered to her that she would fain get rid of Danton, as
she called her, but she could not. "I shall do so when Major Dumaresque
comes home," she said, "and get _you_ to live with me, Janet."

'Gradually, however, Janet was doing good service to the Stanmores, for
Mrs Petre now, whenever occasion came, would talk of Aubrey with much
of her old kindliness, and with pride told Janet one day that he and
his wife had taken to magazine-writing, and were doing pretty well.

'One day, Janet came up to Hilton Lodge at an earlier hour than usual,
without having been asked to do so by Mrs Petre; but the reason was
soon told--it was the sixty-eighth birthday of the old lady, and Janet
had come to congratulate her upon the day. Mrs Danton shewed some
annoyance at Janet's remembrance of the anniversary; but Mrs Petre
welcomed her with more animation and kindliness than she had hitherto
exhibited before Mrs Danton. "You must have some luncheon with me," she
said; "I am going to have it in the drawing-room, and I should like you
to stay for it."

'Janet had never been so honoured; hitherto an occasional glass of
wine was the most she had been accorded; but on this particular and
momentous day, she and her little girl Emily were both invited to
seat themselves at Mrs Petre's dinner-table, where they partook of an
excellent lunch.

"You must drink my health, Janet," said Mrs Petre; "this is some of
my old sherry, my treasure-wine. Danton sent up to town for it; you
remember it, don't you?"

"O yes, ma'am," said Janet; "I do indeed remember it; but you used not
to like it yourself."

"I don't care for it now," answered Mrs Petre, as with a very firm hand
she poured out a glass of wonderfully dark-coloured sherry.

"Thank you," said Janet, taking the glass; but before raising it to
her lips, added: "At your age we must not expect you to have many more
birthdays; but I do hope you may have a good number yet, and happier
than this, with peace in the family, and all the old times over again."

"Yes, yes," responded Mrs Petre; "when Major Dumaresque comes home. And
poor Aubrey! He was a nice boy; wasn't he, Janet?"

"That he was," said Janet heartily; "and is nice still."

"I'm glad I forgave him," observed Mrs Petre, helping the little Emily
to some pudding as she spoke. She had seldom taken so much notice of
Janet's child before; but on this particular day she fed her from her
own plate, and talked several times of Major Dumaresque's little girl;
for I have not before mentioned that he was a married man with one

"You will like to see Miss Florence, won't you?" observed Janet. "She
will be such an amusement to you."

"O yes," responded Mrs Petre; "I am looking forward very much to seeing

'After lunch was over, Mrs Petre and Janet sat talking for a short
time, when the door suddenly opened, and a stranger to Janet, a tall
dark man, walked into the room. From his immediately asking Mrs Petre
how she felt, Janet guessed he was a doctor, and her conclusion was
confirmed by his inquiring of her how she thought Mrs Petre was looking.

"Very well indeed," responded Janet; but from a feeling of delicacy,
she thought she would withdraw until the conference with the doctor was
over. Accordingly she descended to the dining-room, where Mrs Danton
was sitting; and in a few minutes was followed by the doctor, who
addressed himself to the latter.

"Did Mrs Petre have her draught this morning?"

"No," replied Mrs Danton; "I gave her a glass of wine instead."

"Did she get the laudanum?" asked the doctor in a low tone; and to this
question Mrs Danton's reply was made in a whisper, so inaudible that
Janet feeling herself _de trop_, again got up and rejoined the old lady

"You have got a new doctor," remarked Janet.

"Yes," replied Mrs Petre; "I have had a cold lately; and Mrs Danton did
not like Mr Heywood, who is the leading man here. But this young man
seems civil enough."

"Well, I must be going now," said Janet presently.

"You can be driven home," answered Mrs Petre; "the carriage is at the
door now, I think, and it can come back for me."

"No," said Janet; "it drove away a minute ago."

"Drove away!" exclaimed Mrs Petre with a flash of her old temper, which
as I have before said, was a very violent one; Janet's presence no
doubt emboldening her to find fault with Mrs Danton's arrangements. "Go
and see where it has been sent to."

"Mrs Danton has sent the coachman to Lynton, to get a fowl for your
dinner," said Janet, coming back after her inquiry.

"I didn't want a fowl; I won't have a fowl! What does she mean by
sending for a fowl for me?"

'When Janet departed, she left Mrs Petre irritated against Mrs
Danton--a hopeful sign that self-assertion might yet enable her to
shake off the trammels into which she has got herself. And Janet
thereupon sat down and wrote a joyous little note to Mrs Aubrey
Stanmore, which she posted.


As lately as 1839, each inhabitant of these islands only wrote on an
average three letters per annum. In 1840, the year associated with
the introduction of the penny post, the total number of letters rose
to one hundred and sixty-nine millions, giving an average of seven
letters to each person, or something more than double the average of
the preceding year. Since then, the history of the British Post-office,
the greatest emporium of letters in the world, has simply been the
history of the growth of commerce and civilisation in our midst. Each
year the number of letters has surely and steadily increased, until, in
1875, it reached the enormous total of a thousand and eight millions,
or an average of thirty-one letters to each person in the United
Kingdom. Besides these, there were more than eighty-seven millions
of post-cards, and very nearly two hundred and eighty millions of
newspapers and book packets; so that a grand total of nearly fourteen
hundred millions of all descriptions of postal matter is reached. How
few of us can realise at the first blush what a thousand millions

While the average number of letters to each person in the United
Kingdom in 1875 was thirty-one, it was as high as thirty-five in
England and Wales, and as low as thirteen in Ireland. Scotland occupies
the happy medium between the two, shewing an average exactly double
that of Ireland, and about twenty-five per cent. below that of England
and Wales. It may be doubted, however, whether purely social and
domestic correspondence by letter is less frequently indulged in by the
Scotch people than by the English; and probably if London, where there
is quite an abnormal amount of correspondence, were excluded from the
calculation, Scotland would be found to be very nearly on a level with

It is a striking and gratifying fact that only a mere fraction of
the total number of letters posted fail to reach their destination.
People often grumble at the bore of letter-writing, but seldom think of
the boon they enjoy in the penny post. To write, address, and post a
letter--and this is all the sender is required to do--is a mere trifle,
compared with the labour of the Post-office in earning the 'nimble
penny,' which is affixed to the letter in the shape of the 'Queen's
Head.' Think of what has to be done for a letter posted, say, in the
suburbs of London, and addressed to some remote village in the north
of England or in Scotland. Perhaps it has been posted over-night, in
which case the letter-carrier will be busy collecting and conveying it
to the sub-district office some hours before moderately early people
are thinking of getting up. From the Sub, it will be conveyed to the
Head District Office, there to be stamped, sorted, and despatched to
St Martin's-le-Grand. Here, in company with many thousands of others
which have arrived in the same way, it will probably be manipulated
as many as half-a-dozen times, in the different processes of facing,
dividing, sorting, and so on, before it reaches the stage of being
tied up in a bundle with a hundred or more of its fellows addressed
to the same town or district, and despatched on what may probably
be only the initial stage of its journey. If a night letter, Fate
may decree that it should pass under the scrutinising glance of that
sleepless official, the travelling sorter; in which case the bag, with
its seal hardly 'set' as yet, will be ruthlessly torn open, and the
bundles dispersed to the four corners of the railway sorting tender.
Here is a miniature post-office, with pigeon-holes, bags, and bundles
innumerable; whose officials, in a desperate effort to keep ahead of
the train, wait not for the shrill whistle of the guard or the first
puff of the engine to commence their hard night's work. There are
letters, letters everywhere, and not a moment to lose. There may be a
bag to sort and drop before the train has accomplished the first dozen
miles of its journey. Our letter is amongst the heap lying ready to be
operated upon; it will be got ready by-and-by, and towards the gray of
the morning it will be dropped at some little roadside station, whither
the mail-cart driver has driven half-a-dozen miles or more to receive
it. Thence to the post-office, another half-dozen miles; and here
again the familiar process of unpacking, resorting, and re-stamping.
Our letter is not for the town at which the bag is opened, but for
one of its outlying villages; and the rural postman must be called in
before the transaction, commenced in London some ten or twelve hours
previously, can be completed. Away he goes, ere yet it is daylight, bag
on shoulder, stick in hand, thinking less, probably, of the precious
secrets of which he is the bearer, than of his return with a similar,
although probably a lighter load in the evening. His life is not
exactly one round of pleasure, but an out-and-home sort of journey, in
which there is very little real progress, and the 'lettered ease' of
which consists in the occasional Sundays on which he is relieved of his
burden. He is the final link in the chain which, in the shape of men,
horses, steam-engines, has had to be put in motion in order to deliver
our penny letter!

Letters may be posted at no fewer than twenty-three thousand five
hundred receptacles throughout the United Kingdom. How various is
the character of these so-called receptacles! Here is the stately
post-office of many of our great towns, situated in the very centre
of life and activity. There the wayside letter-box, far removed from
human habitation and, to all appearance, from human necessity. Lonely
roads are no bar to the progress of the rural postman; although the
Postmaster-general relates how an attempt to provide postal facilities
in a certain district in the west of Ireland was frustrated by a
superstitious objection to collect the letters from a wall-box,
because 'a ghost went out nightly on parade' in the neighbourhood.
Between the stately post-office and the wayside letter-box there are
several different kinds of receptacles for letters: there is the
branch post-office, an offshoot of the parent establishment; the
receiving-house, at which a kind of uncovenanted postal service is
carried on; and the pillar letter-box, which is dotted about our great
towns almost as plentifully as lamp-posts are. In London there are
no fewer than eighteen hundred receptacles for letters, and of these
more than eleven hundred are pillar and wall letter-boxes. The public
have a peculiar affection for the pillar-box, thinking probably that
it can tell no tales. The writer remembers perfectly well seeing a
pillar-box thrown down by a passing wagon in one of the streets of
London, and afterwards turned with the 'slit' or aperture downward, so
that it might not be used until re-erected. But despite this, it was
rolled over and several letters inserted in it while it lay prostrate
in the gutter! Similarly, letters intended to be 'posted' have often
been dropped into the letter-boxes of private firms, and even into the
'street orderly bins' which stand at no great distance from the pillar
letter-boxes in the city of London.

St Martin's-le-Grand is, of course, the great central depot for the
letters of London, although it is doubtful whether more letters are
not actually posted at the well-known branch-office in Lombard Street.
Around this spot the bankers and merchants of the metropolis 'most do
congregate,' and of necessity the quantity of matter 'mailed' nightly
is very large. So is it at Charing Cross, another of the great posting
centres of the metropolis.

Visitors to London are perhaps most familiar with the scene which is
to be witnessed any evening between half-past five and six o'clock at
St Martin's. Here the post-office gapes more widely at its customers,
the public, than anywhere else we know of; and here it is prepared
to swallow any kind of matter, from the tiniest, flimsiest document,
written on 'India post,' to the stock-in-trade of a bookseller from
'the Row' adjoining, or the latest edition of an evening newspaper
from neighbouring Fleet Street. Look at the numerous apertures as they
gape and yawn in front of you. There is one labelled 'Newspapers,'
about as big as a street-door, into which a whole edition of an evening
paper might be thrown, without disturbing the calm serenity of the
official inside whose duty it is to clear the throat of the monster.
'Letters,' inland, foreign, and colonial, town and country, large and
small, thick and thin, may be posted with ease at as many different
openings; while the 'stout card' and the thin card, the circular,
the book packet, and the sample parcel, each has its appointed mode
of descent into the cavernous depths below. What a struggle is there
as the hour of six approaches! Burly office-porters jostle delicate
shop-girls in their efforts to reach the letter-box; tiny office-boys
strain and struggle beneath a load which might more appropriately have
been conveyed to the post in a cart or wagon; and hapless youths who
have started late, and who have been leap-frogging by the way, are fain
to shy their bags or baskets of letters at the nearest opening, and
take their chance. Bang goes the clock overhead, and in an instant the
box closes with a crash, which must, one would think, have guillotined
many a hapless letter thrown in on the stroke of the hour. Eagerness
gives way to disappointment in the faces of those who are in the act
of ascending the steps 'as the clock was striking the hour,' for the
man in the red coat, whose heart is steeled against all importunities,
has pronounced the words 'Too late,' and already the officials at the
'window' are busy exacting the fee of procrastination.[2] No sooner has
one description of posting finished than another begins. Half an hour
prior to the closing of the box at St Martin's-le-Grand, the boxes all
over London have closed, and the mail-carts--designed rather for speed
than for elegance--are rattling into the yard behind, from the various
district and branch post-offices. East, west, north, and south, all
contribute their quota to the load which, a couple of hours hence, is
to leave the post-office yard for the various railway stations in the
shape of the 'Night-mail down.'

The penny post has destroyed all distinctions in the great republic of
letters. In the eyes of the post-office all letters are equal, whatever
their character, caligraphy, or country; and no rival interests are
studied within the walls of St Martin's. The big letters are not
permitted to oppress the little ones, each being tied up in their
own particular bundle; and books and samples are so disposed that
they are transported with a minimum of inconvenience to their less
robust neighbours passing through the post. The work of facing--that
is, putting all the letters with their addresses one way--stamping,
dividing, sorting, and despatching, is performed in regular succession,
as the letters are cleared from the box; for it is needless to say that
all the operations of the post-office are carried on with clock-like
regularity. In the old coaching days, when letters were despatched
they were said to be sent 'down the road;' and the term 'road' is
still retained in the Circulation Office, as indicating the particular
desk or division at which the bags are made up for particular lines of
railway or districts of country.

Eight o'clock is the hour at which the great night-mail is despatched
from London; and the scene, although perhaps less stirring than
that of the old mail-coach days, is sufficiently curious to attract
a large crowd at St Martin's-le-Grand. Gorged with the accumulated
correspondence of four millions of people, the huge building, now
used exclusively for the sorting and despatch of letters, begins to
exhibit palpable signs of discomfort as the hour of eight approaches;
and ever and anon from the floors above come shooting down on to the
platforms by which the building is surrounded on three sides, sackfuls
of letters and newspapers, which are quickly transferred to the gaping
mail-carts and wagons ranged underneath. Gradually the descent becomes
fast and furious, until at five minutes to eight every aperture in the
building is seen to belch forth its bag, box, or bundle of letters;
and cart-drivers are shouting lustily to make way for 'Her Majesty's
mails.' Away go the carts, vans, and omnibuses--a whole string making
for Euston with the load of the 'Limited,' which seems to be limited
in all else save letters; and others making for the different railway
_termini_ scattered all over London. A few minutes later, and there
emerge from the building hundreds, we had almost said thousands, of
busy toilers whose work has just preceded them; and in less than
half-an-hour silence reigns supreme in and around St Martin's.

Letters are not always so plainly or so correctly addressed as they
might be. This is a truism which most people will be inclined to reject
as beneath their notice; and yet it is a truth which is painfully
thrust upon the officials of the post-office every hour of the day.
Think how the circulation of a badly addressed letter must be impeded
at every stage of its progress! Let us suppose that a righteous fate
overtakes it at the very outset, and that it 'sticks', in the aperture
of the letter-box and loses a collection. Let us suppose, further,
that it is addressed to 'George Street, London,' simply. There are
_only_ twenty-three streets of the name in the metropolis; and it
so happens that there is one or more in each, of the eight postal
districts! Thus, then, a letter so addressed might have to be sent all
over London before reaching its destination; and who shall say that
the fate was not richly merited? Much the same kind of thing would
happen to a letter addressed to 'Queen Street, London;' there being no
fewer than twenty streets bearing the title of our most illustrious
sovereign, besides squares, crescents, gardens, terraces, rows, and
roads innumerable. Quitting London, however, we will suppose a letter
addressed to 'Newport' simply. Is it intended for Newport, Monmouth;
Newport, Isle of Wight; Newport, Salop; or for any of the remaining
four towns in England, two in Ireland, and one in Scotland, which
flourish under that name? So too with Ashford, of which there are four
places of the name in England; Bradford, of which there are three;
Broughton, seven; Burnham, five; Burton, fifteen; Bury, four; and a
host of others which we need not stay to enumerate. The post-office
regulation on the subject of addresses runs thus: 'Every address should
be legible and complete. When a letter is sent to a post-town, the
last word in the address should be the name of that town, except when
the town is but little known, or when there are two post-towns of the
same name, or when the name of the town (such as Boston) is identical
with or very like the name of some foreign town or country. In such
cases the name of the county should be added.' Very good regulations
these, but unfortunately they are not always attended to by the sorting
clerks. We are constantly getting letters which have been delayed in
their journey by the perverse stupidity of sorters mistaking the
address, however plainly written, and in fact not attending to the name
of the post-town. There are some other grounds for dissatisfaction.
In numberless instances, towns near each other hold no direct postal
communication, and letters between them make a long round before
reaching their destination. These are blots on an otherwise wonderfully
perfect system.


[2] By extra payment to the official at 'the window,' a letter though
some minutes late will be received and despatched.


Notwithstanding the vast strides that science has made of late years,
it is curious to note the errors and misconceptions in various points
of natural history that still linger in many parts of this and other
countries. We may run over a few of these popular misconceptions. Not
a few even among generally well-informed people still imagine that all
_Fungi_ are poisonous--including even the mushroom. Many more take it
for granted that all serpents sting, and that the forked tongue is
the weapon by which the 'sting' is given; the fact that it is forked
seeming to afford them convincing proof of its deadly character. While
there are many among the educated classes who would probably be puzzled
if told, that there were other mammals besides four-footed animals and

There are still numbers of persons who believe that a horse-hair
immersed for a time in water becomes vivified and is transformed into
the curious animal known as the hair-eel; and who further imagine that
this, acquiring greater thickness, becomes in process of time the
common eel. This belief is universal among the uneducated, at least of
the rural population, in many parts of the country. Nor is it confined
to them. We have heard it stoutly maintained by a very intelligent
man, of good education according to the ideas of education which were
generally entertained fifty or sixty years ago; his only argument was
one with which, if he had not been profoundly ignorant of natural
history, he could not for a moment have deceived himself. He had often
seen, in ditches or in stagnant pools, a moving hair-like thing,
exactly resembling a black or dark-brown hair from a horse's mane,
and no doubt it was a living thing, _and an eel_! And the other day
we read among the answers to correspondents in a weekly paper, a very
good advice to one who had directed attention to this same marvel--to
try the experiment for himself with a horse-hair. But for any one who
seeks information in the proper quarter, there is no need of such
experiment; and the needful information is easily obtained. A few hours
spent in the perusal of a book or two of natural history would make
any man of common-sense ashamed that he had ever for a moment credited
such an absurdity. The natural history of the eel is well known; and
at no stage of its existence is it in form and appearance like the
hair-eel. The natural history of the creature called by this name--the
_Gordius_ of naturalists--is also known. It is not a fish like the
eel; it belongs to a class of parasitic worms very far below fishes in
the scale of creation. It has no relation either to the eel or to a
horse-hair. Yet the ploughman looks upon it with wonder, as he thinks
of what he believes to be its origin; and the boys of the village
school, when they find it in the gutter by the roadside or millpond,
gather around it to gaze, and assure themselves by ocular observation
of the truth of what they have heard. Ought they not to hear in the
school itself what would disabuse their minds of so gross an error?

The erroneous opinion that all serpents are venomous is one that most
probably originated with those who live in districts frequented only
by the adder or viper; but it ought not to be entertained even by the
most ignorant of the peasantry where the common snake is abundant, as
it is in most parts of England. There every one ought to know that the
latter is harmless, and that it is easily distinguished from the viper,
which is poisonous. Curiously, too, the blind-worm or slow-worm, which,
although not now ranked by naturalists among true serpents, but among
the lizards, agrees with serpents in general appearance, and is in
many places regarded with the utmost dread, being popularly believed
to be as venomous as the viper itself. This is the case equally where
it is common, as it is in many parts of England, and in Scotland where
it is rare and found in comparatively few localities. 'During the
summer of 1876,' says the Rev. J. G. Wood in his _Illustrated Natural
History_, 'I passed some little time in the New Forest, and having gone
round to the farms in the neighbourhood, begged to have all reptiles
brought to me that were discovered during hay-making. In consequence,
the supply of vipers and snakes was very large; and on one occasion
a labourer came to my house bare-headed, his red face beaming with
delight, and his manner evincing a consciousness of deserving valour.
Between his hands he held his felt hat tightly crimpled together, and
within the hat was discovered, after much careful manœuvring, the head
of a blind-worm emerging from one of its folds. As I put out my hand
to remove the creature, the man fairly screamed with horror; and even
when I took it in my hand, and allowed it to play its tongue over the
fingers, he could not believe that it was not poisonous. No argument
could persuade that worthy man that the reptile was harmless, and
nothing could induce him to lay a finger upon it; the prominent idea in
his mind being evidently, not that the blind-worm had no poison, but
that I was poison-proof.'

Similar to the popular opinion as to the blind-worm is that concerning
the little active slender lizard common in moors, and that concerning
the eft or newt, both of which are deemed extremely venomous, dangerous
animals, whilst in reality both are quite harmless. We do not know
how far the error as to the lizard prevails in England, but it is
certainly very generally prevalent in Scotland, almost every rustic
dreading what he calls an _ask_, that is a lizard, nearly as much as an
adder. And a similar belief, equally erroneous, prevails in France as
to another species of lizard. As to the newt, the prejudice against
it exists everywhere, both in England and in Scotland, but it appears
in its most exaggerated form where the state of education is lowest.
'During a residence of some years in a small village in Wiltshire,'
says Mr Wood, in the work from which we have already quoted, 'I was
told some very odd stories about the newt, and my own power of handling
these terrible creatures without injury was evidently thought rather
supernatural. Poison was the least of its crimes; for it was a general
opinion among the rustics in charge of the farmyard, that my poor newts
killed a calf at one end of a farmyard, through the mediumship of its
mother, who saw them in a water-trough at the other end; and that one
of these creatures bit a man on his thumb as he was cutting grass in
the churchyard, and inflicted great damage on that member. The worst
charge, however, was one which I heard from the same person. A woman,
he told me, had gone to the brook to draw water, when an _effert_, as
he called it, jumped out of the water, fastened on her arm, bit out a
piece of flesh and spat fire into the wound, so that she afterwards
lost her arm!'

Some birds are regarded as of evil omen. One does not wonder that
this should be the case as to the raven and the owl. The colour, the
habits, and the hoarse croak of the raven may be supposed naturally
suggestive of unpleasant thoughts; and it is easy to understand how
the imagination may be affected by the loud hooting of the owl when
it breaks the stillness of the night amidst the loneliness of the
forest. But in other cases where no such explanation offers itself,
superstition seems wholly unaccountable. Thus, in the north of England,
where the wheatear is not very common, the sight of it is supposed to
presage death to the spectator, and the country-people kill the bird
and destroy its eggs on every opportunity. In the north of England
also, the hoopoe has the reputation of being an _unlucky_ bird. In many
parts of England it is accounted unlucky to see a solitary magpie, but
lucky to see two together. One is supposed to presage sorrow; two,
mirth; three, a wedding; and four, death!

In most parts of the United Kingdom, it is deemed unlucky to kill a
robin, the red breast of the bird being attributed to its having been
sprinkled with the blood of our Lord as He hung upon the cross; even
as the cross on the back of the ass is connected in the rustic mind
with our Lord's entry into Jerusalem riding upon an ass. According to
the paper in the _Book of Days_, a common saying in Suffolk is, 'You
must not take robin's eggs; if you do, you will get your legs broken.'
The writer of it also relates the following anecdote. '"How badly you
write!" I said one day to a boy in our parish school; "your hand shakes
so that you can't hold the pen steady. Have you been running hard,
or anything of that sort?" "No," replied the lad; "it always shakes:
I once had a robin die in my hand; and they say that if a robin dies
in your hand, it will always shake."' In some parts of England it is
considered very unlucky to have no money in your pocket when you hear
the cuckoo for the first time in the season. So perhaps it is, when it
indicates the usual condition of the pocket.

Some insects, as well as birds, are deemed ominous of evil. There are
many, even among educated people, who cannot hear the ticking of
the little beetle called the death-watch without a feeling of fear;
and among the vulgar, the belief is universal that it presages death
in the house. And yet it is only the male insect knocking his head
against the woodwork as a signal to his mate. In some parts of England
the elephant hawk-moth is regarded not only as presaging, but as
producing murrain. The death's-head moth is regarded with even greater
aversion. This large moth, nowhere very common, has markings on the
back and thorax somewhat resembling a skull and cross-bones; hence it
inspires a superstitious terror, and its appearance is believed to be
the harbinger of pestilence and woe. The ghost-moth inspires similar
alarm. The female is of a dull brown colour; the upper surface of the
male is of a silvery whiteness. In the evening the male makes his
appearance, hovering over the grass in which the female lurks, often
in churchyards where the grass is green and luxuriant. If alarmed, the
insect disappears in an instant, settling on the ground; but by-and-by
appears again hovering over the same spot. The ignorant rustic imagines
it to be a ghost; and even if it were caught and shewn to him, he would
be hard to be persuaded that it has no occult relation to the dead, or
that its appearance is not ominous of evil to the living. Perhaps the
most curious of all the popular superstitions concerning insects (and
we could narrate many) is one which prevails, in Suffolk at least, as
to bees. It is deemed unlucky that a stray swarm of bees should settle
on your premises, unclaimed by the owner; it presages a death in the
family within a year. A popular belief in Suffolk is that it is unlucky
to kill a _harvestman_--a long-legged spider, very common in the fields
in autumn--because if you do kill one there will be a bad harvest.

Some other errors in the natural history of animals have been long
and widely prevalent, but have no superstitions connected with them.
It will be enough merely to mention them. It is a common but a purely
erroneous belief that the goatsucker and the hedgehog suck the teats of
cows lying in the field--the latter being persecuted on that account.
The woodpecker is ruthlessly killed because of the injury which it is
supposed to do to trees by pecking holes in the wood and causing them
to rot. The woodpecker pecks only where the wood is already decayed,
which it does in quest of insects and their larvæ, and by pecking out
the decayed wood, prevents the gangrene from extending, thus doing good
to the tree and not harm.

The popular errors regarding plants are not so numerous, so
wide-spread, or so remarkable as those regarding animals; nor do they
seem anywhere to have taken so firm a hold of the minds of any class of
the people, if we except perhaps the popular ideas regarding mushrooms
and toadstools. Many people imagine that all fungi, except 'the
mushroom,' are poisonous. It is not uncommon to hear the question asked
even by educated people concerning some _agaric_: 'Is it a mushroom
or a fungus?'--a question which shews that neither the meaning of the
one term nor of the other is known. Every mushroom is a fungus; and
although the term _mushroom_ can never be applied to the minute fungi,
such as blight, smut, mildew, and mould, it is very commonly applied
to many of the larger kinds. Many fungi are not only not poisonous,
but are wholesome and pleasant articles of food. Truffles and morels
are edible fungi, and though they are found in England, they are not so
common anywhere in Britain as in some parts of the continent of Europe.
Some other species are also occasionally gathered and used in England;
but in Scotland it may almost be said that none is ever gathered for
use except the common mushroom (_Agaricus campestris_). Both in England
and Scotland, however, far less use is made of the edible fungi than
in France, Italy, Germany, and other continental countries, where they
form a not inconsiderable part of the food of the people during summer
and autumn; whilst with us, through ignorance and prejudice, they are
allowed to rot and go to waste. It is proper to add, that of the larger
kinds of fungi, many of the poisonous species are of the very group to
which the common mushroom belongs; a group which possesses the same
general form and structure with the common mushroom--a stalk surmounted
by a cap, with gills on the under-side of the cap. Some excuse is
therefore to be made for the general aversion prevalent in Great
Britain to all kinds of fungi; and as long as we remain ignorant of the
difference between the edible and the poisonous species, this aversion
will naturally survive. But a wider diffusion of knowledge concerning
the edible fungi is very desirable, and would enable many often to
enjoy a cheap and agreeable repast.

The superstitions connected with plants seem also to have possessed
less vitality than those connected with animals. In fact, they have
mostly quite died out. Perhaps the most tenacious of life was that
concerning the rowan-tree or mountain-ash. Our forefathers universally
regarded this tree as possessing a wondrous power of affording
protection from witches and from evil spirits, and for this reason
it was planted close by every dwelling. Nowhere was this belief more
firmly entertained than in Scotland. Within our recollection, an aged
man who acted as postman in a country town in the south of Scotland,
habitually carried a piece of rowan-tree or mountain-ash in his pocket,
as a fancied protection against malevolent influences. Traces of this
superstition have now, we believe, disappeared. The rowan-tree is now
cultivated for the sake of its beautiful clustering berries, from
which a pleasantly bitter jelly may be produced, as a condiment to be
eaten with roast-mutton, preferable to the jelly from red currants.
This is what we call putting the mountain-ash to a better purpose than
superstitiously carrying morsels of it in the pocket to avert some
imaginary personal injury.

Let us hope that, by the progress of education, the minds even of the
humblest classes of the people will erelong be freed from the fear of
dangers merely imaginary, and elevated above the pitiful superstitions
by which they are still too frequently enslaved and degraded. Yet
it is probable that a considerable time must elapse before this
desirable result can be fully attained. To many the errors with which
their superstitions are connected, and the superstitions themselves,
appear supported by a great weight of authority, such as they have
been accustomed most to respect--the authority of their seniors, and
of those who are looked upon as the oracles of their little circle.
And if they have not instances of their own observation to adduce in
justification of their beliefs, they have been assured of instances
enough that have come under the observation of others.


A brief account of this new lamp-forge, included in 'Useful Items From
France,' which appeared in our columns (No. 668, October 14, 1876),
having occasioned numerous inquiries as to this novel source of heat,
a more detailed description of its principle and mode of action may
probably prove acceptable. The apparatus, of which M. Quichenot, a
French civil engineer, is the inventor, is designed to supply a want
that has been long felt, that of a blow-pipe and furnace combined, easy
of transport, applicable to the arts, or for experimental purposes, and
which does its work cheaply. Requiring no special fittings, it can be
used where gas cannot, and yields, it may be added, a heat considerably

The so-called carburator, or actual lamp-forge, is composed of a shell
or chamber of cast-iron, with a false bottom or double compartment,
into which air is to be forced by the aid of a smith's or circular
bellows. On this shell stands an annular vessel of cast-iron,
containing petroleum, supplied from a reservoir of equal level, by
the help of a pipe. The heat of the lamp-forge keeps the petroleum in
ebullition, and its vapour pours into the iron carburator, mixes with
the compressed air, and rushes burning through a large copper funnel,
capped by a thick tube in refractory fire-clay, and which contains the
hottest portion of the flame; which is then suffered to play on the
crucible or cupel containing the object to be heated, and which is
surrounded by a cover or screen, to prevent the cooling effects of the

The blow-pipe attached to the apparatus is a flexible one, the interior
being fitted with a copper spiral reaching to within one-third of
an inch of the nozzle, and which renders the flame shorter and more
compact than is the case with blow-pipes of the usual construction.
The flame can be rendered oxidising or deoxidising at pleasure. For
solders of every kind this blow-pipe is believed to be well adapted.
The miniature lamp-forge is capable of melting, in ten minutes,
fourteen ounces of copper, nickel, or cast-iron, or about twelve ounces
of wrought-iron. The heat, therefore, is only equalled by that of the
larger-sized table-furnaces fed with coke and urged by a continuous
blast of air. But the action of these last-mentioned furnaces is brief,
and when their supply of fuel is consumed, time is wasted in cooling
and recharging them. The great merit of M. Quichenot's invention is,
that the lamp-forge can be kept, without difficulty, at work for a
considerable time, care being taken to guard against any heating of the
petroleum in the reservoir of supply.

We have not been able to ascertain if these forges are to be seen in
England; but we believe that information may be had, and the apparatus
seen, by applying to M. le Directeur, Fabrique des Forges de Vulcain, 5
Rue Saint-Denis, Place du Châtelet, Paris.

       *       *       *       *       *

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

       *       *       *       *       *

_All Rights Reserved._

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