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Title: Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 701 - June 2, 1877
Author: Various
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 701 - June 2, 1877" ***

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Fourth Series


NO. 701.      SATURDAY, JUNE 2, 1877.      PRICE 1½_d._]



Crossing the tall and narrow old bridge of several arches which spans
the Tweed at Peebles, is seen an aged gentleman riding composedly on a
small white pony. His head is bent droopingly down, as if meditating
on some important mission. From his general aspect, he may be a
gentleman-farmer, disposed to take things easily at his time of life;
or he may be some retired public official who keeps a pony, and in good
weather pops about for amusement. His dress has nothing particular
about it. He wears a blue coat with metal buttons and capacious outside
pockets. His legs are endued in buff breeches, white rig-and-fur
woollen stockings, and black spats, a kind of short gaiters, over
the ankles. Any one may observe that he is no common person. At the
end of his watch-chain dangle a gold seal, a Queen Anne sixpence, a
small and very pretty shell, and a flexible watch-key. Instead of
using a riding-whip, he has in his right hand a perfectly respectable
gold-headed cane, with which he occasionally gives a gentle pat on
the side of the pony. Altogether a creditable affair, as things went
towards the end of last century.

This imposing personage, according to tradition, was proceeding in a
southerly direction across the bridge from his residence at Cabbage
Hall, on Tweed Green, in order to pursue his way down the right bank of
the river to the mansion of Traquair. It is a pleasant ride of seven
to eight miles; and looking to the leisurely progress of the little
nag, it is not unlikely he may reach his destination in an hour and
a half. So far well. But who is this venerable gentleman? His proper
designation is of no consequence. Locally, and somewhat irreverently,
he is known as Window Willie, a man of genial temperament, but who
professionally commands a degree of respect in the neighbourhood; for
he is the district inspector in relation to the tax on window-lights,
and it is not surprising that with all his good humour people are a
little afraid of him.

Is Window Willie going to inspect windows in that old weather-beaten
château of the Earl of Traquair? Not at all. He is a chum of the old
Earl, and what his particular business happens to be on the present
occasion will afterwards appear. In the meantime, as paving the way for
Window Willie's interview, we may run over a few particulars concerning
the Traquair family. There need be the less ceremony in speaking of
them, as all have gone to their rest. The family is extinct, leaving
not a shred behind.

The Stewarts of Traquair come first prominently into notice in the
reign of Charles I., 1628, when Sir John Stewart of Traquair, Knight,
was raised to the peerage as Lord Stewart of Traquair, and shortly
afterwards elevated to the dignity of Earl of Traquair, Lord Linton,
and Caberston. In looking into history, we cannot discover that this
gentleman had a single good quality. Like too many at that period,
he was a time-server, devoid of anything like settled principle. In
politics and religion he discreetly sided with the uppermost--a Puritan
or an Anglican of the Laud type, whichever seemed to promise to pay

There is a very curious old book, which few know anything about, called
the '_Staggering State of Scots Statesmen, for one hundred years from
1550 to 1650_, by Sir John Scot of Scotstarvit.' It was printed from a
manuscript in 1754, and is exceedingly rare. This little book is full
of amusing gossip about the wretchedly struggling noblemen and officers
of state at that unhappy period of Scottish history, during a large
portion of which the central ruling authority was in London, and only
a delegation of subordinates, who domineered at will, in Edinburgh.
These subordinates were needy Scotsmen, of whom for more than a century
hardly a good word can be said. They did as they liked, plundered and
tyrannised without mercy. The _Staggering State_ gives an awful account
of them. Among the whole, none was such an adept at looking to his own
interest as the newly created Earl of Traquair. Appointed Lord High
Treasurer, he 'managed matters so nimbly' that in a short time he was
able, by purchase, to vastly extend the possessions of the family. He
also enlarged the old mansion at Traquair, and made a handsome avenue
lined with trees as an approach.

When Charles I. got into trouble, the Earl of Traquair for a time
stuck to his cause, which in a half-hearted way he afterwards thought
fit to desert. The Commonwealth under Cromwell proved a sore trial
to every class of home-rulers in Scotland. A stern system of honesty
and justice was introduced, at which the native nobility and judges
stood aghast. Monopolies were abolished. Free trade was established
between England and Scotland. Very hard all this on those who had
been pocketing the public money, thriving on monopolies, and selling
justice to the highest bidder. Turned out of office, and his estate
being sequestrated, the Earl of Traquair was ruined. By some manœuvre,
his son Lord Linton had the address to save for himself and his heirs
at least a portion of the family property, and was able to keep house
at Traquair, while the Earl was exposed to vicissitudes, uncheered
by public respect or sympathy. Lord Linton can hardly be acquitted
of having acted an unnatural part towards his father. He allowed him
to drop into such extreme poverty that he was fain to accept an alms
from an old friend, and to dine on a salt herring and an onion. Broken
in spirit, he died in 1659; and as evidencing the meanness of his
circumstances, it is recorded that at his burial there was no pall, but
only a black apron over the coffin.

So ended the first Earl, who though not without the faults common to
the period, was at least an historical personage. His son, the second
Earl, was noted only for scandalous irregularities, and by him Roman
Catholicism was introduced into the family, through his marriage with
Lady Anne Seton. He was succeeded by his elder son, William, as third
Earl; and he was succeeded by his brother, Charles, as fourth Earl, who
married Lady Mary Maxwell, daughter of the fourth Earl of Nithsdale.
We need say nothing of the fifth Earl. In the sixth Earl we begin to
have a living interest. He had a son, Charles, and three daughters,
Christiana, Mary, and Lucy. Lady Christiana caused serious trouble in
the family by what was deemed a mésalliance. The story is that she
fell in love with a young man named Griffiths, who as a lawyer's clerk
had visited Traquair on some piece of business, married him--and was
disowned. There is no doubt of the marriage, whatever might have been
the position of Mr Griffiths; for it is recorded in the _Peerage_ of
Sir Robert Douglas. Descendants of Lady Christiana are still living, we
believe, in America.

The Ladies Mary and Lucy do not appear to have been married. As
genteel spinsters they lived in the Canongate, Edinburgh, which even
in their time had not been entirely deserted by noble families.
Charles, their brother, who succeeded as seventh Earl in 1779, and was
already married, dwelt for a time in Edinburgh. There to him was born
a daughter, Louisa, 20th March 1776; and a son, Charles, 31st January
1781. After the birth of the two children, the Earl and his Countess
spent most of their time at Traquair House. Here, for a number of
years the Earl flourished, if it can be called flourishing, the more
appropriate term being vegetating, at the period when Window Willie was
in his glory.

There lingered some traditions of the Countess of Traquair in our
young days. She was an invalid. The rumour in Peebles was that she
had been afflicted with an 'eating cancer in her great toe.' Whether
there was any truth in the report we cannot tell. All we know is, that
the ailment of her Ladyship gave rise to a droll and popular myth.
The cancer being an 'eating' cancer, required something to eat. If it
was not properly provided with food, it would eat off her Ladyship's
foot, and finally eat her up bodily. To avert this calamity, it was
customary--so ran the legend in Peebles--to provide the cancer every
morning regularly with a fresh pigeon, which it devoured with a relish
in the course of the day, and so the foot of the Countess was luckily
saved. The gossip about the daily consumption of a pigeon was possibly
a piece of nonsense. At anyrate, the Countess having been much of an
invalid, the old Earl her husband sought to amuse himself in a way,
immediately to be specified.

We are now ready for the interview with Window Willie, who has been
jogging on his way to Traquair. For the last hour the Earl had been
expecting him, and now and then looks out from a small apartment with
a low ceiling to see his approach down a side avenue. There at length
he comes on his little white pony; and giving the animal to a groom, he
enters the antiquated mansion.

'Glad to see you,' said the Earl. 'I've been out of work for a week;
at least hardly anything to do. I hope you have brought something. How
many have you got?'

'Well, my Lord,' replied Willie, 'I think I have made a pretty good
haul. I have just returned from my circuit in the western district of
the county, and have managed to pick up a round dozen.'

'That will do capitally. Lay them out carefully in a row, and tell me
to whom they belong.'

So requested, Window Willie disburdened himself by drawing from his
pockets a dozen razors in their respective cases, some of them having a
very common appearance, and he proceeded to arrange and specify them as

'There's one from Dickson of Hartree; one from Loch of Rachan; one
from Murray at Drachal; one from Kerr, minister of Stobo; one from
Marshall, minister of Manor; and one from Bowed Davie; it's sair
lippit, but it will stand grunden. That makes six. Then comes one
from Mr Findlater, the minister of Newlands; next one from Sir James
Naesmyth; one from Robbie Symington at Edston; one from Mr Alexander
at Easter Happrew; one from Toll Tammie at the Neidpath, which I got
yesterday in passing; and last of all, one from your lordship's friend
and adviser, Commissary Robertson, at Peebles. That makes the dozen.'

The row of razors made a splendid array, and put the Earl in high
spirits. Window Willie must stay to dinner to talk over his adventures
in securing the razors, for each has its story, which will furnish some
amusement. Willie, of course, as he had expected, dines with the Earl,
and pops home to Cabbage Hall in the evening.

Not to keep the reader in suspense: The Earl of Traquair had a
profound passion for sharpening razors. Thankfully and gratuitously
his Lordship sharpened not only all the razors of his tenants and
their servants, but of all the landed gentlemen, farmers, and traders
throughout the county who would favour him with a commission of the
kind. In his time, no one in Peeblesshire needed to torture himself
by shaving with a blunt razor. Of course, the razors were not sent
for sharpening in a business fashion. Window Willie's professional
rounds gave him an excellent opportunity of collecting razors for the
Earl, and of returning them properly cuttled to their proprietors.
When he brought one batch he took away another. It was a satisfactory
arrangement all round. The Earl was delighted to be kept working at
his favourite pursuit; people were glad to get their razors on all
occasions sharpened for nothing; and Window Willie was pleased to
have an employment which made him everywhere an acceptable guest, and
afforded opportunities of visiting at Traquair. I happen to have an
agreeable remembrance of various persons in Peebles telling me several
of the foregoing particulars, and of how Window Willie used to call to
ask if their razors did not want a little touching up, as he was going
next day to visit the Earl.

The world was not then constituted exactly as it now is. Nobody
thought there was anything particularly strange in an Earl sharpening
razors as a recreation. It was a harmless hobby; and, besides, there
was a gratification in thinking that your razor was put in trim by
a nobleman. The Earl of Traquair was a general benefactor. He was
a sort of artist. He should have been born and bred a cutler, in
which capacity he excelled; but as he had the misfortune to be born
an heir to an earldom, he had just to make the best of it. As for
Window Willie, he seemed to have been born to be the Earl's provider
with blunt razors to be sharpened; in which line he acquitted himself
admirably. Working to each other's hands, they in their time kept the
county well and comfortably shaved, and that is saying a good deal in
the way of eulogium.

The Earl had another eccentricity. He did not patronise London or
Edinburgh tailors. After some experience, he had a firm belief that no
man could make clothes for him that would thoroughly fit but Thorburn,
a tailor at Eddleston, a small village of forty to fifty houses,
close to Darnhall, the residence of Lord Elibank. We have never heard
how the Earl discovered Thorburn; in all likelihood he heard of him
through his factotum, Window Willie, who knew something of everybody.
Having tried, he stuck to Thorburn. One thing materially guided this
selection. Thorburn was exactly his own shape, body, legs, and arms.
That was a great point. The Earl had an invincible hatred of putting
on new-made clothes, which required some time to settle down into the
required figure, and were at first a little awkward. Thorburn was an
accommodating fellow. He volunteered to wear the Earl's new clothes
for a day or two, to give them a set. The obliging offer was accepted.
When the Earl wanted a new pair of black velvet breeches, Thorburn
took care to wear them for a Sunday at church, which gave the legs the
appropriately round baggy form, and then they were ready for use. By
the agency of Window Willie and his little pony, the garment safely
reached Traquair House.

Dear old Earl, and dear good-hearted Window Willie! Both have long
since passed away. The beards of the county are said to have been
sensibly affected by their decease. Charles, the eighth Earl, had
unfortunately none of his father's aptitude for razor-sharpening. As a
bachelor and a recluse, he was mainly noted for effecting improvements
on his various farm-steadings, which was by no means a bad hobby for
a nobleman. Partly perhaps on account of a stammering in his speech,
he shrank from general society, and vegetated till the last in the
queer antiquated mansion of his forefathers, in the society of his only
sister, Lady Louisa Stuart. We had the honour of several interviews
with him in relation to railways for the district, and could not help
feeling pained with that distressing stammer. A very curious fact
afterwards came to our knowledge. The Earl having spent a number of his
early years abroad, acquired a proficiency in speaking French, which he
ever afterwards retained. When he spoke French, he never stammered! At
his decease in 1861, the male line and peerage became extinct; and on
the death of Lady Louisa Stuart in 1875, in the hundredth year of her
age, all the family had departed, the property devolving by will on a
distant relative. Traquair House, which looks like two ancient feudal
keeps rolled into one, remains embosomed in trees almost as it was left
by the Lord High Treasurer upwards of two hundred years ago, and as it
used to be visited of old by Window Willie.

    W. C.



Great was my relief the next day when, on Lilian and I returning from a
ramble in our beloved woods, we heard Robert Wentworth talking to Mrs
Tipper in the parlour. But at first sight of him, I shrank back. How
altered he looked, how terribly altered since we had last met! The kind
little lady's hurried explanation as we entered the room, that illness
had kept him away, gave me another blow, and he saw that it did.

'Only a sort of cold,' he cheerfully explained, extending his hand
towards me with a smile. 'How do you do, Mary?'

My own hand shook; but he kept it long enough in his own to steady it,
giving me a reassuring look before releasing it.

But Lilian could not get over the shock which the first sight of him
had given her, involuntarily exclaiming: 'But I fear you have been
ill--very ill; and it has made you quite'---- She paused, not liking
to go on; but he lightly replied: 'Gray, do you mean? My dear Lilian,
the gray season had set in long ago, only you saw me too frequently to
notice it.'

Mrs Tipper laid her hand for a moment on his shoulder as she passed him
on her way out of the room to prepare some special dainty to tempt him
at tea-time; and I noticed that she was looking much graver than usual.

'And how have you been going on with your work during my absence?' he
asked; 'not carelessly, I hope? I am in the humour to be very exacting
and critical to-night; so you must not expect me to treat sins of
omission or commission with my usual amiability.'

'Amiability, indeed!' ejaculated Lilian. 'The idea of your setting
up for being amiable! I do not consider you at all considerate and
good-natured to failure, sir.'

He smiled. 'I certainly have not much sympathy with failure; it would
not be orthodox, you know. But get out your work, and let me find a
safe outlet for my savage propensity.'

He saw that it did me good to be taken to task in the old fashion; and
was quite as unsparing as I could desire, when he came upon any error.
Whatever it cost him, Robert Wentworth succeeded in setting my heart as
well as theirs at rest before he took his departure that night. If Mrs
Tipper saw something of the truth, she shewed her consideration for me
by carefully avoiding to give any expression to her thoughts. Lilian
evidently guessed nothing. She openly expressed her surprise and regret
at the alteration which she perceived in him.

'I really felt quite shocked for the first few moments,' she said.
'Even serious illness does not seem quite to account for such an
alteration as there is in him. He looks as though he had suddenly grown
old. Do not you think so, auntie?--Don't you, Mary?'

Mrs Tipper was silent, leaving me to reply, though I knew that she was
watching me somewhat closely the while. It required all the nerve and
self-command I could muster to make something like a suitable reply;
but I did make it; and Lilian at anyrate remained in ignorance of the
true state of the case, although her ignorance occasioned me almost
as much pain as her knowledge of it would have done, so very closely
did she sometimes approach to the truth, in her speculations as to the
possible and probable cause of the change which had taken place in
Robert Wentworth.

I was becoming restless and anxious from more causes than one. The time
of Philip's expected arrival was drawing near, and my news remained
still untold. Whilst I was ashamed of my reticence with two such
friends, the difficulty of approaching the subject seemed rather to
increase than diminish. My uneasiness was becoming apparent too; even
Lilian and Mrs Tipper were beginning to notice a difference in me,
which they could not account for.

The dear little lady once ventured a few words to me to the effect
that no good man could be the worse for loving a woman, though she
could not return his love; fancying, I believe, that possibly I was
uneasy upon Robert Wentworth's account. I could only kiss the hand laid
so lovingly upon mine.

It so happened that just at this juncture Mrs Tipper required sundry
little housekeeping errands done in town; and partly to be alone a few
hours, partly to do a little shopping for myself, I volunteered to go
for her.

'Are you sure you would prefer going, dear Mary?' said Mrs Tipper
anxiously; 'the days are so hot, and the things could be sent down, if
we write, you know.'

I murmured something about wanting to replenish my wardrobe a little,
and she easily acquiesced: 'To tell the truth, my dear, I _should_
prefer your choosing the patty-pans,' she candidly allowed, when she
found I really wished to go. 'Becky and I will think over all we
require, and make a list,' she added, trotting off in high-feather
to compare notes with Becky in the kitchen. If we were proud of our
'drawing-room,' Mrs Tipper was quite as proud of her kitchen. 'There
is a place for everything and everything in its place, my dear, clean
and ready to hand.' Becky in the evening, seated in state, surrounded
by her brilliantly burnished tins, was a sight to behold. Nothing would
have delighted her mistress and herself more than a sudden invasion
of company as a test of their resources. Lilian and I were sometimes
taxed beyond our powers, in our endeavours to shew our appreciation
of the little dainty cakes, patties, &c. set before us. Indeed we had
more than once consulted together upon the advisability of suggesting a
party of children from the village to relieve us.

Lilian looked, I thought, a little surprised at not being invited to
accompany me on my expedition to town. But if she was surprised, she
was not offended; sensitive as she was, there was as little self-love
in Lilian as it is possible for any human being to have. Hers was not
fine-weather friendship. She was content to stand quietly aside until I
should need her, without any complaints about being neglected, or what
not, which half-hearted people are so apt to make at a fancied slight.
She knew that I loved her, and I knew that she loved me, and we could
trust each other, without the repeated assurance of it, which some
people seem to require.

She was only a shade or two more tender and loving in bidding me
good-bye, when I set forth in the morning, anxious to make me feel that
my return would be eagerly looked for; and whispering a little jest
about the necessity for bringing back a good appetite. 'Auntie and
Becky will be sure to be busily engaged in preparing treats all day,
you know; so you must come home hungry, whatever you do. And do not
forget your promise to buy a pretty bonnet, Mary, and leave off that
old dowdy thing; it makes you look as though nobody loved you, which is
not fair to your sister Lilian. And oh, Mary, I had almost forgotten;
if you bring any of this back, I shall say you don't care for me in
real earnest;' pressing a little roll of paper into my hand.

I knew that she was genuinely disappointed when I proved to her that I
had as much as five-and-twenty pounds in hand; and so I was obliged to
promise to take from her store for my next need. 'Or else one may just
as well not be a sister,' she said, with a discontented little shake of
the head.

How cheering it was--how precious the knowledge that I was cared for in
this way! And there was dear old Mrs Tipper too! I thought I knew why
she was desirous just at that season to make me feel that my presence
was so much required at the cottage.

'I wanted to ask you to cut out the little pinafores for Mercy Green's
child, Mary; but they must wait till to-morrow, I suppose. And there's
the curtains for my bed, dear; nobody would fit them to please me but
you;' and so forth, and so forth, until the last moment, when Lilian
accompanied me as far as the stile.

As I walked across the fields in that lovely August morning, while the
bright sun was

    Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
    Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy,

my thoughts attuned themselves to the summer sights and sounds, and I
shook off the morbid doubts and fears which had so beset me of late. I
resolved to be no longer so weak and unfriendly as to keep the truth
from Mrs Tipper and Lilian. It really was unfriendly not to tell
them what I knew they would both be glad to hear! That very evening
my secret should be told, and I would at once begin brushing up for
Philip, making up my mind to overcome my shyness for finery, and render
myself as attractive as possible within the compass of--five-and-twenty
pounds. It appeared to me a very large sum to spend at once upon
finery, and I could only hope the end would justify the means. As
it chanced, I really knew very little about Philip's taste in such
matters. The selection of the modest outfit which was purchased for me
nine years ago, I had been only too glad to leave to my dear mother's
judgment, and we had been neither of us inclined to trouble Philip with
_chiffon_ talk.

But I told myself that I really must make a beginning now, as I
stood in the milliner's show-room, somewhat dolefully contrasting my
appearance with that of the elegant-looking beings around me; wondering
whether Philip would wish me to look like them, and in that case,
whether it would be possible to make me do so.

I had been striving so earnestly and anxiously to make myself worthy
to be his companion, and it had seemed of so little consequence what I
looked like during his absence, beyond being attired with the dainty
neatness befitting a gentlewoman, that I now appeared quite behind the
times. I suddenly began to realise that I had carried my disregard
of pretty things too far; and was seized with a desire to try what
extraneous aid could do for me.

I anxiously studied my face and figure in the large glass, and then
those of the obliging shopwoman, who displayed an endless assortment of
pretty things for my selection. She was about my own age, and possessed
no greater natural advantages than I myself could boast of; and yet how
very different was the general effect of her appearance; how dowdy I
looked beside her. Yes; Lilian was quite right; 'dowdy' was the proper
word for me, from head to foot.

A little shyly and consciously, I ventured out of my shell, and
appealed to the shopwoman for assistance, taking her so far into my
confidence as to confess a desire to be modernised and made more

She displayed more interest in the matter than I had ventured to hope
for; and we gravely discussed my capability of improvement. But I found
that the complications would be so many, and the changes in the way of
adaptation of hair, figure, &c. so endless, that I presently began to
grow very impatient; and when she said something about the possibility
of the present fashion only lasting another two months, I gave it up in
despair. If I were quite sure it would serve for the rest of my life,
I would go through it all; but for the fashion of an hour; no! I would
be content with a simply made dress or two, and depend upon my own
taste for the finishing touches. Some of my mother's old point, and a
crimson bow or two for the pretty gray dress, and amber with the black
silk, and such like, I trusted might please Philip's artistic taste
as well as though I were in the latest fashion. And I pleased myself
with the remembrance that he used to admire my method of dressing my
hair in large coils round a comb; saying that it suited my head and
Spanish style of face. 'Spanish! Yes; that certainly was the word,' I
told myself, dwelling pleasantly upon the one only compliment I could
recollect having received from Philip.

I tried to satisfy myself this way; nevertheless I was a little out
of spirits at finding myself so different from other women whom I met
as I walked through the park on my way to the railway station, and
whom I scanned with curious critical eyes, trying to understand the
intricacies of their toilets, and failing to obtain anything more than
a general impression that the _tout ensemble_ was very effective. The
home dress might be compassed; but how if it turned out that Philip
wished his wife to look picturesque and attractive out of doors--not
in Mrs Trafford's style, but in Lilian's more refined way of being in
the mode? I would take Lilian into my confidence at once, and she would
help me. That very night I had determined to make the truth known to
her and to Mrs Tipper; and after it was once known, the dress question
could be entered upon.


When we see the brilliant colours reflected by the glass lustres and
chandeliers which are now so commonly used for decorative purposes, we
seldom bestow a thought upon them, regarding them as things too common,
perhaps too trivial to be worthy of any particular attention. We are
content to know that a triangular piece of glass will exhibit certain
bright colours--they look very pretty, and it does not matter much how
they happen to be there. This is the common way of dealing with the
natural phenomena which meet us at every turn in this wonderful world
in which we live. The progress of civilisation, with all its triumphs
of Science and Art, would indeed have been slow, if not altogether at a
dead-lock, if every one had been content to treat such matters in this
summary fashion. But happily, this has not been the case, for certain
intellectual giants have from time to time arisen, who have grappled
with these things, and have devoted their lives to their investigation.

Such a one was Sir Isaac Newton, who just about two centuries ago, with
rough appliances fashioned by his own hands, inquired into the meaning
of the colours to which we have just alluded. We cannot do better than
quote his own words, from a letter which he addressed to the Royal
Society in 1672; for his statement is so clear that a child can easily
understand what he means. 'I procured me a triangular glass prisme,'
writes he, 'to try therewith the celebrated phenomena of colours. And
in order thereto having darkened my chamber and made a small hole in
my window-shuts to let in a convenient quantity of the sun's light, I
placed my prisme at his entrance, that it might be thereby refracted to
the opposite wall.'

He goes on to say how surprised he was to find that the ray of light,
after passing through the prism, instead of being thrown upon the
wall in the form of a round spot, was spread out into a beautiful
coloured ribbon; this ribbon being red at one end, and passing through
orange yellow green and blue, to violet at its other extremity. Upon
this experiment is founded the theory of colour, which with few
modifications, still remains unquestioned.

It was not until the beginning of the present century that this
experiment of Newton's (repeated as it had doubtless been in the
meantime by many philosophers) was found by Dr Wollaston to possess
certain peculiarities which defied all explanation. He found that,
by substituting a _slit_ in the shutter of the darkened room for the
round hole which Newton had used, the ribbon of colour, or spectrum
as it is now called, was intersected by certain dark lines. This
announcement, although at the time it did not excite much attention,
led to further experiments by different investigators, who, however,
vainly endeavoured to solve the meaning of these bands of darkness. It
was first observed by an optician of Munich that they never varied,
but always occupied a certain fixed position in the spectrum; moreover
he succeeded in mapping them to the number of nearly six hundred, for
which reason they have been identified with his name, as 'Frauenhofer's

In 1830, when improved apparatus came into use, it was found that
the number of these lines could be reckoned by thousands rather than
hundreds; but their meaning still remained a puzzle to all. By this
time Newton's darkened room with the hole in the 'window-shuts' had
been, as we have just said, greatly improved upon. The prism was now
placed in a tube, at one end of which was a slit to admit the light,
while the retina of the observer's eye received the impression of the
spectrum at the other end. This is the simplest form of the instrument
now known as the spectroscope, and which is, as we have shewn, a copy
in miniature of Newton's arrangement for the decomposition of white
light into its constituent colours.

We must now go back a few years to record some experiments carried
out by Herschel, which, quite independent of the spectroscope, helped
others to solve the problem connected with the dark lines. He pointed
out that metals, when rendered incandescent under the flame of the
blow-pipe, exhibited various tints. He further suggested that as the
colour thus shewn was distinctive for each metal, it might be possible
by these means to work out a new system of analysis. A familiar
instance of this property in certain metals may be seen in the red and
green fire which is burned so lavishly during the pantomime season at
our theatres; the red owing its colour to a preparation of the metal
strontium, and the green in like manner to barium. Pyrotechnists
also depend for their tints not only upon the two metals just named,
but also upon sodium, antimony, copper, potassium, and magnesium.
Wheatstone also noticed the same phenomena when he subjected metals
to the intense heat of the electric current; but it was reserved for
others to examine these colours by means of the spectroscope. This was
done by Bunsen and Kirchhoff in 1860, who by their researches in this
direction, laid the foundation of a totally new branch of science. They
discovered that each metal when in an incandescent state exhibited
through the prism certain distinctive brilliant lines. They also found
that these brilliant lines were identical in position with many of
Frauenhofer's dark lines; or to put it more clearly, each bright line
given by a burning metal found its exact counterpart in a dark line on
the solar spectrum. It thus became evident that there was some subtle
connection between these brilliant lines and the dark bands which had
puzzled observers for so many years. Having this clue, experiments
were pushed on with renewed vigour, until by some happy chance, the
_vapours_ of the burning metals were examined through the agency of
the electric light. That is to say, the light from the electric lamp
was permitted to shine through the vapour of the burning metal under
examination, forming, so to speak, a background for the expected lines.
It was now seen that what before were bright bands on a dark ground,
were now dark bands on a bright ground. This discovery of the reversal
of the lines peculiar to a burning metal, when such metal was examined
in the form of vapour, led to the enunciation of the great principle,
that 'vapours of metals at a lower temperature absorb exactly those
rays which they emit at a higher.'

To make this important fact more clear, we will suppose that upon
the red-hot cinders in an ordinary fire-grate is thrown a handful of
saltpetre. (This salt is, as many of our readers will know, a chemical
combination of the metal potassium with nitric acid--hence called
nitrate of potash, or more commonly nitre.) On looking through the
spectroscope at the dazzling molten mass thus produced, we should find
that (instead of the coloured ribbon which the sunlight gives) all
was black, with the exception of a brilliant violet line at the one
end of the spectrum, and an equally brilliant red line at the other
end. This is the spectrum peculiar to potassium; so that, had we not
been previously cognisant of the presence of that metal, and had been
requested to name the source of the flame produced, the spectroscope
would have enabled us to do so without difficulty. We will now suppose
that we again examine this burning saltpetre under altered conditions.
We will place the red-hot cinders in a shovel, and remove them to the
open air, throwing upon them a fresh supply of the nitre. We can now
examine its vapour, whilst the sunlight forms a background to it; when
we shall see that the two bright coloured lines have given place to
dark ones. This experiment will prove the truth of Kirchhoff's law so
far as potassium is concerned, for the molten mass first gave us the
bright lines, and afterwards by examining the cooler vapour we saw that
they were transformed to bands of darkness; in other words they were
absorbed. (In describing the foregoing experiment, we have purposely
chosen a well-known substance, such as saltpetre, for illustration; but
in practice, for reasons of a technical nature, a different form of
potassium would be employed.) Kirchhoff's discovery forms by far the
most important incident in the history of the spectroscope, for upon it
are based the new sciences of Solar and Stellar Chemistry, to which we
will now direct our readers' attention.

The examination of the heavenly bodies by means of the spectroscope has
not only corroborated in a very marvellous manner the discoveries of
various astronomers, but it has also been instrumental in correcting
certain theories and giving rise to new ones. The existence of a
feebly luminous envelope extending for hundreds of thousands of miles
beyond the actual surface of the sun, has been made evident whenever
an eclipse has shut off the greater light, and so permitted it to be
viewed. The prism has shewn this envelope, or chromosphere as it is
called, to consist of a vast sea of hydrogen gas, into which enormous
flames of magnesium are occasionally injected with great force. (We
need hardly remark that these facts are arrived at analogously by
identifying the absorption lines with those given by the same elements
when prepared artificially in the laboratory.) This chromosphere can,
by the peculiar lines which it exhibits in the spectroscope, be made
manifest whenever the sun itself is shining.

The foregoing discovery has given astronomers the advantage--during a
transit of Venus--of viewing the position of the planet both before and
after its passage across the sun's disc; for it is evident that the
presence of an opaque body in front of the chromosphere will cut off
the spectral lines in the path which it follows; so that although the
planet is invisible its exact place can be noted. From a comparison
of these lines with those that can be produced in the laboratory, it
is rendered probable that no less than thirteen different metals are
in active combustion in the body of the sun. From certain geological
appearances, it is conjectured that our own earth was once in this
state of igneous fusion, and although our atmosphere is now reduced to
a few simple elements, it must once have possessed a composition as
varied as that of the sun. As it is, the air which we breathe gives
certain spectral lines. These are much increased in number when the sun
is low, and when therefore it is viewed through a thicker medium. In
this case the blue and green rays are quickly absorbed, while the red
pass without difficulty through the denser mass of air, thus giving the
setting sun his blood-red colour. It will now be readily understood
how, by means of the spectroscope, the existence of atmosphere in the
superior planets can be verified. What a world of conjecture is thus
opened out to us! for the existence of atmosphere in the planets argues
that there are seas, lakes, and rivers there subject to the same laws
of evaporation as those upon our own earth. And if this is so, what
kind of beings are they who inhabit these worlds? The moon shews no
trace of atmosphere, so that we may assume that if there be living
beings there, they must exist without air and without water. The
lines given by the _moon_ and _planets_ being in number and position
identical with those belonging to the solar spectrum, is a further
proof, if any were needed, that _their light is borrowed from the sun_.

The varied colours of the fixed stars may be assumed to be due (from
what we have already stated with regard to metallic combustion) to
their chemical composition; and the spectroscope, by the distinctive
lines which it registers, renders this still more certain. Their
distance from us is so vast, so immeasurably beyond any conception of
space that we can command, that the detection of their composition is
indeed a triumph of scientific knowledge. It has been calculated that
if a model of the universe were made in which our earth were depicted
as the size of a pea, the earth itself would not be one-fifth large
enough to contain that universe.

If we marvel at the extraordinary skill which has brought these distant
spheres under command of an analytical instrument, we must wonder still
more when we are told that the spectra of these bodies can be brought
within range of the photographic camera. This has lately been done by
the aid of the most complicated and delicate mechanism; the difficulty
of keeping the image stationary on the sensitive collodion film during
the apparent motion of the stars from east to west, having only just
been surmounted. This power of photographing the spectrum is (as we
hinted in a recent paper on Photographic Progress) likely to lead
to very great results, for the records thus obtained are absolutely
correct, and far surpass in accuracy the efforts of the most skilful
draughtsman. It must be understood that in all these researches the
spectroscope is allied with the telescope, otherwise the small amount
of light furnished by some of the bodies under examination would not be
enough to yield any practical result.

The clusters of matter which are called nebulæ, and which the most
powerful telescopes have resolved into stars, are shewn by the
prism to be nothing but patches of luminous gas, possibly the first
beginnings of uncreated worlds. Comet-tails are of the same nature,
a doubt existing as to whether their nuclei borrow their light from
the sun or emit light of themselves. We may close a necessarily brief
outline of this part of our subject by stating that it is possible
that the spectroscope may some day supplant the barometer, more than
one observer having stated that he has discovered by its aid signs
of coming rain, when the latter instrument told a flattering tale of
continued fine weather.

We have merely shewn hitherto how the spectroscope is capable of
identifying a metal; but its powers are not limited to this; for by
a careful measurement of the length of the absorption lines, a very
exact estimate of the _quantity_ present can be arrived at. This method
of analysis is so delicate that in experiments carried on at the
Royal Mint, a difference of one ten-thousandth part in an alloy has
been recognised. Neither must it be supposed that the services of the
spectroscope are confined to metals, for nearly all coloured matter can
also be subjected to its scrutiny. Even the most minute substances,
when examined by the microscope in conjunction with the prism, shew a
particular spectrum by which they can always be identified. Nor does
the form of the substance present any difficulty in its examination,
for a solution will shew the necessary absorption bands. Blood, for
instance, can be discovered when in a most diluted form. To the
physician the detection of the vital fluid in any of the secretions
is obviously a great help to the diagnosis of an obscure case. But
in forensic medicine (where it might be assumed that this test would
be of value in the detection of crime) the microscope can identify
blood-stains in a more ready manner.

The simple glass prism as used by Newton, although it is the parent of
the modern spectroscope, bears very little resemblance to its gifted
successor. The complicated and costly instrument now used consists
of a train of several prisms, through which the ray of light under
examination can be passed by reflection more than once. By these means
greater dispersion is gained; that is to say, the resulting spectrum
is longer, and consequently far easier of examination. A detailed
description of the instrument would be impossible without diagrams, but
enough has been said to enable the reader to understand theoretically
its construction and application.

It will be understood that we have but lightly touched upon a phase of
science which is at present quite in its infancy. It is probable that
many more remarkable discoveries will in course of time be due to the
prism. Already, within the past twenty years, four new metals have by
its aid been separated from the substances with which they were before
confounded; and although they have not at present any commercial value,
we may feel sure that they have been created for some good purpose
not yet revealed to us. There are signs that the spectroscope will
some day become a recognised adjunct to our educational appliances. It
is even now included under the head of Chemistry in the examination
of candidates for university honours, and there is no doubt that
it will gradually have a more extended use. Many years hence, when
generations of School-Boards have banished ignorance from the land, the
spectroscope may become a common toy in the hands of children, enabling
them to lisp:

    Twinkle, twinkle, little star;
    We know exactly what you are.



'Where to, ma'am?' inquired cabby as he opened the door of his vehicle
to a lady and her son who had just arrived by the evening train at
Victoria Station.

'I want apartments somewhere in the neighbourhood of Chelsea; drive on
until you find them: they are procurable, I suppose?' the lady replied
as she took her seat.

'I do hope we may find a lodging,' she remarked to her companion, after
they had been driving what appeared to her a very long time. The lad
made no reply, being of a phlegmatic temperament, that finds speech an
exertion unless distinctly necessary.

The lateness of the hour together with the influx of visitors, owing to
the London season being then in full swing, made the search a difficult
one; they were about to give up its continuance and go to an hotel,
when the cabman good-naturedly proposed making one more attempt, and
drove down a fresh street. Stopping at a baker's shop on the way, he
invited the assistance of those serving, as it was growing too dark to
discern the cards of advertisement.

They directed him to a private house in a street adjoining, but added:
'The chances are they are let; still you might just as well try, as
Mrs Griffiths has a yearly lodger who allows her to sublet sometimes;
perhaps he is away now.'

'Shall we chance it, ma'am?' inquired the cabman.

'Do; I am so weary. She may be able to give us a corner for the night
at least.'

When they reached the house, Mrs Griffiths--late cook in a nobleman's
family, who had married the footman--appeared, and in answer to the
appeal, asked hesitatingly: 'For how long?'

'We should take them for a week of course,' said the lady.

'I cannot let for so long,' she replied, after a brief calculation;
'but I can accommodate you for a couple of days, if you please; that
will give you time to find other rooms.'

'Thank you very much,' said the wearied traveller gratefully, as she
followed the landlady into a good-sized room on the right of the
entrance-hall, and begged for lights and tea as soon as Mrs Griffiths
could make it convenient to send them.

'How very fortunate we are to have found a night's lodging,' she said
to the lad, who now joined her. 'I think I see an easy-chair in that
corner; what a comfort!' and she sat down to rest, removing some of her
heavy wraps as she spoke. 'Now at least we shall have breathing-time to
consider what is best to be done after your examinations are over. I
can go in search of rooms to-morrow while you are at them. I wish she
would hasten with the light and tea; this darkness is oppressive. Where
are you, Fred?'

'Here,' he replied, from the opposite side of the room. 'Can I do
anything for you? I've seen to the luggage and paid the cabman, and now
am quite ready to do justice to some tea.'

They were soon put out of their discomfort by the entrance of the
landlady, bearing a handsome lamp which gave a brilliant light.

'I've brought you my gentleman's lamp, ma'am; he is away just now; that
is why I have been able to accommodate you; for he's most obliging, and
don't mind my letting his rooms--this one and the one inside behind the
folding-doors, together with the one I have given the young gentleman
up-stairs, which belongs to his man-servant. May I ask what name,

'Mrs Arlington; and the young gentleman is my son.'

Mrs Griffiths glanced at the tall elegant woman in widow's weeds, and
thought to herself: 'She looks more fit to be his sister than his
mother; and is a sweet-looking lady anyway, whoever she is;' and she
was glad she had taken her in and her son, if such he were. And then
she bustled out of the room to prepare their meal.

As soon as they were alone, Mrs Arlington gazed around the room
indifferently. It was of the usual stamp of lodging-house apartment,
furnished according to the taste and means of those who take to letting
for a livelihood. A dismal horse-hair suite were the chief articles of
furniture, supplemented by others which stood out in contrast against
the horse-hair background--a good piano, an harmonium, a bookcase with
glass doors filled with a choice selection of the best works, and an
easel. On the walls hung several good paintings, one of which was the
portrait of a beautiful young girl.

'Some artist must live here, I imagine,' said the lad, as he went from
picture to picture examining them, finally stopping before the portrait
of the young girl, that hung immediately over the chair in which Mrs
Arlington sat.

'I daresay,' she replied weariedly, as though it were a speculation
which could not possibly concern her; and too glad of repose to be
roused to any sense of curiosity upon the subject.

'Just look at this, mother; it is so pretty.'

'I cannot, Fred; I am too exhausted to turn round. I cannot possibly
think of or look at any thing until I have had a cup of tea.--Ah! here
it comes. Go and pour it out for me, and never mind the picture. But I
forget. I am unfeeling and unnatural to tell you not to mind, for you
are just at an age when young girls are beginning to possess a powerful
attraction for you; but you must put the pleasing delusions out of your
head until you have passed your examination for Sandhurst; that is the
move-in-chief towards which all your energies must now be directed. I
long to see your poor father's wishes fulfilled; and shall not feel
quite contented until you are gazetted into the army; then my trust
will have been accomplished. How many years is it now, Fred, since you
first became my child?'


'Yes; you were a little fellow when I first took you in hand as your
governess, and you learnt to love me so well that your father asked me
to be your mother.'

'Was that why you married him?' inquired the lad, as he brought her
a cup of tea. 'Didn't you care for him for his own sake? You always
seemed to.'

'Yes, since you could observe; but not at first, Fred--not at first.
I had no heart for any one or anything just at that time but mayhap
for a little child like yourself, who was motherless and needed
tenderness. It was just such an uncared-for flower which alone could
have saved me then, for I had gone through a bitter sorrow, born of my
own caprice and foolishness; and through it I lost what could never be
mine again. I must have died of despair, had I not set myself the task
of working out my wrong-doing in atonement, if not to the person--that
was impossible--at least to some one of God's creatures who might need
me; and it was at that very time I took up the paper containing your
father's advertisement for a governess. It served me for a suggestion
and a field wherein I might find that for which I sought. I had never
been a governess; but I determined to become one, notwithstanding
the opposition of my family, who could not comprehend, and strongly
disapproved of my taking such a step; but I carried my point through
our doctor telling my mother she was wrong to oppose me, as my mind
needed distraction after all I had gone through; and that my choice,
so far from being reproved, ought rather to be commended, since I
had preferred it to the injurious remedy of a round of amusements,
so invariably prescribed for distraught spirits; which need instead
the healthy medicine of some reasonable duty to restore them to their
former mental composure. Thus I became free to answer your poor
father's advertisement, and was accepted by him for the post, oddly
enough. And that is how I became your mother, Fred. I have tried to
fulfil my trust; perhaps that has atoned.'

'Atoned for what?'

'Ah, never mind! I was only a young girl then, vain and imperious,
because I found I possessed a most dangerous power--the power of making
whom I would love me--a precious gift, which I did not know how to
value rightly until---- But never mind. I hate recalling by-gones. Life
is such a perpetual stumbling up hill with most of us, it is no use
retarding our journey by useless retrospection; so when I am inclined
to indulge in vain regrets, I always think of that heart-stirring line
of the poet's, "Act, act in the _living_ present;" and therefore, Fred,
please to cut me another slice of bread and butter and give me another
cup of tea, my child;' and she laughed at the application she had given
to her words, which was commonplace enough to destroy all their poetry.

The way in which the boy watched and waited on her, and the look of
quiet amusement and interest on his face as she spoke, shewed how
thoroughly she had won his heart, and was indeed his mother, sister,
friend, all in one. Yes; whatever might have been the fault of her
girlhood, her subsequent years had fully atoned for it; she had used
her gifts rightly in the case of her step-son, and his father, who had
died about a year ago, blessing her for her unwearied devotion, and the
happiness she had given him, leaving her the undisputed guardianship of
his only child.

As soon as their meal was concluded she went into the adjoining room,
divided by folding-doors from the one in which they had been sitting.
It bore no traces of a previous occupant like the other, save for a few
perfectly executed pictures which hung above the mantel-piece. She had
her travelling bag in her hand as she entered, which she was about to
deposit upon a table, when her eye caught sight of one of the pictures,
and the bag fell to the ground as she started forward to examine the

'Impossible!' she exclaimed; and she gazed around the room helplessly,
to see if she could by any means find aught therein that would throw a
light upon the mystery before her; but all was void: tables, chairs,
wardrobe, and dressing appliances were what met her gaze; while,
like one fascinated, she continued standing before the sketch as if

'Are you coming soon?' inquired Fred, knocking, who, notwithstanding
his disinclination to free converse, could never bear her long out of
his sight when they were together.

'I will be with you in a moment,' she returned, recalling herself with
no slight effort.

'What is the matter?' he exclaimed as soon as she joined him. 'You
look as white as a ghost; you are over-tired, I suspect: had you not
better get to sleep as soon as you can?' he inquired with concern, as
he noticed that she was suffering from an amount of nervous exhaustion
that alarmed him.

'It is nothing,' she returned: 'the journey was fatiguing;' and then
her eye stole round the room with suppressed interest.

'Is that the pretty girl you wanted me to admire, Fred, just now when I
was too hungry to oblige you?'

'Yes. Is she not a picture? What I should call a "stunner!"'

'When shall I ever knock the school-boy out of you, Fred?' she cried,
laughing. 'You are a long way off from that refined phraseology I
am labouring to inculcate. But you are right in this case. It is a
beautiful picture, of what I should call a detestable character. She
is, as you remark, a "stunner." There is not the least soul in her
face; nothing but proud self-consciousness, as if she were saying: "I
am a beauty, and I know it." Poor thing! she is to be pitied, if that
is a true picture, and it looks as if it were.'

'How is she to be pitied? I don't see that at all.'

'Because you can't see yet, Fred, from your brief study of her face,
that a girl like that may learn to _feel_ at some time or another; and
when she does, the lesson is generally such a painful one that few
have the courage to rise above it. The artist who drew her was in no
lenient mood; he could detect nothing in her but the stern facts which
possibly made him suffer,' she added in an undertone, accompanied by a
long-drawn sigh.--'I wish we had a book to read; try the bookcase; it
may be unlocked.'

He did as she bade him; and shook his head negatively as he went first
to the bookcase and then to the piano.

'"The gentleman," as our landlady calls him, is a cautious man
evidently,' said Mrs Arlington. 'Well, we must not find fault with
him, for his amiability towards his landlady has secured us a night's
repose. I wonder if he is the artist of these pictures? I am ashamed of
my curiosity, but I have a wish to know. Could you be diplomatic, Fred,
and find out for me?'

'Why not ask the landlady straight out?'

'I dislike to appear so inquisitive, as it is of no moment to us who he

'I don't know that. If he is an artist, he would no doubt be much
obliged to us for asking. Act on that presumption. You admire the
pictures, and may possibly wish to order some, or to sit for your

'How magnificent you are, Fred! We look a likely pair--don't we?--to
order pictures or sit for portraits! A hundred guineas or so are
nothing to us; are they, my poor boy? Rein in your fancy. I am afraid
of you in this respect, when you are once fairly launched on your own
resources, as I cannot always be at your elbow, to control your lavish
ideas, and our means are not large.'

'Well, I was only suggesting, you know, a ready mode of solving your
difficulty about finding out who is the artist of these pictures,' said
the boy as he wished her good-night.

As soon as he was gone, Mrs Arlington went cautiously round the room
making a minute survey of every article, with a look of intense
interest in her face, as though she were searching for a clue she could
not find. Every vase on the mantel-piece she subjected to a close
scrutiny, to see if possibly a card or old envelope lay concealed
therein. But everything was dumb, and refused to bear the least witness
as to the name or calling of the previous occupant. Quite foiled,
she sat down and fell into a profound reverie, which continued until
the landlady knocked at the door, and entered to inquire if there was
anything more she wanted, and when she would like her breakfast in the

'Thank you; nothing more to-night; and breakfast at nine. By the way,
have you any other lodgers in the house?'

'Yes, ma'am; the first floors are taken by a lady and gentleman for a
month, leastways so they told me when they came; but the lady has got
a maid who is that vexing I can't abear her; and I would be glad to
give them notice to go if I could be sure of another party for the same
time; but you see, ma'am, we who live by letting can't afford to have
our rooms empty.'

'You cannot let me have these rooms, you say, beyond a couple of days?'

'No, ma'am. Mr Meredith--the gentleman--takes them by the year on the
condition that they are always to be ready for him when he writes; and
only this afternoon he sent me a letter to say he would be here on

'Mr Meredith, did you say, was his name? An artist, I suppose? if I may
judge by the pictures and the easel.'

'Dear, no, ma'am!' exclaimed the landlady, as if a discreditable
imputation had been cast upon the character of her lodger by the
question. '_He's_ got no call to earn his living, not he! He's got a
place in the country, which he has let for I don't know how many years,
and he keeps himself free to come and go as he likes. Such a fine
noble-looking gentleman as he is! He took these rooms of me some eight
years back, when I first married and set up housekeeping, because he
said he liked the quiet of the place; and he keeps them by the year;
but he lets me take in lodgers when he is away, so long as I don't
bring children into the rooms. He has been here for a whole year at a
spell; and then again he is off, and maybe we won't see him for months
at a time. He is a most excellent lodger as ever was; and his man a
nice civil, handy fellow, with none of them airs and graces as these
minxes of girls give themselves; but then, "Like master, like man," say
I, and I've always found it so.'

'And your first floors, you tell me, you would be glad to re-let, were
you sure of another tenant?'

'Yes, ma'am.'

'Very well then; as I have no maid likely to disturb you, I will take
them for a month certain, if I can have them on Wednesday morning;
and I will further pay you the week's rent you will have to forfeit
by giving the present lodgers notice to quit summarily; but remember
I only take them on this one condition. It is now Monday night, and I
must move in on Wednesday morning.'

'I'll manage it for you, ma'am, even if I get a summons for it.'

'You shall be no loser in any case; I will pay all expenses;' and she
drew out her purse to deposit a week's rent in advance.

'Never mind it, ma'am; you look a lady as one may trust, and I'll see
that you are in the rooms on Wednesday morning. I can easily put the
blame on Mr Meredith, if they become very unpleasant, by saying he
takes the rooms by the year; they are not to know whether he may not
want the first floors this time.'

Mutually satisfied with their bargain, landlady and lodger parted for
the night. On the face of the latter could be discerned a compression
of the lips, which bespoke a sudden resolve she was bent upon carrying
out, even though it failed in the end to prove successful.


Human cunning and human credulity have dowered with mystery certain
plants which are worthy of being considered the most beautiful and
passive of created objects. One plant at least has been said to
utter shrieks on being torn from the earth, and to have avenged the
violence by causing the death of him who removed it. This plant was
the mandragora of the poets, the mandrake of Scripture, a species of
the _Solanæ_ or Nightshade tribe; the belief in whose qualities as a
sedative or a charm was as old as the days of the childless Rachel.
Indigenous to the East, where probably its uses as an anodyne and
soporific were early known to the initiated, it may be that in order to
enhance the wonder of its effects, and prevent the extirpation of the
root by its too common use, miraculous powers were imputed to it, and
superstition hedged it round with fabled terrors.

The evil reputation of the plant procured it subsequently the name of
_Atropa mandragora_, by which our oldest botanists distinguish it; a
name borrowed from the most terrible of the Fates, _Atropos_, and since
transferred to its relative _Atropa belladonna_ (_Dwale_, or 'Deadly
Nightshade'). So potent and valuable were the medical uses of the root
at a time when few anodynes were known, that the ancient Romans made it
the subject of a weird ritual, without which they would have deemed it
impious to have taken it from the earth. The operator stood with his
back to the wind, drew three circles round the root with the point of a
sword, poured a libation on the ground, and turning to the west, began
to dig it up.

The root of the mandrake, a plant with a tap-root, frequently forked,
as we see that of the radish, and covered with fibrous rootlets, was
easily convertible into a grotesque likeness of the human form. In the
times of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, little images made of mandrake
roots, called _abrunes_, were imported in large numbers from Germany,
and found a ready sale in England. The fable of the wondrous powers
of these vegetable idols was easily accepted by our superstitious
ancestors; and the pedlers who travelled about from place to place with
cases of them drove a brisk trade. Sir Francis Bacon had them in his
mind's eye when he wrote: 'Some plants there are, but rare, that have
a mossy or downy root, and likewise that have a number of thread-like
beards, as the mandrake, whereof witches and impostors make an ugly
image, giving it the form of a face at top of the root, and leave those
strings to make a broad beard to the foot.' It is to the credit of the
old herbalists Gerard and Turner, that they both essayed, without
fear of consequences, to dig up and examine for themselves the dreaded
mandrake, and lost no time in publishing the fallacy of the weird
stories told of it.

Saturnine and poisonous plants were those most affected by necromancers
and witches--plants dwelling in shady groves like that described by
Dryden in _Œdipus_:

                            Nor tree nor plant
    Grows here but what is fed with magic juices,
    All full of human souls, that cleave the bark
    To dance at midnight by the moon's pale beams;

or on wild heaths, like the potent moonwort, which opened locks and
unshoed horses; or amidst solitary churchyards and old ruins, like the
deadly nightshade and fetid henbane, hound's-tongue, and digitalis.
Plants with dusky or sad-green leaves, and lurid-coloured flowers for
the most part, and an ill-favoured soporific scent. Nature herself
distinguishes hemlock from all others of the umbelliferous tribe by the
pink or purplish spots with which its tall smooth stem is variegated.
It grows by hedgerows and in waste places; its large-winged, finely-cut
leaves and white umbels of flowers give no indication of its dangerous
nature; but its speckled cuticle betrays it, and prevents its being
rashly meddled with by rustic herb-gatherers and children.

Wolf's-bane or monk's-hood, a herb of Saturn, sacred to Hecate, and
which has since figured in the floral calendar of witchcraft, had its
first name from the use the Anglo-Saxons made of the juice, in which
they dipped their arrows, and literally kept the wolf from the doors of
their wattled huts. It was and is a brave herb for all evil purposes.
Its root resembles the tail of a scorpion; its flowers, of lurid
purple, have the form of a helmet; features sufficiently significant
for those who sought such dangerous simples. The very scent of the
flowers on some sensitive persons has produced swooning and loss of
sight for several days; others it has deprived of speech; and there
are instances on record of persons who have eaten of the root being
seized with all the symptoms of mania. Imagine such powers in the hands
of a reputed witch, malevolent enough to exercise them for reward or
malice, in days when medical science itself was not without faith in
magic! Dreadful as are its proved effects, the monk's-hood is a common
plant in cottage gardens, where we have seen it flourishing three feet
in height, crowned with its handsome spikes of purplish flowers, and
little children playing with them.

Black hellebore had also a place in the category of mystical plants;
the Romans removed the root with the same ceremonies as were observed
in taking up the mandrake, with this distinction, that prayers were
humbly offered to Apollo and Æsculapius for permission, and the
operator turned to the east instead of to the west, on commencing to
dig it up.

No wayside plant is more simple in appearance than the vervain, the
'holy herb' of so many nations. Its pale lilac spike of minute flowers
scarcely attracts attention, except from those who know its ancient
history and uses. In the sun-worship of the ancient Persians, their
magi carried branches of vervain in their hands when approaching the
altar. So did the pagan priests of ancient Greece and Rome; and ages
subsequently, the Druids in the forest temples of Gaul and Britain.
With the Greeks and Romans, it was never absent from their religious
rites. The plant was long considered to be good against witchcraft and
the bites of venomous creatures; and being under the dominion of Venus,
was a great beautifier; and when used in the baths of delicate women,
made a fair face and took away freckles. It were 'perhaps well,' as
Lord Bacon would say, to notice the agreement between various writers
as to the cephalic virtues of the plant, and its remedial efficacy in
taking away headache, and the 'pin and web,' or clouds and mists which
darken the optic nerve. From medical to magical uses was but a step
in those days, sometimes a very short one; and accordingly we find a
spray of vervain used as a charm to keep houses and persons from harm,
and especially from evil spirits and witchcraft. A relic of the later
superstition lingers in the rhyme--

    Vervain and dill hinder witches of their will.

St John's wort, by virtue of its dedication to the saint, whose
birthday, according to the religious calendar, is the anniversary
of the summer solstice, was said to have the power of putting to
flight ghosts, demons, and even Satan himself. Jeremy Taylor, in his
_Dissuasions from Popery_, enumerating certain specifics used by the
priests to discover the presence of the evil one, adds, 'and specially
St John's wort, which therefore they call "Devil's Flight,"' which is
an anglicised rendering of the old pagan name _Fuga Demonium_, which
Pliny tells us it received from its property of scaring demons; and
retained in more modern times in allusion to its supposed virtues
in the cure of distraction and melancholy. The Irish peasant at the
present day firmly believes in the powers of St John's wort which
his Church originally endorsed; and on the vigil of the saint's day,
gathers bunches of the bright yellow, starry, almost scintillating
flowers, and after sprinkling them with holy water, hangs them at the
bed's head, and over the door, with a firm faith in the potency of the
plant to preserve him and his household from evil spirits, fairies, and
witchcraft. Armed with this floral charm, the wanderer through the most
solitary places is as safe as on the fire-lit hill, amidst the youth of
a whole village, who are dancing and making merry, and leaping through
the fire to Moloch--without an idea that the revels of the sainted
summer's night once meant the worship of the sun-god Belus. In days
when the occult powers of certain plants were universally believed, it
made part of the champion's oath, that he carried not about him any
_herb_, spell, or enchantment, by which he might procure the victory.

Nowadays, the mistletoe generally affects old crab and apple trees,
and the boughs of beech and ash; but in so-called Druidical times it
appears to have flourished in the oak-groves, which these strange
worshippers are said to have made their temples, and under the name of
the 'All-heal plant,' was, we are told, severed from these trees with
solemn ceremonies. The mystery of its appearance--its aërial place of
growth--the pale green antlered branches putting forth their pearly
berries in honour, as it were, of the high festival of the winter
solstice, 'the mother of the nights'--probably conduced to render it
a miraculous plant. Long after Druidism was but a name, the plant
retained its healing and protective properties for the populace, whose
teachers strengthened their superstitious reverence for it, by calling
it _Lignum Sanctæ Crucis_ (wood of the holy cross). Amulets were made
of it, and worn round the neck, to defend the wearer from enchantment
and other dangers; and in more modern times, as a charm against the
falling-sickness and the plague.

The yew, like the oak, was sacred to the Druids. Branches of it were
anciently carried by the mourners at funeral processions, and were
thrown into the grave before the coffin was lowered. The awe in which
it was originally held is traceable in the traditions yet extant of
its dangerous and even deadly properties. The beautiful crimson drupes
scattered amongst its dark-green linear leaves were reputed poisonous
if eaten. In clipping the tree, the greatest care was necessary that
the operator might not inhale its dangerous fumes; while to sleep under
the shade of its widespread branches, ragged and dusky as a raven's
wing, was to risk sickness and even death.

The mountain-ash or rowan-tree has for ages been endowed with mystical
properties in Scotland. The custom of carrying sprigs of it in the
pocket still obtains in the Isle of Man, where it is extensively grown
and cherished for warding off demons, witchcraft, and the evil-eye.
There, on St John's Eve, crosses are made of it and hung upon the
cattle, and placed over the doors, and in the eaves of barns and
houses, to avert the evil influences supposed to be preternaturally
active on that night. Not such the reputation of the _Lunaria_,
described by Chaucer, Spenser, and Drayton as one of the most powerful
of vegetable charms, and an ingredient in the most subtle spells of
night-hags and enchanters. This, the homely 'Honesty' of the cottage
garden, the satin flower that our grandmothers cherished, is a plant
than which none more apparently harmless is to be found in the floral
calendars of herbmen and gardeners. But in days when plants were
supposed to bear witness in many instances to their own attributes,
when certain features were sought for and believed in, as affording a
key to the sympathies and properties of herbs, its round flat silvery
frond shewed it to be under the dominion of the moon, and endowed with
magic influences.

After all, a child's hand might have clasped the plants that were under
the ban of our ancestors. Amongst the most potent of these herbal
talismans were the trefoil and the wood-sorrel, the triple leaves of
which symbolised the Trinity, and were on that account noisome to
witches. Hence arose the custom in Ireland for the lord of the soil as
well as the peasant to wear the shamrock as a preservative from evil
influences, a custom annually returned to, without distinction of creed
or rank, by all true Irishmen on the anniversary of St Patrick's Day--a
saint it will be remembered so pure that all venomous things fled
before him. In that country, as in this, there still lingers in shady,
rustic places an aged moribund belief in the occult power of plants in
the hands of weird women who know how to use them.


It is maintained by many psychologists that if an impression is once
made upon the memory, it remains for ever. And it is undoubted that
there are certain seasons of life or certain circumstances when memory
is peculiarly susceptible, and when the impressions made are deep and
sharp and definite. The objects familiar in childhood and youth, the
texts, the hymns, and lessons then mastered become a lifelong bequest;
the memory has petrified them on its tablet for ever. Sometimes the
memory is in a state of spontaneous receptivity, and without any
trouble on the part of the subject, the mind retains its interesting
objects for years, perhaps through the whole life.

Memory develops in every sound mind almost as early as the powers of
observation; and the objects about which it is employed in the earlier
stage are much alike in all individuals. But very early we discern a
difference in the natural affinities: one youthful reminiscent evinces
a talent in finding his way to the infant school; whilst a bewildered
companion of the same class uses leading-strings.

In glancing through the records of all ages and all nations, we
meet with certain individuals who have been celebrated for their
extraordinary powers of memory; and some of these would appear to us so
wonderful, that we are tempted to disbelieve them, and place them in
the list of human impossibilities. But it cannot be denied that there
are numberless instances upon record, both ancient and modern, and also
in our own day, of persons retaining an almost incredible recollection
of a great diversity of matters, consisting in some cases of long lists
of dates and names, or in others, countenances and circumstances, long
since forgotten by the majority of mankind, through a lapse of time

We propose in this paper to submit to the reader a few of the many most
authentic examples of retentive memory on record.

Within the range of their own experience, many of our readers must have
noticed examples of quick or retentive memory. Frequently, however,
these powerful memories are filled with matters of questionable value.
Of such we may mention an individual well known in London by the name
of 'Memory-Corner Thompson,' who was remarkable for an astonishing
local memory. In the space of twenty-four hours and at two sittings,
he drew from memory a correct plan of the whole parish of St James.
This plan contained all the squares, streets, lanes, courts, passages,
markets, churches, chapels, houses, stables, angles of houses; and a
great number of other objects, as wells, parapets, stones, trees, &c.,
and an exact plan of Carlton House and St James's Palace. He made out
also an exact plan of the parish of St Andrew; and he offered to do
the same with that of St Giles, St Paul, Covent Garden, St Clement, and
Newchurch. If a particular house in any given street was mentioned,
he would tell at once what trade was carried on in it, the position
and appearance of the shop, and its contents. In going through a large
hotel completely furnished, he was able to retain everything and make
an inventory from memory. He possessed a most mechanical memory; and he
could, by reading a newspaper overnight, repeat the whole of it next
morning. He died in February 1843, at the age of eighty-six. Mr Paxton
Hood knew a man in London who could repeat the whole of Josephus;
and William Lyon, like Thompson, could read the _Daily Advertiser_
overnight, and repeat it word for word next morning.

As a contrast to this, on the other hand we know an individual who
travelled through a considerable extent of country, and passed through
several towns he had visited before, yet was ignorant of the fact until
informed of it by another traveller!

Pliny, in the seventh book of his Natural History, makes mention of one
Charmidas or Charmadas, a native of Greece, who was the possessor of so
singular a memory that he was able to deliver word for word the entire
contents of any book which might be called out of a library, _without
having read it_. This, however, we should be inclined to take _cum
grano salis_.

Some cases are quoted of persons having a remarkable gift of learning
any number of foreign languages in an incredibly short time.
Mithridates king of Pontus had an empire in which two-and-twenty
languages were spoken; yet it is asserted that he had not a subject
with whom he could not converse in his own dialect. But in later times
the royal linguist has been eclipsed by the late Cardinal Mezzofanti,
who died in 1849. He had a wonderful memory for the retention of
words, and with a grammatical intuition which has never been property
explained, he went on acquiring languages, till at the age of seventy
he could converse in upwards of fifty, besides having an acquaintance
with at least twenty more. He was at home in both of the dialects
of the Basque language, the most difficult in Europe; also in the
different dialects of German; with Englishmen he never misapplied the
sign of a tense. Besides the foregoing, he was so far master of at
least one Chinese dialect that he delivered a set speech to Chinese
students at the Vatican. So conversant was he with all the dialects
of each tongue that he could at once detect the particular county,
province, or district to which a speaker belonged. He himself was upon
several occasions mistaken for a native of totally different countries.
According to his own words, as related to his friend Cardinal Wiseman,
his method of studying a new language was to read straight through the
grammar, and when he had arrived at the end he was master of the whole.
He never forgot anything he had once heard or read.

Sir William Jones, in spite of his many duties as a legal student,
had before his death acquired so intimate a knowledge of fourteen
languages, that he translated from the most difficult and obscure.
Dr Alexander Murray, the learned author of _The History of European
Languages_, was another of Britain's greatest linguists, who remembered
every word he ever read; he had the whole of Milton by heart. The
Emperor Claudius was another great memorist, also repeating by heart
the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_.

It is recorded of Dr Leyden the distinguished oriental scholar, that
when at Calcutta, a case occurred in which it was necessary, before
deciding the issue, to know the exact wording of an act of parliament,
of which, however, a copy could not be found in the Presidency. Leyden
had had occasion before leaving home to read the act, and undertook
to supply it from memory; and when nearly a year afterwards a printed
copy was obtained from England, it was found to be identical with what
Leyden had dictated.

Richard Porson had a remarkable memory. Being one day in the shop
of Priestly the bookseller, a gentleman came in and asked for a
particular edition of Demosthenes. Priestly did not possess it; and
as the gentleman seemed a good deal disappointed, Porson inquired if
he wished to consult any particular passage. The gentleman mentioned
a quotation of which he was in search, when Porson opened the Aldine
edition of Demosthenes, and after turning over a few leaves, put his
finger on the passage. On another occasion he happened to be in a
stage-coach; presently there entered into it a young undergraduate
with two ladies. This young gentleman endeavoured to make himself
seem very learned; presently quoting a Greek passage, which he said
was from Euripides. The great Greek scholar, who was dozing at the
other end of the coach, awoke at the familiar sounds, and drawing a
copy of Euripides from the folds of his cloak, politely asked him to
favour him with the passage. The student could not; and the ladies
began to titter. Reddening, the youth said that on second thoughts,
the passage he was sure was in Sophocles. Porson thereupon produced a
copy of Sophocles, and again asked him to favour him with the passage.
The undergraduate again failed; the ladies tittered greatly. 'Catch
me!' said he, 'if ever I quote Greek in a coach again.' Stung by the
laughter of his fellow-passengers, he said: 'I recollect now, sir; I
perfectly recollect that the passage is in Æschylus.' His inexorable
tormentor, diving again in the capacious folds of his cloak, produced a
copy of Æschylus, and again asked him to favour him with the passage.
The boiling-point was now reached. 'Stop! stop!' shouted he to the
coachman. 'Let me out! There is a man inside who has got the whole
Bodleian library in his pocket!' On another occasion, calling upon a
friend, Porson found him reading Thucydides. Being asked casually the
meaning of some word, he immediately repeated the context. 'But how do
you know that it was this passage I was reading?' asked his friend.
'Because,' replied Porson, 'the word only occurs twice in Thucydides;
once on the right-hand page in the edition which you are now using, and
once on the left. I observed on which side you looked, and accordingly
I knew to which passage you referred.'

Once when in the house of Dr Burney at Hammersmith, with some friends,
examining some old newspapers which detailed the execution of Charles
I., he came across various particulars thought by some of them to have
been overlooked by Rapin and Hume; but Porson instantly repeated a long
passage from Rapin in which these circumstances were all recounted.
Upon one occasion he undertook to learn by heart the entire contents
of the _Morning Chronicle_ in a week; and he used to say he could
repeat _Roderick Random_ from beginning to end. His stupendous memory,
however, on account of his excesses, failed at last.

Dr Thomas Fuller, the worthy historian and divine, was said to have
been able to repeat five hundred and nine strange names correctly
after having twice heard them; and he was known to make use of a
sermon verbatim if he once heard it. He once undertook to name
exactly backwards and forwards every shop-sign from Temple Bar to the
extremity of Cheapside, on both sides of the way--a feat of no ordinary
magnitude, when we consider that in his day every house had its sign.

'Memory' Thompson boasted he could remember every shop from Ludgate
Hill to the end of Piccadilly; and another person who had earned for
himself the prefix of 'Memory' was William Woodfall, the printer of the
famous Letters of Junius, who used to relate how he could put a speech
away upon a shelf in his mind for future reference; and he was known
to be able to remember a debate for a fortnight, after many nights'
speaking upon other matters.

Dr Johnson was in the habit of writing abridged reports of debates for
the _Gentleman's Magazine_ from memory.

Two noted frequenters of the Chapter Coffee-House in Paternoster Row,
in the last century, were Murray and Hammond. Murray had read through
every morning and evening paper published in London for thirty years,
and his memory was such that he was always applied to for dates and
facts by literary men and others.

Jedediah Buxton, who resided for some weeks at St John's Gate
Clerkenwell, in 1754, had such a memory that 'he could conduct the most
intricate calculations by his memory alone, and such was his power of
abstraction that no noise could disturb him.' Singular to relate, he
never learned to read or write, though he was the son of a schoolmaster.

Eugenia Jullian, a precocious child, well known to the writer of this,
at the age of five years had a book given her to read; and looking
through it, she at length read a poem of several hundred lines (it must
be mentioned she knew her alphabet at eleven months old, and could
read at three years of age) once through; and being asked what she had
read, she handed her mother the book, and repeated the whole without a
mistake. Unfortunately, like most precocious children, her mind proved
too powerful for a delicate constitution, and she died at an early age.

Among other possessors of very retentive memories may be mentioned the
learned Pope Clement VI.; Dr Monsey, who died at Chelsea at the age of
ninety-five; and Mozart, who almost in every case composed his pieces
before he committed them to paper.

At the present time, Elihu Burritt possesses a remarkable memory. Born
in America in 1811, he had, at the age of twenty-seven, and while
working at his trade, learned fifty languages. In 1846 he came to
England, and was for some time United States consul at Birmingham.
Gustave Doré is the owner of a good memory; and we have it from a
reliable authority, that Thomas Carlyle, 'the philosopher of Chelsea,'
lays a book aside when he has read it, it being of no more use to him,
having abstracted and stored up in his mind all the contents which he
deems worthy of retention.

Every one has a memory, but every one has not the same natural
affinities, and therefore every one does not retain with equal
facility the same sort of thing. One man, from taking a glance at an
object, will sketch it correctly; another could not give a correct
representation were he to labour for a month. The mind of another
is more for living objects, and like Cuvier or Knox, he carries in
his memory the names and forms of hundreds of plants and animals.
A third has a propensity for the faces of his fellow-creatures,
and like Themistocles, he can name each of the twenty thousand of
his fellow-citizens; or like Cyrus, he could remember the name of
every soldier in his army; the like being related of L. Scipio and
the Romans. The day following the arrival of Cinaes, ambassador of
King Pyrrhus, in Rome, he saluted by name all the senate and the
gentlemen of the city. Our own George III. had an extraordinary power
of recollecting faces. The taste of a fourth is for languages, and
like Mezzofanti or Alexander Murray, every word he hears or reads
in a foreign tongue becomes a lifelong heritage. Another retains
mathematics, the symbols of which require a peculiar cast of memory.
Such a mind is generally destitute of love of colour, music, &c.; it
wrestles with the artificial symbols that express the most extensively
important truths of the world. The natural history memory has to do
with artificial symbols, but with these it mixes the consideration of
actual appearances to the senses. The taste of another is for choice,
emphatic, and sublime diction; like Wakefield, he can repeat the whole
of Virgil and Horace, Homer and Pindar.

The faculty of recollecting places is very large in some of the
inferior animals; pigeons and some sorts of dogs have it very
prominently. The falcon of Iceland returns to its native spot from
a distance of several thousands of miles. And it seems likely that
this has at least something to do with reference to those birds which
migrate from one country to another. It seems indispensable to a
successful traveller. Columbus, Cook, Park, and Livingstone must have
been largely endowed with this faculty. These diversities have not been
sufficiently kept in view in the important business of education, and
the principle of cramming the same things into every sort of memory
still too extensively prevails.

The memory may be strong where the intellect is weak; but without
the former faculty there can be no intellectual growth; for is not
memory the power of the mind by which it retains its possessions? If
Sensation, Perception, and Attention are the collecting faculties,
Memory is 'the conservative faculty'--the retainer of the collected

With the power of throwing our whole mental vigour into any given act
for the time being, a strong will can generally insure a strong memory;
and for understanding then and retaining afterwards, half an hour of
such absorption and concentration is worth more than the longest day of
day-dreaming--though day-dreaming, as an occasional relaxation, is not
to be despised.

Nowadays we are not at all surprised to see placarded about our towns
large announcements of an 'eminent professor' about to arrive, under
whose tuition we may be initiated into the 'Art of Memory,' whereby we
may be taught to remember at will the heights of mountains, rows of
dates, chronological events, and all things coming within the range of
memory. It may be interesting to learn that this is no new art, for
by reference to Pliny we find that the Art of Memory was invented by
Simonides des Melicus, and afterwards perfected by Metrodorus Sepsius,
'by which a man might learne to rehearse againe the same words of any
discourse whatsoever after once hearing.'

It does not fall within the scope of this paper to enter upon the
merits or demerits of this art; but we may conveniently bring our
subject to a close by relating a couple of anecdotes that bear upon it.

Upon one occasion, Fuller said: 'None alive ever heard me pretend to
the _art_ of memory, who in my book have decried it as a trick, no art;
and indeed, is more fancy than memory. I confess, some years since,
when I came out of the pulpit of St Dunstan's East, one (who since
wrote a book thereof) told me in the vestry, before credible people,
that he, in Sidney College, had taught me _the art of memory_. I
returned unto him: _That it was not so_, for I could not remember _that
I had ever seen him before!_ which I conceive was a real refutation.'

Not very long ago, a lecturer upon the art of memory, whilst dining at
an hotel in one of our provincial towns, was inquired for and called
away suddenly; upon which he immediately finished his repast and
hurried from the room. A moment or two afterwards, the waiter coming
round to the chair lately occupied by the professor, held up his hands
and exclaimed in astonishment: 'Goodness gracious, the memory man has
forgotten his umbrella!'


Everybody knows that tails serve a great variety of purposes. To
mention a few: The horse and ox use their tail to drive off troublesome
insects. Some kinds of apes have long prehensile tails with which they
swing themselves from branches or reach distant fruit. The kangaroo's
tail forms a kind of extra leg, and is also serviceable in jumping.
The beaver is said to beat with its tail the mud of which its house or
dam is built, as well as to use the organ in swimming. The tails of
fishes act like rudders, and in whales, for example, they are powerful
propellers, as also a means of attack or defence. Birds of high flight
have their tail feathers adapted as a steering apparatus; while the
tails of parrots, toucans, and climbers generally, incline downwards,
and aid in laying hold of trees. The tail in some reptiles is important
for locomotion. Scorpions have in their tail a formidable weapon; and
the noise made by the rattlesnake when roused is given from its tail.

There is a good deal of expression in tails. A cat when unexcited
has her tail bent towards the ground and quiet; but when the animal
is under lively emotion, the tail shews movements which are not of
chance character, but predetermined by nature--such and such an
emotion causing such and such a movement. When the cat feels afraid
when seized, for example by the neck, the tail goes down between her
legs. On sight of an agreeable morsel of meat, the tail is raised
straight up. When angry, the cat bends her tail into two curves of
opposite direction--the greater curve at the base, the lesser at the
extremity--while the fur is erect throughout. When on the alert for
prey, she lashes her tail from side to side. On the other hand, the
dog wags his tail to testify joy; while (as with the cat) fear sends
it down between his legs. We are all familiar, again, with the comical
appearance of a herd of cattle, driven to despair by insects, rushing
about a field on a hot day with their tufted tails erect as posts. Dr
John Brown, in one of his racy sketches, tells of a dog of his whose
tail had rather a peculiar kind of expressiveness. This tail of Toby's
was 'a tail _per se_; it was of immense girth, and not short, equal
throughout like a policeman's baton; the machinery for working it was
of great power, and acted in a way, as far as I have been able to
discover, quite original. We called it his ruler. When he wished to
get into the house, he first whined gently, then growled, then gave
a sharp bark, and then came a resounding mighty stroke, which shook
the house. This, after much study and watching, we found was done by
his bringing the entire length of his solid tail flat upon the door
with a sudden and vigorous stroke. It was quite a _tour de force_ or
a _coup de queue_, and he was perfect in it at once, his first _bang_
authoritative having been as masterly and telling as his last.'

There seems to be good reason for believing that rats sometimes
use their tails for feeding purposes where the food to be eaten is
contained in vessels too narrow to admit the entire body of the animal.
A rat will push down his tail into the tall-shaped bottle of preserves,
and lick it after he has pulled it out. A gentleman put two such jars
of preserves covered with a bladder, in a place frequented by rats; and
afterwards found the jelly reduced in each to the same extent, and a
small aperture gnawed in the bladder just sufficient to admit the tail.
Another experiment was more decisive. Having refilled the jars to about
half an inch above the level left by the rats, he put some moist paper
over the jelly and let it stand in a place where there were no rats or
mice, till the paper got covered by mould. Then he covered the jars
with a bladder and put them where the rats were numerous; as before,
next morning the bladder had again been eaten through, and on the
mould there were numerous distinct tracings of rats' tails, evidently
caused by the animals sweeping these appendages about, in the fruitless
endeavour to find a hole in the circle of paper which covered the jelly.

An example of the practice of vivisection (which is happily less common
in this country than on the continent) is presented in an experiment
made lately by an eminent French physiologist with the tail of a young
rat. Readers are doubtless aware of the curious results that may be
obtained by skin-grafting. The experimenter referred to skinned a
little portion of the tip of the rat's tail, made an incision in the
back of the animal, inserted the skinned tip in this hole, and fixed it
there. In course of time the wound healed, and the animal went about
with its tail thus transformed into something like the handle of a
teapot. After eight months the savant cut the handle in two; then on
pinching the end of the part left in the back, the rat appeared to feel
pain, and tried to escape. It was thus shewn that the sensitive nerves
in the end of the tail had formed a true connection with the nerves
in the back issuing from the spinal cord; and that they conveyed an
excitation in an opposite direction to that in which they convey it

The trick which came under the notice of the French correctional police
will perhaps here recur to recollection. A person complained that he
had been imposed upon by the purchase of an animal represented to be
'an elephant rat;' that is, a rat with a trunk and tusks resembling
those of an elephant. The trunk was nothing more than part of a rat's
tail stuck into the snout of the animal, where it grew as if natural.
As for the tusks, they were two of the teeth in the upper jaw which
had been suffered to grow by removing the two corresponding teeth in
the lower jaw against which they used to grind and be kept short. More
ingenious than honest, the fraud was duly punished.

Crocodiles have enormous tails; of sixty vertebræ there are more than
forty which are caudal. The organ is rather cumbrous to them on land,
and this fact affords an opportunity of escaping from them by making
quick turns, which they do not readily follow. But their powerful tail
must be of immense value to them in swimming.

There is strong probability that the tail of some animals covered with
fur serves the purpose of a protection to the air-passages of mouth and
nose during sleep, as also the retention of heat. This will be apparent
to any one who observes the position into which the tail is curled in
such cases, and the face brought into contact with it.

Frogs have no proper tails, but in the tadpole stage they have,
and their locomotion by means of them is familiar to everybody. A
similar mode of locomotion is observable in the minute animals termed
Flagellata, which advance by lashing their tails from side to side. The
motions of several of those microscopic organisms known as _Bacteria_,
found in putrefying infusions of organic matter, are at present
somewhat enigmatical. But they are to a certain extent explained by
an interesting observation made lately by MM. Colin and Warming.
With sufficient magnifying power these naturalists have found tails
in several of the Bacteria. They vary in number from one to three,
are situated at one end of the axis of length, and capable of rapid
motion; by which the movements of these minute creatures may fairly be
accounted for.

The last thing we have to say on the subject is to express our
gratification at the change which has taken place in treating the tails
of horses. The odious and cruel practice of, docking them, once so
prevalent, has been happily abandoned, and the horse's tail is now left
to attain its natural graceful dimensions.

       *       *       *       *       *

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

       *       *       *       *       *

_All Rights Reserved._

       *       *       *       *       *

[Transcriber's Note--The following correction has been made to this
text: on page 348, "perternaturally" changed to "preternaturally".]

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